Friday, June 14, 2013

So easy to say that you’ll forget your past

This morning (for reasons too dreary to get into right now) I drove to work rather than take the train. It gave me the opportunity to listen to the radio for a long, unbroken stretch, which I really don’t do all that much these days. Of course, as I’ve lamented around these parts before, commercial FM radio doesn’t have the same raw appeal for me that it once did (a decade or so ago) but I’ve resigned myself to the local dinosaur rock station. It’s the music I grew up on, and while it’s not going to broaden my horizons any it is comfortable and nostalgic and unobjectionable. Given unlimited time and resources to investigate both new stuff and old classics I’d missed, I would probably prioritize reading everything (books and comics) I wanted to read, followed second by watching everything (movies and tv) that I wanted to watch, followed third by listening to everything (music and podcasts) I wanted to listen to. But since I don’t have unlimited time and resources, I’ve made peace with just occasionally nodding along to the same Stones and BOC and ZZ Top tunes that are always in heavy rotation.

Much to my surprise and delight, though, this morning the algorithm that determines the usually inflexibly repetitive playlist for the dinosaur rock station managed to slip in The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em) by the Greg Kihn Band, which happens to be one of my favorite lost classics (and not just because it has parentheses in the title, either). It’s a little thing, but hearing a song I really love and don’t hear all that often kind of made my drive significantly happier than the gazillionth listen to Sweet Home Alabama or More Than a Feeling.

I started this blog in late August of 2009, so right before I turned 35 years old. About two years earlier, I had put together a massive iTunes playlist in preparation for my 33rd birthday party. The playlist was a semi-autobiographical retrospective consisting of three songs from each year between when I was born and the present, in chronological order. Not necessarily the three highest-charting or best-selling, or even the three that best stood the test of time, but just some of my own beloved favorites. In some cases obviously I was too young at the time to have been a fan of the song ever since its release, but in just about all cases they were songs I came back to again and again because they held some kind of special meaning for me, be it association with a particular memory or a resonant piece of personal philosophy in the lyrics. Of course I limited myself to one song per artist across the whole 99-song survey, because arbitrary rules like that are a must in my mental exercises, so it’s a fairly eclectic mix. If I had been keeping this blog back in 2007, clearly I would have made a running series out of identifying and explaining my choices for the songs that made the cut, but as it went down I never wrote out any of it, just kept it all in the back of my mind and let the music speak for itself at my party (which now that I think about it might have been one of the last heavily prepped theme parties I threw; the little guy was born just under a year later).

The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em) was one of the trio from 1981 in my playlist, it probably goes without saying. I was a little surprised, when it came around on the stereo-iPod combo at the party, that the tune got so few “Oh, hey I haven’t heard this song in ages!” and so many puzzled “I have never heard this song in my life” reactions. But so it goes with personal faves, no matter how compelling the story behind how they achieved that exalted status.

I suppose it’s not too late for me to revisit that playlist and give it some attention hereabouts. Honestly (and this should really not come as a surprise to anyone) I’ve been thinking lately about the kinds of reflective big picture topics I might take on as a running theme next year, after I’ve thoroughly run the (sporadically adhered to) Theme Month thing into the ground over the course of 2013. 2014 is the year I turn 40, and those big round zero-years call for taking things to the next level, if anything does. Watch this space!

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