After a recent visit to a local record store, I thought it was time to revisit some of the records I’ve obtained from my dad’s collection. When I moved into my first (solo) apartment and bought my first record player, I made my brother go through our dad’s records over the phone with me and set aside a group of them. Mostly Beatles, a James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Four Seasons, a B.B. King and others that were nostalgic for me. He boxed them up and sent them to me.
Tonight I sorted through them, put them in order and pulled out a couple to listen to while I cooked dinner and got myself ready for the week. First a Haim record I bought myself right after I moved to MN. Then the Joni Mitchell because I was curious about it. Then my favorite Beatles album – A Hard Day’s Night (the movie soundtrack version). And lastly, Meet the Beatles! (US Version).
As I lay on the floor and listen to John Lennon and Paul McCartney sing over me, I’m instantly transported back to my childhood. So many evenings and weekends listening to these records with my dad. Playing air guitar or drums, harmonizing and dancing around the coffee table. Songs that shaped my early concepts of love – “This Boy,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and of course, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” which I’m convinced began my obsession with holding hands.
Those late night jam sessions with my dad were everything to me. I’m sure they drove my mom crazy, she was probably more concerned with getting my brother and I to bed at a decent hour. But my dad would flip that album over, “just one more time.” We’d get to that one rare song with George Harrison on lead vocals and sing out how we were “happy just to dance with you.”
Those early Beatles albums were full of hopeful love, romantic gestures promising “all my loving” and calling the girl “darling.” Childhood Alicia only knew of that kind of love. It was before my friends’ parents started getting divorced. Before my own first heartbreak and all the ones that came after that. Before my parents announced their separation and later divorce.
As we walked around that record store the other day, we talked about our top 10 albums. What were the albums that lasted the test of time in our lives. It’s hard to name any newer albums because who knows if they are going to continue to have that kind of impact on us. Are they going to instantly transport me back to a season of life like these Beatles albums? And what artists had a good few songs and which ones had albums you didn’t skip a single song?
So I listed off the first few that came to my mind. Obviously A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles (although I mistakingly called it Can’t Buy Me Love and am tempted to text my friend to correct myself). Then Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle which instantly takes me to that grey Jeep I first drove around after I got my freedom (aka my driver’s license). Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers self entitled album was next – few have heard of it but the song “Such a Way” will always by my college anthem and young love aspiration. I struggled coming up with just one Sara Bareilles album. Or John Mayer – his albums got me through that awful first year of college (Heavier Things), my parents’ divorce (Continuum) and my dad’s death (Battle Studies). Not to mention driving around in my youth pastors’ car to get Starbucks (Room for Squares).
Music just has that effect on some people. It’s filled with nostalgia and promise. It shapes the way we see the world, the way we interpret the people and things around us. Music can help us to voice feelings and emotions that seem impossible to understand. It can make us feel connected to a bigger story with other characters. Music has been a home for me in spaces and places where home has felt disjointed or distant.
Someday we can talk about the ways music has led me astray or molded my opinions and outlooks in not so healthy ways, but for now, it’s time to flip the record and listen just one last time.