My dad used to play this game with my siblings and I when we were kids. Whenever we’d go somewhere, our entire family of five bumping around in the front seat of his pickup truck, he’d flip around the radio stations and ask us to guess a song and its singer by hearing just a few notes or lyrics. Mostly he’d pick music from his generation, the 60s, but sometimes he’d throw in some 70s and 80s music. The quicker we guessed the song, the more praise we earned from our dad, and the more pride we felt in our budding encyclopedic knowledge of early rock music. When we heard three notes and yelled, “The Rascals,” Dad beamed. “Creedence!” we’d chime in unison, competing for no prize whatsoever.
By the time we were in elementary school, we had memorized the lyrics to most of the Beatles’ and Stones’ catalogs and were performing “concerts,” using tennis rackets as guitars, for family and friends. I remember one particular time singing lead, with my brother and my best friend Jenny on backup, and walking out of the room in frustration at their inability to harmonize. I was 8. I often wonder, did my dad create this or did he nurture the love of music he saw in us because he had it too? Would I have become the rock music lover I am without his guidance, his games of “name that tune,” the endless soundtrack of 60s rock music streaming through our house, his passionate telling and retelling of the behind-the-scenes stories of bands, albums, concerts, famous producers and music studios? It’s a bit of a nature/nurture question, and I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end. I became the rock music lover (or as I like to think of it, the rock star with no talent) I was intended to be.
I bought my first vinyl album in the 3rd grade…”Thriller”…and played it endlessly on the small record player in my room. My first cassette was “License to Ill,” kicking off my short but sweet hip hop phase. My world rocked when I bought “Purple Rain.” (Prince still rocks my world.) And then my life completely changed at 13 when I heard “Appetite for Destruction” for the first time, and subsequently spent the next decade at arena rock shows. There’s something about hearing music live, the way it was intended to be heard. I fell in love with it at 13 and still love it almost 30 years later. There’s nothing that compares to being in an arena with 20,000 people with whom you likely have nothing more in common than the love of a band, and for two brief hours you all are united by the steady beat of the rhythm section, the 20,000 voices singing in unison. It’s truly beautiful.
Recently, Josh scored us floor seats at Dave Grohl’s “46th Birthday” Concert at the amazingly refurbished Fabulous Forum (where we both had been to many concerts in our youth). The Foos are our favorite band and we were psyched, but I briefly wondered whether I was too old for arena rock shows. Would I be the oldest one on the floor? (Not even close.) Would I want to take a nap halfway through the show? (Yes. But I powered through.) Would the youngsters annoy me with their young hipsterishness and earplugs? (Some were dickish; some were very cool.) The second the Foos played their first song though, I stopped caring about all that crap. I sang my heart out, I said, “hell yeah” when someone dumped a beer on our row, and I wondered why we didn’t do this more often.
I’m 41 now and I can still name most rock songs from the 60s through the 2000s by hearing just a few words or notes. I can still sing most Beatles, Rascals, Creedence and Stones songs. I still play a mean tennis racket guitar. My dad is 67. He still plays “name that tune” with me, and he’s still impressed when I’m able to identify some random band. He still tells stories about music. Music moves him. He associates songs with moments in his life and those songs can prompt a stroll down memory lane, bring the biggest grin to his face or bring tears to his eyes within seconds. My dad has had a running soundtrack to his life. He shared that soundtrack with me, and what a gift it has been. And though Hailey is not 4 yet, I think I’m sharing that with her as well. It helps that Josh also loves music and is one hell of a guitar player. Though I don’t play “name that tune” with her, our house and our car are constantly filled with music. She says the Foo Fighters are her favorite band. Again, nature or nuture? She has two favorite Foos songs that she’s even memorized. She plays air drums and says she wants to start playing drums when she’s 4. She says she’ll start her own rock band when she’s 4 too and she’ll call it “Fingernails are Pretty,” a line from one of her favorite Foos songs. We taught her how to throw up the horns when she’s feeling extra rock and roll. When she does, she looks at me with a crooked smile and says, “Mama, does this make you so much happy?” Yes, honey. Yes, it does.