This past week was a lousy one for me. I’ve had severe PMS, which took a fiercer than normal hold this month, probably because I’m currently one big ball of frustration.
Lucky for me, one of my blogging friends, Charlie Gilkey, wrote a fantastic piece this week on 21 Ways to Quickly Short-Circuit A Funk and it reminded me of all the actions I should be taking (or NOT taking – as in canceling my blog, which I wanted to do all weekend) to get through what my rational mind knows is a temporary slump.
One of the items on Charlie’s list, and one of my great loves is music. I do not play an instrument, but I was raised in a musical household and music is one of the few ways I can circumvent a complete emotional meltdown. In fact, it is probably quite telling that in the real low points of my adult life, when I could barely drag myself out of bed, I had stopped listening to music.
To me, music is as essential as the air I breathe and the food I eat. Music adds a warm glow to life. It heightens the passion, cushions the falls, and adds meaning to the events and relationships that have defined my 36 years.
Here is my life in music:
Let It Be, The Beatles, 1970
Both my parents are passionate about music, and my dad, his guitar and our musician friends were an intrinsic element of my early childhood. The Beatles were always on our record player, but Let it Be sticks in my mind because we once lived in an old house in New Zealand which came with an ancient, lumbering organ. I decided that I may not be able to stick with guitar lessons, but goddamn it I was going to master one instrument. This was the one and only song I learned to play.
Mama Mia, Abba, 1976
When I was little I always fancied I could grow up and be Agnetha with her beautiful straight blond hair and groovy fashions. Considering I was a freckled faced brunette with wavy curls this was always unlikely.
Woman in Love, Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb, 1980
My mum loved this album when it came out and I remember this song being played A LOT. I’m not sure if she was a fan of Barbara or Barry and his tight jeans.
We Are the Champions, Queen, 1977
Freddie was a God in our house and I still bow to his genius today, as does my little sister who was born probably around the time he died. Goes to show that brilliance will always live on.
I Was Made for Loving You, Kiss, 1979
The very start of my music obsession. I used to dance my butt off to this song and was lucky enough to go to the Wellington concert with my parents. There are definite perks to being a kid in a musical family.
My First Song Obsession
Counting the Beat, The Swingers, 1981
Outside of Australia and New Zealand I’m not sure if anyone knows this song, but it was HUGE down under and I taped it from the radio and used to play the tape over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it still gets a lot of airplay on my iPod now.
Goodbye Happy Families
Come on Eileen, Dexys Midnight Runners, 1982
This song was out when my parents were getting divorced and I was leaving town with no idea where I would live next.The enormity of it all was too much to cope with so I retreated into the world created by this song where the guy will do anything to keep his girl. The song played at the end of year school fete and all I remember is hugging my best friend and wishing I could stop time. It was like I already sensed my carefree childhood was over.
Changing from Girl into Woman
Pleasure and Pain, The Divinyls, 1985
The Divinyls were one of the absolute best Australian bands in the 80s. Chrissy Amphlett was everything I aspired to be: powerful and in-your-face, a true rock chick and sexy as hell. She became my proof that a normal Australian woman could become more than someone’s wife and mother. That there were other options, women who went out there and grabbed life by the throat and defied all expectations. That’s what I wanted to do, and I thought she was bold and beautiful and fabulous. I still do.
Memorable Teenage Crush
With or Without You, U2, 1987
T was a gorgeous, shaggy haired Surfing God and he had both myself and my best friend head over heels. He went to camp for a week and we pined over this song. We were both good friends with him and part of his beach/surfing posse, but other than that, I’m not sure he even noticed we were female.
Hitting the Clubs
Male Stripper, Man 2 Man, 1987
Such a tacky song, but so much fun, and my girlfriends and I used to have a ball vamping it up on the dance floor when it came on.
