Monday, January 17, 2011
pOp, The Early Years - An Unfolding in Three Parts
You see, as long as I can remember I have enjoyed music. Since I got my first cassette tape – the Grease 2 Soundtrack - with Michelle Pfeiffer singing ‘Cool Rider’, I allowed music and song to set my mental stage and define my mood. I was 7 years old and we lived in San Antonio, Texas, and I had bunk beds with my sister Amber. I played that tape from my top bunk and cried. Cried because I thought Maxwell Caulfield was the most beautiful human breathing and why didn't he love me? Cried because I knew I could be a famous actor one day and all this suffering would be fuel for my creativity. Cried because even then, I was moody and sought an outlet to shake the burned layers off my heart. Needless to say, I lived that tape. And that was the beginning; the start to a memory cataloging system and twisted love affair/open diary/obsession with music… song and lyric parcelled in my own Dewey Decimal Drawer of Memories.
After Grease 2, I dabbled in other musicals. They were easy for a kid to get a hold of back then. I can still sing all the words to every song in The Sound of Music. I learned this pattern before age 10 and the disc player in my head skips if I hear any of the songs out of order from the film. "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" DOES NOT EVER come after "Do Re Me"! I recall trips from Texas to Virginia to see my grandparents and Crystal Gayle’s Brown Eyes haunted me all over some stretch of road in Arkansas. I absorbed Simon and Garfunkel’s America in Alabama and swayed to Kenny Rogers’ Gambler in South Carolina. In fact, adult contemporary music of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s still calls to me and I find myself seeking out that familiar piece of song from B.J. Thomas or some other faceless singer because I can’t shake it until I can ‘feel’ those Raindrops Fallin’ on my Head. Ahhhhh, to finally tease out enough of the notes to find and hear that song, catalogued in my mind with a specific thought, emotion, or memory. It teeters on obsession some days. I must do it right then, or that piece of my life will fall off the edge, never to be reclaimed.
Sure, I saw Debbie Gibson and Tiffany at the mall in Corpus Christi. And I heard Menudo at Padre Island one summer and thought I was in love with Robby Rosa. But, who wasn’t? Every hot-blooded girl in Texas loved those cute boys from Puerto Rico. I was just another fish in the tide. In a few short years, MTV would take hold of me and I now had new music at my fingertips. Every hour. Every day. And soon, my tastes would be changing. And my thoughts about how I let music define me would be changing right along with them.
For Christmas when I was 13 years old my brother bought me The Red Hot Chili Peppers cassette Mothers Milk. While I had always been happy to bob along on the surface and glean the stuff that everyone was soaking in as well, Mothers Milk was a taste of what was waiting for me just below the surface. Like I was told, I never went passed the second sandbar at the beach. Menudo and Debbie Gibson were close to the shore and safe. My peers and parents could relate. But the Chili Peppers were calling me from just beyond that second sandbar and I dove at them like a shark. This feeling was a deal breaker. I had to see what else was there. Higher Ground, while a Stevie Wonder cover, made me dance and shake my head in ways Stevie never did. Sexy Mexican Maid was dirty and I didn't know why - but I knew I would be that woman one day. From then on, whatever band, whichever song, and no matter what the lyric I was brushing my teeth to or replaying on my Sony Walkman, it became a badge that I wore. It proclaimed my rights and marked my path for all to see. I didn't have to dare tell my secrets, because I was sure to find some brilliant musician who had put my tender rage and explosive whimsy to a succession of notes and words. They did this and I was free.