Everyone has it happen.  Well, not everyone, ALMOST every HEARING person has it happen.  You hear a song and awaken to music.  I’m not talking about the songs that are sung as you fall asleep next to your mama during the milk-fed, baby days, the songs that your parents played over and over on the 8-track in the car, but the songs that you heard at the skate-inn that first made you turn your head, skate extra elegantly and later ask your older brother for the radio station that you might hear that song on again (for the record, he wouldn’t tell me because if he did the little sister would render that radio station ‘uncool’.  That said, I didn’t even have a radio yet, rather I had a record player in a box.  To play my Disney records).
For most of my childhood I loved what my parents liked.  We listened to Mac Davis, to Barbara Mandrell, Neil Diamond, Eddie Rabbit, and, of course, Kenny Rogers.  The Gambler, anyone?  Music was alive in our home.  My mom cleaned to Neil, my dad kissed up with Joe Cocker or Julio Iglesias, we mocked Elvis (while simultaneously cementing ‘Blue Christmas’ into our collective Christmas playlist), but it’s bound to happen that every kid finds their own thing eventually.
For me it was ‘Hey Mickey’ in 1979 by Toni Basil that did the trick.  I was six years old.  I think it was impossible to ignore the rhythm and shouting in that song for a six year old.  HEY MICKEY YOU’RE SO FINE!  YOU’RE SO FINE YOU BLOW MY MIND!  HEY MICKEY! I bounced around and drove my dad nuts with that song.
The next time it happened was in 1982, three years later.  This time it was ‘We Got the Beat’, another stadium cheer song that sent shivers up my spine and gave me the desire to shake it in my room over and over and over.  See, by the time The Go Go’s released We Got the Beat (or WGTB, henceforth) I had not only figured out where the cool KUBE 93.3 and K- PLUS, 101.5 radio stations resided on my radio dial, but I had also perfected the art of racing to my cassette recorder as soon as a new song that I LOVED came on.  I’d press record and, if the deejay stopped talking soon enough, I would own that song.  WGTB was recorded over and over on a well-worn cassette so I could bop around my room to my heart’s delight.
And bop I did.  I sang it at school, in line at lunch, at dinner and in my room.  I sang it at gymnastics, and then I didn’t sing it anymore.  This first song that I loved was also tied to my first ever song shaming.  In line at gymnastics I was squirming around singing to myself: WGTB! when the girl in front of me turned around and asked what I was singing.  I took this as an opportunity to turn on the volume and pump out an extra sincere version of WGTB.  The girl’s expression soured as she turned around with the comment, “That song is so OLD.”. Old?  I stood there wondering how an OLD song was on my radio and I heard it ALL of the time.  It was then that I learned songs were like cheese sandwiches – they seem like a good idea in the morning, when all the ingredients are nice and fresh, but by lunch time you really have a warm and moist cheese-mayo-bread conglomerate that might be better eaten with a fork, but really is not appealing at all anymore.  Who wants that?  You certainly wouldn’t want to appear to be singing an OLD song.
So I closeted my love of WGTB and focused on Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock and Roll’, which turned to Michael Jackson, Cydni Lauper and the triple whammy of Whitney Houston, Wham and Madonna.  Whitney Houston and Wham were my first two albums.  I bought them at the Pay- N- Save in North Everett, both of them.  I came home and ecstatically tore off the shrink wrap and put the needle on the disc.  It was then that my older brother, Bruce, and his friend, Aubrey, entered the room.  They were humored by my choices as they were hip preps, or wavers, or breakers, or wannabe skaters…  I don’t know what phase they were in, I just know Aub passed judgement on my Wham album letting me know that it was ‘old’ as he passed by.  But I didn’t care.  Brothers and their friends have opinions but they have little bearing on little sisters’ desires.  I was all in for Wham.
