Monday, June 11, 2012

Turn the Radio Up: Sad Songs and Losing Control

"Kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you.  And feels so good to hurt so bad and suffering just enough to sing hte blues." Elton John "Sad Songs (Say so Much)"


"Jennifer's got her daddy's car.  She's playing Uptown on her stereo.  We go cruising so close.  The way they did long ago." Eric Carmen "Make Me Loose Control"


"You can run and can you hide.  But I'm not leaving unless come with me.  We had our problems but I'm on your side.  You're all I need.  Please believe in me." Phil Collins "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven"


"I can make tonight forever.  Or I can make it disappear by the dawn.  I can make you every promise that has ever been made.  I can make all your demons be gone." Air Supply "Making Love Out of Nothing at All"

Children born to Youthful Parents often experience a different sort of Upbringing compared to those raised by more Mature Versions.  If that statement doesn't make sense to you, than you are probably a part of the latter group (obviously, I'm from the former).  Some things can only be learned through experience: the wonder of 35 cent cans of soda; completing chores in order to earn 1 dollar every week (10 percent of which went to tithe and fifty cents to savings.  Thus, buying a GI Joe or Barbie was a long term commitment); assurances that any exposure to Dungeons and Dragons would lead first to Satanic Worship and then Homicide; counting the number of times characters in a television show cursed (if it reached three you had to turn it off); never being allowed to watch films with sex in them, while, listening to music and viewing Soap Operas obsessed with that topic.  For me, the most peaceful moments of my childhood came along with loud blaring music.  A contradiction, you say?  Nope, allow me to explain.  Family life is tough.  Perhaps harder for some than others.  In my case, the best memories while growing up came from long drives on Sunday afternoons.  From the time I was strapped into a car seat until well into my teenage years, my Father enjoyed piling everyone into one of his loaner cars from Dick Leonard Ford, where he worked as a salesman, (if we were lucky buying a can of soda for my brother and I to split), and speeding through the hills of Southern Indiana.  During those trips, Dad turned the radio up and I sang along (well, quietly, so as not to be heard) with The Steve Miller Band, R.E.O Speed Wagon, Air Supply, the Bangles, Chicago, Jim Croce, Janis Joplin and so many more.  The music put my Father in a good mood.  Laughter filled the car as he'd ask us to "Name that Song".  I associated the music with familial contentment...and bedtime.  At night, after my brother and I had been ushered to our rooms, my Dad would proceed to turn his stereo all the way up, playing whatever CD he enjoyed most at the time.  Some nights the windows would tremble from the vibration of the speakers.  During Middle School, I'd lay awake and sing along with Cher (I memorized all the lyrics from her 1989 Heart of Stone album): "I remember love on the rooftop.  We couldn't make the love stop.  We were giving all that we've got." Yeah, its a tad a sexual, but then again by the age of three of I was belting out the lyrics to "The Joker": "I really like your peaches wanna shake your tree".  Look to the book of Ecclesiastes: "There is nothing new under the Sun," my Darlings. Over the years, more than anything else, listening to music comforted me as grew, changed, struggled, and dreamed.  Two songs in particular stood out: Elton John's "Sad Songs" (1984) and Eric Carmen's "Make Me Lose Control" (1988).

Go ahead, laugh.  I do.  But I can't help it.  I still feel affection for both pieces of music.  To be honest, I can't remember when I first heard Sad Songs.  I do remember when my parents purchased the CD.  I danced wildly around the back half our my grandparents house (where we lived) in excitement.  There was a bit confusion at first.  My mother attempted to play "I Guess That's Why they Call it the Blues".  I responded by assuring her that was the WRONG tune.  She said it wasn't.  I said it was.  There was a struggle.  Finally, my father sided with me on the issue and played My Song.  I revelled in its awesomeness allowing the Sad Songs to wash over me.  I continued to belt ou those lyrics for months to come (hell, I still do).  Even now, I cannot quite explain why I loved it then or why it still makes me grin now, but there it is. Of course, Carmen's Make Me Lose Control is a bit more personal, I suppose.  Like the previous story, I really don't remember the moment I first heard the song.  I do recall watching the Music Video (click here, you know you want to!).  Once again, my family bought the CD.  I'd lay awake, with a breeze from the box fan in our kitchen pulling air through my bedroom window, as Make Me Lose Control would play over and over again along with R.E.O Speedwagon and Air Supply.  While I knew the words to each and every song, that particular one held a special place in my heart because the lyrics included my name.  Somehow, I believed it was written especially for me, and every other Jennifer alive.  The Jennifers of the World, I thought, had a special calling.  One fine day, we'd all leave home, go cruising, and then lose control.  Yep! That's the image I'd drift off to sleep with each night...me "losing control" with "radio up" doing something unspeakable with my Baby. Listen, I'm not arguing either song was particularly good or meaningful.  What I am saying is that they meant something to me.  Helped me find a way to understand my world.  Brought peaceful moments to my family.  And for that maybe I owe the musicians a small thanks both for the happy memories and the dreams I once had.

*The only other song that has as much affect on me as the previous two is Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance Take It".  Maybe its because even now when I hear the words "Stand up in a clear blue morning until you see what can be alone in a cold day dawning.  Are you still free?  Can you be?", I remember the hopefulness of my childhood...there are still chances and I simply need the courage to take them.

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