Are People Still Passionate About Music?

Sundays, I never left home without my boombox.

“Are people still passionate about music the way they used to be?”

My boss posed this question during a marketing meeting on Tuesday. There were five of us sitting around a table, eating lunch and discussing sales and marketing strategies for the company. This followed a rather heated debate over the significance of traditional retail stores in today’s online- and digital-centric marketplace. (As an aside, I have wondered how my company could continue to successfully thrive from the moment I set foot in the enormous warehouse on my first day and saw row upon row of CDs. I joke that this organization is living in an alternate universe circa 1998 or so. Aren’t CDs nearly extinct, after all? And we still rely on AIM for interoffice instant communication. I didn’t know that program still existed! Sometimes after work I feel like sending a page to Tara’s beeper letting her know I’ll be late because I’m stopping by Tower Records, and then kicking back at home and watching the latest episode of Seinfeld, but then I remember it’s actually 2012. Anyway, we’re still selling CDs, so something is working out right. Go figure).

Anyway, I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my chair and responding in the affirmative, because I’m new and don’t want to portray myself as being too excitable. Gotta maintain that cool professionalism, don’tcha know. But the answer to that query was screaming around inside my brain.

YES!!!

I’ve mentioned before my love of music, and how important it is to me. It’s one of the biggest interests that Tara and I have in common and, in fact, was crucial in bringing us together. Our second meeting – the one that ended up being the foundation for our entire relationship and changed the course of both of our futures – happened because of our mutual love for music (we’d planned to attend a concert together). The first time I met her family, we were in town for a music festival. And once she moved in, the next two months were a whirlwind of live shows big and small, of amphitheaters and clubs and arenas. And there are plenty more concerts on tap. Next month is Music Fest Northwest. One of the biggest perks of my job is picking up free music; yesterday I came home with a vinyl copy of Jack Johnson’s “Brushfire Fairytales” that cost me nothing, and can’t wait to spin that disc on the ol’ Victrola. (OK, Crosley record player, but whatever). Even now I’m jamming to Pink Floyd while blogging. And it is impossible for me to get through a workday without a steady stream of Spotify playlists emanating from my speakers. Are people still passionate about music, my boss dares to wonder out loud? What a silly question, I think.

I mean, Tara and I can’t be the only ones, right?

Sundays, I never left home without my boombox.

Maybe we’re unusual. Perhaps today’s generation is more interested in video games and apps and movies. I don’t think either of my kids has ever purchased a record or CD in their life. Sure, they’ve downloaded songs from the internet, but that’s not the same. I was buying music when I was ten years old. Vinyl first, and then cassettes, followed by CDs. Now, with the welcome resurgence of LPs, it’s back to vinyl again. I remember discovering Elvis first, and then The Beatles. Religiously following Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, so obsessed that if we were going somewhere on a Sunday morning I’d bring along a portable radio so I wouldn’t miss out on the chart positions of every single song. I probably drove my parents batty, but I couldn’t help it: I wanted to know if Dexy’s Midnight Runners scored that elusive number one slot (they did; “Come On Eileen” was the song of the year in 1982) or whether The Dream Academy would ever have another hit after “Life In A Northern Town” (they did not – classic one-hit wonder band). I spent hours in Tower Records, combing through the bins for that perfect discovery. God, I miss that place.

That’s the beautiful thing about music: there is nothing more evocative in helping you to recall memories in your life. Hearing a song will often transport me back in time to a particular place and event. Bob Seger’s “Against The Wind” will always remind me of a warm summer night spent chasing fireflies and reflecting on the fleeting nature of youth. Cat Stevens and Paul Simon were the soundtrack for our road trips to New Jersey in the 70s. Miami Sound Machine’s “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” was playing during graduation rehearsal. Nirvana’s anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” convinced me to trash all my crappy late-80s dance cassettes. “Freebird” played on the classic rock station when we drove Rusty home from the hospital the day after he was born, and when I visited Tara in Ely for the first time last September Sleigh Bells’ “Rill Rill” was playing on the stereo in her living room while I felt the first stirrings of love filling my heart. Every time I hear that song I think of those happy moments and I can’t help but smile.

See what I mean?

How can music not matter?

Is there a particular song that transports you back to a time and place in your life that would otherwise be long forgotten?

Music To My Ears

I’ve been listening to music all day.

