What sort of music was played in your house when you were growing up? What effect, (if any) did it have on your musical tastes?
My mother was never into music, and so she never owned a radio at all, which meant that we didn’t have the radio blaring at our house when I was growing up. Instead, I remember the sound of mahjong tiles all afternoon and all through the night – and music, if any was played from a cassette player I probably bought on my own, was considered a nuisance and a distraction.
My aunts, however, who lived next door, did have a big stereo and so if I got tired of the silence or the tinkling of the mahjong tiles and the money chips, I went next door to play the records my aunts owned. Earth, Wind and Fire, Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Electric Light Orchestra, Bee Gees…looking back now, my aunts were pretty cool.
In my early teens, my cousins and I loved the same artists and so there was no shortage of music to share between us – as long as it was outside of the house. We listened to Madonna, Culture Club, INX, A-Ha, The Smiths, Duran Duran, U2, Depeche Mode, Bruce Springsteen, Pet Shop Boys, and Nena. The list goes on, of course, and I think that’s where my own tastes came to being, having found the music that I preferred over the ones my aunts introduced me to – although if I remember correctly, there was a foray into Shaun Cassidy for a year or two…
When I was in high school, my mother remarried, and my stepfather introduced me to Broadway tunes. He’d play them each morning and I learned how to wash that man right out of my hair, and that there’s a bright golden haze on the meadow in Oklahoma – wherever that was. And if I were a rich man, I’d build a tall house with rooms by the dozen right in the middle of the town.
Unfortunately, my mother did not share the same love my stepfather had for his Broadway tunes, and so he shared them with me. I loved those mornings with my stepfather. And even though I had never heard of Broadway before, nor saw a play on the Broadway stage, I learned to see the plays inside my head, sing the songs and dance along with them for whatever it was worth.
By the time I hit my 20’s, my tastes went to Sade and Whitney Houston, though working at a radio station introduced me to the Doors, Queen and pop music. When I was finally on my own, my tastes settled onto eclectic Buddha Bar mixes to go along with countless glasses of wine and Manhattans as I reveled living alone in my own little apartment, and drives on the highway going nowhere in particular.
These days, I listen to a variety of music depending on my mood. Some pop, some folk, and even some alternative, and even classical when I need to sit down and write my novel – though most of the time, I play no music at all when I write. There’s a smattering of Broadway songs in there, too, of course, in memory of my stepfather, and the occasional 70’s dance hit to make me smile as I think of my aunts. When I work, I have no choice but listen to relaxing massage music accented with the sounds of water, or the wind, or even a bird call or two, but it’s the last thing I want to listen to when the session ends and I get my own life back again. For when the work day ends, I want to return to music that makes me smile, remembering and honoring the people who introduced them to me.
I only wish I could think of even just one song that my mother might have introduced me to, but nothing comes to mind but the sound of mahjong tiles and money chips at the moment.
Though that could be music to someone’s ears, too, I suppose.
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