Some of my most enjoyable music experiences as a teenager was sitting on the floor in front of my KMart stereo, notebook in lap, pen in hand, one finger on the pause button of the tape deck. In the notebook I would scrawl the lyrics to my favorite songs — most of which were taped off the radio. Sure I loved when tapes you bought came with lyrics printed on the inside of the covers, but there was something more personal about puzzling the lyrics out yourself. As though writing them down on paper made them sort of yours.
I’ve always been an egotistical pop culture consumer. When I was a kid, I refused to be interested in any show that didn’t have a kid around my age in it. Grown up stuff was boring. I loved books that featured sisters and songs where the singer was rewarded with love after a long, exhausting search.
While I have matured somewhat, and love stories vastly different than my own shallow experiences, there is still a special compartment in my heart for stories and songs that closely match my life. For instance, The Avett Bros. Live & Die reminds me of my biological father and how I see myself in Eleanor from Eleanor & Park.
There are other compartments of my heart for music that reminds me of specific people I love (“Black” by Pearl Jam = Sister #2), there’s one for music that reminds me of specific moments/eras of my life (“Hey Jealousy by the Gin Blossoms is drinking at The G.I. in the Fall of 1993 forever and ever), and of course there’s the large place for the songs I just like because they make me happy (“I Will Dare”).
But lately, due to circumstances, I’ve been ridiculously needy for the autobiographical. I have a go-to playlist for heartbreak that I’ve been using pretty much untouched since 2005. I also have a go-to list for when I’m ready to move past sad to angry. Admittedly these lists are a little stale, and they almost feel cliche to me. I mean, come on. . . Ani DiFranco’s “Untouchable Face?”
Over the weekend, after reading about my all-day BooHooathon, my friend Ted said a combination of words that will forever make hearts & rainbow shoot from all my face’s orifices. “I read your . . .”
The other phrase guaranteed to turn me into a human Lisa Frank sticker? “I thought of you. . .”
So anyway Ted read the BooHooathon and said it reminded him of a line from a Lydia Loveless’ “Boy Crazy.”
I just want to know what your house looks like so I can keep you in it with me in the back of my mind.”
After thanking him kindly, I went on to explain to Ted how the Loveless’ music resonates with me so much because her songs sound I like things I would write if I knew how to write songs. She sings about longing and love and heartbreak the way I think about it, it’s just that she is talented and seems to have access to better phrases and ways to put things.
Then he introduced me to “Out On Love” with the warning, “though this might not be the best time.”
And my response was, of course, “Fuck.” Because of this:
But now you’re walking away. I guess I didn’t understand, how someone like you would be cruel, well I don’t know what the truth is. Boy you gave me every reasons to fall out of everlasting arms.
Now if I could write to you, then all I would say is I miss you more every day. I try but I can’t find the feet to run away. I guess I missed out on love.
And damn did hearing that song sting and then make my heart beat stronger because it’s such a joy to find something beautiful that so closely mirrors something you’ve experienced. I’ve listened to the song 30+ times since Sunday, I love it that much. Though it’s in the process of being usurped by Sufjan Stevens’ “John the Beloved” because of this line, “I am a man with a heart that offends with its lonely and greedy demands.”