hit counter


milestones in musical taste

Published on November 14, 2005

  • Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F” — My introduction to techno/electronica. I remember vividly hearing this song for the first time. Summer of 1988, July 14, Bastille Day, a field outside Tourettes-sur-Loup, France, dusk. My family and I were sitting on some hastily erected bleachers overlooking a soccer field waiting for the fireworks to start. There was a sort of truck/mobile sound system on the other side of the field blasting various New Wave tunes to pass the time while waiting for the light to dim. The first synthesizer strains started and grabbed my attention. I hadn’t heard a song quite like it before. Then the beat came in. The slow progression of the melody superimposed onto the fast-moving rhythm blew me away. I loved it. It would be a while before I heard another song from that genre, mainly because at the time I was 9 and had no idea where to begin in exploring that area of the music world. But the song made an indelible impression.
  • Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight” — One of my first experiences with unconventional song structure. I heard this for the first time in my 6th grade music class during my three-week stint in a public middle school before my parents starting homeschooling my brothers and me. I liked my music teacher. She seemed more friendly and accessible than the other teachers, and that counted for a lot in a social and academic environment I was having a tough time adapting to. She asked us to listen to the song several times and to write an essay detailing our impressions. Truth be told I didn’t listen much to the words; instead, I was fixated on the ebb and flow of the music building to the climactic breakthrough of the drums in the third half of the song. There was that rhythm again…
  • Enya, “China Roses” — The first song I really ascribed to a person. I listened to this song with my headphones alone in my room while staring at a picture of her, my first girlfriend, that my parents had taken but I had appropriated. The music set a mood and I just thought about her, how beautiful and wonderful she was and tried as hard as I could to wrap my mind around the fact that she was with me and genuinely seemed to like me. I never succeeded in understanding but the act of trying itself was enough to bowl me over with emotion. Before long she, that moment and the song were inescapably linked.
  • Stevie Wonder, “Part Time Lover” — The first time a song was my favorite. I must have been about 6 or 7 and my parents, being Motown fans, had purchased Stevie Wonder’s record In Square Circle. I have memories of them placing the record carefully on the turntable, closing the lid and watching as the “start” button was pushed and the arm magically lifted, moved over just the right distance to the record’s edge and placed the needle carefully on the grooved plastic surface. There was a faint crackle–not too evident; it was a new record–and the song would begin. It was the first one on the album. I loved his vocalizations during the intro and chorus and the forward-moving, progressive glide of the music. I danced in the living room and did laps around the dinner table until my mom called me into the kitchen for dinner.
  • U2, “Discotheque” — The first time U2 really appeared on my radar screen. Must have been 1996 or ’97–just before POP came out and they released the single on the radio. I heard it for the first time and immediately liked it. It had a sophistication to it the other songs on the radio didn’t have… Something that implied that the band had been around longer than most, knew exactly what they were doing and created songs with shelf lives longer than your average rock band’s tunes. It was on American radio, and yet there was something about it that reminded me very much of Europe… the swirling, synthetic electricity and overprocessed layers evoked the feeling of Paris or another big European city at night with the diesel fumes of the cars, buzz of the scooters all around and patchwork concrete of the sidewalks underfoot. I didn’t pursue my attraction to the song and thus the band until several years later through my friendship with Elyse and introduction to the masterpiece of Achtung Baby, but “Discotheque” really was the first contact with what would become my favorite band.
  • Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time” — How I first knew how profoundly a song could sink into my subconscious and affect me. I had heard the song before. I heard it again during a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul during the summer of ’93. The Turkish olympic committee was returning home from France after their lobbying efforts to hold the 2000 Olympics in Istanbul, and the airline had rolled out the red carpet for their dignitaries–a brand new Airbus A340, fresh off the assembly line. By coincidence my family and I were on the same flight (there weren’t many flights from Nice to the Turkish city, I gathered), and the amenities were stellar. Great food, mostly empty plane (it’s big) and a movie. The movie was Strictly Ballroom, Baz Luhrmann’s excellent first film, subtitled in Turkish and fortunately not dubbed. I didn’t watch much of it, alternating between gazing out the window, thumbing through a magazine and talking with my brothers, but I did catch the part where the two protagonists danced on the rooftop to that tune. There was an odd convergence of feelings–being caught up in the tenderness of the moment on screen, looking down at the clouds from the airplane’s window, those sensations flying always conjures up and some unnamed 14-year-old longing… In any case, it made an impression. A year or so later I was in my bed at the house in Tourettes, done with my reading and about to go to sleep when I turned on the radio beside my bed, just like every night. I would do so precisely at midnight, hear the time announcement and the *beep* indicating midnight GMT and listen to the BBC news on Riviera Radio (the local British station) before drifting off. That night, though, I switched on the radio a few minutes early. Only the tail end of the song played, but I was instantly transported back to that moment on the plane and all the emotions that had coursed through me at that point. It surprised me, shocked me even and I could nothing but sit there for several minutes, letting it all subside.
  • Mono, “Life In Mono” — To date the strongest synthesis I’ve found between a song and a visual image. It was between this song and the first teaser trailer to the 1997 movie Great Expectations. You won’t find the teaser any more anywhere–I’ve looked–only the full-length, inferior trailer remains with a different accompaniment. But if you hear this song and think of muted red and green, symmetrical, baroque icons and elaborate shapes rotating deliberately on a black background intercut with the more passionate moments from the film, you’ll be on the right track. Beautiful, delicate, enchanting. Haven’t seen the like before or since.

Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. _fivestars says:

    you’ve learned a lot from my icon

    Nice milestones. A+ musical choice.

    Nice post, by the way :)

  2. lilkidthings says:

    Life in Mono

    Is probably one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. IN fact, Great Expectations could compete for favorite soundtrack as well.

    Nicely done

  3. admin says:

    all i needed to know in life i learned from conan

    Should I share it with the world? Or just keep it between us?

    Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  4. admin says:

    It is a great soundtrack. Great introduction to a worthy assembly of diverse artists and bands.

  5. _fivestars says:

    me too, actually

    To quote you, “that might blow a few cerebellums,” so be careful :) I don’t think the world is ready.

    edited because my LJ just blew its own cerebellum and posted the comment in the wrong spot

  6. Anonymous says:

    You have certainly inspired me to check out some different musical options… I enjoy music, but usually as a background filler… I’m not the IPOD carrying, music downloading kinda girl. But this makes me wanna be… at least a wee bit, anyway!

  7. zooromancer says:

    i once tried to recreate something similiar to that movie trailer when i first dabbled in digital movie files. it’s a distinct memory in my mind as well. too bad you can’t find it on the web. i’d love to have it.

  8. admin says:

    I posted queries on a couple of boards. We’ll see what we get.