The Things They Listened To

DSCF6934For opening night of my first paid musical theater gig, my sound designer gave me a pile of CD’s. Some of them I had heard him play over the system during tech rehearsals, some I had never heard of. Every one of them was amazing and none of them would I have ever found on my own. Cassandra Wilson, Duncan Sheik, John Zorn, Holly Cole. Coltrane, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, Jonathon Richman. Loudon Wainwright, Tom Waits.

I was in Arizona at the time, home of the greatest used music store on the planet. For the run of the show, and for the rest of the time that I lived there, I would go to Zia’s every Monday (my dark day) and spend a couple of hours digging around the bins. My classic rock and heavy metal roots branched out to classical, punk, minimalist, new age, cowpunk, classic country, and the downright strange.

Which is half the story of how I later found myself, at age 28, to own over four hundred CD’s and no bed. The other half of the story I’m not telling.

CC and I had a moment recently where we realized  our kids don’t have the experience of finding music that way. When CD’s first came out there used to be one store in the city that sold them, and he’d go in every day off and buy whatever came out that week. They were so new, so expensive, and there was so little available. It’s how he ended up with Israeli dance music in his collection.

Our kids don’t buy CD’s. There’s no store to go to anymore to find gems– you know, the things you missed when they were new and you were listening to something else. Our kids Spotify and listen to what their friends listen to. Fine for finding new popular music. But where do they go for unpopular music?

I haven’t Spotified yet. I play Pandora on the TV when I’m allowed control of the remote. But I love iTunes DJ on my laptop. It has an irony filter. Let’s face it, I’ve got a lot of music that I’m not going to actively seek out to listen to all the time. Before we left for Indiana on our Thanksgiving road trip, this was the playlist it selected for me:


It inspired me to set up the whole there & back’s worth of discs for our trip.

We started off at 5am with Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood. Went on to Chet Atkins, Gin Blossoms, My Chemical Romance, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Act I of Carmen. Right about there is when the kids could hold it in no longer. (It’s also when they were fully awake and out of donuts that hadn’t been squished).


Me: Carmen! Isn’t it awesome?


Me: Maybe you’ll like the other two discs better.

Them: OH GOD!

Me: Wait wait wait, the hook is coming up, hang on.

At which point they all started doing bad kid opera impressions and attempted to get the puggles involved.

I was unfazed. We finished the disc.

Next up was Prince (they knew Let’s Go Crazy and didn’t even notice Darling Nikki), Jonathon Richman (which #1 tried to skip over), Kiss (only #4 liked it), Public Enemy (“Oh My God, what IS this horrible music?”).

When I drove up from Indy to Chicago by myself to retrieve CC for Thanksgiving, I listened to Carmen in its entirety. I cranked it. I sang along, only slightly more in tune than the kids had been. It finished just as I hit full-on holiday rush hour on the loop and segued into Nevermind The Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Perfect timing.

On the way home from Indy to New Jersey, I made excellent time before the sun rose and they slept through Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9,  Elvis The Number One Hits, and Kate Bush’s Aerial– quite possibly the only album that might make you get fired up about doing housework. When they finally woke up, the complaining about my taste in music began again. Styx drew another “what IS this horrible music” from #4.

Shortly after we got home she came up to me excitedly, wanting to play a song for me that she just bought because she’d heard it on Guitar Hero. It was Renegade.

Me: Oh, I love that song! I have that album.

#4: You mean I just paid money to download a song that we already own?

Me: Yep. I played you the album when we went to Indiana and you were all, ‘what IS this horrible music?’, remember?

#4: I hate my life.

I’ve been working on getting all of the CD’s loaded onto the home computer so that we can have the shelf space back for books. I’m not even a quarter of the way done with it and I’m still having second thoughts about it. I haven’t actually gotten rid of anything yet, but stacked them in bins in the garage.

And I’ve discovered where my kids go to find their gems. Because in my house, nothing stays where you put it.

I got in the car that #1 uses last week and Heart’s Dreamboat Annie was blasting at a respectable volume for ten-year-old stock Mitsubishi speakers. Doing laundry, I heard the unmistakable sounds of Live’s Songs From Black Mountain coming through the walls of the music room. #2 has chosen their The Distance to Here as her driving soundtrack. I found a pile of discs that had migrated from the garage: Randy and the Bloody Lovelies, the Fratellis, Queensryche, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Guns N Roses. Not that long ago I heard Rush cranking in the bathroom.

Apparently, I’ve become the used record store for the next generation.