May. 15th, 2013

[identity profile]

These Living Arms
The Tea Party

: Ten years ago, I graduated high school. An easy five years? I would definitely say not -- though my memory has become a bit hazy with time. In fact, at my 10-year-reunion on May 4, I realized I couldn't even remember what social groups people had belonged to back then. I genuinely have no idea who the popular kids were. They certainly, however, are no more popular than I am anymore -- and if they still care, as some of them seemed to, I think there are far deeper problems (and the problems are theirs, not mine).

So easy? No. Well, academically, yes. I never studied for anything & cegep was a much-needed wakeup call. But -- and it doesn't even pain me to say this, as a high school teacher currently -- academics are probably the last thing that come to mind when you think about your high school experience. Sure, maybe there was a teacher who taught her subject brilliantly or influenced your life --- but when I think of high school, I think of everything except what I learned in class.

As a rule, I was always listening to music. I used to keep those neckband headphones around my neck at all times, and I was discovering bands and songs that would later become formative. And so, due to this constant overload of music, it's impossible to select a song to encompass those five years -- but that's not really the point of this theme, I guess, or of any 5pm_weds theme. The point is to be intuitive, so -- if I close my eyes and try to think of the song with the most intense high school connection ------- it's always going to be the Tea Party.

The Tea Party was the first band I loved, the first band I saw live, the first band that most of my high school friends would think of if you asked them my favourite. I was a hardcore fangirl, worshiping at the altar of Jeff Martin's growling voice and the trio's east-meets-west hard rock music -- but I never would have discovered them if not for Mix 96. Listening to that same new music hour where I discovered Shivaree, I heard "These Living Arms."

I remember sitting up in bed, very slowly, rising up a little higher, my jaw opening a little wider, with each bar. My stomach was falling out from under me. I felt weightless, pulled upwards ----- and like I might sink to the core of the earth. My heart exploded and every cell in my body was vibrating. I had never heard anything like this before. I had never felt like that because of a song before.

That weekend, I made my mom take me to Future Shop to buy TRIPtych, and as soon as I ripped open the packaging, it was official: "THE TEA PARTY IS MY FAVOURITE BAND," I yelled at anyone who'd listen, "AND "THESE LIVING ARMS" IS MY FAVOURITE [non-Bowie] SONG OF ALL TIME." And so it'd remain for years (until I discovered Placebo and high-speed internet): if you wanted to know my music taste, you'd have to listen to "These Living Arms."
Thing is, even now -- if I heard this song for the first time, I would probably have the exact same reaction I did that Thursday night over a decade ago. Because it's formed my music taste, with its sheer beauty, striking layers (that electric guitar line! fuck!), haunting melody, lovely lyrics, raw instrumentation, passionate -- beyond passionate -- delivery? Maybe. Or maybe because it's just that beautiful.

High school wasn't easy for me. I wasn't any shade of popular, and I was often riled up and angry. But all the while, I was voracious. I was eating music, and television, and books, and movies, and ideas, and I was cultivating a personality that, now, I kind of sort of love. It still needs work -- I'm still working on it. And yeah, it's sad that I was bullied so much in high school -- that people thought my taste in media was enough to sequester me into the unpopular crowd. But I delved into myself and I got to know her and we listened to music, like the Tea Party, and we understood beauty, and we loved it. And we realized life is hard and terrible, oh yes: but it's also stunning and starlit and worth everything.

And at that high school reunion, I will tell you what was happening.
Those who I remember to be the unpopular crowd -- well, they were the ones on the dancefloor. They were the ones screaming, and dancing, and hugging each other, and laughing. And the rest? They were standing by the bar, quietly, trying to get the alcohol-induced guts to come and join us. And they may have been judging us as they did, but the truth is: the tables turned.
High school wasn't easy.
But the ones who found it hardest are the ones who danced the night away.
[identity profile]

Apple Tree
Erykah Badu

Picking a song for this post was both easy and difficult.  I've already posted so many of the bands and songs that were important to me in high school; I didn't know where to start.  At the same time, it was an formative time in my musical...development.  After giving it some thought, I realized there was an area I hadn't even touched on yet:

my rap and r&b phase.

I'm not entirely sure where it stemmed from but, to set the scene, I was in grade 8.  I was part of a best friends trio consisting of myself, Erin and another girl named Kathleen.  We wrote letters and passed them to each other in the hallway between classes.  We exchanged special Christmas gifts.  We buried a time capsule in Kathleen's backyard.  We went to school dances and slept over at each others' houses.  The things I remember most about Kathleen is that she wore dark brown lip-liner and painted her lips a lighter shade of pink-tinged brown and that she took me on my first trip to Chinatown.  She liked Mary J. Blige and Puff Daddy and Aaliyah and The Wu-Tang Clan.  I suppose her influence, and the music I tended to hear at school dances, made me more receptive to rap and r&b.  Or it could be that it was something that set me apart--from both Erin's taste in music and my dad's.  I don't know.

In any event, I remember picking up Baduizm at Future Shop after (I think) reading about it in one of my dad's Rolling Stone magazines.  I loved the nasal earthiness of Erykah Badu's voice and the way her lyrics were often like spoken-word poetry.  This was something different, even within its genre.  I remember memorizing the words to "Apple Tree" and liking the strength of them: "I don't walk around trying to be what I'm not/I don't waste my time trying to get what you got".  Though I don't think I fully embraced Badu's positivity at the time, I think that this was a good song for my fourteen-year-old self to have and, years later, a good one to go back to.


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