It is a profoundly alienating experience when – through the collective force of social media – the ‘world’ is in mourning for the death of Prince and I can’t seem to name any of his songs. As a result I have discovered, or perhaps realized more fully, that I have absolutely no soundtrack to my life!
On Facebook Prince was described as “… the soundtrack of my childhood”; another friend could “…remember discovering [him] so many years ago and who stayed with [her] and shaped parts of your life imperceptibly”; and another had “… flashbacks to cruising around with windows down… eau de Marlborough lights, poorly masked with ‘Anais Anais’ over the top…. and Prince cassettes aplenty.”
The closest I get to a poignant musical moment in my life is knowing the words to C’mon Aussie, C’mon… from World Series Cricket; after all who could ever forget that timeless opening line – ‘We’ve been training all the winter and there’s not a team that’s fitter, and that’s the way its got to be!’ Unless, of course, you count the occasional drunken rendition of New York, New York at several weddings or tearing up at the Last Post.
It’s not for lack of trying either.
In Grade 4 in 1976, sitting around a table in Mrs. Poulton’s class, I announced to my three friends how cool it was that one was the first to like Skyhooks, one AC/DC and one ABBA while I, was the first to like Sherbet.
“I’ve always liked Sherbet too”, chipped in one of my friends, instantly deflating my attempt at music credibility. Truth be told I only knew one line, from one song of Sherbet – ‘How, how, howzat?/You messed about/I caught you out, howzat?’ – and for literally years I thought Howzat was a song about cricket.
I once tried to have a ‘special song’ with a girlfriend. I convinced her that ‘our’ song was Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters & Collectors but it never stuck. She came and went and the song got transferred to another girlfriend but she too came and went and so ‘my song’ just hung there, unattached, like a bee looking for a flower to land on but never finding quite the right one.
Growing up I could never understand the obsession with music; the way my friends spent all their time and money on the latest single or album or watched Countdown every Sunday night, while I was watching a Wonderful World of Disney and collecting footy cards.
I did actually buy a single sometime in the late 70s but it’s so embarrassing an admission, that I always win the party game: “What was your first record?”
Deep breath now… my first and only single (unless you count the copy of Mike Brady’s Up there Cazaly I bought cheap at a school fair) was… Can’t Stop the Music by the Village People with – and no one ever gets this – Milkshake on the flip side.
I’d been to see the film of the same name – principally because one of my heroes at the time, Montreal Decathlon Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner, was making his film debut. Bruce is now Caitlin and still a hero for reasons other than how fast she can run.
While my friends were scamming tickets to Dire Straits and saving up to see U2 and, yes, Prince in the early 80s, I think I managed to sneak along to a Clancy Brothers gig with my mother at the Concert Hall for St Patrick’s Day.
My two bits of ‘concert credibility’ are being ‘kicked out’ of the house by my parents at 17 to go to the pub with my older brother to see Goanna (of Solid Rock fame) – apparently they didn’t think it was ideal for a 17 year old to be sitting at home watching Bill Collins’ Golden Years of Hollywood every Saturday night – and seeing The Pogue’s Shane McGowan literally carried to the microphone to sing Dirty Old Town at Melbourne’s Old Greek Theatre in the late 80s.
What hope did I have though when my parents record collection consisted of Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Andy William’s Christmas Carols, and a recording on Bing Crosby reading/singing the Little Drummer Boy – music was not a big part of their lives either.
So as most of my generation where belting out ‘You got nothing I want…’ I was humming ‘…come, they told me, par-up-ah-pum-pum’ or ‘…these are a few of my favorite things’.
So, so far this year the music world has lost not only icons David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince but lesser luminaries – though no doubt important to some – like Merle Haggard, Andy “Thunderclap “ Newman, the oddly named Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, jazz singer Ernestine Anderson, keyboardist Keith Emerson and, in a cruel twist of irony, one of Prince’s protégés, Denise Matthews, aka Vanity, from the band Vanity 6, just to name a few.
The passing of each – whether niche celebrity or international superstar – has no doubt given many of their fans cause to pause and reflect on the impact these artists have had on their lives. On the births, relationships, deaths, parties, moments with friends and road trips forever and intimately associated with their music.
So, I have realized, I don’t have a sound track for my life, I won’t remember where I was when I found out Prince was dead – I can’t even remember now – but I have noted in the past few days how important his music was for so many people.
It is through music that we reconnect with important moments in our lives. Now, while I don’t particularly want to reconnect with standing in a disco mouthing ‘…hey there you with a sad face come back to my place and live it up’ by the aptly named Mental as Anything to some poor girl who wanted to do anything but, I did pay too little attention to too great a talent while he was around. The only upside to the tragic events of recent days is that I’ve realized I do know quite a few Prince songs – I just didn’t realize they were his songs.
So, while I clearly remember being at the MCG on Boxing Day in 1981 when Dennis Lillee bowled Viv Richards with the last ball of the day, the death of Prince has given me cause to pause and consider the role music has played in my life. I feel I owe Prince – and many other musicians – an apology for not appreciating him more when he was here and a thank you for leaving such a rich legacy that I can discover for the first time.