With my tenth wedding anniversary approaching on June 24th 2010 I thought I’d take a few minutes to survey some of the music that has provided the soundtrack to our first ten years together. I admit to being the bigger music fanatic between the two of us, but, we both like music and we both enjoy singing along in the car or in the house. The best times or those when we both get into the groove at the same time. Listed below are artists that fit the following criteria:
1 – My wife Angela and I both appreciate their music. We may not appreciate them equally, but, we both like ’em.
2 – Each artist/band’s music listed below has been in heavy rotation for a significant amount of time, at some point, during our firs ten years of marriage and/or the three years that preceded our wedding day.
Barenaked Ladies A blend of good humor, off-kilter Canadian character, and, at times, passionate music provided a soundtrack that we could both sing along to in the car. Angela was the original BNL fan between the two of us, but, I grew to love them. I’m not quite sure which tour it was, but, we had a splendid time seeing them live (with Vertical Horizon opening) at the Verizon Wirless Ampitheater in Charlotte a few years ago. Some of our favorites: “Brian Wilson,” “The Old Apartment,” “When You Dream,” and “Pinch Me.” Just after Julia was born in 2003 I did a photo montage on my iBook using “When You Dream,” one of the most beautiful songs ever, I think. The albums most in rotation over the past decade: Rock Spectacle, Stunt, and Maroon. I just downloaded “Snacktime” to add to our summer family music rotation for the kids.
Dwight Yoakam I grew up listening to country radio into my early teen years which was just about the time that Dwight Yoakam started to make a name for himself on the country charts. It was around the time of my first year in college that I purchased Just Lookin’ For A Hit because of the realization that Dwight’s alt-country bend had a grip on my ears. A CD that was in high rotation in my CD player around the time that I met Angela was Gone. Dwight was new territory for Angela, but, she caught on and “Near You” became one of our first token songs as a couple. I can’t remember if it was for a specific occasion or just because, but, Angela later purchased Under The Covers (Dwight’s collection of cover tunes) which, to this day remains a favorite album for both of us. Under The Covers stretches Dwight’s style from traditional country to big band and everything in between. Angela and I made a trip to Western Carolina University sometime around 2003-2004 where we saw Yoakam put on a great show after The Charlie Daniels Band opened.
Paul McCartney My long-time fascination with the Beatles resulted in the purchase of Flaming Pie, Paul McCartney’s openly Beatle-esqe 1997 solo album. The same sing-ability of Paul’s classic Beatles tunes such as “Penny Lane,” “Hey Jude,” and so on was revived for Flaming Pie with songs such as “Little Willow,” and Angela’s favorite, “Beautiful Night.” This is one album that will stand the test of time for sure.
Aaron Sprinkle As somebody who really latched on to Poor Old Lu during my college years I was disappointed with their demise as a band. Aaron Sprinkle’s solo efforts, however, were a consistent comfort for me during the first several years of life as a freshly-transplanted to the south, young, freshly-married teacher. His sometimes oblique lyrics left themselves open to be applied therapeutically in my life and the new awkwardness that I was going through with so many changes taking shape in my life. But, the part that lured Angela in, I think, is the pop sensibility that seems to come so naturally to Sprinkle. Beautiful, lush melodies, along with tactful and unique arrangements have made Sprinkle’s work a staple. But, I do like to pull out the classic Poor Old Lu material (including their reformed project The Waiting Room) as well as work from other projects that he’s been involved with such as Rose Blossom Punch and, most currently, Fair.
U2 2001’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind was a simply phenomenal album. Not since Achtung Baby had U2 released such a compelling work. “Beautiful Day” is a classic that stands the test of time and, despite attempts by others to cover it, belongs only to U2. “Grace” is a beautiful song on a number of levels from the recording itself to the concepts illustrated by the lyrics. Angela allowed me to give our daughter Julia born in 2003 the middle name of Grace based in part on the meaning of the word as illustrated in this song. “Wild Honey” has always been symbolic, for me, of my relationship with my wife and the album as a whole is one that we both appreciate enthusiastically whenever it comes up in rotation. My favorite concert experience ever (narrowly beating Bill Berry’s on-stage reunion with R.E.M. in Raleigh in 2003) was the U2 concert that Angela and I attended in Charlotte when they were touring in support of All You Can’t Leave Behind. We were about a yard away from the bottom-right side of the heart-shaped stage throughout. The enthusiasm and performance put on by the band was simply awe-inspiring. Add to that the hiqh-quality show production and the wealth of U2’s catalog that was played so beautifully that evening and it the sum was just magical. Best concert ever.
Social Distortion Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell is an album that first purchased in tenth grade. Over time it has stayed in rotation just because it is such a solid album. Social D’s unique outlaw/rockabilly/punk sensibility simmers throughout the album giving many songs that could easily be performed as straight, traditional country songs, instead, an edgy alt-tinged rock tilt that delivers. They are catchy without roaming anywhere near pop and ballsy while being reverent to the roots of American rock and roll. Angela picked this one out in particular as being one of the albums that we mutually appreciate the most.
