I’m pretending it’s alright, listening to the soundtrack of our life.
– Soundtrack of My Life by Less Than Jake
Star Wars. Jaws. Indiana Jones... What do these all have in common… Besides being great movies and directed by George Lucas or Steven Spielberg? If you said they have some of the greatest theme songs ever known to cinema– then you’re correct. Each of these movies has an instantly recognizable theme song, to the point the song almost takes on a life of its own. These theme tunes elevate their movies to a new level, bringing emotion and clarity, leaving an impression on the watcher that screams, “Hey! Remember this! This is important!”
And that’s exactly what a soundtrack is supposed to do. It highlights the important parts of a Movie or TV show, screaming, “Hey! Remember this! This is important!” And that’s also what your own personal soundtrack can do for your life. It highlights the important moments– forever encapsulating them in the beauty and emotion that is a song.
This, in chronological order, is the soundtrack of my life…
Song: Coming Up
Artist: Sir Paul McCartney and Wings
Importance: This is the day I was born – my “opening credits,” if you will. This song was Number One on the Billboard Charts this day.
Song: Even Flow
Artist: Pearl Jam
Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Importance: Like a tropical storm coming in off the coast, the music that would be labeled “grunge” hit the world hard with the one-two punch of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Quickly sliding away were the days of glam metal and hair bands; now the world’s youth were decking themselves out in plaid and listening to the screaming of a couple of guys from Seattle who just wanted to make music– and happened to be very good at it. These men became musical heroes and, for likely the first time in my life, they made me feel a connection with the music I listened to. I felt the power of what music could do, thanks to these bands.
Song: 21st Century (Digital Boy)
Artist: Bad Religion
Importance: Many years ago, after MTV stopped playing music but when M2 still did, I was up late bugging my brother and his friend. A song came on and my brother’s friend (we’ll call him “Jason”), insisted we watch the video. It was the video for this song, and it was my first real foray into the world of Punk Rock. I loved it! Something about the passion in his voice– as he sang about issues I couldn’t comprehend at 14– stuck with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was completely hooked. It’s not often one can pinpoint their love of entire genre to an exact point in time, but that’s what this night offered me.
Artist: Blink 182
Artist: Blink 182
Importance: Green Day’s sophomore album Dookie paved the way for a new kind of Punk Rock, often called “Pop Punk”… And the effects of that album continued to resonate several years down the road, eventually finding its way to a So Cal band called Blink 182. Thanks again to M2 (and their late night video marathons), I would often watch while I was supposed to be sleeping. I stumbled across Blink’s video for the song Josie and immediately fell in love. As a single, mostly awkward kid about to graduate from high school, the idea of a girlfriend who was that cool blew me away– and I knew someone had finally put into words and music what I’ve always wanted in a significant other. I bought the album soon after and discovered the best Blink 182 song ever– Dammit. This band and these two songs solidified my love of Punk and Pop Punk– which has defined the music I’ve written and played ever since.
Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
Importance: This song isn’t from 1998, but it’s one of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins tunes. It helped define the Alt Rock genre, which one of my college bands would cite as a major influence. This song was one of many the Pumpkins played at the first concert I went to; which is a defining moment for any music lover and aspiring musician. It was a free concert in downtown Minneapolis, with an estimated crowd of 150,000– all coming together for the love of music. My friends and I managed to get access to the area in front of the stage and I watched most of the show from about 20 yards back from center. I remember looking back at one point and seeing the huge throng of rapturous people behind me. To this day, I can only imagine the thrill of playing to that many people.
Song: Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Artist: Green Day
Importance: This is the first full song I learned how to play on the guitar– where I learned the random chords I’d been painstakingly practicing could form something beautiful. Though, honestly, it probably sounded horrific… Since I’d only been playing for a handful of weeks. But at the time, it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever done.
Song: Life by the Drop
Artist: Stevie Ray Vaughn
Importance: The Blues. If there’s a music genre that better exemplifies raw emotion than the Blues, I haven’t found it yet. But the Blues isn’t always played on electric guitars, screaming out solos that cry for loved ones lost, or sung with complete anguish in the heart. The Blues can be tender, respectful, and loving, as shown by this amazing song by the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. This song made me love the Blues, where every song had so much emotion in it that it could make you cry. Discovering the Blues made me feel like I stumbled across a puzzle piece to my soul; one I didn’t know was missing until I plugged it with this song.
Song: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Artist: Eric Clapton
Importance: On July 19, 2001, the day after my friend’s 21st birthday, we traveled up to Fargo, North Dakota to watch Eric Clapton— the man known as Slowhand. This was the first time I truly got to see one of my heroes perform, and it was an amazing show. Along with many songs I wasn’t familiar with, he played his classics, and finished his encore with this spectacular rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Artist: Reel Big Fish
Importance: Ska, for those not familiar, is music I generally think of as upbeat with lyrics that aren’t always as such– and this song fits the bill perfectly. I love Ska music (my first band wrote one good song and it was a Ska tune)… So it was natural for me to make a mix CD that had this song on it for when I studied abroad in London for a semester. I have no idea how often I listened to this tune, but I’m pretty sure my flatmate and travel partners hated it by the time the semester was over. It traveled the streets of London, through the Chunnel, and across parts of Europe with me, so I will always love this song.
