Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Soundtrack of My Life, vol.1: I Mildly Tolerate the 90s

It's been said that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, and I can't deny that it can be a powerful trigger; the smell of the Clydesdale stables at the Texas State Fair brought back memories of spending time at my Papaw's farm that were staggering in their intensity. And yet, for me, most of my memories are tied up in the audio portion of my brain; there are certain songs that I can't hear without associating them with certain people or places. Although, I guess when it comes right down to it, it's not always specific songs; there are certain artists that I automatically associate with certain people, regardless of the song. Now, let's take a walk down my melodic memory lane, starting with the Wyandotte years.

I've talked about my songbursty nature before; I come by it honestly, as anyone who has ever met my mother will attest, so it should come as no surprise that a lot of songs and artists are inextricably linked with her in my mind: Linda Rondstat, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, they all scream "Mom!" to me. Of course, those were because she listened to their albums so often; there are also the numerous songs she would sing at the drop of a hat to consider. Think of them as her own Trigger Songs; in certain situations, she couldn't help herself. Much like I find myself singing the phrase "It's been awhile" every time I happen to use it in conversation, if Mom used the phrase "I will," it would inevitably turn into the refrain from Captain and Tenile's "Love Will Keep Us Together"; although this had been occurring all of my life, it wasn't until my teenage years that I finally heard the song and realized "So that's where that came from." A similar oft-repeated song-phrase was "Shut up baby, I'm trying to sing," courtesy of Ray Steven's "Gitarzan." And then, of course, there is the infamous Young Frankenstein version of "Puttin' on the Ritz"; I think she and I both might by mentally incapable of singing that song without doing the highly-garbled version. My dad isn't quite as musically inclined as my mom's side of the family, but there are lots of artists that always make me think of him: The Kingston Trio, Roy Orbison, Don Williams, Abba, and *shudder* Neil Diamond.

My parents pretty much controlled the radio during my younger days, which didn't really bother me, since I liked pretty much all of their music (Neil Diamond excluded, of course), so my knowledge of early 80s music is a bit spotty at times. But, by the time I got to Junior High, my attempts to reinvent myself and break out of my shell were accompanied by an increased interest in current music, although my knowledge at the time was basically limited to whatever was playing on the weekly top 40 countdowns or on NBC's Friday Night Videos. Keeping that in mind, here's the soundtrack of my life at Wyandotte High School:

"I Touch Myself" by the Divynls: this import from Australia happened to hit big the year there was a foreign exchange student from Down Under; we gave her an incredibly hard time about this one, changing the lyrics to "When I think about you I touch my kangaroo": yes, it was sophomoric, but since we were sophomore, I'm okay with that.

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor: this song always makes me think of the Technology Student Association national conference in Corpus Christi the summer after my freshman year. The song had started playing at one of the mixers, and one of the older girls in our group exclaimed how much she loved the song and started singing along; when she got to the verse "I went to the doctor and guess what he told me," my mother (who was along as a sponsor/chaperone) made a quip about knowing what the doctor told her, which resulted in several girls shouting "Mrs. Enoch!" in their most scandalized voices. Oh, did I mention that the girl in question had found out she was pregnant right before the trip? My mother: the height of tact.

"On Broadway": This might seem like a strange selection, but if you happened to attend a Wyandotte High School home football game anytime during my high school years, odds are good that you heard this song during the halftime show; if you were a devoted Bears fan, you probably came to loath the song as much as the poor, beleaguered band members did. I don't know why our band teacher insisted on recycling this one every year; perhaps the sheet music was cursed. The story goes that when a new band teacher was hired, many Wyandotte fans heaved a sigh of relief, confident that they would never be subjected to the song again . . . a sigh that turned into a collective groan at the first home game half-time show when an all-too-familiar tune came from the field . . .

"Vibeology" by Paula Abdul and "Right Now" by Van Halen: An odd combo, I know, but both of these were played on the car stereo of the guy who served as my host during the State Student Council conference my senior year of high school; while most out-of-town school functions meant fun at the hotel, at StuCo state all of the students attending were housed with local families. The two previous years there had been another guy from Wyandotte along, but this year I was flying solo and so wound up rooming with another solo-guy who was from Jay, if I recall correctly. We had an interesting time; instead of taking us straight to his house, our host took us to his family's restaurant, since it was his grandmother's birthday. Of course, my fellow out-of-towner and I were not invited to the shindig, and were seated at a table far removed from the festivities, since apparently grandma was not too keen on having any Caucasians at her party, being hardcore, old school Vietnamese. I believe it was the next night when the aforementioned songs were the underlying soundtrack to my heated discussion with our host when I refused to tag along with them to a kegger since I, not yet having my drivers license, did not relish the thought of being designated driver and having to navigate my way through OKC back to his house late at night. Deprived of assured sober assistance, he grudgingly headed home; yeah, I won me some friends that night, you betcha.

