Find Your Soundtrack
Image: Jesse Frohman :Kurt Cobain; "Stage No. 2"
I distinctly remember the first time I heard ‘Alive’ by Pearl Jam. It came up on our dusty brown Phillips tv on a ‘RTR Sounz’ on a Saturday morning in 1991. I remember thinking: this is monumental, this is important. Something has changed. Where once there were glam rockers with six inches of make-up and so much hair spray it would have to be a fire hair hazard, here was Eddie Vedder, this kind of messy, intensely angry young man in a flannel shirt who was willing to trawl deeper, where much of 1980s music felt and looked so superficial. I had no CD player, but I bought their debut CD anyway, my first ever for them and me, and played it relentlessly on my parents layered sound system whenever I came home. When Nirvana released ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, we had arrived. The 1990s had a voice. Kurt Cobains op-shop, misfit angst was the perfect antidote to the 1980s capitalism and shiny, shoulder padded glamour. This music was gritty and real, and the world labelled it ‘Grunge’, because it has to label everything, always. Grunge became as much of a movement as a was a genre, and it was the very soundtrack of our youth. They were feminists and accidental activists, rebels in a very kind of unintentional way, uncomfortable with their pedestals but world shakers all the same, sometimes to their own detriment. Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, Courtney Love and Hole, Layne Staley and Alice in Chains. We put on our Dr Martins and played their three-chord songs on our guitars along with them. I still, at forty, listen to them all.
Some songs you don’t grow out of, they become such a part of you, songs that form the unofficial soundtrack of your life, that can take you back in time whenever they pop up on the radio or Spotify. If ever you want to know someone, you will find out more about them from their Spotify playlist or record collection than stalking their Facebook profile or reading their C.V ever will. ‘On the road again’ by Willy Nelson will always be traveling through American desert in a Ford Bronco with my family as a kid, the anthem of my forever wandering childhood. “Black’ by Pearl Jam, and ‘About a Girl’ by Nirvana is my high school years., except for school trips where, by stark contrast, we would all belt out ‘The Gambler’, by Kenny Rodgers on the bus, forty girls all a little off-key but full of enthusiasm. ‘One Headlight’ by the Wallflowers is always there, my unexpected forever-anthem like a loyal friend that has been with me on countless car stereos through this lifelong road trip. ‘Good’ by Better than Ezra is Gore Bay, minding the car keys and watching the waves roll in as boyfriend of the moment surfed, rusty and hungover. ‘As Good as it Gets’ by The Feelers will always be dancing with my husband on our wedding night, barefoot, wild and young. ‘If it makes you happy’ by Sheryl Crow is the rocky year I turned forty, threw caution to the curb, hit rock bottom and then pushed myself back up again into a life that I wanted. Some are too painful to listen to still: ‘A long December ‘by The Counting Crows takes me back to the rawness of a string of miscarriages. ‘Release’ by Pearl Jam will always be when my Father died.
I love Spotify, and the ‘instantness’ we can access music now, but I have a healthy vinyl collection, and there is something sacred about playing records that digital just can’t touch, the needle on the spinning circle, the quality of sound perfectly imperfect, raw and honest. However you play the music you love, and whatever music speaks to us collectively and individually, it does so on a much deeper level than we can understand, as if it is matching a vibration within our souls, primal and spiritual, that we can’t even hear ourselves yet. Its poetry, its therapy. Find your soundtrack, and turn it up loud.
You can find mine here: Its pretty varied, just like life itself: