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Talkin' 'bout Pop Musik

Jennifer Tarnow

Music plays a big part in our everyday lives. It's hard not to go somewhere and not hear some form of music, whether it be driving in your car or jamming to an overplayed pop song to the wonderful Muzak played in so many different stores (and elevators). Music influences the way people think, act, dress, talk and sometimes who we associate with. I think that the way music is introduced into our lives has a major impact on how we view popular culture.

My earliest memory of music had to be from when I was about 7 or 8. Back then my grandfather was still alive and living with us so my older sister, who is 9 years older than me, and I had to share a room. Since we share such a small space, naturally we shared more than just a room. Although I consider it sharing, I'm sure if you ask my sister she would say it was more like torture. I would sit and watch her put on her make up and spray at least 2 cans of hairspray in her hair (gotta love the 80's) while listening to some hair metal band and singing along into her hairbrush. One of those infamous bands was the group Bon Jovi. One year for Christmas my parents bought her a music video tape that included the song "Livin' on a Prayer". She was so excited. She watched it everyday. I'm really surprised that she didn't wear the VCR out watching it so much. Playing the role of the pesky younger sister, I would sit and watch it with her, mesmerized (even at the age of 8) of Jon Bon Jovi (aren't the lead singers in bands always the "hotties") in his leather pants with the big hair. Of course, being the youngest, I was also the proverbial ham of the family. After weeks of watching the video, I was able to get up and dance move for move the entire length of the video, without even having to look at the TV. I'm sure my parents would have loved to have a camcorder at the time, just so that they would have more embarrassing ammunition to show potential husbands to be later on in my life. Even though I'm sure they saw and heard Bon Jovi in their sleep, they still would egg my sister on to put the video in just so they could have a laugh or two watching me bust a move. Something about that song just made me have to dance. Even to this day, every time I hear the opening "whoa whoas" I still find my foot tapping and that familiar itch to break out and dance. That was the beginning of what led to be a very interesting obsession with lead singers of bands.

Shortly after, a very short-lived phenomenon came into the market. Pocket Rock, every little sister's equivalent to the older sister's beloved tape player. For those of you who have no clue what I am referring to, Pocket Rocks was a little "tape" player that would play miniature cassettes that were no bigger than an answering machine tape. There would be 1 song per tape. I saw it advertised on TV, and just had to have one. I begged my parents until finally, being the spoiled youngest child, they broke down and bought me one. I thought I was just the coolest thing after that. My older sister would beg to differ. Imagine, a nice sunny day, 16 year old girl wanting nothing more than to catch a few rays before hitting the mall. She was lying on a light blue beach towel in a purple and orange stripped bikini with a glass of Coke, Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Oil and the ever present tape player next to her side. Enter: "Velcro Sister", 8 year old girl, long mousy brown hair, wearing a pink ruffly one piece swimsuit and heart shaped sunglasses with Minnie Mouse's head on the bridge of the nose. I was carrying a Snoopy beach towel, my empty bottle of Banana Boat sunscreen I filled with water, just to be cool like my sister, HI-C Ecto-Cooler juice box, and my most prized possession_The Pocket Rocks. It was complete with Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" and Huey Lewis and the News's "Heart and Soul" singles. Oh, how I'm sure my sister hated me then. Of course it didn't make matters any better since there were no headphones to go with it, so everyone could hear what I was listening to. My music wasn't exactly my sister's idea of "good" music. Even to this day my sister and I have entirely different tastes in music (she loves country, I can't stand 99% of it).

Let's jump ahead a few years to those wonderful, round prism-like disks, called Compact Discs. The CD was my financial demise (next to my extensive shoe fetish). I still remember my first CDs. For my 8th grade graduation gift, my parents bought me my first CD player and 3 CDs. The CD player wasn't anything grand. It was just a small Sony portable. The CDs were: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves soundtrack, a compilation CD of 80's songs called Big Hits of the 80's, and Belinda Carlisle (I think the title of the CD was Live Your Life Be Free). Oh, how I loved that CD player. Before that I had a cheap little GE tape player that I had broken the tape holder off. That didn't stop me from playing it non-stop. I would sit and listen to a tape a friend of mine had made for me with the Bryan Adam's song "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" over and over again. I even used my sister's dual cassette player to make a whole tape with nothing but that song on it. I was obsessed with it. Every time I liked a boy that would be the song I would play and think about him. I remember one Easter, sitting in my room, while my mom prepared Easter dinner, thinking about a boy that strangely enough reminded me of an Easter Bunny decoration my mom had up at her work. I thought about him and that Easter Bunny for a good 8 hours that day while Bryan crooned with sugary heartfelt sentiments. Whenever I hear that song now, I still have to chuckle because I think about that Easter Bunny. Youthful crushes, aren't they a funny thing?

