Someone recently asked me what my favorite song is. That’s a question that people ask (and try to answer) a lot. I never really have a good response; it changes constantly, and it depends on what you mean by “favorite.” Is it your go-to “sit in your room and mope” song? The tune you put on when you’re getting ready to go out with your girls/guys? The song that was playing at the roller rink when you had your first “couples skate?” (Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that…) I think the term “favorite” has a lot of connotations with respect to music, and thus makes answering the question, at least for me, quite difficult. But the question got me thinking. Not about what my favorite songs are, but rather, the songs that are the most evocative to me; the ones that when I hear them, I stop for a moment as a memory comes rushing back. Here are my six significant songs. Why six? Because that’s the number of songs I thought of. Also, alliteration is cool.
Into the Mystic, Van Morrison – I’d never heard this song before I met J. When we were going out, we were hanging out at my apartment one Sunday morning in the winter. I was sitting on my bed in my pajamas, and he was sitting across the room. The sunlight was seeping through the blinds, and this song came on. It was gorgeous, and I was blown away by it. J started telling me something, and quite honestly, I can’t even remember what it was. Because in that moment, something clicked, and I knew that I was going to marry him one day. The song was playing in the background when he proposed, as well. Whenever I hear that song, I think of that winter morning when I realized I’d found my husband.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana – I honestly don’t remember much of the music that I listened to in my youth. But I remember the first time I heard this song. I was probably 12 or 13, and just getting into the melodramatic teenage angst everyone that age things is mutually exclusive to their life. I borrowed the tape (tape!) from a friend, and hit play. From the opening bars, I knew it was different, but then Kurt Cobain’s ragged voice and raw emotion came right through the shitty earphones of my Walkman. I was entranced; it was such a departure from anything else I’d heard up until then. He railed against conformity, and although the lyrics were at times nonsensical, hearing the song was a defining moment for me; I remember, to this day, hearing it and thinking, “I’m a teenager now.”
Grateful Dead, Sugar Magnolia –No real story here, other than to say that this song completely reminds me of my year abroad and college. Whenever I hear it, I’m wholly and immediately transported.
Song 2, Blur/Hallelujah, John Cale –These two songs don’t seem like they go together, but for me they’re inexorably linked. The evening of
Unfortunately, the catchy song was quickly forgotten as she wordlessly pointed to the TV, tears streaming down her face. Not knowing what to do (because really, who did?) I walked to school like a zombie, and watched a terrible chapter in history unfold. As I walked back to my apartment a few hours later, feeling less innocent somehow, many people were sort of milling around in the street. It was, ironically, a beautiful day, and many people had their windows open. From a low floor in a nearby building, the unmistakable tune of “Hallelujah” floated out. A few of us stopped and listened; I recognized it as John Cale’s version. A man’s voice from among the small silent crowd that had gathered spoke up: “Can you turn that louder, please?” We couldn’t see the person who’d been playing the song, but he/she complied wordlessly from their apartment. We all stood there quietly, letting the melody wash over us; some crying, some with their heads bent low, and, for a brief moment on a terrible day, we found some comfort. I actually bought the CD shortly thereafter; I’ve never been able to bring myself to listen to it.
We Didn’t Start the Fire, Billy Joel– I know…but a part of me really does love this song. Come on, you know you do, too. I was about 9 when this song came out, and my friends and I all loved it. We spent time trying to write down/memorize all the lyrics. Whenever I hear it now, I get all nostalgic. And then, of course, try to remember what comes after “Nasser and Prokofiev.”
By all means, please feel free to take this idea. If you do it, let me know in the comments; I’d absolutely love to see what songs are meaningful to you. :)Have a great weekend and a happy New Year!