Music as my life

I have a love/hate relationship with my yard. I love it looking nice and I actually enjoy working on it (when it isn’t too hot). However, there are a million other things on my “list” that come before mowing the lawn and trimming the trees.

Dating back to my high school days when yard work was more like forced labor, I found that this was a great time to think. Again, I know I am nerd. We’ve established that. I usually pick a topic and try and stay on it until I have covered everything aspect. Today’s topic was music. It started when I was loading up my iPod shuffle with some my summer favorites. A little live Dido (which is surprisingly good), Modest Mouse, and some Coldplay (still trying to like the new album). The I saw Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails and added that as well.

The NIN album is not one I listen to often, but it got me thinking. I started think about book I just finshed, Buddha by Karen Anderson (it’s not great, but interesting). He believed that we were constantly changing, our sense of self is not static. It evolves. We are all different people today then five years ago. Music has always been a central part of my identity and as I looked at my musical tastes over the years, I saw that my mental state has been reflected in the music that I listen too.

So while I weedwacker, trimmed the trees, and mowed the lawn I went through my favorites music artists over the years.

Early on there was Men at Work. They were quarky, fun, sarcastic (which I probably didn’t understand), and a bit junville – perfect for a 10 or 11 year old. Then, just prior to my enlightenment I went through a heavy metal phase that include included Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and even a little Judas Priest. I still think Def Leppard’s Pyromania is a classic. This music change corresponded with a move across town and away from my childhood friends. Once I settled into the new neighborhood, made new friends, and started junior high I found alternative music and Oingo Boingo – a more mature, or at least, a darker version of Men at Work. Who doesn’t like Dead Man’s Party and the movie Wierd Science?

Then I went to high school. It was there I discovered U2. I had War and Under a Blood Red Sky, but it was really Joshua Tree that made me a true believer. That concert, which was my first, changed everything. I was infected with a critical optimism. I grabbed on to U2, the Alarm, Cowboy Junkies, and Simple Minds. I became involved in Amnesty International, I wore a black arm band during Tiananmen Square, and I watched the Berlin Wall fall.

Towards the end of high school I experienced a shift towards music that was darker. I started listening to more Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, and eventually Nine Inch Nails. Once I started college my mom got sick and that darkness continued, through Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins. The Persian Gulf war and L.A. Riots hit, then Kurt Cobain killed himself. I was no doubt depressed, I was certainly pessimistic and negative. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I changed majors four or five times.

Then U2 put out Actung Baby and once again I saw a shift. It is their darkest album, but it was still U2. It had a new sound. That optimism I had started to come back. One became my anthem. My favorite line comes from a deeper track called Acrobat, “Don’t let the bastards drag you down.” At this time I also took to a band called Toad the Wet Sprocket that blended positive and negative messages together masterfully. 10,000 Maniacs released These Are Days. Clinton was elected.

Towards the end of my sophomore year of college some friends introduced me to the Grateful Dead. A friend recently reminded me of another quote that I love, “Not all who wander are lost” (From the Lord of the Rings). It was during this time that I was trying to find myself and what I wanted to with my life. I was playing a game between my two professional loves, photogaphy and history. The Dead gave me an unending path. I did a photo internship at a newspaper, settled on my major, and narrowed my career path to two.

Ironically Jerry died the first week of my teaching credential program. I was devastated. Not that we couldn’t see it coming. He almost died two or three other times. It was the time for me to grow up. My first few years as a teacher were dominated by Dave Matthews Band and little bits of all the other music I’d been purchasing over the years. I was getting by as best I could.

Since my oldest son was born, now almost five years ago now, my music tastes have mellowed. U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind was great, but definitely safe. I have latched on to Jack Johnson, Coldplay, Dido, Moby, and Glen Phillips (former lead singer of Toad). Good solid music. This last year, with the potential of a strike looming, I’ve found some solace in Modest Mouse and Audioslave.

It is a rare occasion now that I can actually listen to the likes of NIN, in fact, today I only listened to three tracks before I clicked ahead to Coldplay.

I guess it could also mean I’m just getting old…

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