The needle hit and I was in love with George.  I was never gonna dance again either.  I didn’t have guilty feet, but oh my of I didn’t wish I did just so I could live in that song forever.  I loved that album and, George, I still love your troubled ass to this day and own each and every album AND got Bradley to commit to listening and learning your oeuvre.  You birthed my first baby.  I’m glad we met in eighth grade.  Wham, of course, broke up and George came out with the controversial Faith.  Faith was my first album crush.  I didn’t have a thing for George (ever, interestingly enough), but I couldn’t listen to the album enough –  like it was on constant play and I NEVER tired of it.  Well, except of Monkey.  Ugh, let that monkey free finally…  Well, I think he did.  He has gone a bit haywire during the past few years…  The story goes on, he released Listen without Prejudice in 1990 and I got it for Christmas.  I have a crystalline memory or listening to it during a cross country skiing trek, the snow falling around me while George beckoned, “If you’ve got something to give why don’t you give it…”. It was beautiful.  In the mid nineties he helped me through a nasty Parisian breakup then, a few short months later, a new romance with my Papa Bear, and as I mentioned, the birthing of the Baby Bear.  George has been one for my ages.  While I’m not a huge fan of his newer ramble jazz- funk- balladeering, I still want to hear anything he cares to share with me.  At least once.
Whitney was the same way.  I wailed along to her beliefs in children, to her saving all her love.  I laid in bed imagining the day when I would have a BOYFRIEND who would play this album for me during romantic moments (for the record we did youtube some songs one night and it was really fun and memory inducing).  I would twirl around in my backyard with my friends, singing her album to routines we made up.  We would ride our bikes around and around the blocks, four, five or six of us, singing these songs over and over and over.  I think we may have taught our neighborhood all of Whitney that year.  Then my family went away that summer on a monthlong trip by boat up through Desolation Sound and Princess Louisa in the Vancouver Islands.  My dad brought two albums: Dire Straights ‘Money for Nothing’ and Whitney Houston.  Those albums conjure up images of serene, northerly islands and sun whipped hair whenever I hear them.  I loved that woman.  While I didn’t hang onto Whitney like I have George (my relationship ended with this album) I still kept a place in my heart for her and when she died I did shed a tear or two.
Madonna started with Like a Virgin and she persisted, for some unknown reason ,all the way until post high school, early college.  The pop princess was fascinating to me, always seemed one step ahead of the game and always so unapologetic about being the thing she wanted to be.  I bought her image along with her albums.  I still get her albums from the library but they don’t see too much play before I send them back.  It would seem I grew out of her.
By early high school I knew that liking music wasn’t enough.  At some point I was going to have to commit to something that would help define me.  This was at the cusp of the new skater/waver movement and my brother Bruce was riding the crest of the wave.  He did weird things to his hair, started experimenting with fashion, bought Jon Fluevog shoes and started listening to weird music.  At first I rebelled, blasting crowd winners like Alabama and Brenda Lee to drown out The Cure and Depeche Mode.  Then things changed when I somehow got ahold of some of his albums.  I had The Cure.  I had Talk Talk.  I had The Pet Shop Boys.  Eurythmics.  Soft Cell.  OMD.  Eurasure.  This was the music I decided to like.  THIS was cool.  And it really was.  I listened to it like I was studying for an exam though, memorizing lyrics and factoids about the musicians.  The problem was that my ears weren’t ready for it.  So while I listed The Cure and Depeche Mode and Soft Cell and OMD and…  As my favorites, I had a little dirty secret…
I was always immature.  I was awkward, maybe perceived as a little weird.  I certainly didn’t fit in with most of the kids and what made sense to them just slipped by me until one day I kind of woke up and realized all of my classmates were wearing bras and dating, wearing make- up and thinking about fashion.  I am embarrassed to say that it took me until the end of eighth grade to get all of that going at once.  And frankly, the dating and fashion part of that is really stretching it –  it was a one week make- out- a- thon that culminated with a break- up on my 13th birthday and one International News sweatshirt that I wore all year long.  My favorite gift that year was getting broken up with.  I was so grateful.  I am serious, having a boyfriend made me feel soooo weeeiird!!  Anyhow, after that I turned tail and threw up a cloak of invisibility.  Some people call it fat.  I had enough of it to keep the boys at bay and with the boys I was also able to convince myself that I wasn’t going to have to grow up.  I hung out with younger kids in my neighborhood and pulled out of social circles at school.  I was not interested in growing up and going all that teenager stuff.  Or so I thought.
