Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I (Re)Write the Songs


Music is huge to me.  Huge.  It was the one thing my broken family enjoyed together.  We used to totally take up the dance floor at weddings and large events.  We'd even dance at home together.   And somehow, probably because there were three of us girls very close in age, we ended up performing for the family and guests on a regular basis.  Our “specialty” was “Let Me Entertain You” from Gypsy...hmmm…thinking about that now I find that spectacularly ironic, especially since I believe it was our mother who taught us the song.  Those of you who know me personally will understand what I’m talking about.  For those of you who don’t: stick around. I’m sure that tale will be told!

Dad had two jukeboxes, one in the house and one in the garage in back.  Any given sunny day the garage door would be open, the music would be blaring, and there'd be eight or ten kids in our driveway doing the New York Hustle (one of the dances we learned in gym class in elementary school).  We'd have combined birthday parties for me and my two sisters, and we'd spend weeks deciding which 45's we'd put in the jukebox for the party--we each got to put in 20 (we had one left that we "shared"), and it took some serious strategy to not waste a slot on a song you knew your sister was going to use! We'd have anywhere from 20-40 kids in our house, "dancing the night away."  We were so innocent then.  Of course, Dad would reset the counter on the jukebox ahead of time and after the party would make fun of us for wasting so much time choosing our music when we'd probably only played six songs over and over for the night!

My family talked in song; we still do.  Any word that made any of us think of a song would immediately start one of us singing, and the rest would join in (and with the amount of music we listened to, any word could start us up).  Where some people categorize their life by relationships or what car they were driving, mine is categorized by what music I was listening to.  The right song can bring me back to an exact moment in time.  I have spent more time fine-tuning my playlists on my iPod according to mood and theme than I have cooking dinner for my kids—don’t worry, they got fed!

Mix Tapes were my thing.  I would put a lot of time and thought into my tapes, whether for myself or someone else.  If I made one for you, I meant everything every single song said.  If I made one for you, there was a reason behind it.  Music says what I can’t put into words – which is really kind of odd, because I’m never at a loss for words!  There was a time when someone I considered special was sending me songs.  Knowing how I am about sharing music specifically with someone, I started “reading into it,” then (like I usually do) I began second-guessing myself and wondered if anything specific was meant.  I confided in my best friend.  I didn't even get a chance to say anything other than tell her about the songs and immediately she said, “Wow! Someone who speaks your language!”  She knows me. (I love that.)

So you get that music is there for me.  Another love of mine is writing.  It’s only natural to combine the two.  I started writing song lyrics in my journals.  That was when my writing was only for me (yet another, long story).  I began rewriting songs when I was working at a Sears Surplus Store when I was seventeen.  Muzak was popular then, and I would start (and finish) many rounds of “Name That Tune” to the Muzak on the slower days (actually, every day).  When I worked Customer Service, after dealing with…customers I would imagine scenarios in my head of how I would have liked to deal with them, rather than how I had to deal with them.  I would come up with “Closing Announcements We Wish We Could Say” and post them behind the Customer Service desk or in the back offices.  (I’m sure my boss worried that one day I would act on one of my ideas—especially since he knew how much I loved speaking into the microphone!).  I graduated to writing song lyrics to sing with the music playing on the Muzak system.  Sort of a convoluted form of karaoke.  One of my first was a song called “Sears Surplus” sung to the tune of Judy Garland’s “Chicago”.  You’ll thank me for not forcing that on you.

Long story short (“Too Late!”), I now have two rather large collections of skewed lyrics, or what I call: “If I Wrote That Song” and “My Response to That Song”.  I figure one day I will piss a popular songwriter off pretty good, or maybe someone will offer me a job!

Stay tuned…