I don’t usually go to the kind of clubs where the songs have vocals and I recognise the words.
Recently I went out with my dear friend Emily to celebrate her partner’s birthday. We did the whole rounds – dinner and drinks, karaoke and one of those George Street clubs I rarely go to. I mean this place played Country Roads and American Pie. In a club. There were people in there barely old enough to drink going all “retro” to Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. It was strange. I felt so old. I remember these tunes from when they came round, the first time.
It got me thinking about songs that have some sort of emotional significance for me. Where I was when I listened to them on my old Walkman. My little emo teenaged self bouncing my head around to them before the term “emo” was even coined.
“Stay” by Shakespear’s Sister
I remember Bananarama. They were the girlband my older cousins listened to when I was still a tiny kiddie, and along with the Bangles I used to listen to their records because I thought they must be cool. Then Siobhan Fahey went a bit goth.
When I was fourteen my friend has a birthday party; back then our school had a rule that everyone in the year HAD to be invited because it wasn’t ok to exclude anyone. I turned up in my pre-grunge sartorial self expression of red flannel shirt and blue-black 501s. A boy turned up in exactly the same outfit. I had no idea who he was, but his impeccable fashion sense made for an instant crush.
My BFF decided to play matchmaker. So at the next party, she offered to “DJ” by borrowing CDs from everyone in the class and meticulously crafting a playlist with the perfect balance of dance songs and slow numbers. I remember writing my name in sharpie on my CDs so she would know who to return them to. As her first slow long, she decided to play “Stay”.
It was the first time anyone ever asked me to dance.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
I moved away from Toronto when I was 18, to come to uni in Scotland. I didn’t have a great time at the school I graduated high school from; I’d made no friends and I really didn’t fit in. Somehow I managed to get near-perfect SAT scores and decided to get the hell out of Canada. Start afresh. I’d thought Montreal would be so different from what it turned out to be, and I just wanted to forget all about it.
When I started at St Andrews I lost touch with my old friends from Toronto. I didn’t tell them when I was back in town for Christmas, and I spent my summers at home anymore. No one really bothered to get in touch with me, and because this was before everyone had a Facebook, I managed to keep it that way for a long time. I still spoke to my BFF on the phone but everyone else? I had no idea where they were of what they were doing with their lives.
One Christmas my mum and dad phoned to tell me one of my old classmates had stopped by their apartment to ask them to pass on his number. They were almost painfully shy, and had always been terrified of my patents. I remember phoning and that first long distance call, we were chatting for hours. It was the very first time I realised that sometimes, you just have friends you can go for years without speaking to, and absolutely nothing will change.
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver
I’ve not seen my best friend in over a year. I adore this girl. Since I’ve known her she’s challenged gender stereotypes constantly; she trained as a diver and when her ear problems prevented her from doing that anymore, she decided to get her sailing ticket. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s worked awesome jobs abroad, anywhere from Kenya to sailing around the Pacific, New Zealand, or volunteering in Gambia. She’s currently working on a boat somewhere near Hong Kong.
We meet up every few years and it’s like we’ve not been apart for longer than a week. We don’t try to fit activities in when she’s in town, we just get a bottle of wine and chat til dawn.
Even after 15 years, we can still talk about anything.