My younger friends came of age when I was around sixteen.  When they came of age there was a boy band group called the New Kids on the Block.  I eschewed them until I got a good look at the ‘bad boy’, Donnie.  How did I know he was bad?  He scowled!  He frowned!  He had wispy facial hair!  He was unkempt!  I felt like I needed to pick one, so I decided on Donnie.  Donnie was cute and somewhat satisfied the desire for a cute skater boy with his pseudo- bad boy image.  He sneered, he pouted, he had the right stuff…  For a while.  Then it was Jon, what am I saying?!  A true fan knows him as Jonathan Rashleigh Knight.  I memorized every fact I could about him down to his pug’s name (Nikko).  I sucked up details of the kids’ lived while I sucked up their sucky music.  Unlike the boy bands soon to follow, NKOTB couldn’t really SING sing.  They could carry a tune, but they were mostly in the right place at the right time with horrible dance moves.  Regardless I decided I would be loving them forever, that I would love to hang tough, that I would be the eponymous ‘girl’ so often mentioned in their songs. My love of NKOTB was gratefully ended after I saw them live in concert, yes, during my senior year of high school (another story for another day: I slept on the sidewalk in downtown Everett for those tickets.  Seriously). My friend Theresa and I decided that we wanted the guys to notice us so we made weird signs.  Our efforts paid off when they stopped, read our signs, laughed and mentioned them in an interview on HBO a few months later!  For the record, mine said, “Did you know you’re naked under your clothes”, while Theresa shared that, “People with good hygiene have white teeth.” Deep.
I was really glad when my affair with NKOTB ended.  It was hard to be an earthy hippie, birk wearing hiker chick who wanted to date grungy skater boys while carrying a candle for a member of a little girl’s boy band.  And that New Kids album looked really strange among my Janes Addiction, Pet Shop Boys, Black Crows, REM, U2, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Posies, The B- 52’s, The Cure…  You get the idea.  New Kids needed to go.  I was actually really enjoying my other music, so I was glad to bury the posters, the collector cards, the VHS tapes, the magazines and everything in a box that was packed off to a far recess of my many garages until quite recently.  I opened it and was shocked at how many pictures of them I still have.  SHOCKED.  And collector cards?  Really?  Tami?
Grunge broke in Seattle and I was lucky enough to be at the age where I could really enjoy it.  Much younger or older and I would have had to deal with parents or responsibilities.  It became a big thing to not only like alternative music, but also obscure, hard to listen to music.  Music became like a class and an identity all in one.  You had to study up on your favorite band, finding out recording sessions and concert tours long before anyone else.  You had to keep your ear to 107.7, The End, your eyes in The Rocket, your butt in front of Carousel Music to get your tickets!  You had to be at Bumbershoot and Lollapalooza and Rock Stock so that you were there and knew the stories firsthand.  You had to go to the OK Hotel, Cafe Paradisio, Bauhaus, Last Exit (before it moved, of course), The Hurricane, Beth’s, The Sit and Spin.  You had to spend time on the Ave (U- District) or on Capital Hill.  Once you were there there was not a whole lot to do, but you still had to be there to go through the stuff at The Cramp, eat at The Gravity Bar and if you were late enough to catch the floor show and Neighbors.  This was your identity.  You were a grungy kid who only cared about the music!
