Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm Still Alive

After the past two days of musical discussion, I wanted to address something I've thought about quite a bit as a young adult author.  You see, and you probably already know, I was music.  My music defined me.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this, since so many of you had things to say about me going to see one of my favorite bands of ten or so years ago.  The question is: when did it change?  When did my life stop being fueled by my passion for music?  When did going to shows become more of a burden than my lifeblood?  When did I stop wanting to hear new music, be on top of my musical game, and discuss obscure bands with other obscure band obsessors?  I don't know when it stopped.

I do know when it started.

It was the summer before seventh grade, when The Monkees were celebrating their 20th anniversary.  MTV aired old episodes, as did a local channel, and I was hooked.  Not that I wasn't into music before that.  We had cable very early on, and I watched MTV religiously.  I knew every video, bought tons of tapes, sang along with the radio, etc.  But it wasn't until The Monkees that it became love.  Maybe it was the hormones of middle school.  I adored The Monkees.  I owned every album (in both tape and record format), watched the show multiple times per day, and even cried when I saw them in concert (good thing my seats were so far away I couldn't see how old they became).

Eventually, I branched out into what was then known as "alternative" or "college" rock: U2, INXS, REM, The Church.  The thing I remember the most was the need to let everyone else know how much I liked these bands, how I knew more than they did about them, how I was the true fan.  And tears.  Lots of tears.  I loved crying for my music.  I moved on to harder groups, not quite metal, mostly grunge, like Soundgarden, Faith No More, and Pearl Jam.  I can even remember the first time I heard (saw) Pearl Jam: I was watching Headbanger's Ball on a Saturday night (the usual), and they had on a segment called "Frantic Fringe" where they showcased newer bands.  The video for "Alive" came on.  I was at first totally excited when I recognized the drummer in the video.  (I can't remember any names at this point, and I don't want to slow this post down with doing research.)  It was the drummer from Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, one of my favorite early high school bands (I totally had Edie Brickell hair).  But then I heard the song.  And I was lost.  Or found.  It happened to coincide with a period of my life where I was clinically depressed.  So depressed that my parents put me in a mental hospital the beginning of my senior year (which eventually became the story for my novel, GET WELL SOON).  Pearl Jam saved me.  They came around at the right time, had the right angst level, and a beautiful front man for me to swoon over.  Then I met Eddie Vedder.  I have a whole story about it that I can post if you'd like.  Maybe I already did once.  I wrote it for my zine, cul-de-sac.  Anyway, it was a hugely important moment in my life, meeting Eddie.  It showed me that good things could actually happen to me.

In college, I was all out indie girl.  It was such an annoyingly guy-heavy scene, but I could always go to bat with my hipster knowledge.  I had a fake ID at 18, not to drink, but to get into bars to see bands.  And I saw a ton of them.  It was easy in Madison, since the shows were frequent and in walking distance.  That's was the Guided by Voices era.  The music didn't make me all weepy and withdrawn like my high school choices.  Instead, it made me feel like I rocked.

But when did it all stop?  Was it as I got older and saw how annoying it was that even though I liked the same bands as people I talked to, it was never about a shared appreciation but more of an I know more than you pissing contest?  Was it that the music didn't speak to me anymore?  Was it the whole scene, standing around in sweaty clubs, buying albums I thought I was supposed to buy, paying more and more money for shows that weren't worth it?

No clue.

What I do know is that I don't have that drive inside me anymore, that one that makes me need certain bands and songs for specific moments.  Of course I still love music.  I listen whenever I'm in the car, and we play it all the time in the house.  But it's different music.  Happier music.  Ella Jenkins.  The Monkees (I guess they're the same, but for certain not angsty any more).  Elvis.  Music that doesn't make me feel guilty when my daughter listens, too.  Sure, I still blast NWA and Metallica in my car when I'm alone, but it doesn't make me feel like I'm the only person left in the world like it used to.  Instead of rolling my windows down so people can hear what I'm listening to, I put the AC on, embarrassed that my thirty-five year old, white, Jewish self is singing along to "Straight Outta Compton."

Do you know what I mean?  Do you still have it?  That musical drive that you felt when you were younger?  Or do others out there feel what I'm saying?  Maybe I should go put on my headphones and let Slick Rick give me the answers.


Beth said...

Heh. I totally get you, honey.
I still love to listen to the music, but I can't stand going to the shows... It's too crowded and I don't like being pushed around anymore.

Holly said...

I am with you. It changed for me after college. I was still listening to music but I had a career and couldn't stay out late. I just couldn't get home at 5:00 in the morning and be at work by 8:30. Now that I have kids I don't have the same kind of time to listen to the music I like.

Brian James said...

I think this happens to a lot of people once life got busier.

I still define myself in a big part by music. I'm still incredibly passionate about it. But it's a HUGE commitment to continue to stay up-to-date. It's just that for me, it remained my biggest hobby.

Ben said...

We want video of you singing "Straight Outta Compton" in your car.

Julie H said...

Beth, it makes me feel shorter and shorter, too. Maybe I am getting shorter, old age and all. Holly, I think you may be right about the correlation between real work and loss of musical self. I tried for a bit to do this karaoke night at a now defunct club in Chicago called Lounge Ax once a month on Sunday nights. It was a killer to try and go into my school library the next day. Brian, that totally makes sense about it being a commitment and a hobby. I appreciate that explanation. And Ben, maybe I will :)

nissa said...

i think in junior high/high school, maybe college,we needed to be defined by something--music was easy. it gave you a place, it created friendships, an identity. lyrics made us feel like someone knew us-or they spoke to use more at a time when we needed to hear things to help us deal with who we were becoming. when i listen to music of my youth, i remember who i was and often thank god i am not "there" any more. i've grown up. i still love the music of my youth though. nothing like rocking our to firehose (not firehouse!)my car is my sanctuary too--though when the kids are in it, i have found that i really like the new kid-friendly they might be giants!
anyhoo--when i do go to shows, i still push people 'cause sometimes it's nice to give a youngin' a shove to keep them in place. ha!

Julie H said...

Niss, I'm so glad you commented because I was just thinking of you last night and how we never got together even though we live all close. So let's get together! Yeah yeah yeah!

Brian James said...

...we could have a swingin' ti-ime".

I love that Hayley Mills song, I just reviewed that album on my blog last weekend.

Julie H said...

I read that, Brian! I think that's where I got it in my head!