Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Music and Memories

vanhalen4 Picture via

As I was listening to Sirius Satellite Radio on my drive to the Outer Banks for the weekend, I turned to the “80s on 8” station to listen to the sounds of my high school and college years. So many memories flooded back to me as Eddie Van Halen began his guitar riff on “Finish What Ya Started” (link here---love this video!). I was out of college and working my first “real” job as an inside sales representative for a telecommunications manufacturer and was dating my soon to be first husband. To me, this song brings back great memories and a time where I was just really beginning my adult life. The music lineup got me thinking about just how important music is to my memories, both happy and sad.

My older brothers are ten and twelve years older than me. When I was a little girl, I thought they were both so cool and I was fascinated by them and their friends. When they let me, I spent hours with them listening to music. Each of them had saved their money to purchase the best stereo components they could afford and much of their free time was spent listening to albums by Crosby, Stills & Nash, Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina, The Doobie Brothers, The Allman Brothers, Steely Dan, America, Gordon Lightfoot and others. One brother was a great guitar player even though he could not read music. He also had a wonderful singing voice and I helped him with the lyrics to his favorite songs. He’d put an album on the turntable and I’d write down the lyrics so he could learn the song well enough to play on his guitar. We spent many hours together and I credit Glenn for my love of songs like “Summer Breeze,” “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” “Danny’s Song,” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Jessica.” His love of music started me on my way to listening to musical genres of all types.

Seals&Crofts Picture via

As I got older and into high school, music was about fun, partying and new experiences. During my freshman and sophomore years, the big bands were AC/DC with their album “Back in Black,” Dire Straits with “Sultans of Swing,” The Knack with “My Sharona,” and John Jett and the Blackhearts with “I Love Rock n Roll.” In fact, “Sultans of Swing” was the first CD that my mom purchased when Dad bought our first family CD player. The new technology was so cool and the music sounded so clear! Mom  still loves that CD to this day. Despite some musical standouts, it was a really strange time in music because the disco era was not quite over, with songs like “Bad Girls” and “MacArthur Park” released by Donna Summer at the same time as “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick and “Every Time I Think of You” by The Babys. Very, very weird! It was also a time when I was going on a lot of band trips and competitions. For me, REO Speed Wagon and raspberry lip gloss will always be associated with those competitions!

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Later in high school, my friends and I participated as an “entertainment” entry into the school’s talents show, styling ourselves as The Go Gos (remember them??). It was our chance to dress in clothes our parents would never let us wear in a million years and make spectacles of ourselves. We had an actual band behind us (I remember Harris and Dave but not sure who else) and the performers were me, Dee Dee, Lisa V, Regina and Lisa C. We sang the The Go Gos hits “We Got The Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.” It was a lot of fun and actually pretty important for me as I was in the throes of suffering from anorexia nervosa and the serious body issues that go along with that. We weren’t talented but we did have the guts to do it and make people laugh with (at?) us!

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Majorette: Greg Cher. Flag carriers: Becky Wells Mullen, Ruthie Schloman Morganto

By the time I entered the University of Virginia, I was ready to strike out on my own and learn about new people and new music. During the first week of school, I auditioned for the infamous UVA Pep Band and earned my spot with a group of people who would be a big part of my life for the next several years (and then later as we met up again at Reunions). For those of you who don’t know about the Pep Band, here is a link to a Wikipedia page explaining the group. Anyway, the next four years brought me a lot of happiness as I hung out with Serena, Dave, K.C., Ruthie, Becky, Bill, Todd, Randi, Bart, Pete, Bob and others. One of my fondest memories is of when we performed a football half time show with our special guest, Bob Hope! This was a nationally televised football game and we surprised the audience by having Bob pop out of a “cake” as we played (and he sang) his signature song, “Thanks for the Memory.” I will never forget this event! Great times!

