When I was a child Music was not a big part of my life. No one in my family was particularly interested, or at least not very outspoken about it, so back when my band first started out and I was asked the question what Artists or Songs have shaped me I was always a little bit embarrassed not to have any of the My dad introduced me to Bob Dylan or I used to steal my Sister's Depeche Mode tapes type stories I kept hearing from Musicians I respected to back up my Credibility. Instead my earliest Musical Memories consist mostly of Saturday morning Pop-charts, Tchaikovsky's Popular Ballets and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Hence, my preferences growing up were a bit of an indistinguishable mishmash, I have no one to blame for the worst of my choices, and when I have struck Gold I have done it blindly and straight from the heart or what ever it is that makes a song automatically and instantly become part of one's soul on the first listen. I navigated strictly on shame-free gut feeling, and looking back now I realize that even though the Music I was first introduced to may not be considered a very respectable foundation as far as Credibility goes, the Music I was spoon fed in all its banality has very much come to shape my Taste and Musical Instincts. I'm not sure if it's old age that has made me more forgiving to the Concept of Poor Taste, or if I can credit myself with enough experience in the field to dare preach the Gospel of Lindsey Buckingham - You can go your own way. In either case, I am now ready to nobly stand up for late bloomers and uncultivated Non-Taste-Makers with the following list of ten songs to illustrate the winding road of a blank canvas from Cluelessness to Enlightenment. With equal and undying Love and Devotion to every single track on the list,
1. Marti Webb | Take That Look Off Your Face
Thanks to my Mom, I have seen most Musicals. Thanks to my secret dream of becoming a Stage Actor, Dancer and Singer, I know every single word of every single song from Starlight Express, Godspell, Fiddler On The Roof and Hair. I can distinguish between a Jellicle and a Gumbie, and - spoiler alert! - I know it was Mungojerrie AND Rumpleteazer. I exclusively clean my apartment to the raging crowd outside the Casa Rosada crying Eva Perón, and I am still convinced I would make a dazzling Tap-Dancing Herod daring J.C. Superstar to walk across my swimming pool. Strangely I have never seen Tell Me On A Sunday, but got this song on an Andrew Lloyd Webber Compilation Tape I received in my Easter Egg one year and the rest is History. I played it over and over in my Mom's Car, she told me the back story of the Show and the time she went to see it, and when she (in spite of her usual Shyness about Singing) joyfully began to chirp along, I felt a seven-year-old's instinctive embarrassment by her inadequate Key and Odd Sense of Rhythm. But I sang along too, a little bit thrilled over the rare occasion of Singing with my Mom, and a little bit proud of my generosity towards the Musically impaired.
2. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Swan Lake, Op.20 - Act 2 - No.13b Danse Des Cygnes: Odette solo/Première Danse De La Reine Des Cygnes (Moderato Assai) (Performed by Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Charles Dutoit)
I DID do Ballet. I did. And this particular part of Swan Lake inspired in me an especially vivid image of myself on a huge stage dressed in feathers. The tricky part was not the fact that I had no intentions of doing any of the work it would take to get to a Professional School or even for one second considering that factor a possible obstacle to my career. No, the only thing that stood between me and the stage was the fact that my favourite part only lasted for 38 seconds about 3.15-3.52 minutes into the Suite. My challenge was to keep focus enough between rewinding to the right spot and making the run from the Stereo to the plush and dance friendly carpet in the livingroom in time to still manage to come up with a beautiful Choreography every single time. When my older Sister, who knew I was less likely to become a Prima Ballerina than I liked to pretend, once caught me in the middle of an especially moving grand Plié she scoffed and said: You don't know Ballet. Now, I was always mySister's biggest fan and usually took any bit of critique she gave me to heart with the genuine intention to change every last part of my being until it pleased her. This might actually have been the only time I have talked back at her in my entire life, which is strange because it might also have been the only instance where she was actually quite right. But I'm still proud of how I handled my utter humiliation. I stared right back into her non-believer eyes and said: You don't know me.
