Music & Memories

Last night on the ride home from Target and Michaels, early in the evening but still feeling late because of changing the clocks and the new darkness at five, the radio was lacking in music I knew (let alone music I liked), so I hooked my iPod up to the stereo in Dan’s car and set it to shuffle. Usually we’ll end up listening to a Nerdist or Night Vale podcast on a drive, but I haven’t updated my podcasts lately, so for the first time in a while we were relying on good ol’ shuffle. Two or three songs in, Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” came on, and I ended up yammering on a little bit about the band to Dan–as if he hasn’t heard me talk about them a million times already–and I told him the story of how the song was played between My Chemical Romance and Green Day’s sets when I saw them in middle school, and my jaw fell when it came on. But as I was talking, I realized aloud that it made sense since Kathleen Hanna did vocals on “Letterbomb.” That’s how I learned about Bikini Kill in the first place: by looking up who did those opening vocals.

After that I chose a few more Green Day songs for the ride home (“Letterbomb,” “Nuclear Family,” and “Nightlife,” specifically) and started thinking about how distinctly all of these songs make me remember certain times in my life and certain events, even the two newer ones. “Nuclear Family” reminds me of blasting Uno! in the morning while driving to my high school observations while I was still an education major, because Green Day pumped me up enough to get through the ten-minute drive. “Letterbomb” reminds me so much of middle school and high school; certain best friends; and morning bus rides to school, reading and listening to American Idiot on repeat, first in my Discman and then on my first pink iPod nano. I didn’t even like “Nightlife” the first time I heard it; I tried not to write it off completely, but it was so different and unexpected on that first listen. Now it’s one of my favorites at the moment.

And “Rebel Girl” doesn’t really have just one memory to connect to it, because it came up with so many friends and at so many moments. (Maybe it’s a cursed song, though, because almost everyone I’ve bonded with over it isn’t my friend anymore.) I remember bedroom dancing in high school on bad days, learning to play it on the guitar and subsequently forgetting how to play it, and friends using it in reference to me at times. It’s been a kind of theme song to my life the past eight or nine years, the repeated background music.

Thinking about it now, even while I was cleaning the apartment yesterday listening to MCR’s The Black Parade, I kept thinking about certain people and memories that the album reminded me of, even as recently as a few months ago when I was listening to it late at night, Dan gone for the weekend, when Katie called as she was driving home, just to talk.

Music makes it so easy to vividly remember so many parts of my life. Sometimes it feels like songs have been tainted by certain people or memories, but for the most part I can get over it because I like the songs enough to keep listening.

And now I think I’ll listen to the entire American Idiot album because it, along with MCR’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, gives me some of the best memories lately–plus, they’re just fun.

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