Jars Of Clay While Redemption Songs, Good Monsters, and The Long Fall Back To Earth have all had their place in rotation, I list them here because of the very fond memory of Angela and I driving to Asheville, NC last year to see them play at The Orange Peel. With two kids (now 7 and 2), time away with my wife when we can actually relax and have fun is rare. The two-hour drive to Asheville, the great show, and the ride back was a refreshing, albeit brief, respite from our normal daily lives during which we have to pretend we’re responsible adults.
R.E.M. Last, but, certainly not least on this list is R.E.M. Out of all of the music that I have ever listened to in my 34 years of life, R.E.M. has consistently remained my favorite band. During the course of my relationship with my wife all of their albums have come into play at one time or another. But, the albums that have been the most prominent during our ten years of marriage are New Adventures In Hi-Fi and Reveal. New Adventures in Hi-Fi was still fresh when I met Angela. Being that we were in the infantile stage of our relationship the line, “I want to be your Easter bunny…I want to be your Christmas tree…” from the song “Be Mine” struck a light-hearted chord with me, so I presented it as our very first token song as a couple and it has maintained that title to this day. It was the song played for our second dance during our wedding reception (we picked a more traditional song for our first, but, “Be Mine” is our real first dance song as far as sentiment goes) and it still instantly reconnects us nostalgically to those first days of our relationship. Even though Michael Stipe himself seemingly distanced himself from the song in some interviews, it’s still our song and I’m happy with it. Other tracks such as “Binky The Doormat,” “Low Desert,” “Leave,” and “E-Bow The Letter,” form the backbone of an album with a thick aural landscape. Reveal was released during our first summer as a married couple. Seeing as how we had both been experiencing varying levels of homesickness and/or culture shock throughout the year prior to its release, the bright, lush, summertime texture of the album (complete with R.E.M.-esque references to southern symbolism, culture, and the natural warm-weather world) couldn’t have come at a better time. Frankly I’m surprised that the disc is still in one piece and unscratched after the miles that have been put on it being played in the car CD player over the past nine years. Angela and I both have a great deal of appreciation for each of the songs on that album. It has a textured complexity that doesn’t wear easily or quickly. Our connection as a couple with R.E.M. was only strengthened by the two pilgrimages that we took to Athens, Georgia in the past year. Last summer we visited most of the R.E.M.-related historical sites in the area and also stayed at a nearby bed and breakfast. Highlights of the trip included a visit to the studio of John Keane (a frequent R.E.M. collaborator and accomplished musician/producer/engineer in his own right) who graciously showed us around and a tour of the R.E.M. headquarters that was given by the overwhelmingly kind and gracious Mr. Kevin O’Neal. After meeting Kevin (and R.E.M. art director Chris Bilheimer) Angela and I drove all four hours home to Salisbury completely overwhelmed and with smiles on our faces. Finally, this past April we visited Athens again to take in a tribute concert put on by several R.E.M. collaborators (including Mitch Easter who produced R.E.M.’s first two albums and John Keane) in honor of R.E.M.’s thirtieth birthday as a band. The performances were phenomenal and the trip afforded us time to have lunch and chat with the staff of Athens Music Junkie and also to take in more of the sights, sounds, and tastes of Athens. Now our kids are becoming familiar with the R.E.M. catalogue (granted that there are a few songs they’re not ready for). I have a distinctive memory of “Belong” (from Out Of Time) playing in the car on the way to the hospital to deliver Julia when Angela went into labor four weeks early on June 24, 2003. Now Julia knows many of the words to several R.E.M. songs by heart and even Jacob, at two and a half years old, enjoys singing along with “Second Guessing” (from Reckoning).
Other Songs Of Note:
“To Make You Feel My Love,” by Bob Dylan – The first song that Angela selected that would become one of our token songs.
“I Will Be Here,” by Steven Curtis Chapman – The traditional wedding song that we decided to go with for our first dance as husband and wife.
“Circus Envy,” by R.E.M. – A song that Julia, unprompted, recited the lyrics for over breakfast one morning after I was trying to identify and remove something floating in my coffee: “…put pepper in my coffee I forgot to pour…”
“Like A Stone,” by Audioslave – The song playing on the radio in the nursery when I saw Julia for the first time since they took her out of the delivery room. I do have a good deal of appreciation for Chris Cornell from his Soundgarden days, but, not exactly what I would’ve hoped would be the soundtrack to the first few minutes of my admiration for my newborn baby daughter.
A few albums of note by artists/bands not listed above that haven’t necessarily been mutual favorites, but, that have been in significant rotation over the past ten years when I’ve had control of the music selection.
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
Audioslave – Audioslave
Johnny Cash – Unchained
Petra – Jekyll & Hyde
Jason Morant – Open
Incubus – Make Yourself
Chris Cornell – Euphoria Morning
Various Artists – Basquiat: Original Soundtrack
Kevin Max – The Imposter
Poor Old Lu – The Waiting Room
Moby – Play