Last year I went through and compiled five playlists of music, each meant to capture a specific era of my life. This is the first of the five, Childhood Years. It roughly covers the mid- to late-80s. Mom drove a Ford Fairmont during those years. It had a radio, but not a cassette player so we supplemented with a portable tape deck. The modern equivalent would be using portable speakers to play your iPod instead of connecting it, I suppose. Anyway, here's the annotated playlist.
"The Touch" by Stan Bush - The very first time I owned music of my own was when Mom surprised me with the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack on cassette. This wasn't the main title, but it really is the song everyone thinks of when discussing this release. Mom indulged me and actually found herself enjoying both this as well as "Dare," Bush's other contribution to the soundtrack.
"Honky Tonk Man" by Dwight Yoakam - I'll always remember my brother camping out in front of the TV, waiting for the music video to this to come on so he could blast it as loud as Mom would let him.
"Little Deuce Coupe" by The Beach Boys - Mom loved the Beach Boys, and what better song to remember singing along with while driving?
"Chantilly Lace" by The Big Bopper - In those days, Mom's favorite radio station was WRKA, 103.1 FM, which played oldies tunes from the 50s-early 70s. I could have picked any number of standards from their rotation, but this was a particular standout because of the vocal range displayed by the Big Bopper.
"Sherry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - One of the few tapes we owned and played often included a hits compilation from the famed Jersey act. This was one of my brother's favorites.
"In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley - I'm sure WRKA played other Elvis hits, but this is the one I always think of them playing. Preachy? Maybe, but it still kills me.
"The Wanderer" by Dion - Another WRKA staple. Eddie Rabbitt covered it around that time, too, and I could easily have gone with his version here. You can't really go wrong either way.
"Scooby Doo" by Hoyt Curtin & Singers - Yes, the theme song from Scooby-Doo needed to be on my childhood playlist. No, I don't care what you think about that.
"Billy Does Your Bulldog Bite" by Sawyer Brown - Did you see what I did there? I followed "Scooby Doo" with another dog-centric song. This one was from Sawyer Brown's Shakin' album, another title in our tape library and a favorite of my brother's. This was his favorite, largely because it was about a guy having to negotiate with a young boy and his dog.
"Nobody" by Sylvia - I can't really place this one in context. I'm all but certain we didn't have any of Sylvia's music on tape, but maybe we did. Regardless, this is one of the first songs I think of when I reminisce about music from my childhood.
"Brass Monkey" by Beastie Boys - My older half-brother played this quite a bit. I liked it because it was as fun as it was stupid. Still do.
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr. - I rarely went to Champs, the local skating rink, but this was one of the most frequently played tunes there. In fact, I think of roller skating more quickly than I think of the movie when I hear this. I'm still no good at skating.
"Book of Love" by The Monotones - Another WRKA staple. I can't say I understand my infatuation with the song but I have yet to tire of it.
"Who's Cheatin' Who" by Charly McClain - First things first: so far as I know, we're not related at all. Secondly, this is one of my "misheard lyrics" songs; I could have sworn that the line is, "It makes you wonder who's doin' right with someone tonight/and whose dog is barkin' next door." I felt better about my confusion years later when I made friends with someone else who made that mistake.
"Batdance" by Prince - Chronologically, this should probably have ended this playlist because Batman really marked the transition from childhood to a new era for me. That aside, I like Prince's funkiness following a country cheatin' song for some reason so here it is.
"Daniel Boone" by The Imperials - I can't even say now I recall how I was first introduced to Daniel Boone, but he's been a hero of mine since childhood. I gorged on reruns of the TV series starring Fess Parker, knowing even then how historically inaccurate the show was. I didn't care; it was fun, and that's all I expected from a TV show. I could find the truth elsewhere, which I have.
"House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals - I was entirely unaware how old this song really was until I bought Waylon Live on CD and saw the songwriting credit read, "Traditional." I'll always think of the Animals's version first, thanks once more to WRKA.
"Send My Body" by Randy Travis - Storms of Life is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. You need to know this. I could have included all ten songs from that here and not felt I'd gone overboard. I selected "Send My Body" particularly because I always think of Adam singing along with it because it included the line, "My mama was a damn hard workin' woman" and he got away with saying "the D word" because it was in the song. He sang as loud as he could on that line.
"Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino - Back to WRKA. I always think of lazy summer Sunday afternoon drives when I hear this one.
"I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World" by Ronnie Milsap - Milsap was another of Mom's favorite artists. I don't recall now which tape(s) of his we owned, but we played his music quite a lot. This one was a favorite of mine even at the time, and I thought it a fitting look back on my childhood.
"Flying" (from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) by John Williams - I chose to end the era-specific playlists with a selection from a movie score and for my childhood I went with a piece from E.T., which is the first movie I can recall being taken to see in a theater. Mom had a panic attack, though I didn't really comprehend that's what was going on at the time. The movie still has the ability to affect me, even though I can see how Spielberg is manipulating me and I know what's coming. It's actually a lot like my childhood: I knew how everyone around me actually had power over me and all I could do was choose how to follow their lead.
So, there's the music my childhood. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with this information. You're welcome to share your own childhood-themed playlists (though if you're going to go to the trouble you'll probably prefer to just post them on your own blog or make a Facebook note).