Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Inspired by Beth at Cup of Coffey

I refer to my mother as a radio autocrat. We listened to what she wanted and that was that. She likes a lot of the artists that most women pushing sixty right now like, but Frank Sinatra looms especially large in my childhood, because where I grew up we had 950 AM WPEN "The Station of the Stars". They played "a solid hour of Sinatra" every weekday from 11-noon. I was so thoroughly sick of Frank by the time I was twelve that I didn't listen to him by choice until he died 10 years later.

The "official album of my family" (unofficially, anyway) would have to be Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel. Simon and Garfunkel are responsible for my parents entire relationship, so this is most apropos. Their first date was a blind date, which didn't go well. The next time she heard from him, a month had passed, he'd been turned down by the first two girls he called and the only reason she said "yes" was because she wanted to see Simon and Garfunkel. Something must have clicked while they communed with Paul and Art, though, because 38 years and three kids later, they're one of the happiest couples I know.

We took a road trip just about every year. In 1989, we got our first car with a tape deck, which back then was about the coolest thing ever. Mom either already owned Bridge... or picked it up soon thereafter. "Cecilia", the third track, was one of my father's favorites, and we'd all sing along. The next track is "Tryin' to Keep the Customer Satisfied." You may be familiar with the song (or not). It opens with the lines, "Gee, but it's great to be back home/Home is where I wanna be-eeeeee, yeah..." One of my favorite memories (and there are loads to choose from) of my middle brother is how he would join in and wail on that line. He'd do a little scoop with his head and squinch his eyes.

Mom also had the four-tape Sinatra Reprise collection. As I mentioned above, this was a period in my life at which I had kind of OD'd on Frank for a while, but Mom loved him so we listened to a lot of Sinatra on those trips, too. Another of her favorites was Randy Travis's Always and Forever album; that's what got my family started listening to country music. We've all liked it to a greater or lesser extent at one time or another, but it's stuck with me the most. Thanks to the other stuff I was raised on, though, I'm also a little bit rock'n'roll.

As I've said, Mom was the driving force behind what we listened to. In fact, while my middle brother is quite the Sinatra fan, he had his teen rebellion years, listening to Rage Against the Machine and such. In a development that cracks me up, my baby brother got into the kitschy side of Mom's music; he's even been to see Neil Diamond in concert. The Beach Boys were also big with mom; ditto Motown.

I saw both Tony Bennett and Randy Travis in concert last year. Unfortunately I live too far from my mother for her to have come with me, but I had a good time telling her about getting to go. Perhaps the coolest thing about the way Mom impacted our musical taste, however, is how much overlap there is between what my brothers and I listen to.

We're not by any means all into the same things, and alone in the car, each of us might pick a different station. But we like standards, and oldies, and a lot of country, especially from the nineties, a lot of rock, and we're all big Ben Folds fans (both with the 'Five and his solo stuff). Brother #1 (who's the middle child; I'm the oldest) used to live around here, and he had gotten tickets for us to go see Ben play at George Washington University, with his best friend. The friend bailed with about 48-hours to go, and Brother #1 went online and found a cheap plane ticket for Brother #2 to fly down for the show. The three of us had a great time.

Afterward, we were driving around in Brother #1's car, listening to stuff from Brother #2's iPod. Brother #2 has some serious cheese on his iPod, but he likes it ironically, so it's okay. (Or so I hear.) Brother #1 asks, "Who's Bread?" Brother #2 and I look at each other with matching stares of amazement, and Brother #2 says, "'Baby, I'm a Want You'?!!" (Brother #2 also expressed interest at this point in acquiring a "Members Only" jacket, not sure whether or not he ever did.) That was the first of several conversations we've had where, if two of us like an artist or band and the third doesn't, we kind of look at the third and say, "What do you mean you don't like this? We like this."

EG has caused my musical interests to expand in certain directions that my brothers' haven't necessarily, but there's still a ton of overlap. For example, Brother #2 has gotten very into the Smiths in his early 20s. Brother #2 stops by WILATU from time to time, so if you see this, hey, there little brother. Hope your semester ended on an up note.

The funny thing is that my mother is more or less tone deaf. Dad plays a little guitar, but isn't a particularly strong or confident singer. They both love music, though. Their children are inveterate music lovers like they are, but unlike our parents, my brothers and I are somewhat musically inclined. Brother #1's Ben Folds fandom expresses itself in an attempt to play the piano like Ben. He's actually pretty good; neither Brother #2 nor I play anywhere near as well. When I go visit him, or if we're all at my folks, he'll play songs we know and we can all sing. We're hardly a family where "Daddy Sang Bass", but it's great to have those sing along moments. It seems like such a throwback to another time, and it's fantastic to have a good relationship with my brothers after all the turmoil that went along with our younger years.

I'll end this by paraphrasing Beth's question; if your family had a soundtrack, what would be on it?


Anonymous said...

Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Grant Miller said...

Suze's answer was great. Wish I'd thought of it.

But growing up, the parent's soundtrack consisted of early Elvis and other rock and roll pioneers pre-Beatles and Mario Lanza and Pavorotti. To this day, I don't celebrate Xmas unless Elvis' Xmas record is playing in the background as we open gifts.

The soundtrack for my kids memories probably will read like one of my random ipod song posts.

The UnMighty said...

Simon and Garfunkel was the road-trip soundtrack of choice in my family as well. I can't hear them now without thinking about station wagons w/o a.c.

Brother #2 said...

I never did get that member's only jacket.

BeckEye said...

One of my Dad's famous quotes in our family is "I wouldn't walk across the street to see Frank Sinatra." He's weird.

There would be a lot of different stuff on my family soundtrack, and there would be a lot of fighting over the order of the tracks.

pistols at dawn said...

My family hated music, and as such, we only listened to lengthy books on tape written by long-dead Brits. It's part of why we never have any reason to see each other to this day.

Red said...


Your family is obviously fabulous.;


I love that Christmas album myself, although I doubt anything will eclipse John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together as my favorite.


Amazing. The A/C in our station wagon crapped out, too.

Little Bro,

Hey, Christmas is coming...


The famous line in my family is from when my grandfather saw Sinatra filling in for the regular singer, Jack Somebody, at the Paramount Ballroom in the thirties. Someone asked him afterward what he thought of Sinatra. Grandpa said, "Oh, he's alright but he's no Jack Somebody."


And yet you've grown up to be quite the musical chap. I'm really rather fond of "You're Not Pretty, But I'm Not Picky".

SkylersDad said...

It would be a country song, something like "I can't get over you, so you'll have to get up and answer the phone yourself."