Inspiration

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Theryn “Beaver” Fleming


I was supposed to be working on an editorial. I had one sketched out; I just had to buckle down and finish it.

But I had a problem: a story had popped into my head and I had to get it out.

It all started a few weeks ago. Baker, a.k.a. Eden, posted a challenge on her blog. The challenge was to encapsulate the history of rock ‘n’ roll on two CDs.

That challenge was one I didn’t feel qualified to undertake (you can see Eden’s effort here), but it did get me thinking. A while back, I had loaded all our CDs onto my laptop. I flipped over to them, organized them by release date, and verified something that I had suspected.

There was a giant gap. The really old stuff was there. Stuff that had been first-purchased on record and replaced, or that was older than we are, or at least older than we were when we first started buying music, so we never owned it in the first place and only bought it in retrospect. And from 1991 on the collection is pretty comprehensive. But the entire decade of the ’80s? Represented by just a few discs.

It’s not that we don’t have any music from the ’80s. It’s that it’s all on cassette.

Seized with a sudden burst of nostalgia, I sat down with the Rubbermaid container of cassettes, dumped them all out, and made a list. 170, all-told. Here is the early REM; all the Canadian bands you’ve probably never heard of—The Grapes of Wrath, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Northern Pikes, and so on; Duran Duran, Madonna’s debut, and oh, Katrina and the Waves.

In light of this week’s events, it’s seems ironic that it was a Katrina and the Waves song that stuck in my head as I perused our musical history. Not the big hit, Walking on Sunshine, but Red Wine & Whisky, the song I had always liked best off the album. I Googled the lyrics. Turns out there isn’t much too them. But that’s the funny thing about songs. Sometimes there doesn’t have to be.

Not every old song holds a memory of course. There’s definitely stuff in that box that I wouldn’t replace (Huey Lewis, yikes!). But if money were no object, there’s a lot that I would. They say that smells trigger memories, that they go to the core of who we are. And I don’t disagree, but music— I think its effect is even stronger. A few bars of a song and I can be right back where I was when I first heard it.

A few days ago, Eden posted a meme on her blog. It’s the Top 100 Songs of the year you graduated from high school one. You’re meant to bold the songs you still like, strike through the ones you hate, and underline your favorite. Of course, I had to look at my year. It’s an odd list. I couldn’t figure out what a lot of it was doing there when suddenly it clicked: “Duh! Miami Vice!” How could I forget the turquoise and pink palm trees that plastered everything that year?

There were a few good songs on the list, a lot of terrible ones, and even more that were simply forgettable. Way down at #62, I found the song I would underline: “Your Love,” a song that made me nostalgic when I was 17. Did The Outfield ever have another hit? I have no idea. But they got it right at least once.

The song started playing in my head and it wouldn’t stop, despite the parts I had to mumble-mumble because I wasn’t sure of the lyrics. I was trying to proofread the September issue of TC and all I could think about is this story that was threading itself together in my head over bars of the song. I started to type it out. I nearly had the draft finished when I realized something—or at least I thought I did. I hit up Google for lyrics again. (How different from the way it used to be, painstakingly rewinding and replaying songs line by line as you wrote out the lyrics by hand!)

It’s true that sometimes a song’s lyrics are unsubstantial, that it’s all about the music, the way the song is sung. But sometimes…

It was almost scary how closely the lyrics paralleled the story I was writing. After all these years, I suddenly had to confront the possibility that it wasn’t a coincidence that the boy in the story played that song. How meta would that be!

I forged on with the story, charged up, editorial forgotten. This was going to be good. I could feel it.

pencil

E-mail: beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com.

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