i grew up fascinated by my dad’s tapes, the way they looked and felt, and stole his copy of the boomtown rats at around five years old, so that i could repeatedly listen to “i don’t like mondays” in the secrecy of my room. i was forced to listen to this particular song in the secrecy of my own room because my mom wouldn’t let me listen to it. it wasn’t until later in life, when i understood the lyrics, that i also understood her distate towards a five year olds claim of it being her favourite song (google it) (sorry for worrying you mum)
that is the first recollection that i have with music and i am confident that it is responsible for my love-struck relationship to the art form for two different reasons:
1) i developed a deep intimacy with music because i had to listen to this particular song in secrecy. there was something about having to illegally hide this tape in my room, and only bravely put it in the boombox when i couldn’t bare another minute without listening to it, making sure it wasn’t loud enough for me to get caught, that made this song, and eventually all my music, very special to me.
2) the owner of this tape was my dad. i loved my dad. i loved this tape. i assumed he did, too (did he? i don’t know) and therefore, i attached music to something that i loved so much: my own father. how was it that my dad could own something that would turn out to be so special to me? i marvelled at the idea that we shared a secret bond because of this song. because of this ownership, my dad became the poster…man? for music, so to speak. he became my musical hero.
i developed an appreciation for my dad’s taste in music early on, and it has only strengthened throughout my life. it began with my discovery of the boomtown rats, and continued during my years living at home. as a family, we were constantly surrounded by his music. we always had a tape or cd on in the car, and we rarely had a family dinner without something playing in the background. because of the consistency with which we listened to my dad’s music, we eventually all knew the lyrics, when the changes in rhythm would occur, and when the last repetition of a line was coming. i ended up loving each and every one of the regulars. for this reason, my dad’s music now acts as a reminder of my childhood, because these songs were the musical background for most of the significant events in my life.
at this time, it wasn’t that i loved these songs for their catchy beats or lyrics, but it was because i knew that they stood for something much larger than a song, something much bigger than i could comprehend. i realize now that my relationship to my dad’s music is not because it provides comfort for me, just as any consistant, longterm, repetition does, and that they aren’t actually about me or my experience with them at all, but instead are completely and wholly about my dad and his relationship to them.
there is something about the way my dad reacts to his music that always struck me as beautiful, warm, and personal. music seemed like a scared, holy thing for my dad, like all of his music could equate to the secretiveness that was for me the boomtown rats. so when he shared it with me openly and encouraged me to understand the beauty of this music, i felt special, like i had earned my way into his secret place. my dad’s music became whimsical and magical to me for this purpose, and it allowed me to really understand the value that music can be to someone, if they allow it such a privilege.
whenever my dad talks about his music, he enters into an intimate place. i have always felt as if music is the raw substance of my dad; the songs he listens to are a direct reflection of his life’s happiness, sorrows, insecurities, passions, regrets, and all the other human emotions that we all feel, but are sometimes not exactly able to express. since i can remember, i have felt as though my dad is opening up a piece of himself every time he plays a song for me, or explains the beauty that he sees within the lyrics or instrumental scores. nothing about my dad’s taste in music is false, everything has a purpose, and you can tell that each song has been carefully selected by him, that he has chosen them and deemed them worthy enough to be a part of his story.
there is always something within our parents, some quality or habit, that gently reminds us that they are human, that they are not so different than the children they produce. for me, this quality is my dad’s music. when i hear one of my dad’s songs playing in the house, or catch him simulating the air drums, i am reminded that when he listens to his songs, he feels something completely different than i do, something that might represent his biggest failure or happiest pleasure. i am reminded to be grateful for my inclusion in these confessions. because as cliche as it sounds, music is my dad’s truth, and not many parents bestow children with their truth. knowing that such an abundance of emotions are entangled within the music that my dad listens to, makes me see the person who has lived, and the person who is loving enough to share such an intimate representation of himself with his daughter.
***about a week ago, i e-mailed my dad to ask him if he would take some time to comprise a list of his top 30 songs. i then made an 8track of them (yes with his picture. young paul). many of the songs are ones that i know all-too-well, some are now my own favourite songs, and most humbly, some are songs that i didn’t even know he liked. he also took the time to write a sentence beside each song, describing why he loves it. here are a couple that really struck me:
“into temptation by crowded house: the opening lines capture how beautiful your mom is”
“mercy street by peter gabriel: best enjoyed alone”
“the drive home by james horner: field of dreams – floods me with many emotions; reflections of my dad, me, and my kids (you)”
“new orleans instrumental no 1 by REM: cool that a song from my collection can have such a hold on you, makes me smile” – because for about 7 years i have been confident that if i get married, i will 100 percent be walking down the aisle to this song. bravo for introducing it to me, dad.
i also just wanted to say a shot out to the former band “mean tangerine”, because if any of you weirdos ever read this, “flat stanley” made paul’s top 30 list.
also jo, my beloved mother: our time spent listening to “women and songs” 1 through 5 has NOT gone overlooked.