Asking me to free-write about the “three most important songs in my life” is just about equivalent to making me choose my favorite cupcake flavor. I — can’t. I just can’t.
I’m one of those people who feels naked without my phone (and 8tracks) or my iPod on long bus journeys and flights. My life requires a soundtrack.
Also — wearing earphones offers me an escape route otherwise I have no alternative but to make small talk with people around me.
So, as an alternative, I offer to the blogosphere gods the first three songs that have popped into my head.
1. The Manhattan Transfer – “Soul Food to Go”
I remember driving through Jakarta. The Manhattan Transfer’s Asian-version cassette (“bukan dijual diluar Indonesia”) is playing. My dad’s at the wheel, we’re on our way to pick up my mom at the bank, and my older sister and I are squeezed at the back in a white 4×4. It’s night time, and there is the faint promise of Fuddruckers burgers afterward. My youngest sister still fits in her baby seat (she’s now twenty two and an English teacher, wow). I just watched Casper at Kelapa Gading Mall and Devon Sawa is hot hot hot. The stars are bright and all is at peace with the world.
2. The Carpenters – “Goodbye to Love”
This time it’s a real, I-know-you-personally childhood crush. There is heartbreak. It was an awkward time — I was too tall, my breasts were growing too fast, I was sporting a shiny red pimple in the middle of my forehead (which my Health Ed teacher, Sir Nurdin, kindly pointed out to me in front of the whole class).
I remember memorizing the lyrics to this song. I held the cassette’s inside flap in one hand (where the lyrics were helpfully printed out in small font) and used the other hand to play-stop-rewind-repeat the cassette on our Sony radio. (Nerdy Neri of yore, I salute thee.) “There may come a time when I would see that I’ve been wrong,” Karen sang in her clean apple-pie voice. That was my fervent wish.
3. The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
There was a time that this was my step-out-the-door-and-face-the-day song, while living in London. It played on repeat in my ears while I was on the Tube in the morning, from Lancaster Gate to Bank. When I emerged from the Bank exit I would sometimes pause (if people weren’t shoving me from behind), take a deep breath, and take a moment to really listen to the drums and his baritone voice. “I’m on a blood buzz / God I am / I’m on a blood buzz.”
It calmed me down.