Music at this time was super confusing for me.  I hung out with a bunch of music snobs.  And not just any music snobs – INDUSTRIAL music snobs.  I was getting called to listen to things like the Indigo Girls, playing with REM, flirting with Morrissey, James, Edie Brickell, a lot of folk music with quiet guitar.  I found myself investing in James Taylor, America and other singer songwriters from the seventies.  My boyfriend and friends were listening to less accessible music, like Pigface, KMFDM,  early Marilyn Manson (who I have actually seen in concert, so strange to realize), Einstuerzende Neubauten, NIN, Tool…  You get the idea.  I was able to connect deeply to Trent Reznor, I was able to get behind Dead Can Dance, I even found Einstuerzende Neubauten to be strangely interesting, but I didn’t have a thing at that time.  I started going out.  I was 21, it was time to find my thing.
My friend Amy and I became obsessed with a local band called Ondine.  Like I said, we were all supposed to love an obscure little band and we fell hard for these guys.  We followed them to Vancouver, to the mall, to every club every weekend, we became one with them.  I weaseled my way into the inner circle with my boyfriend and got invited to birthday parties and little insider events, we returned the favor by having their drummer over for late night parties and closing the dance floor at Neighbors every Thursday night (dollar wells, 80’s music, accepting environment and a great show halfway through the night, all for a buck!)  It was a whole thing, we tried to get everyone we knew to adore them like we did to no avail.  They released their last album right when I met my husband and I didn’t have time to carouse around Pioneer Square every weekend anymore.  I was sad when I heard they broke up, petered out and were no more.
From there, my music merged with Bradley’s music.  He made me fall in love with Lyle Lovett, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Nanci Griffith and Sinead O’Connor.  I introduced him to the Indigo Girls, Pet Shop Boys and, yes, George Michael.  Together we forged new territory of the embarrassingly titled ‘Adult Contemporary’ and have a deep love of DCFC, Decemberists, She and Him.  He brings tons of music home and shares it all.  His palette is broad and decisive.  I find something and have to wear it out before I can move onto the next thing.  When I love something I have to squeeze the life out of it, apparently.  Right now I am over- listening to Living Sisters, She and Him, Snow Patrol (Chasing Cars, anyone?!), My Morning Jacket and David Grey.
I don’t believe in music shame, we tell our kids to like what they like and to heck with the shamers.  It makes you happy, makes you dance, want to sing along, what’s wrong with that?  We like cheesy stuff, sappy stuff, precious stuff, sentimental stuff, and sometimes that means listening to bubblegummy pop music.  Sometimes pop music is the bees knees, Beiber?  We love him so much we’re gonna catch the live show on 10/9 for Gigi’s birthday.  Miley is often blasting about partying in the USA from our speakers and our reigning pop princess, Katy Perry, makes us so joyful for summer, so confident of our specialness, so grateful for our boyfriends.  Or, husbands, or, eh, future husbands?  See, that’s the magic.  I’m watching the same thing happen to Gigi that happened to me.   She’s listening to these songs and imagining her future, just like I did.  Her barbies are dancing to Taylor Swift just like mine danced to Dexie’s Midnight Runners and Rick Astley.  Her ear is turning on and she is blasting Baby from her computer so much that Jude squirms around singing, or ‘rapping’, “When I was 13, I had my first love, there’s nobody could compare to my baby…” oh my.  It’s happening double- time in LJ House.    And it is lovely.  Turn it on, turn it up!

Comments are closed.

Return to Top

An Overview: Tamara & Music


Gigi Said

  • Topless Tapas 2012-11-03 18:44:52-

    Tami was leaving to go out with her friend and the kids begged to go with her. I said, "you don't want to go with mom, she is going to the Tapas bar and we are going to stay here and play games."

    Gigi stiffened, "That's weird", she said as she blushed. I processed fast and realized the problem. "TAPAS bar. It means 'small plate', not TOPLESS bar!"

Jude Said

  • Nicknames 2013-01-04 21:30:33-

    The checker at the store asked our always conversational little boy what his name was. He replied "Jude" then added "but sometimes they call me pumpkin brown". LOL.

    And they are right. We call him that after the folksong that we sing sometimes.

A long time ago…