It’s funny how when you’re a kid, you unknowingly start picking up on your parents’ habits. I can’t say that I’ve adopted every one of them. For instance, both of my parents are front loaders and deal with problems as soon as they occur. They renew their car registration on time, and basically complete all the boring adult duties as they should. My brother and I are the opposite. We are both total procrastinators. I’ve found that it’s hard to motivate myself without a clear, looming deadline, preferably one that is less than 48 hours away. As for my vehicle registration….eh. I’ve gone three months without renewing it before. My only motivation to getting it renewed was realizing that when I went home to visit, I didn’t want to hear my dad get on my case about it. (Yay! I’m turning thirty in three years! Isn’t it awesome how grown up I am?)
But one habit I’ve undeniably adopted from my mother is her music listening habits. Basically, my mother will listen to a song over and over until it’s dead to everyone else around her who is forced to experience the song all three-hundred forty times with her. When she finds a new group she likes, she quickly becomes a die-hard fan. My mother recently became a fan of Foo Fighters (my dad is not excited by this development at all and derisively calls them “Foo Foos”). Meanwhile, my mother shrugs this off by catching up to the level of fandom that took my brother and me nearly three years to cultivate, and plays live versions of the Wasting Light album at dinner.
I can trace my childhood with songs that she listened to. When I was a toddler, they were the cassette tapes full of Italian songs that my uncle would send my mother to the States. Years later, those songs would haunt me as an adult, and I’d type in half-remembered Italian phrases into Google, trying to find the names of those songs. In 1992, my mother started playing the Grease soundtrack a lot. To this day, “Summer Lovin'” brings me back to third grade, a time when my dad played his Cars Greatest Hits album a lot and played Wolfenstein on his computer, and when my Uncle Kenny was in Virginia for the winter. When I was in my Hanson phase in 1997, Mom would play their album over and over in the car until one day when my dad said, “I’m sorry guys, I can’t take this anymore,” and hit the eject button.
I didn’t enjoy all the music my mother enthusiastically played on repeat. In 1993, my mother went through an Air Supply phase. To this day, if I hear the opening strains to “Lost in Love” on the radio, that shit gets changed within ten seconds. In the summer of 1996, Mom decided she loved my dad’s Best of Steely Dan album and needed to play it ALL THE TIME, especially when we would drive back from the pool. The song she loved the most on that album was “My Old School.” I’m not going to lie, guys, when that CD went missing (I swear to baby kittens that I had nothing to do with the disappearance), I was SO HAPPY BECAUSE I NEVER HAD TO HEAR IT AGAIN. But the universe ended up winning the struggle on this battle – I now like Steely Dan. When Tap sings “Reeling in the Years” at karaoke, I smile, and hearing “FM” on the radio reminds me of long summer days of sunscreen and reading marathons in my room.
As I’ve grown more and more into music these past ten years, I’ve wholeheartedly adopted my mother’s immersive approach. I will love a song so much that I can listen to it twenty times on repeat and not be tired of it. Entire albums will stay in my car for weeks as I play them over and over again or focus on favorite songs from them. I had to take a break from Pink Floyd for a long time simply because I had listened to them so much in college. If I’m going through a rough time, I’ll focus on one artist or band. Red Hot Chili Peppers brought me out of a challenging experience in 2007. I listened to a lot of Elton John in 2008 when I was trying to wade through the stress of living in a new city, working a new job, and dealing with the aftermath of a car wreck at the same time. Late last year, when I was going through my latest disaster with men, I listened to so much Jeff Buckley that if I mention in passing that I’m listening to him now, I’ll get a concerned message from a friend saying, “Are you having guy problems?”
One of my mother’s favorite bands when I was growing up was U2. I was always indifferent with U2. I could never embrace them like my mother did and was torn between hating and loving their cloyingly dramatic antics (like Bono’s performance at the 2002 Superbowl Halftime show, when he tore open his jacket at the end of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to reveal an American flag sewn inside – I secretly loved it). Mom would always put on their Joshua Tree album when she was doing chores. I can’t remember when she got that album – it was released in 1987 and she must have had it since the early 90s. It was one of those albums that I grew up listening to without understanding just how good it really was until I went to college.
I recently bought the album and as I listened to it again, I was struck just how amazing it really is. I don’t think I’ll ever lose the soaring feeling I get when I listen to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I always forget how good “Red Hill Mining Town” is until I hear it again. I think this is one of my new favorites from that album:
The prose in the lyrics is spare but so moving. The part that really gets to me is, “You got to cry without weeping/Talk without speaking/Scream without raising your voice.”
I’ve had the album for a week and I don’t think I’ve heard it all the way through yet, because I keep stopping on my favorite songs. Like my mother, I play them on repeat.