"Vogue" by Madonna: During my Sophomore year the Student Council held a "powder puff" football game as a fundraiser. And, since all of the girls were out playing football, it fell upon the guys to be the cheerleaders; and by "guys" I mean myself as the resident drama geek/StuCo member and three or four football players who were forced into it by their cheerleader girlfriends. Not only were we forced to put on cheerleading outfits and amplify our chests with balloons (I was openly mocked by my fellow cheerleaders for not inflating my balloons to Morganna the Kissing Bandit proportions), but we also had to learn one of the girls' half-time routines; they chose "Vogue."

"Age of Aquarius" by The Fifth Dimension and "Super-Freak" by Rick James: Yet another Sophomore year story, and yet another StuCo related event. This time it was the school talent show, which had three breaks in the action during which StuCo members performed little lip-synching acts based on music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I was only in the "Aquarius" skit, where we all dressed up like hippies and danced around; in addition, I got to mime playing the flute for the opening music, and got to mouth the lyrics along with one of the girls, since we were the only two who actually knew the words to it beforehand. I wasn't in the "Super-Freak" number, but my saxophone was; one of the girls mimed the sax solo and then had to take my mouth piece home to wash it afterwards because it was smeared with her lipstick.

"I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred: My Senior year there was a lip-synching contest at a pep assembly; this is the song my class did. Or, more accurately, this is the song that I lip-synched to while 4 or 5 girls from my class did their best super-model catwalk impressions behind me. We were not the winners; that honor fell on the group of teachers who did a number by the Supremes, I believe; yes, my mother was one of them. The fact that they won and that the judges were all teachers as well caused a good deal of dissent from the student body; heck, even my mom agreed that the real winners should have been the sophomores who did an excellent "Bohemian Rhapsody" performance, complete with Wayne's World skit that culminated in a ticked-off Garth shooting Wayne, then running over to one of their female classmates just as the song started: "Momma, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead." Their loss was a traveshamockery!

"O.P.P." by Naughty by Nature: During the height of this song's popularity, my Mom, who is psychologically incapable of deciphering any rap lyrics whatsoever, asked me what "O.P.P." stood for; I, not really wanting to go into it at that particular moment, said "Other People's Property." Mom's response: "So, if in class someone is messing with someone else's stuff I can say 'Keep your hands off O.P.P.'?" My mind was instantly filled with visions of the fallout of such an occurrence, visions that were both hilarious and horrific; valuing my own skin far too much, I opted to go into a bit more detail about the other meaning of the phrase.


Zinger said...

"Guitarzan" is nice, but I'm partial to "Mississippi Squirrel Revival".

iamam said...

"Love Will Keep Us Together" always makes me think of my baby-sister. I really liked the Captain and Tennille back then, and whenever that song would come on the radio, she would call me up from the basement, where the playroom was, so that I could hear it.

Tina said...

I dare say you left out "Achy Breaky Heart" from our half time shows. Which we had the most kickin saxophone parts and you being the best on the sax had the coolest solo! And how many times did we play Pomp and Circumstance? After 6 consecutive years I still can't stand it!

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I had completely forgotten about "Achy Breaky Heart"; must have repressed the memory. Although that does remind me that I can't hear the theme song to Night Court without thinking of my solo during that as well. Which in turn reminds me of our failed attempts to play the theme song to The Simpsons. What a car wreck that was; everyone kept getting lost, and I remember being very proud that I was one of the few who actually ended the song when it was supposed to end.

Redneck Diva said...

Oh wow, y'all had to do Achey Breaky Heart at halftime??? I am so glad I graduated when I did!!!

I remember that noisy mess that Mr. Medders said was supposed to be The Simpsons...the first few measures were recognizable, after that it was chaos.

I still thank your mom every time I feel the need to burst into the School Song - 15 years later I still know every word. But you know, I only got a 98 on the test because I forgot the RahRah! at the end.

I'm giggling at the memory of you in the hippie garb.....

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Let me bid a fond welcome to , Redneck Diva, the aforementioned Age of Aquarius lip-synching partner whose blog I just discovered a day or two ago.

She's right to giggle; not only was I in hippie garb, I was in hippie garb, sitting crossed legged on the gym floor, pretending like I was playing a flute. Comedy gold, that is.

As far as I know, mom's still doing the school song test; of course, since she teaches Jr. and Sr. English now, she doesn't get it engrained quite as young as she used to.