Heading into the Eye of the Storm

Patsy Cline, Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson stand awkwardly in separate corners for the first 15 minutes of the party. Then the Alan Parsons Project and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass show up and there aren’t  enough corners so I guess you could say that’s when things got cooking. Oh, and Sam Cooke was there too, of course. 

When planning a party for a 90 year-old grandmother or anyone, really, music is key. I could fill a playlist with standards from the 40s, but I don’t remember her listening to what I think of as old people music. When my brother and I were kids, she took us to Montgomery Ward’s on a Friday night to help her pick out records. It had a music and electronics department upstairs with moody lighting and sonorous acoustics. We flipped through albums but generally picked whichever one was hottest and spent the rest of the weekend listening to it over and over again on her walnut record console, a swanky piece of furniture. 

My grandmother’s living room is where I first heard the Thriller album in its entirety. It’s where we pushed her glass covered coffee table to the side so we could dance to Eddie Rabbit’s I Love A Rainy Night and ABBA’s Super Trooper. (I’m a little embarrassed to admit these things but not really.) Maybe I wasn’t a fan of Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton, but Islands in the Stream won me over. My brother played his new Fat Boys album for her and she kept an open mind, but she didn’t buy that one for herself. 

Actually, she wasn’t buying any music for herself. We binge-listened to an album over the course of a weekend and then she packed it carefully into a box, along with Levis jeans and whatever else worked as currency in the early 80s Eastern Bloc, and then shipped it off to distant relatives I never met and never will.

I finally sat down yesterday and combed through apple music playlists to cull a party mix worthy of my grandmother’s eclectic and open-minded musical tastes. And because a party isn’t just about the birthday girl, I included hits I know other family members will enjoy. She still comments appreciatively on some of my daughters’ favorite songs when we listen in the car. That’s where I’ve been testing out this party list in shuffle mode and find I love it all. 

This has been the surprise hit for me, a sweet little oasis in the angst of party planning, the calm before the storm. I could have listened to any of these songs at any time, but they had no context individually or even as part of another more generic playlist. Only in this more personal playlist do I feel each song so deeply I crank it up to feel it deeper. I catch myself thinking how much better music was in the 60s and 70s, how much more effort they put into each song, how rich and satisfying the sound. Sometimes it feels good to get good and old. 

The party isn’t for a few more days, and who knows if the ipad and wireless speaker setup will work as planned. It isn’t necessarily easier than the good old days of playing a record and flipping it over. My grandmother still has the record player console and a few albums that will work in a pinch. It’s not really about the music anyway but who we’re with when it plays. 

It’s going to be awkward when these guys show up because we’ll all basically be wearing the same outfit.

23 thoughts on “Heading into the Eye of the Storm

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  1. Yeah, I like that deepness idea. Every old song comes with meanings and associations. I was listening to a remake of The Cars’ “Drive” the other day by Britta Philips. Even this remake takes me back to a very specific dance, years and years later. The weird thing is I never noticed the pain in that song until now.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ooh that’s a good one. I added it figuring it’ll be good for party warmup or when it’s time to bring everyone down, ha. And I never noticed either how sad it is. When we are young, the world is still our oyster.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That song slays. I was like 13 when it came out or something, and it was lost on me. Pretty much the grandeur (I’ll call it that) of The Cars was. I’ll say the same about Tom Petty. These artists were so available, so over-played with the scant MTV library, they had no value. But that song is really “ace.” I loved this post Kristen; it’s a cool honor you have to DJ and I’m sure it will be just what everyone needs. What a fun task. I DJ’d my own wedding, through mix CDs I made, before I was really savvy to use an iPod. I don’t think they were around then, actually. It’s nice you and I connected over a post I did talking about Low, that’s good. Music connects in a deep way. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Didn’t have any Tom Petty and will fix that. My husband turned me onto these favorite lyrics: “I’ll be the boy in the corduroy pants, you be the girl at the high school dance.” Poetry. (He also turned me onto that Low Christmas album, which how can it be that it’s almost time to listen again!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. if you’ve got “Eye in the Sky” on there, that’s going to take me back to playing in my room… alone… in the cold, cold winter… see also: “Gloria”, “Athena” and the entire musical output of 1982.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My youngest daughter asked how come she can hear her thoughts…like they “sound” so real to her. I didn’t have much of an answer but thought that was neat. I’m glad you can still remember the tunes but sorry about not hearing music…that must be rough.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You had me at Patsy Cline.

    Seriously, this was right up my alley. Love music and memory, so much so I even did that little series a while ago … Do any of these sound familiar?

    1. Dancing Queen, ABBA
    2. Shine on you Crazy Diamond, PF
    3. Birthday, Beatles
    4. Spider Bite Song, TFL
    5. Waiting for Superman, Iron & Wine
    6. Hoppipolla, SR
    7. 3 Little Birds, Bob Marley


    Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, it’s not that incredible. I had to look it up. But I remembered you doing it, so that’s got to count for something, right? LOL.

        Have a fabulous party! Take photos and videos, even get some of those disposable cameras so everyone can take random shots. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You mean you don’t have everyone’s picks committed to memory?? 😂 Great idea on the photos…I’m putting my oldest in charge of candid shots and will do some videos too. I always forget my phone can do that. And thanks!!!


      3. The sad reality? I probably could tell you at least 3 from everyone’s lists, if not more.
        I remembered SR from yours expressly because you also included them on a running music guest post, and it was the first i had heard of them.
        Plus people jump in puddles in that video.
        It’s the little things, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. With a few beautiful words, you whisked me back to my girlhood living room on Sunday mornings. It was our ritual to thumb through the albums (Herb Alpert, ABBA, Tom Jones, The Carpenters, Doc Severson…it goes on and and on).
    Music has so much power: memory, healing, connectedness.

    As always, you bring your family to life with vibrant images and memories – it’s truly your skill.
    I’m predicting a fabulous party – I can wait to hear!


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