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K.C. Underwood and Bob Hope (Photo credit: Ruthie Schloman Morganto)

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Pictured with Bob Hope: Bart Boodee, K.C. Underwood (Photo credit: Ruthie Schloman Morganto)

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Photo Credit: Ruthie Schloman Morganto

One other time in college stood out as well. My friends and I came of age during the first part of the “MTV Generation.” In my small town, it took us awhile to get cable but once that happened, MTV was soon to follow. During my second year at UVA, my roommates and I subscribed to MTV, which, at that time, played only music videos. One video in particular stood out as the freshest and most innovative: A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” We had seen nothing like it before, with it’s lead characters transforming into line-drawn figures, acting out the drama described in the song. My roommates, Leslie and Elizabeth, and I would race home from class to watch this amazing new channel. Whenever we heard the opening drumbeat and the catchy, synthesized melody, Leslie would yell, “Cartoooooon!!!!!” That was quite a memory and “Take On Me” has held a special place in my heart ever since.

Take on me Picture via

The years after college are a little bit murky as I began a difficult period in my marriage and was trying to establish myself in life. Later musical memories include the first time I was introduced to “smooth jazz” by a much older boyfriend. I began to appreciate the sounds of Earl Klugh (“Happy Song”), Lee Ritenour and Fourplay (here’s Bali Run, one of my favorites). In 1995, I attended the Monterey Jazz Festival and that opened my eyes even more. After that, I began to listen to more and more jazz and attended concerts at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA, the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View and the Concord Pavilion in Concord, CA. During those years I saw so many concerts that included performances by Diana Krall, Tuck & Patty (“Tears of Joy”), Dave Matthews, Santana, Keiko Matsui, Huey Lewis and the News, Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz, Najee, Marc Antoine, Norman Brown, Larry Carlton, Dave Grusin (here’s his Mountain Dance—love this!), Joyce Cooling (“Mmm Mmm Good”), Chieli Minucci, Chris Botti, The Rippingtons and others. While dating a guy who was obsessed with German-born guitarist Ottmar Liebert and The Gipsy Kings, I learned about flamenco-inspired music. Some of my favorites from those artists include “Barcelona Night,”  “Baila Me” and “Djobi Djoba.” 

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Other musical influences for me during my time spent in California include the repertoire of the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, a concert by Yo Yo Ma, listening to orchestral music with my friends Beth and Julian and, last but not least, the music from my friend, Judy’s, wedding. Judy’s wedding stands out for me as a particularly happy time that is outstanding where the music is concerned. A complete nut for symphonic, orchestral and choral music, Judy had her wedding music planned to a “T”, including knowing what would take place as a particular strain of a song was played. Not only did Judy have a group of boys singing from the San Francisco Children’s Chorus, she enlisted her very good friend, David, the current principal timpanist from the San Francisco Symphony, to play timpani during her processional music. The music was spectacular and clearly showcased how much music not only meant to Judy but how it had played (and continues to play) a huge part in her life. One of the memorable pieces from the wedding is “Crown Imperial” by William Walton. It was a lovely day for a lovely bride!!

And just this weekend, I was chatting with some friends at the condo in the Outer Banks and telling them about my memories associated with “80s on 8.” Janet mentioned to me that she grew up listening to the same music and had just recently gotten together with some friends to listen to the stacks and stacks of LPs that they had collected as teenagers and young adults. This conversation took place while her husband was singing along with the hired musician. Mike has a great voice and entertained us with his rendition of James Taylor songs and others. It just goes to show that music is a universal language that means something to many of us. I’ve often said that time is the great equalizer but I’m beginning to believe that music is also a great equalizer.

Six years ago, my life took another turn when I met my husband and my stepson. Little did I know at the time, life was about to change in huge and wonderful ways! We’re still making our musical memories and some of those include Mumford & Son’s “I Will Wait,” The Fray’s “You Found Me” and “Falling Slowly” by Hansard and Irglova. We’ve both still got a lot of life to live together, so I am sure that we will be adding to this list as the years go by.

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How about you? Has music played an important part in your life? What favorites bring forward memories for you?