Song: This Time of Year
Artist: Better Than Ezra
Importance: I learned this song at the beginning of my Freshman year in College and completely fell in love with it, to the point that it quickly became one of my favorite songs (it’s still in the Top Three). Better Than Ezra is one of my favorite bands and I’ve seen them multiple times live… So I know when they play this song live, they’ll often pull someone up on stage to play the guitar for the second half of it. A handful of weeks before I graduated from college we had our annual Pinestock Concert and Better Than Ezra was one of the headliners. When they started playing This Time of Year, my friends and I went nuts– and even more so when the lead singer asked if anyone in the crowd knew how to play it. I said I did, and he pulled me on stage to play his guitar. The song ended with me jumping off the drum riser and sticking the landing to play the final chord of the song. I consider this one of the highlights of my life.
Song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Importance: My friend Ryan and I spent most of our 20s trying to see as many of our favorite musicians and as many of the great guitarists as we could… And we killed two birds (or doves, if you will) in one night by seeing Prince live. We managed to sneak down to the 17th row of the lower deck and saw Prince’s mastery up close. Prince is notorious for not wanting his music anywhere he can’t control, so I can’t post a video of him singing Purple Rain… Instead we’ll have to settle for him joining an all-star cast playing a tribute to the late George Harrison with his song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. You can see his mastery over the instrument in his solo at the end. Now imagine several hours of that– and you’ll know why I still consider that Prince concert the best show I’ve ever seen.
Song: Gabriel and the Vagabond
Artist: Foy Vance
Importance: I turned 30 in June of 2010. Since I had no control over hitting that milestone, I decided to celebrate in the best way possible. After a quick call home the year before, I set into motion the greatest trip I’ve ever taken– and enjoyed one of the greatest weeks of my life. In August of 2010, a month after the British Open was held at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, my dad and I played the course together. That’s right, I celebrated turning 30 by going on a father/son golf trip to the home of golf– where we played the original golf course (along with eight other rounds in seven days).
What, you may ask, does this have to do with my life’s soundtrack? Well, not every sound in a soundtrack is traditional music– composed and compiled and then performed with instruments. Life is filled with music of all kinds, and that week my soundtrack was the whisper or howling of the wind off the coast, the plastic rattle of the cup, the click of irons, the thump of the sand, the clink of glasses holding exquisite Scotch, and the laughter and conversation with my Dad– the man who taught me the love of the game.
So, you ask again, how does the song Gabriel and the Vagabond fit in to all of this? It’s one of many songs I listened to that week… And it’s a beautiful song that talks about hope and starting over again. After going through a rough break up a couple of months prior, this trip is what I needed more than anything. A week of doing only what I love with the man who taught me to play gave me hope, and reminded me to keep on, no matter what, just like the main characters in the song implore to each other.
Song: Mama Told Me Not to Come
Artist: Three Dog Night
Importance: A week before my birthday, our band FlashMob! took a road trip down to lovely Okoboji, Iowa (the first of three trips there that summer). This one held special meaning to me, as we played the main stage in Arnold’s Park– opening up for Three Dog Night. When I found out we had the chance to open for a band I listened to my entire childhood, I jumped all over it and practically begged the band to take the gig. There was close to 2,500 people there– all of whom came out to watch a band that was big during the 70s– so they weren’t quite our demographic. But by the end of our hour-long set, people were out of their seats and dancing… And most of the crowd gave us a standing ovation when we finished. To me, that show was proof that music transcends age and time– and can truly pull people together. Being a part of that is a feeling I’ll always cherish.
Song: Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Artist: Brett Michaels/Poison
Importance: With this last entry in my life’s soundtrack, I feel like I’ve come full circle. Hair Metal was one of the first kinds of music I ever listened to, since that’s what my brother enjoyed. And because pretty much every little brother idolizes his older brother, I adored the music he did. When I found out we were playing the second stage at a music festival that featured Firehouse, Warrant and Brett Michaels of Poison, I was excited to tell him about it– even more so when I found out I could get comp tickets for him so he could see me play to the same crowd.
13,000 people showed up that night… And even though we only had about 30 minutes to play (as the bands changed equipment on the main stage), we must have made an impression. When Brett was done for the night and his stage was shut down, a ton of people stuck around to watch us play another set. Crowds like that aren’t something a lot of local bands get to play to, so that show was an amazing point in my musical career.
So there you have it– my life summed up as a playlist… My own personal soundtrack for the last 33 years. I look forward to growing the playlist too– whether it be with major life events, or small moments that shouldn’t be forgotten. May your own soundtrack continue to grow and inspire you to enjoy the moments. – Pete