3. The Bangles | Manic Monday
I was eight years old when I first heard this song. I was with my family at my Grandmother's cabin in the Countryside, we were all watching some Show on TV and when The Bangles took the stage I pricked up my ears like never before. I waited attentively until the Show was over to hear what the band's name had been, and carefully wrote it down, the way I heard it. This was in the Summer of 1986 and I was a proud subscriber to a monthly Comic Book about the World's Strongest Bear, and when the following month the editor announced a competition with an LP of the winner's choice as prize I decided to enter, for the first time in my life. I wasn't fooling myself, I knew that my chances of winning were slim. But I was also a little hopeful that my sparseness with entering competitions of the sort would give me some sort of a Moral and possibly Mathematical advantage. I didn't win. But my Mom bought me the album for Christmas and I spent most of my free time for the next three years building and decorating stages made from shoe boxes and living the Rock'N'Roll dream vicariously through Ken and Barbie. There were no drugs involved mind you, but just as in most Rock Biographies there was the presence of a sinister, giant-headed and inappropriately dressed Sindy doll who ruined many a Concert and Romantic moments to the savage Intro of Walk Like An Egyptian. Barbie still managed to get laid a lot. I did however linger on the feeling that I should have won the LP fair and square. I was a bit disappointed that the editor of my favourite Comic so clearly had disregarded the Humility I had shown proof of by not entering too many prize competitions simply out of sheer, albeit very conscious, lack of greed. I found the Comic Book a few years ago, with my contribution to the competition still stapled to the back of it. I had forgotten to submit it. And it probably wouldn't have mattered much if I had. Only someone very inclined would have figured out that the aspiring LP-winner was aiming for a copy of Different Light by Susannah Hoffs and her gals from reading my request: De Baggels.
4. Diana Ross | Upside Down
This song was on a Mixtape I assume someone left in our Stereo at some point. It was recorded straight from the Radio, only about half the song made it onto the tape, and I didn't have a clue who sang it or if it could be considered cool or not. But I learned the Lyrics and thought up some pretty Groovy moves for it, and when it came on at a Disco some older kids put on for Middle Schoolers to raise money for a field trip, I danced my heart out. I ate Popcorn from a plastic bag while I danced and I was wearing my favourite outfit; a snot green Jumper with a Lion Tamer embroidered on it and a pair of Orange Graffiti printed Peg-Leg pants. I was still too much of a child to notice that mine wasn't exactly the style of the hour, or that there were boys there, or that none of them asked me to dance with them. I was still too much of a child to care about anything but dancing my heart out, and I sometimes wonder at what point in my Life that instinct was lost for ever.
5. Kate Bush | Wuthering Heights
I found this song on yet another forgotten Tape underneath my Parents’ Stereo. I have no memory of actually putting it into the Tape Player, but I vividly remember the Piano Intro touching my heart in a way that nothing had ever really touched any part of me before. And that when Kate’s Voice first hit my 11 year old ears, I thought I was listeing to an outerworldly creature rather than to a Human Being. I also found the Lyrics wildly Sensual. Even though I heard them as His kleeth! Wishee caffeine can't ownah!... If you don’t get that special tingly feeling from Lyrics like that, you’re either not 11 years old or English is your mother tongue. Either way, you’re dead to the 11 year old ME.
6. Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg | Je T'Aime… Moi Non Plus
I had just turned 15 years old when I borrowed my second best Childhood friend’s Dad’s Puffer Jacket, went to Confirmation Camp in the Stockholm Archipelago and had my (tiny) boobs grazed for the first time. It was the first night of a two week stay away from home, I was yet to smoke my first cigarette, I had never dyed my hair, and I was wearing candy striped pajamas. A boy named Oscar had his mind set on me, and on that very first night of Camp he set his sleeping gear up next to mine on the cliffs of Alskär. It was just one or two kisses, but since Oscar held on to my hand until he fell asleep I assumed that from then on he and I were to be an item. Turns out we were not. My second best Childhood friend – sans Dad’s Puffer Jacket – did something more to his kleeth than I did, and so mine and Oscar’s Love was over before it began. I spent the rest of the Lonesome Camp Nights listening to Serge deceiving Jane Birkin to Orgasm, and knew in my heart I probably needed to start thinking about Growing Up, or perish.
