When I was a child the music I listened to was what my parents and sisters liked. In my parents' case this meant old-time polka music and country (when it was still both kinds, country AND western). I don't mind polka music now but cannot stand country. I will forever associate twanging guitars and that accent with the backseat of a cigarette-smoke-filled Ford as we travelled off to yet another holiday spent with extended family (an experience I usually found miserable as I was a city kid dragged into the country where I was clearly out of place in every way). My sisters' tastes were more interesting - Monkees and Beatles, and more than one went through an acid rock phase, too. When my early teen years rolled around I discovered the Sex Pistols and then New Wave, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As I grew older, into my late teens and early twenties, music played an even larger part in my life. I spent most of my time listening to bands, new ones and ones I'd loved forever. I went to gigs and concerts. I hung around with musicians as they were often funny and creative, and besides they got me into gigs for free! I was not a "groupie" in any sense but I preferred to date musicians as they had a gift and talent I appreciated and desired. During those years boys who liked me (I'd say men, but back then they were definitely boys) would make me mixed tapes - those much-loved cassette tapes that existed before the days of CD's and iPod playlists, and that people spent hours making. I would then spend hours deciphering those tapes - did the presence of a particular song mean that boy was "into" me? Was the absence of certain songs a sign? If the tape was mostly love-song related the intent was pretty clear - but if it was a mix of hardcore punk with a couple of sappy ones tossed in it was much more difficult to figure out what the message was (or if there even was a message). Those mixed tapes told me so much about them as people, though. I knew that the music we love sings to us for a reason, and having them share it with me was like glimpsing their soul, even if just for a brief moment.
When I was a bit older I met the man I would eventually marry. He was the bass player in a local band, of course, and my life became a series of basement band practices, gigs where I helped set up equipment, travelling to said gigs in broken-down VW vans, and fighting off amorous club owners and sound men while my boyfriend was on stage. I even moved across the country with him when the band decided to seek their fortune in Toronto, and while fortune was an elusive goal that was a move I'll never regret. The band and I lived together for a year, and what a year that was - one I will never forget, and I doubt they will, either. Three musicians and one young woman from Saskatchewan in "the Big Smoke" - what a ride that was, dear friends.
Something happened in my later twenties, though. I lost the soundtrack of my life. I guess life intervened. I became so busy with work, often working long days, evenings, and weekends. I stopped going to see bands, and even more troubling I stopped listening to music almost completely. It's like it just dropped out of my life for reasons I still don't completely understand. It became even worse after my daughter was born as then the only music I listened to was kid's music, and we all know how mind-numbing that can be.
It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I found the soundtrack again. I had begun going to the gym and going for walks, and I realized that music made the time go much faster and my workouts flow much easier. I began loading my iPod with music that I had always loved, and with some new things, too (you know, stuff from the 90's!). Suddenly I was listening to music daily...and the more I listened the more I realized how much I had missed it.
When we purchased the car I now drive I was delighted to see I could plug my iPod into it. Now I could take my music everywhere with me - and I did. I would say that now the soundtrack of my life plays most of the day. I rarely watch TV as I prefer to turn on whatever stereo system I am close to and listen to whatever song I need to hear that moment. Last night while doing dishes I had Nik Kershaw's song "Wouldn't It Be Good" running through my head and I couldn't rest until I had gotten it from iTunes and listened to it several times. Why? I have no idea. I just needed to hear that song at that minute on that day.
I look back over my life and am a bit saddened that for many years I lost the soundtrack. Those were silent years, but I guess they were necessary ones, too. If you never lose something then you may never realize how much it means to you or how missed it would be if it was gone. I guess that's how I feel about my soundtrack. I embrace this music even tighter now because I know what it can do for me - inspire me, quiet me, comfort me, teach me, and, sometimes, make me cry. It gets me through the bad moments and it gives the good moments extra lift. Those lyrics have made me feel that somewhere out there at some time someone felt as I was feeling right now - and isn't that what we all want? To know that we are not alone and that someone, somewhere, has felt what we feel? I turn on a song I love, sing along, and the world is a better place than it was minutes ago.
I don't know if you have a soundtrack, dear friends. Perhaps music has never meant as much to you as it does to me. If you have one, though, you know what I am talking about. If you don't then it's not something I can explain. The soundtrack of your life is just something you feel, friends, and I truly hope yours is as loud and joyous as mine.
Nik Kershaw - "Wouldn't It Be Good"