Music was my first love and she continues to break my heart in three-and-a-half minute increments. However, she and I have worked through so many splits and reconciliations that our relationship reads more like the five stages of grief than a loving relationship. Let me explain.
Thirteen was a punch in the gut. This was the year I began to take a serious interest in girls. Sadly, these girls didn’t take an interest in my awkward demeanor and the rejection eventually reflected in the despair bleeding out my stereo. Poor pop bands singing songs so saccharine I am embarrassed to type their names on this page. But, as I grew older my skin thickened and prepared me for what was to come – anger.
At fifteen I discover how good it feels, and how easy it is, to reroute sadness to a mosh pit of aggression. This was the stage of punk. For me bands like The Clash or The Ramones had a specific energy and sense of camaraderie that egged on my youthful pain and angst. Plus, it was amusing to watch my parents squirm in front of their friends: “oh…um…yeah Patrick is going through a phase.” But, for some punk is not just a phase. Some of my friends, whose musical opinions I highly regard, still restrict their record collection to Black Flag and Screeching Weasel. This phase was my favorite, but it couldn’t last. The girls and rejection of my teenage years were waiting.
For me, “bargaining” was my lowest point, my rock bottom… my Phish. Female companionship overthrew the allegiance to my punk comrades and I was more than willing to sell out. Willing to sell my punk CDs for whichever band the pretty girls were listening to. The music no longer mattered. It was a simple bargaining tool with which to enter the arms of the opposite sex. And to be clear: I am not proud of my musical prostitution, but women and men have done much worse for a backseat fondle.
In the next stage, my depression came full circle. My bargained relationships failed and I again tuned into the sounds of self-loathing and frustration. But the music was more intense and severe. I did not return to the sweet and simple pop songs of stage two; I wanted complexity and a lot of reverb. I began listening to new-wave and post-punk in my late teens and my love for music was instantly rekindled. I related to the depression of bands like Television and The Fall. Morrissey shared my unique emotions. This was my longest and most dramatic phase. I learned a lot about “good” music but grew intolerant and judgmental of “bad” music. And, until recently, I would have been classified as a music snob or – gasp! – “hipster”.
However, I am glad to say my relationship with music is softening with age. Like an old couple, she and I simply enjoy each other’s company. We no longer quarrel about what is on the stereo. We just play it by ear. If she feels like listening to Lester Young on a Sunday morning – that’s ok. If I feel like cleaning the apartment while listening to the Grateful Dead – that’s ok too. It’s a mature relationship of respect and acceptance. We don’t laugh if the other is in a nostalgic mood and wants to sway to Boyz II Men. Or scowl if the presidential primaries cause an afternoon of Minor Threat 45s. No judgment. I am happy to be at peace with music. Actually, I even enjoy a little silence, and am reading more too. Hey, have you read…