Actually, I’ve been listening to music nearly nonstop for the past week. My iPod is getting a serious workout. This all started the Sunday before my trip to Ely, when I broke down and bought a new car stereo from Best Buy. I’d wanted one for ages – the one that came with the Hyundai had a CD player and a cassette deck, for crying out loud. I’d grown tired of lugging CDs around and craved the convenience of simply plugging my iPod (with its 4500+ songs) in whenever I went anywhere. Fumbling around with compact discs was an irritating constant on my road trip this past summer. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that car stereos have dramatically dropped in price these past few years, so with a couple of reward discounts to cash in, I picked one up for quite the steal. This made my long drive to Nevada and back much easier. At this point, I may never buy another CD again…I’m not sure where I’d even play it anymore. In fact, I just pre-ordered Coldplay’s new album off iTunes. If everything is going onto the iPod anyway, why not? My favorite feature, by the way, is Shuffle mode. I heard music during my drive that I hadn’t heard in years – songs that never would have made it onto a CD but which, despite that, I still love. They come up randomly and are often a cool surprise.

The music I’ve been listening to wasn’t just confined to the drive there and back. Tara had music playing at her house, too. And when we drove to Great Basin…or around town…either my iPod or her Sanza were constantly going. Driving to the movies yesterday, taking the kids to school – cue the music. Today, I’ve had a very productive day job-searching, and for the past six hours that has been accompanied by…guess. Oh, did you say music? That would be correct!

Courtesy of hitmatrix.com.

Music has always played an important role in my life. I’ll hear a certain song and it will magically transport me back to a particular time and place where it was playing. It’s impossible for me to hear Cat Stevens or Paul Simon without remembering road trips from Ohio to New Jersey in the 70s. “Lightning Crashes” always takes me back to the day Rusty was born; “Smells Like Teen Spirit” reminds me of late nights working in Sharper Image; “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” makes me think of my high school graduation; and the Sleigh Bells “Rill Rill” takes me back exactly one week. And on and on. Those associations are more enduring than many other more tangible memories.

I remember my very first record album (Elvis Presley). The first time I discovered rock ‘n roll (Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” playing over my tiny blue plastic transistor radio). Gorging myself on The Beatles’ back catalog after John Lennon was assassinated. Calling radio stations to request songs and then recording them on tape once they finally played (I was annoyed as hell whenever the DJ would talk over the opening). Faithfully listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every Sunday, no matter where I was or what I was doing. I used to bring along a notebook and keep track of the top hits. Seems silly now…but it’s all because of my love for music.

I’ve often said that if I were forced to choose one single entertainment option for the rest of my life, I would pick music over television, movies, and even the internet. (I’d hate to give up books, though)! Those other things I could easily live without. Music? Not so much. I need it in my life. What kind of music? Rock ‘n roll, primarily. I’m a sucker for alternative, grunge, and (especially these past few years) obscure indie rock. 90% of my iPod is rock ‘n roll, baby. But I do enjoy other stuff. I have weaknesses for 70s pop, Frank Sinatra, Hawaiian music, disco, and cheesy synth-driven 80s songs. I draw the line at country, although I don’t mind Miranda Lambert or Johnny Cash. Hip-hop hooray? More like hip-hop no way! (Although even here there are rare exceptions. Outkast and the Black Eyed Peas occasionally pop up on my iPod). I guess I’m sort of eclectic, but definitely play favorites.

Which is why I’m so excited for next month. When Tara comes up on October 19th, we’re heading to Seattle for a three-day music festival called City Arts Festival. We’re most excited to see Built To Spill, The Long Winters, Helio Sequence and The Hold Steady – plus check out a lot of up-and-coming acts, like Seapony. It’s going to be a blast! That’s one thing she and I have always shared in common: a love and appreciation for music that most other people have never heard of. I remember the first mix CD she ever gave me, a year or two ago. Once “A.M. 180″ by Grandaddy started playing, I knew this girl was special. Seattle will be awesome. It’s 35 days away!

I can’t wait to hear all the good music that’ll be playing on the three-hour drive north.

And for the record, Tara and I are giving this relationship thing a go. It’s Facebook official now and everything. I am happy and excited despite the obstacles. I think we have a lot of potential, and the fact that she’s willing to see where this all leads?

Well, that is sweet music to my ears.