As I tumble unceremoniously through middle life, Garbage’s “When I Grow Up” plays on constant repeat in my head. Adulting has never been my preferred pastime, and I wonder when this alleged growing up will happen. And, if as Shirley Manson promises, ‘I’ll be stable’. Although my wayward self remains confident that I’m more likely to ‘rip it all to shreds and let it go’.
Music has been an integral part of our existence since time immemorial. No doubt, most of us could snap our fingers and summon a couple of verses of our favourite tunes. Songs that tug at our memories, pulling us between cheerful and despairing periods of our youthful or greying lives.
In the decade that Santa and the Easter Bunny still held sway with me, a magic dragon named Puff and his friendship with the young Jackie Paper captured my imagination. Its theme of bygone innocence failed to burden my juvenile ears.
A love-struck Romeo carried this Juliet through all the slow dances, breakups (‘it was just that the time was wrong’) and makeups of my teens. Whereas “Something Beautiful” dragged me through my marriage breakup. As I sobbed into my pillow under the indifferent moonlight, Robbie Williams assured my broken heart I wouldn’t be ‘lost, hurt, tired or lonely’. That eventually, something beautiful would come my way. I’m still waiting Robbie!
Granted, something finally came my way. Unfortunately, my poor taste and terrible judgment trailed in its wake, ensuring it was most definitely not beautiful. When it all crashed down, neither Michael Bublé nor my partner could believe it was over. Displaying a stunning lack of observation, they ‘watched the whole thing fall’. Both were unencumbered with the necessary wit to notice the writing painted in oversized capitals on the wall. However, I remain happily still standing. Lily Allen says it best with her poignant 2008 track, ‘F**k You’.
Throughout the heady eighties, my sidekick and I huddled upstairs on steamy, rain-drenched buses to Golden Discs, eager to purchase tickets for no less than three Chris de Burgh concerts. The ever popular “Patricia The Stripper” pulled everyone squealing and laughing to their feet, whilst the more mellow “Lonely Sky” captivated his adoring audience. Meanwhile, two women in the seats behind yelled their excitement for “Stairway to Heaven” as the first chords of “A Spaceman Came Travelling” pulsated through the crowded auditorium. An anecdote we relate more willingly than 1983’s shameful summer incident. Armed with the wilful resolution of teenage girls, we pushed to the front row of St Francis Xavier Hall to better get a look at Limahl during a Kajagoogoo concert. I indulge regularly in the fantasy that I clawed back some credibility the next August by chanting myself hoarse at Queen’s RDS gig.
In June 1986, Madonna implored her Papa not to preach. A sentiment I hoped my father would heed when I announced my unplanned pregnancy that autumn. Nine months later, and with no hint of irony, Engelbert Humperdinck begged for his release under the bright lights of Holles Street’s labour ward. A sister arrived four years later on (American) Independence Day, quieting only to the opening bars of monster hit, “(Everything I Do), I Do It For You”. Over and over, and over and over.
I shouldn’t underestimate the influence of Oklahoma!, Carousel and The King and I, amongst others. My mother loved musicals and I grew up surrounded by the undeniable classics of Rogers & Hammerstein soaring from our sitting room, complete with sentimental harmonies and rolling hills. In my unyielding opinion however, the undisputed queen of these singing and dancing spectacles is Calamity Jane. Whenever I hear the Deadwood Stage rollicking its mellifluous route to the Windy City, I can’t help joining in.
It’s easy to get “Lost In Music”. Sad songs truly say so much, worming their way into your weary bones. But a joyful melody can haul you back from the brink, burrowing into your psyche to slip a smile on your face. So, thank you for the rock and pop, the soul, the classical, the metal and the grunge. After all, ‘Without a song or a dance, what are we?’
(c) Eloise Christopher