Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
During a lunchroom discussion at work it became evident that I haven’t listened to any new western music in 7 years EXCEPT Katy Perry, who (thanks to my daughter’s choir) plays on a loop in our car. A young colleague took pity on me and launched me on a musical discovery program. While we were in the Middle East, another colleague found out and generously volunteered to become a musical advisor for me as well. Thanks to the two of them I had a Grooveshark play list that kept me from being lonely while in solitary confinement for those 5 weeks. I’ve been reflecting on the music that has influenced my life and decided to write about it here.
Material Girl by Madonna – as you probably know by now I grew up off the grid, literally in the rainforest, in a shed with intermittent solar power, so ours was a home without music other than my brother’s guitar, my clarinet and the calls of the rainforest animals. In the car my parents listened to ABC Radio National, so you can understand that I wasn’t overly keen to listen to the radio. When I was 10 we moved to Launceston, Tasmania. It was the first time that I had interacted with ‘city’ people. I have a vivid memory of visiting my friend’s house; she had a pink cassette player, we played Madonna, held hair brushes as microphones and danced in front of her mirrored cupboard doors. This was literally my first musical experience.
Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi – we returned to our rainforest home when I was 11 and soon afterwards I attended the end of year 6 school disco. I can still remember the audio pleasure I experienced from the music that night. Of course, it being 1988 the final song was Bad Medicine. My musical naivety was lost.
Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed – my parents saved hard and finally when I was 14 we moved into a house (that we built ourselves on the same property) and paid a small fortune to have electricity connected. Suddenly I discovered that my father loves music. He unearthed his record player and vinyls and with the help of electricity our home was transformed. We listened to dozens of songs by The Beatles, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan etc at high volume and I loved it! I discovered that songs could be a vehicle for social change and political messages and I realised their power. A few years ago, after my grandfather’s funeral, my father had been contemplating his own funeral and requested that we blast the place with Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf. I was instantly in agreement and transported to those heady days when he introduced me to a love of music.
The Look by Roxette – I went to a selective high school in the nearest city and was socially isolated because living in isolation meant that I didn’t know how to norm. I made friends with some other misfits and one particularly intense friend made me a mixed tape, my parents bought me a tape player, and I discovered that Swedish Duo – Roxette. I have their songs playing through my mind as I write this. When they toured Australia, the intense friend and I caught the train to Sydney and were electrified to see them live in concert. This began my own exploration of music.
U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer – I became friends with a group of Vietnamese boat refugees at my school. We formed the school volleyball team and had great success in the district tournament. We celebrated Chinese New Year with the community and spent our breaks from class in the shade of a big tree, singing or hitting the ball around. One sweet young Vietnamese man (for some of the refugees had lied about their age to be admitted into school on arrival in Australia and were definitely not boys) made me a mixed tape. It was the first time that I had heard modern American music, think Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer etc. This began another era of musical discovery and fun for me.
Light my Fire by The Doors – my brother went to boarding school and when he came home for weekends to our rainforest house, he would borrow cassettes from the public library (we had very little money) and through that period of influence by my brother I discovered such greats as INXS, The Cure, Gangajang, The Doors, The Smiths. He also introduced me to Triple J radio station.
Blaze of Glory by Bon Jovi – the next great influence on my musical life was my husband to be. We met towards the end of high school and I fondly remember reclining in his darkened bedroom, fragranced by incense, sipping mint tea and listening to classical music. For the first time I came to love classical music rather than feeling that it was a chore (after many years of learning the clarinet). He also introduced me to an eclectic mix including Phil Collins, Henry Rollins, Hunters & Collectors and films played on the VCR. Soon I could quote from the film Young Guns and I can hear in my head now the musical score from that fun film. We went to see Bon Jovi play live in Sydney at a huge outdoor venue.
That’s my musical journey until young adulthood; naive and heavily influenced by others. At university I was a regular at the University Bar for live music every Thursday night (once wearing body paint) and I couldn’t believe my luck that I could see live the bands that I was listening to everyday on Triple J radio station. One close friend was my live music buddy and we moshed and head banged and sang at the tops of our voices, loving the Indie Rock scene. And then I moved to a different city, became a mother and started listening to Latin and Arabic dance music as I was involved in Latin and belly dancing scenes but I lost touch entirely with modern western music.
What was your musical journey like?!