Welcome to my foray into the blogging world. I don't promise to be your source for political and social commentary, but I will always endeavour to be entertaining, charming and witty (and by witty, you may also want to read that as sarcastic . . . I sometimes mix the two up).

You will see a mix of poems and/or song lyrics, my skewed little musings on life, the odd rant or two, and hopefully I can pass along some inspirational pieces – either from my own personal experiences or from those who inspire me.

I will try not to work Bruce Springsteen into everything I write, though it will be difficult as he does impact a large part of my waking world as well as a good portion of my dream world.

Enjoy. Be kind. Come back often and visit.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The soundtrack to my life

I’ve put a lot of thought into what I would consider the soundtrack to my life.

And no – it’s not a list of Springsteen songs.

These are songs I can attribute to a certain moment in my life. They conjure up a specific memory, date-stamping it forever in my mind.

They’re not what I would specifically describe as favourite songs, but they all have special meaning to me. Some are a little cheesy. Some will seem obvious. Some, you might just say, “what the . . .”

The journey starts in my childhood bedroom. It was being renovated, oh, let’s say the year was 1972.  It was totally empty, save for the newly installed (and super cool) orange shag carpet.

I lied. For some reason there was also a ladder in the room. My sister and I would bring in our turntable and one of those big square flashlights, put it on the ladder’s top step (with only the red light blinking on and off) and play our K-tel albums at full blast in our “disco.”

There were many gems danced to back in those disco days (and we had several K-tel albums), but one of the songs that truly takes me back to that particular time was “Knock Three Times” by Dawn.

My early teen years were filled with a myriad of ‘70s hits and many remain on my iPod today. It’s difficult to pick one song from that time, so I’ll have to go with a couple. A Foot in Coldwater’s “Brandy” is still one of my favourite songs today and takes me back to my grade 7 dances.

Now Englebert Humperdink’s “The Last Waltz,” also takes me back to grade 7; not to our school dances but rather to the parties we used to have. No mom; there won’t be any boys. We loved the song mainly because it was the longest slow song we could find. I can vividly recall the scratchy record and Eng’s smooth voice as I clung to some boy (who shall remain nameless) in Laure Davis’s darkened livingroom. It was magical.

On my 13th birthday in 1975, I received two albums: Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare from my older brother, and Barry Manilow II from my parents. Thus began my first musical obsession and my lifelong love affair with Barry Manilow.

 Yes, I’m a self-confessed Fanilow. I know, it could have gone either way – Alice or Barry – but I am a piano player and Barry’s songs captivated me. So, we’ll throw “Mandy” onto the soundtrack as well as “Welcome To My Nightmare.”

High school brought a mixed bag of music.

I was in stage band and exposed to jazz for the first time. I had my first serious boyfriend, so there are songs associated with him. And, I discovered Bruce in my senior year.

Let’s start with the jazz. If I had to truthfully answer the question, “What song evokes the strongest memory for me” I would have to answer John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”

I remember sitting in the music classroom hearing that song for the first time. From the opening minor piano chord and John’s first few notes on tenor saxophone, I was transfixed. And I wasn’t even a sax player . . . I played trumpet at the time.

Written in response to the Ku Klux Klan’s 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls, the song stirs something deep within my soul. It’s not an easy piece to listen to – especially if you’re not a fan of John’s style of jazz. The song fluctuates from the slow, breathy sound of accented sax notes and rolling drum fills evoking an incredible sadness, to this jarringly shrill sax that screams with anger. <sigh>

Steve, my high school boyfriend was 6'6" and a basketball player. I'm only 5'2" so slow dancing was always an interesting process but somehow, we managed to get along okay. His nickname back then was Dr. A – named for Julius Erving (Dr. J), the Philadelphia 76er great. So, it just stood to reason that our song should be Robert Palmer's Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)." I think of him fondly when I hear that song. Last summer, we saw each other for the first time in many years at a Bill Maher concert at Casino Rama. I got to meet his lovely wife Mandy. Always the romantic, the next day on Facebook, Steve posted that he introduced his first love to his last love. A very poetic thought.

I can't recall a single party in Grade 13 that wasn't infused with the copious playing of Bruce Springsteen's The River. There were several songs from that double album that we loved, but it's "Cadillac Ranch" that seems to strike a chord for that particular year. Of course, I went back and explored Bruce's earlier stuff and continue to be a huge fan to this day.

College was a mishmash of strange '80s songs like Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Girls," "Stray Cat Strut" by The Stray Cats, and of course, more Bruce. But the one song that really takes me back to that time in my life is "Mirror In the Bathroom" by The English Beat. Great song.

The next decade saw me embrace bluegrass, folk and country, and while I have fond memories of attending the Palmer Rapids Bluegrass Festival every summer, no one song seems to pop out. And I realize this post is getting quite long, so it's not a bad idea to move along.

1992 was a big year for me. I moved out of my parent's house and left my small town for a new job in the big city of Barrie. New beginnings in a number of important ways. I always associate Tom Petty's "Free Falling" with this move as I remember hearing it on the radio as I travelled through Algonquin Park to my new life, and it somehow felt appropriate. 

It's been 23 years since I made the move to Barrie and there have been a ton of songs that span that time period but I really can't think of one song that speaks to this era as there have been some great memories. I recall my friend Kimberly and I travelling through the night, trying to find a hotel after seeing Bruce in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Yes, we drove 10 hours for a concert without booking a hotel room. Was it the smartest thing we've ever done? Probably not . . . but it was totally worth it! Our mantra that evening was, "show a little faith, there's magic in the night," a line from Bruce's "Thunder Road."  And, we eventually did get a room – the last one available in an Econo Lodge in Shamokin Dam, almost two hours away from Hershey.
And, it's one of Bruce's songs that always reminds me of my mother, who passed away in 2008. His album Magic came out a few months before she died, but it wasn't until we were making the drive to Barry's Bay the day after she died, that I made a connection with "I'll Work For Your Love." The opening line is "Pour me a drink Theresa" and the song is filled with Catholic overtones. Her name was Teresa and she certainly was a loving woman and a devout Catholic. Thanks Bruce.

Now, the song that will always remind me of my dad? Well, that would be the Muppets' version of "Danny Boy." We watched a YouTube video of them performing the song on his final St. Patrick's Day in 2010, and it brought a much-needed laugh as we spent those final days in dad's hospital room.

Music has always played an important role in my life and many songs have inspired me, made me cry, laugh, deliriously happy and want to dance my face off. Music keeps me sane and feeds my soul and I look forward to adding several songs to my soundtrack.

Folk, jazz, bluegrass, country, smaltz and rock on my friends.

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