It's amazing how you can be driving down the road listening to the radio, thinking about what you're going to do this weekend, or in my case, my current crush-of-the-month. You hear a song, your entire frame of thought shifts and you have a flashback. It happens to me every time I hear the song "Touch You Once" by the group OMD. It takes me back to the summer before my junior year in high school, back to a time when there were no concerns over finances and college seemed to be centuries away. When four friends were still hanging out, before they went their separate ways and got married, went to college, joined the military, and started the never ending 9 to 5 day job. It was when being spontaneous meant borrowing mom and dad's car and driving to Great America only to have it end up pouring rain. And when spontaneous meant saying, ah, what the hell, lets take back roads to drive to Chicago instead. Back then, planning ahead and doing the "logical" thing was for adults, and who wanted to be an adult? Every time I hear OMD, I think about driving from Gurnee to downtown Chicago, using Sheridan Road the entire way there. What would normally be a 45 minute drive ended up being a good 2 hours at least. Driving past all the big houses on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, singing along at the top of our lungs to "I'll touch you once, I'll touch you twice" and giggling because every time we'd sing that we would poke at the person sitting next to us. It's sad to know that those days are long gone and now none of us has time to take a leisurely drive just for the fun of it.

Nowadays, it's hard to find time for all of us to get together and have fun. Going to a concert turns out to be a huge task. There is so much hemming and hawing over whom to bring, taking time off of work, ticket prices, and who's going to buy the tickets. I wish it were all as easy as my first concert. It was the group Bush with the opening band Veruca Salt. I was obsessed with Bush. The mere mention of Gavin Rossdale, the unquestionably finger licking good lead singer of Bush, would get me all giddy. It all started one summer in the back seat of one of my friend's boyfriend's Iroq Z-24. He had a huge stereo system (the kind where the bass makes your heart jump up and down between your throat and your ankles) and one night he blasted the first song Bush had, "Comedown". Sitting next to one of the speakers, I remember thinking, "Wow, this is a really great song." After my ears stopped ringing and my nerves settled down, I asked him who sang it. The next day, I hit the record stores in search of the CD. When I opened it up, and saw Gavin's cute little mug staring up at me, it was all over. I was officially an "Obsessed Fan". From there on out, every time I went to the store, I would search through the various music magazines in search of even the tiniest picture of Gavin. It's pathetic, but I went through my cutting out pictures and hanging them on my wall a little later than most people. I had what I called my "Gavin Shrine". I had an entire wall (and then some) covered with pictures of him. Just him, the rest of the band was just a trivial detail and that's why when Bush finally came to Chicago, I HAD to go. I would have given my first born to go to that concert (a little drastic, I know, but back then, at 17, I was a little on the psychotic side). I talked about it for weeks, and finally my mom said fine, she'd buy me my ticket. I was so excited. I think that the morning the tickets went on sale was the first time I have ever woken up eagerly when the alarm clock went off. It didn't even matter what seats I got, it was just enough that I was there. My two friends and I went with ended up sitting way back on the other side of the Rosemont Horizon, "waaay" up in the nosebleed section. It didn't matter to me, once Gavin started belting out the words with his sexy British accent, everyone and everything else disappeared. A plane could have landed on the stadium, and I wouldn't have cared, because I was at the Bush concert. Of course, that phase eventually ended. I still really like Bush, and would definitely go see them again, but I am now a proud member of the "OFA" (Obsessed Fans Anonymous). I still wish though, that every concert I go to now would have that same magical aura.

Music has played an integral part in my life. Music is the one thing that remains constant in my world. It has been there through everything, and will always be there. There will be new songs to create new memories and of course there will always be the old songs to remind me of the good old days. Music will always be around as long as there are little girls watching their big sisters singing into hairbrushes.

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