Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The soundtrack of my childhood

I was sitting here on the couch this evening, channel surfing, and I came upon a show called "One Hit Wonders" on VH1 Classic. If you do not know about this channel and are a child of the 80's, you are missing out. VH1 Classic is basically VH1 from 25 years ago, when they only played music. In the mornings they have a show called "Totally 80's" that is just like stepping back in time: all 80's music videos. It's a channel after my own heart.

When I was a child, we did not have MTV, but we did have VH1, and I watched it constantly. I think the fact that I watched adult-contemporary music videos on a loop throughout my formative years really shaped my taste for music today. As a little treat (or torture, depending on how similar our tastes in music happen to be), I have decided to take you, blog reader, on a musical tour of my childhood. Sit back and prepare to be entertained, courtesy of my 30 year-old brain and Youtube!

One of my earliest childhood memories was watching The Muppet fact, I am told by my mother that my first word was, "mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmuppets!" When I was three years old, we lived in a small blue house in Springfield, MO, and we had an 8-Track of The Muppets Christmas. I'm not sure if we only listened to it at Christmas time or if it was a year-round treat, but I do remember singing this with my parents and older sister in rounds, just like the Muppets did:

The Muppets and John Denver, "Christmas Is Coming"

I'm not sure if my mom was a big Air Supply fan, or if it was just what happened to be on the radio at the time, but I grew to love them. As I got older and started to listen to the lyrics, this song stood out to me, in particular. It contains the beautiful lines, "Every time I see you the rays of the sun are streaming through the waves in your hair; and every star in the sky is taking aim at your eye like a spotlight". Now THAT'S poetry!

"Making Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply

Ah, Kenny and Dolly. Need I say more?

"Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

When I was six or so, my family somehow ended up coming home from my grandma's Christmas with Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual on cassette. None of us remember getting it as a gift, but we began listening to it right away and memorizing all the songs. We had dance contests in our bedroom with the kids in the neighborhood to these songs. Cute visual, right? Especially when you take into account that one of our favorite songs was this one, which I learned MUCH later in life, is actually a song about masturbation. Who knew?

"She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper

Speaking of inappropriate songs, "Like a Virgin" was one of mine and my sisters' favorites. I remember singing along with it once and asking my mom the dreaded question she was waiting to hear" "What's a virgin?". She told us it was a bird, and we believed her. Actually, for an embarrassing number of years, I believed her. Since Youtube has disabled embedding for that particular video, here is another inappropriate song that holds a special place in my heart. The melody is incredibly catchy, even if we were embarrassed to sing it around my parents.

"Naughty Girls Need Love Too" by Samantha Fox

The first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money was Bon Jovi New Jersey. We quickly added those songs to our selections for the dance contests, even if they weren't all quite dance material.

"I'll Be There for You" by Bon Jovi

When I was seven or so, my parents separated and my dad moved out. I remember vividly sitting on my suitcase in front of the TV, waiting for my dad to pick me up and watching this video:

"We Built This City" by Starship

My best friend Marlene kept telling me that she wanted me to see this movie about cats that was on TV. She was SO excited about it, and I had no clue what she was talking about. Until, one day, I was watching VH1 with her and this video came on. Turns out she didn't quite understand the difference between videos and movies yet, but she did have good taste in music (or at least, I thought so at the time).

"Bad Boys" by Gloria Estefan

This was another one of those videos I sat around for hours waiting for it to come on. There is just something about this song that hit me "right there", you know? Truthfully, it still does it for me, and I consider it my favorite song of all-time. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Elton John...

"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" by Elton John

This song "got me right there" too...still does a little bit. Something in the hook just does it for me. I think it's a combination of great lyrics and an exceedingly catchy melody, but I still get giddy when I listen to this one.

"Freedom" by Wham!

Speaking of George Michael--that was some transformation, wasn't it? One minute, he's bopping around in high-tops and neon, and the next he's sexy with scruff and torn blue jeans. I believe that "I Want Your Sex" came out first, and my sisters and cousins sang along with it to the radio, changing the word from "sex" to "socks" and making up some new words so as not to embarrass ourselves in front of our parents: "I don't want your bra, or your stinky underwear, I want your socks". Yes, I was a songwriter at an early age. The Faith video was a little bit of a sexual awakening for me--I had a big ol' crush on George Michael.

"Faith" by George Michael

Can we talk Tiffany? I loved her. She and Debbie Gibson were like my idols. Although my family lived in small-town Missouri, and we never had a chance to make it to any of the many mall shows these teen idols played, I still listened to their tapes over and over and over. Even though I had never had a boyfriend, and had yet to have my heart broken, I felt like Tiffany was preparing me for that experience with her gut-wrenching ballads.

"All This Time" by Tiffany

Around the turn of the decade, The Party stole my heart. Confession: I was a HUGE Disney nerd, before it was really the popular thing to be. When I was a kid, none of my classmates watched Disney as loyally as I did. Marlene and I would race home from school every day to catch the end of Kids Incorporated, followed by our favorite: The Mickey Mouse Club, or MMC as it came to be known later on. I had every single episode of the MMC memorized, and I could probably still recite the lineup today, if pressed. I was obsessed beyond obsessed, writing fan letters and the whole she-bang. My dream of dreams at the time was to make it to Orlando, so that I could sit in the audience for a live taping of the show.

When Disney realized what a cash cow they were sitting on and decided to capitalize by putting together a pop group, I was right there waiting to buy into it. The result was The Party, whom I followed loyally for the whole three years and four albums, until they broke up in 1993. I listened to each song about a million times, learning every single note, word, and intonation until I could sing them perfectly. I even made poor Marlene do the same thing, basically torturing her with my powder blue radio/tape player. Here is a small sampling of what a corner of my brain sounds like, to this day:

"Summer Vacation" by The Party

"In My Dreams" by The Party

"Free" by The Party

As the TV show Blossom was popular at the time, Marlene and I also became unhealthily obsessed with Joey "Whoa" Lawrence. When I say it was unhealthy, I mean that his shiny, flowing locks and ripped jeans blinded us to the fact that we were listening to THIS crap over and over:

"Nothin' My Love Can't Fix" by Joey Lawrence

Mr. Big ushered in a new era for me. The Party was over (thanks for coming), and I was forced to mature in my listening habits. I bought the single for "To Be With You" and memorized it as I was wont to do. One of my fondest memories of that time was turning the song all the way up, as loud as it could go, and dancing around my room with Marlene, singing it, as well as the B-side track (an unreleased ditty called "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind") at the top of our lungs. Man, we had fun.

"To Be With You" by Mr. Big

Of course, this is only a small smattering of my musical memories, up to about age 12. When I became a teenager, my parents had divorced, my dad re-married, but my musical tastes didn't change much. It wasn't until my older sister introduced me to grunge and then a classmate introduced me to Jewel, that I really matured musically. Maybe one day I'll blog about that too, but since it's 12:41 in the morning, I think that will have to be left for another day. I hope you've enjoyed this stroll through my memory as much as I have. Goodnight!
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