I Want Your Love, Transvision Vamp,1988
Another sassy blond I wanted to be. Wendy James was the girl’s pink marshmallow version of Debbie Harry. Punky, but softer around the edges. Not that I don’t love Ms Harry – she is the original Punk/Pop Priestess after all.
Express Yourself, Madonna, 1989
Madonna was my first icon and she taught me all I needed to know about Girl-Power. She may have had some errors of judgment (SEX book anyone – ick!), but she showed a whole generation of girls that we didn’t have to sit on the sidelines waiting for Prince Charming to come along and marry us. The lyrics to this song should be mandatory study for every teenage girl. It’s a shame the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton copy Madonna’s blatant sexuality without actually taking on the empowerment and self respect that has always gone with it.
Push It, Salt N Pepa, 1987
Another couple of in-your-face girls with a rockin’ song. This track still gets me up and shaking my booty at a party.
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns N Roses, 1987
This is probably still my favorite song of all time. Nothing else makes me stop whatever I’m doing like this track, and when I listen to it I am 17 again. I also used to love the way Axel Rose moved, which probably led to me falling for my first serious boyfriend because he danced the exact same way. Sex on legs.
Falling in Love for the First Time
Patience, by Guns N Roses, 1989
Like I said, my first love, J was also a Gunners fan and this song encapsulates this period of my life. Love, sex, panel vans and dying to grow up and be free.
Teardrops on the Dance floor, Womack and Womack, 1988
The most played song in the night clubs when I started going on a regular basis, and I still think it’s a cool track. I was under age, but I could always slide myself into some stockings, put on a teeny tiny skirt and sky high heels and take on the world. Big 80s hair and a tiny skirt. I think that’s what J fell in love with.
Groove is in the Heart, Dee Lite, 1990
In Australia, dance music was just starting to become popular in 1990 and this song was the biggest hit of that era. My girls and I would throw our handbags into a pile in the middle of the floor and dance in a circle around it. Everybody else just get out of the way. You couldn’t do this now because clubs are never big enough for the crowds, but back then and in Newcastle where I went to university, Leroy’s was one of the first multi-leveled night clubs and we’d dance on one floor then go downstairs and drink Illusion cocktails by the jug until we ran out of money or were too drunk to dance.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana, 1991
No one screams like Kurt. This is actually not my favorite Nirvana song, but it was the one that got me excited about the band and made me grunge obsessed.
Blue Sky Mine, Midnight Oil, 1990
Australia’s own “Rocker with A Conscience” was Peter Garrett and his band, Midnight Oil. These guys are an Australian institution. Talented. Fierce. Passionate. Political. My dad was a huge fan, so I was raised on the Oils and their unique combination of music and social activism. Peter is a politician these days and like many fans I find myself hoping he doesn’t destroy the faith and respect he garnered over the two decades of his musical career.
Death and Loss
Nothing Else Matters, Metallica, 1991
I loved this band in my rebellious teen years, as did my brother and stepbrother, D. When we lost D, the boys all wore Metallica t-shirts to his funeral in honor of a beautiful boy who died before he could become a man. After 16 years, I still can’t listen to this song without crying.
Too Many Fish in the Sea, The Marvelettes, 1964
“Don’t waste your time on a fella who doesn’t love you”. Or in my version: “Don’t waste your time on a fella who HITS you”. Need I say more. The perfect song to help you see sense after a messy break-up.
Life is a Highway, Tom Cochrane, 1991
This song and the road tripping video clip reminded me that there was a whole world out there to get excited about. I may have been single but that meant I was FREE!
First Full-Time Job / Flat mates / Being a Grown-up
Mr Jones, Counting Crows, 1993
This song has only good memories for me. New friends. New home. A proper paycheck. Endless possibility.
Miss World, Hole, 1994
Another ballsy rock chick. A penchant for drugs that I unfortunately shared. I guess it’s obvious why I used to like Courtney Love.
Heart Shaped Box, Nirvana, 1993
I was devastated at the death of Kurt Cobain and I must have played this song and the entire In Utero album 10 times a day, every day for a year.
