Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ten Songs That Transport Me to Another Time and Place

1. Boston: More than a Feeling. Yeah, you're probably thinking that's kind of cheesy, but that Boston album (OK, I had it on cassette, copied from my friend Andy) was really my first rock-n-roll album. And it was the first one I really listened to over and over. It's appropriate to this list, because of its lyrics.
I looked out this morning and the sun was gone/ Turned on some music to start my
day/ I lost myself in a familiar song/ I closed my eyes and I slipped away

2. Metallica: Creeping Death. I can't hear this song and not be transported back to sophomore year of high school, to a classmate's Nova. I was walking to school (the dreaded 50 miles, uphill both ways, with no shoes, in the snow - OK, so it was a 10 minute walk from door to door, but it was bitter cold that particular day), when someone stopped and asked if I'd like a ride. I knew him from the middle school track team, and I was really glad to get a ride because it was so cold out. Creeping Death was playing loudly. He started driving up Pebble Beach Drive toward the school... and pulled out a bong and starting smoking up. I was sure that he was going to crash and we were going to die and I'd be pronounced guilty by association.

3. Violent Femmes: Black Girls. While there are a lot better songs by the Femmes, this one is the one full of memories. I can remember it vividly: my friends John and Tony had come over to my house (maybe John drove in his huge boat of a car, or maybe I picked them up). We were in the basement with my brother, and it was really, really late. Or not so late, to my brother, who was in college at the time. We were listening to music (that was my social life in high school: playing soccer or listening to music), and we spontaneously broke into "dance" to go with the song (appropriate, because the Horns of Dilemma were supposed to improvise that section - "just play whatever you want, but play loud" - I think was the instruction). So any time I hear that song, that's where I am: 17 in the basement with Tony and John and the Dunce.

4. Metallica: One. I am suddenly a senior in high school, and I am sitting with Greg B in calculus class. We rewrote the song in my calculus notebook to reflect our calculus experience... the notebook that was collected weekly to check our work. It was returned with a check mark at the top of that page.

I must add that the first and last two songs on Metallica's Master of Puppets tape were my soccer fire-up songs, and I can't hear any of them without mentally running through my pre-game checklist... (on bus... listen to Ian McCullough and Peter Murphy to calm down... getting near the field... change to Metallica... put on shin guards and socks... at field... put on cleats... get off the bus... warm up, mostly alone... ref calls for captains... take off headphones, run to bench, get game jersey, pull it on while running to center circle for coin toss... GAME ON!)

5. Blues Traveler: But Anyway. I'm back at the Chi Phi house - I think it was Spring Quarter of my freshman year at Northwestern. After classes were done on a Friday, I'd come across the quad (that doesn't exist anymore) and I'd hear Blues Traveler blasting from the front yard (yeah, there's no front yard at the Chi Phi house anymore either). We had the biggest speaker on campus and you could hear it forever. The familiar scent of lighter fluid would hit (Sherman, our cook, would use exactly the correct amount to start the grill - meaning: the whole can), and then the smoke from the grill. Sherman would have a couple of beers going, one for dousing the burgers and flames and another (couple) for drinking. There'd be a couple of Frisbees flying and some guys sitting on the porch, just hanging out. Good, good times.

6. Grateful Dead: Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad. This could have been one of several Grateful Dead songs, but this one stuck out. For pretty much four years, my friend Joe and I were inseparable whenever I was home from college. Maybe he had ESP, or perhaps he could smell the fact that I was home, but whatever the case, as soon as I got home, he'd be there, and he wouldn't leave until I did (or, in some cases, for another week). I was, at that time, used to the "college schedule" which meant that things never even started until after 10 pm, whereas things in Kokomo were pretty much shut down by then. So Joe and I had some night-time hang-out spots, including the Denny's restaurant on highway 31 (where the good waitress would stick us way back in the corner and bring us our Cokes two at a time), the Eastern high school parking lot, where they had basketball hoops and streetlights, and the Highland Park tennis courts, where we would play Hacky-Sack while listening to the Grateful Dead on cassette until 11 pm, when the lights would go off. We had all kinds of fun. One thing we implemented was the "dinner shot." If you could kick the footbag while making a "kung-fu" yell, all the while going into a full splits (no more than 1 inch from the ground - it had to be measured for it to count, and the kick had to be played by the other player after you kicked it), you would recieve a free (all expenses paid) dinner wherever you wanted. We were pretty much in agreement that we'd choose a French restaurant.

In France.

Of course, nobody ever got paid. Because nobody could hit that shot. But it was fun to talk about, and that was what it was all about.

7. Credence Clearwater Revival: Down on the Corner. This is a great song, but it always takes me back to college, sitting in the frat house, playing it in Alan's room. Alan played keyboard and I played bass. We were the backbone of the non-band "Crazed Weasels in Heat" and this was our signature song (this and Green Onions - I didn't include Green Onions in this list because I just don't ever hear it).

8. Allman Brothers Band: You Don't Love Me. Still in college, but now I'm a senior. Sitting in a basement again, but this time it's the basement of Chi Phi (besides the kitchen, the dining room, and the pool room, there was one bedroom down there - more like a suite. It was called "the Pit"). I was experiencing a break-up, and when I was feeling especially down, my buddy Drew and I would just sit and listen to that song - all 19 minutes and 25 seconds.

9. Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: Order My Steps. It was the first song I sang as a part of a choir (since I was finally allowed to quit the children's choir at church when I was a 5'8" seventh grader with a bass voice). It was the Southland Christian Church choir, and (once I got over how high the bass part was), I loved it. We took it to the Battle of the Choirs at the Lexington Opera House, and that was an amazing experience. The audience was so energetic and the atmosphere was electric. I loved that church - being a part of the exciting stuff that was going on - but I especially loved the choir, the bass section most of all. It was also through the experience with that choir that I got the chance to sing the National Anthem at a Lexington Legends game - that was an awesome experience as well.

10. SonRise Praise Band: One Day. Oh, you don't know the SonRise Praise Band? That was "my" band at my last church (I was the bass player). Though I had a lot of favorite songs, this one always reminds me of playing in the band. It was one (of many) songs that the first time I heard it was when we were playing it. I had a recurring bass lick - I repeated the same four notes for the whole song - and it made the song. I'm not sure what I would have done without the SonRise Praise Band while I was at that church.

Thanks to Bryan for the inspiration for this post.

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