Music has always played a predominant role in my life. From the earliest concerts of Sharon, Lois and Bram, to the more recent years of travelling through New Orleans to take in a Wilco show, I have always enjoyed what music does to my soul. I vividly remember the first ‘real’ concert that my parents brought the whole family to; it was 1989 at the SkyDome, where we had floor seats to see an epic lineup, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Frankie Vale, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ronnie Hawkins. I recall the excitement I felt to be able to witness Chuck take his signature duckwalk across the stage, so much so that I practiced doing it myself in my room for weeks trying to perfect the showmanship. Sadly, however, when it was his turn to take the stage he insisted the Jumbo-Tron be kept off for reasons I still don’t understand; my first true recollection of disappointment. Still, the concert was memorable, the songs still play in my head, and I remember the drive back home, sitting in the back seat, just smiling. I knew from then that music would forever be a part of me and I wanted to find my own way to the stage.
I’ll spoil the ending here for you and say that I never made it to the SkyDome stage myself, but I have played in a number of bands over the years, playing outdoor festivals, venues of varying sketchiness, college bars, and even made in on the radio at a point (an interesting story for another day). I started my formal music career off playing the piano, then moved on to the trumpet, guitar, and anything else you could put in front of me. The plan in my head was to pursue a post secondary education in Jazz, before I was drawn to a life seemingly more success-driven in the culinary arts…I think we all know the reality that neither of those paths are the easiest to endure, but I digress. Regardless of whether or not I managed to sell out stadiums, listening to and playing music remains prominent for me, and I am beyond thrilled to share my passion with the girls, Nora now in piano lesson, and both of them interested in drums, guitar, dance, and vocal. Audrey wakes up every day and gets the tunes going first thing, playing her pump-up songs, or easing her way into the day with something a little lighter; tunes of every genre are always flowing through the halls of the home, made especially easy to achieve with Alexa and her infinite access to content. For the most part, this makes me happy.
Nowadays we have content at our beck and call for just about anything you can think of or want in that moment: “Alexa, play the Juicy Fruit song from 1984”, and before you know it, Im transported back in time and I’m eager to get my skis shined up. For anyone reading this, however, my guess is that while you were growing up content was much trickier to get a hold of; whether dusting off the vinyl, recording mix tapes off the radio, or saving up for the newest in CD technology, it took time, patience, and money in order to hear your favourite bangers whenever you wanted. I vividly remember the first CD I ever properly owned – it was the Toronto Blue Jays Class of ’92 album, and I played that thing on repeat in my room day in and day out. Go ahead and poke fun, but I was proud to have owned a disc player and album that was mine, all mine. Maybe the tracks weren’t the most formative, but I was happy to listen to them at every opportunity; I was, after all, working at the time towards a baseball career in the event that my rock band headlining plan didn’t work out.
From there my CD collection grew…and grew, and grew. I spent most of any money I had on collecting tracks in any genre, and I took pride in seeing my collection expand. I got really into big band orchestras, and listening to Glenn Miller became a past time of its own for me; once again I would put the tracks on repeat and zone in to analyze just what and how the heck these musicians were accomplishing what they were. The timing, the key signatures, the improv, the composition and the velvet and majestic beauty of songs like In The Mood brought me pure joy. After big band, it was rock and roll, and, once again, I’d found myself hooked on how bands could bring together a finite number of notes into infinite possibilities, Rage Against the Machine was particularly influential for me in this regard, and Tom Morello is the reason I bought my first guitar. Later into the ’90s I remember picking up an Our Lady Peace album right before we were making a long family drive to Ottawa, and I insisted we listen to the album the whole way there (and I think back too), a memory that just came to me recently for reasons that I will explain in a moment. I haven’t listened to that album in ages, but I remember it being popular for being different, and I know I could still sing along to every word, just from that driving experience alone. Whatever the band, the genre, or the album, as a younger person I would consume, digest and dissect music ad-nauseam, something that, as a parent now, I am starting to appreciate from a different perspective.
I have mentioned already how our girls enjoy their tunes, be it Disney, pop, dance or metal, they love to bounce around to the beats. As they enter their newest age of development, however, it’s starting to bring back these memories of mine in a new light. While certain soundtracks have found their way into the regular rotation for longer car rides, we have generally not gotten stuck for too long on any one album or playlist, we haven’t really exhausted anything to the point of being unbearable, and I’ll openly admit that you could still put on the Encanto soundtrack any day of the week and I’ll be a happy camper. That was all true, well and good, until recently when the girls discovered The Descendants.
For three plus weeks now, in every room of the house, at every hour of the day, on every device possible we are listening to the admittedly catchy beats of the Disney hit craze. There’s no escaping the clutches these songs have on our house; nothing before it has been played or repeated to this degree. My girls are exploring and appreciating music and expression; they always have and I will continue to foster and environment that supports that. That said, I don’t ever recall getting completely fatigued from music before – another unfortunate yet likely sign of my aging, and it’s starting to take its toll on me. All Descendants and no silence makes Phil and dull boy…
I took the long way home on this one, but all of what I just wrote is to say this: my parents are patient and understanding people. I realize and appreciate only now what they endured while I lived under their roof. And while I think they probably enjoyed parts of my Billy Joel or CCR phases, they were likely less attached to my Tool and System of a Down days, yet never did they tell me I couldn’t listen. They allowed me to explore, and they endured much. So, as I cope with the next several weeks of leaning all the ‘different ways to be wicked, and process the thoughts of getting myself through these upcoming years of whatever comes next through our stereo, I just wanted to take a moment to say:
Mom and Dad, I’m sorry for the continuous loop of terrible Blue Jay cover songs. I apologize for all of the repetitive guitar solos you had to endure. I’m truly sorry for making you listen to that album all the way to Ottawa. I get it now, I really do; but also – thank you for letting be me.