A Small Victory, Faith No More, 1992
Mike Patton has such a distinctive voice and Faith No More were one of my favorite bands back then. I also like this clip because Patton is too sexy for words and my flatmate and I used to replay it over and over again so we could swoon.
Zombie, The Cranberries, 1994
A huge hit and an epic song that squeezes your heart and makes you feel the dread and anguish that life must have been like in Northern Ireland before the truce. One of my all-time favorites tracks. Make sure you check out the video clip, it’s amazing.
Meeting and Falling in Love with My Husband
Glycerine, Bush, 1996
It’s probably not surprising that I grew up to marry a musician and composer. I met my husband, Music Man, when I moved into his share house in Balmain, a harbourside suburb of Sydney. This area was traditionally inhabited by dockers, other tradesmen and their families and like all good working class suburbs it had a pub on every corner. My local (pub) had a few musicians and wannabe musicians and they all loved this song, so we couldn’t get it off the juke box.
Fire, Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967
I’ve always liked Hendrix, but Music Man LOVES him and plays this song and many others on piano. My husband was the first and only person I have ever heard play a rock song with heavy bass on a grand piano. He rocks out and it sounds awesome. How could I not marry him?
Riders on the Storm, The Doors, 1971
The Doors are another of Music Man’s big musical influences. This song is hauntingly beautiful when he plays it, and I love to kick back and listen to it with my eyes closed.
My Wedding Song
Girl from Ipanema, Astrud Gilberto, 1963
Music Man has eclectic taste in music and he introduced this song to me. We chose it for our wedding because we wanted something different and it was the one song we would always slow dance to.
Rockafella Skank, Fat Boy Slim, 1998
When I went to Europe in 1998, I could not escape this song and so I was introduced to the music of Fatboy Slim. When I hear this on the radio it makes me think of Beer Halls in Munich, getting stoned in Amsterdam and way too many bus rides.
Without You, Eminem, 2002
I liked this song when it first came out, but now it makes me want to scream. Even so, it was very popular with the young, posturing males in Mexico who liked to drive around playing it full blast with the windows rolled down. So despite how annoying I find it, it does make me smile and remember a really great time in my life – my first solo trip to Latin America.
Chop Suey, System of a Down, 2001
A favorite on my iPod, and a friend on many long and lonely bus rides through foreign lands.
Mr Bobby, Manu Chao, 2002
Manu Chao seemed to be THE ONLY choice in music for backpacking bums in Guatemala and Mexico. It played in every hostel, in beach huts on the lower Pacific Coast of Mexico and was the track that I downed a double shot of rum to right after I got held up at gun point in Antigua, Guatemala.
This is the music I used to cope with the challenges of being a new mother, while I wondered what I had got myself into and despaired of the world my son would grow up in.
American Idiot, Green Day, 2004
Amazing album. Great song for venting your rage and frustration.
Times They Are A Changing, Bob Dylan, 1964
Bob Dylan was another artist from my childhood, but I really grew to love his music when I discovered my baby son stopped crying whenever I put it on. I bought a cd of his greatest hits and kept it in my baby’s bag with the other essentials, like wipes and nappies (diapers).
The Pusher, Blind Melon, 1996
This is a cover on Nico, a little known album from Blind Melon, an under-rated band. This song is one of my favorite songs for driving and it was played a lot in my first year of motherhood as I drove to soothe my nerves and put my son to sleep.
The Best of You, Foo Fighters, 2005
I love Dave Grohl and I couldn’t do a music list without the Foo Fighters on it. Great song.
I discovered these guys through my husband at the end of last year and this is the track I am currently wearing out on my iPod, though their other songs are great too.
This has been my music. My life. But I know I’m not the only person who can chart their life with the magic of song. What is the music that means something to you? Share your favorites with me and maybe we’ll find we have more in common than we thought.