It’s weird how we don’t always get to choose the music we’ve actually heard the most in our lives sometimes. And I’m not talking about the soundtrack to Neil Diamond’s version of The Jazz Singer that your mom listened to over and over again when you were a kid just having to endure the car ride to school and back. Ok maybe that one’s just me.
I’m more talking about songs or albums during a time period in your life that you might have been subjected to daily, even hourly, and how most of the music we’ve heard most in our lives might not even be our favorite.
When I was 15, I began working in the restaurant business. I learned pretty quickly that out up front with the customers you were at the mercy of the ambient music. Cooking on the line you got to more or less have a say in what you heard, but my job was split between the two, cooking and wait staff. Keep in mind this was before cable music or satellite music. Most places would pop in a CD and have it go all. shift. long. (all night long, all night)*
My stepfather Ted used this ability as a way to both listen to his favorite music as well as a way to introduce people to great tunes. In his place you could come across Bruce Springsteen, Glen Tilbrook solo, maybe a Poco album. For a while there, his secret weapon was the Paul McCartney unplugged CD he had. Did I mention this was an old style red brick Italian restaurant? So he had to ninja all this in between Dean Martin, Sinatra, and the 8 billion versions of “Mona Lisa” it seemed like there were. (there’s really just the one, but like waterboarding, the torture was new every time). After the last customer was served and closing time was underway, it was time to step back for whatever new disc had hit Ted’s hands. Maybe some Mick Jagger solo, or Jimmy Buffett, or Guy Clark. It’s no wonder that since Amore closed last, the other restaurants staff would hang out there for a drink once they were done at their own spots.
The most hours I spent working were at The Cisco Grill, which was a Southwestern type restaurant analogous to a Chili’s I suppose. There are two albums I have probably heard more waking hours of my life than anything I could ever choose to have listened to due to the fact they made excellent ambient music for the younger clientele of the place. (To be clear, I’m not complaining. In fact for a lot of reasons I’m grateful for these two albums. They made a lot of tough work shifts a lot easier.)
The two albums are “Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars” by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, and “Avalon” by Roxy Music. The former, because the restaurants I was working at were local to the band and I actually waited on them a few times. The latter, well I have no idea other than it was good ambient for a restaurant, but I still love it. There were other albums in rotation for sure, but I tended to tune them out.
These two albums are actually outstanding in so many ways. (You may hate these two albums with the white hot intensity of a thousand Pat Benatars. That’s not exactly the point of this post but if you feel the need to tell me how much they actually suck I look forward to your blog entry on the subject.) But imagine you’re stuck bussing tables, seating people, refilling ice tea, doing random cleaning jobs during your shift, but you get to become familiar with a couple of albums like that. To this day I hear tracks off of them and think about the fact I probably heard each album twice a day, 6 days a week, for a year.
I think of all the horrible albums I might have had stuck in my head (I’m *still* looking at you, Jazz Singer) and am grateful that those two are in there.
*Congrats my Lionel Richie friends, let’s dance on the ceiling till we’re easy like Sunday morning.**
**Welcome fifth element fans who only know that line from Chris Tucker singing it in the movie. Actually. If that’s the only way you know it, you’re not welcome.***
***Welcome those of you who didn’t get my last two comments and downloaded and/or googled some Lionel Richie. You’re once, twice, three times a lady my friends.