I was hanging out the other evening with a handful of some of my favorite people, among them my friends Jon and Craig. They’ve been together – oh lord – for YEARS now…I think almost as long as Coombsie and I have been married.
I don’t even remember how this came up, exactly, but Craig and I were on the couch, and Jon was in our Big Fancy Grownup Mission-Style Leather Recliner™, when Craig said to me, “You know, 80s music is really like Prozac for Jon.”
“Oh, it’s true,” Jon piped up from the recliner, “Like this morning, I was in SUCH A BAD MOOD, and Craig knew to put on some Howard Jones and within an hour I was just DANCING AROUND THE HOUSE.”
I sat on this for a minute. “My God. You are SO RIGHT. Because it’s TRUE. At the end of a particularly trying day, I have to tell Coombsie, ‘No…NO…I CANNOT listen to college radio on the way home. I cannot listen to the latest hipster music, or avant klezmer zydeco, or whatever they are playing on the college radio station right now. I have had a DAY, Coombsie, and I need to listen to SOMETHING I KNOW.'”
When I was a kid, I liked listening to “oldies.” I liked sitting in the back seat of my mom’s Pinto and grilling her on whatever song was playing. Because it was the Seventies, and in the Seventies, everyone was obsessed with the Fifties, and I had done the math and realized that my parents were ALIVE BACK THEN. So I was naturally curious if they sipped on milkshakes at Formica-topped counters while Elvis crooned in the background, like they showed on “Happy Days.”
My mom studied me in the rearview mirror. “You want to hear my Elvis story? Here’s my Elvis story. It was around Christmas, and your dad and I were at some shitty bar, and the jukebox was stuck on ONE SONG. ONE SONG, and that was ‘Blue Christmas.’ OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Those whiny backing vocals. JESUS CHRIST. There was not enough liquor IN THE WORLD to make that song bearable.”
Still, I wondered about what I’d consider “oldies” when I was my mother’s age. Already I had a sense of borrowed nostalgia, and the idea that certain songs could be comforting in some way. And now I’m at the age where records I remember going out and buying for myself are being played on “oldies” stations.
And Craig is right. He’s absolutely right. That stuff soothes me like nothing else.
If you could pack this stuff into pill form, it would work wonders for some of us. I mean, I’m not going to stop taking what I actually do have to take in pill form to keep me from doing something completely inappropriate in ANY context. Let’s say that it’s part of a mental health regimen that’s just better for everyone involved.