7. The Dictators | Baby, Let’s Twist
And then there was the time when I stole my Sister’s bright red Moncler Winter Coat and her mother of pearl earrings, ran off to a convent, didn’t go to class but learned how to bake an Ambrosia Cake, took an afternoon train to town and surprised a Punk employee at the Virgin Megastore by inquiring for their selection of LP's by The Dictators. He thought I was just a little girl, because that’s what I looked like, but I was slowly becoming something else. Little did I know that seven years later I was going to run into Guitarist Scott "Top Ten" Kempner at Amoeba Records in LA and invite him to my own band’s Show, while getting my Brother and myself a signed copy each of Bloodbrothers. Kaboom. On me that is, sadly not as much on Top Ten who worked behind the register.
8. Roky Erickson And The Aliens | I Think Of Demons
I was never a real Punk, because although I could kind of sympathize with the Concept of Anarchy and a general contempt for the World of Traditional Adulthood, I couldn't help but feeling a little sorry for people with real Mohawks when I pictured what they must look like when they woke up in the morning. I could however very much dig Melodic Three Chord songs with Lyrics about Zombies. Enter Roky Erickson. All tangled up with most of the Nuggets compilations and a scattered personal collection of Scandinavian Digging For Gold LP's, the song I Think Of Demons became my Trademark to the point where other people set it as my personal Ringtone on their phones. I have no idea what the Lyrics actually mean, but for some reason Nonsensical Ramblings About Creatures from Other Realms and their fangs in day's Moonlight along with crazy happy Guitar Solos and simple Tom Petty-like Riffs rang super true to me. Maybe it's actually pretty spot on when it comes to describing Being Young.
9. Françoise Hardy | Et Si Je M'en Vais Avant Toi
This song was a turning point for me. My mom grew up at a Swiss Boarding School, hence she knew this and that about French Radio Pop from the 60's. I didn't think to fully tap that source until much later on when I had already discovered Jane Birkin, France Gall, Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan on my own. But my mom once sang along to this song on the Radio and I did the research myself. I bought three Françoise Hardy records at once the same afternoon and was in awe. I played this particular song to two of my friends; Adam and Fredrik (you may know the former as the Lead Singer of my band, and the latter as the Artist who did all of the Illustrations for our first four or five releases, but this was long before that). I played them this song, and their reaction was disappointing to say the least, because they were rolling on the floor laughing. They weren't trying to be mean to me or to disrespect my (non)taste, they just thought the song and the Frenchness of it was really, really, really lame. This was the 90's you see, the only room for Contemplative Female Singers from the days of yore in current Pop Culture was the mention of Joni Mitchell as a relic of a Musical Reference in Nick Hornby's Novel About a Boy. Mind you, my humiliation over my insufficient taste at that moment was of lesser proportions than my triumph when about two or three years later Françoise along with many equally pensive 60's Female Singers and Song Writers was suddenly all the rage. Especially the ones that sang in French. This song will remain my one and only trump card in all discussions regarding being Clueless vs. Making Independent Choices vs. Being A Bit Of A Slave To Pitchfork. But please do forgive Adam and Fredrik, I have.
10. Joni Mitchell | Night In The City
Speaking of Joni Mitchell. When I found her I found solid ground in Music. I stopped looking for Cohesiveness and Reason when it comes to understanding mine or anyone's likes and dislikes. Most of the time it really doesn't matter how or why or who or when. As long as something in a song speaks to you it doesn't matter if it also speaks to millions of others or to no one but you. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you understand every Word of a Lyric, if the Lyrics are kind of dumb, if a song stems from a Virtuoso or if you could easily have come up with it yourself. That's what I found in Joni, not because that's what she told me but because that's what I heard, that's what I found, listening to her Music and her Lyrics. I can't pick a single song here. But listen to the entire Blue album if you haven't, the song Night In The City from her Debut album Song To a Seagull if you're going out tonight. You'll take it from there I'm sure.
+11. Johnny Boy | You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve
If someone would have told the faux Ballerina Mid Schooler Dancing to Diana Ross in a snot green Lion Tamer sweater that one day she would end up signing a Record Deal in the Capitol building on 1750 Vine St, just around the corner from a chance meeting with her Original Punk Guitar Hero, she would probably have choked on her Popcorn in the middle of a moonwalk. And she would have probably wanted me to tell all the other lost and struggling girls and boys out there that anything is possible. Because it is. I really think so. So if you, your children or anyone else over whose Life Choices you have influence, are considering pursuing a career in Advertising or Retail over one in Music (or any form of Artistry) because most people might say it’s safer or easier, consider this is my call to arms: Give Music a Go. And keep this song in your mind when someone tells you not to.