When I was a kid, there was always music playing in our house. My dad had one of those hilariously complicated stereo systems from the 70’s and since we moved all the time, he and I were constantly taking it apart and hooking it back up. He even had a reel to reel. It was fun to sprawl out on the floor in front of it and watch the wheels turn as the music played. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to Spotify.
I absolutely love Spotify. It is playing now as I write this. I am listening to The Carter Family’s version of The Wayworn Traveler. In a few minutes a completely different song will play. And then another and another. The possibilities are endless. I listen when I am working, cooking, washing dishes, driving, walking, grocery shopping, showering, trying to get to sleep. Sometimes, when I miss my mom I listen to Johnny Mathis or Frank Sinatra or Harry Belafonte. When I miss my dad I listen to Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. When I want to remember my parents together I listen to Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat (Day-O) because my mom would play it specifically to irritate my dad. He would just take his hearing aides out and smirk at her. It was pretty funny.
Music brings back memories for me in a way I think food brings back memories for other people. When I miss my older brother (he died a few months after my mom) I listen to Led Zeppelin in the way he inadvertently taught me to listen to music.
He used to live in this rickety house in Eagle Rock and whenever he wanted to listen to a record he would make all us kids either go outside or sit on one of the many couches in his living room. When he was assured we were all settled and, upon pain of death if we even thought about getting up, he would put the needle down and we would listen to whatever he or his wife Diane (a wonderful woman) were in the mood for. By forcing us to sit absolutely still, my brother taught me the joy of doing nothing but listening. He wasn’t trying to turn us into music lovers, the wood foundation of his house was so shot that if you walked while the record player was on the needle would skip and possibly damage the album.
What I remember was Robert Plant’s first solo album, Pictures at Eleven and the single that maybe only one other person reading this remembers, Burning Down One Side. I am probably the only person who gets emotional while listening to this song. Does he say “sneed your love?”
Whatever, is was 1982. Robert Plant could have sung the alphabet and it would have sold. I remember Dan walking into the house with the record in his hands, still in the paper bag from whichever store he bought it from. He was a big man with lots of dark curly hair and a big beard and a bit of a beer belly. I remember once at a Dodger game when I was a kid some guy called him Bluto (from Popeye) and my brother just laughed and in a totally jovial voice offered to beat the man into next week if he didn’t sit down and shut up. My sister and I just looked at each other and then pretended this was something that happened to us all the time. It didn’t. We lived a life so at odds with what we experienced when we went to visit my brother I can’t imagine what my mom was thinking when she sent us there. Don’t get me wrong, it was the best time my sister and I ever had when we were kids but my mom would have killed us all if she knew what we got up to.
The point is Spotify is my own personal time machine and I love it very much. Is it problematic? Yes. It’s complicated. But that doesn’t change the fact that Spotify giveth and Spotify taketh away and I am a teeny-tiny part of that process.
But I still love it and am endlessly grateful for it. I also often stay up way too late just listening to interesting songs. There is truly nothing like listening in the dark.