they’re playing our song


    Where there’s a restaurant kitchen, there’s a radio that, for whatever reason, tends to end up on the “Classis Rock” station, if not one that plays “the Oldies.” Having graduated from high school and college in the Seventies, much of what passes for “classic” was the soundtrack of my adolescence (this was the number one song my senior year in high school) and, though some of it is worth repeating, I had not planned to ever again have to hear

    because love grows
    where my rosemary goes
    and nobody knows like me

    (Quick – name that band.)

    My current kitchen is filled with cooks who know and play music, so the old songs provide us with conversation starters, comic relief, trivia questions, and the chance to both critique and sing along. We’ve had a couple of good laughs listening to lyrics that, well, sound kind of creepy in today’s world:

    I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan
    won’t you hop inside my car

    (“Vehicle” – name that band.)

    It sounds destined to become the Amber Alert theme song. And then there’s these lines from “In the Summertime”:

    have a drink have a drive
    go out and see what you can find

    (Once more – the band?)

    My favorite unexpected use of a word in a rock and roll song goes to Rick Springfield for “Jesse’s Girl”:

    I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
    Want to tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot

    I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it.

    One of my favorite things about our conversations is how we each have had to own up to some guilty pleasures. For all the superiority we can so easily muster, we’ve all had to come clean about the songs we love to hear, even when they aren’t necessarily cool to own up to. After all, pop music is about infecting our brains and hearts with melodies (sometimes cheesy) that won’t let go. I have to own up to this one and this one, at least. Oh – and this one. OK, one more.

    One of the things that has struck me is how often I can sing along with the songs – even the ones I don’t like. Maybe it’s the power of radio and repetition, maybe there’s some deeper reason, but my mind is full of the words and music that have filled my days from then until now. I’m also struck with how hard it is to say I like these old songs in a room full of guys who need to make sure we all know we’re above that sort of thing. It’s easier to be a snob than it is to be one of the general public. I want to feel cool, not common.

    The truth is while the Beatles were coming apart the Carpenters were only just beginning and I owned both records. I bought Joni Mitchell and Neil Diamond and stayed up late in the dorm room playing America songs with friends, even though we had no idea what it meant that “there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” But in the hierarchy of hipness, it’s cooler to talk about Tommy, or to know the deep cuts on albums by the Kinks, or to be able to dive off and talk about the Plimsoles and the Pogues. I can keep up for awhile, but I’m just not that cool.

    One of the dangers of life on the liberal end of the theological spectrum is falling prey to thinking that our end is where the cool, enlightened people are. That sentence carries a stronger air of superiority than I intend to convey, but I can’t come up with another way to say it. And it may feel the same way at the other end of the continuum. I don’t know because I don’t live there.

    The guys in the kitchen aren’t trying to belittle anyone, in fact, our combined musical tastes run the gamut, yet there’s a certain level of musical acumen expected if you want to be taken seriously as a part of the conversation and that, ultimately becomes at least somewhat exclusive. When it comes to what I sing while I’m slicing onions, the ramifications of rock don’t really matter; they’re going to play the same ten songs again tomorrow. When it comes to life in the larger context, how easily I make it to sing along with me or how willing I am to join in with someone else becomes more critical. Harmony and humility, it seems, are essential partners.

    I’ve ended up getting a little heavier than perhaps the story of our kitchen singing can hold. Somewhere during the day today, we moved from snarping on the songs to singing along. It just seemed like something worth noting and carrying home.



    1. I read an article recently that cited a study suggesting that people who sing out loud daily are happier than those who don’t. So now I regularly tune into the oldie’s station so I can sing along in the car with my favorite songs from my younger days. I’m picturing your kitchen as a very happy place, everyone singing and dancing as they go about their tasks.

    2. I’ve been hearing a lot of the oldie’s station around my house as various contractors are working (unless it’s the Mexican Ranchera music, which I don’t quite appreciate as much). It’s been fun, and I have to say, I relate to those old songs (corny and dated as they are) more than most of today’s music — gosh, I sound old!

      I like Ann’s idea of singing along in the car — NPR gets a bit depressing after a while.

    3. I love this post – not sure whether to thank you or be angry that I now have that horrible image of Terry Jacks in my mind’s eye. Have you ever seen someone look more pained to be “singing” his hit song on national tv?

      Every time I hit one of your hyperlinks, I closed my eyes and waited for the tune to emerge from my speakers. Thanks for this trip down memory lane…we were at the same place, same time. ‘Daisy Jane’ was one of my all-time forever favorites…

      This post made my day, ’cause I think just like you do. Going off to sing along, regardless of the cool factor.

      Great post. Good to have you blessing the world.

    4. I remember all those songs and virtually none of the bands responsible (the information just doesn’t stick for me). I could write a book on work and music, mostly how hard it is to put up with music you really can’t relate to (unless the volume is low enough). In my nights at Target I am often serenaded by what sounds to me like Spanish rap (lots of beat and repetition, little or no melody), other “plinky” sounding Spanish music, or regular American rap (most of which doesn’t appeal much either). Occasionally folks will tune into a station whose slogan is “We play everything”, and they pretty much do – even “Alice’s Restaurant” at 3:00 am one morning that was not Thanksgiving. As long as the volume is low enough, I can put up with anything, but some of these folks are of the “louder is always better” crowd.

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