Wednesday, June 07, 2006


One time when Leigh hitched a ride with me going home, Erasure’s Victim Of Love was playing on my iPod. I turned to her and said, “I think this song ruined me.” I explained that when I first heard it, I was immediately struck by the lyrics and I remember really taking them to heart. Leigh admitted she wasn’t familiar with the song, so I recited the lyrics to her:

“I don’t wanna look like some kind of fool;
I don’t wanna break my heart over you.
I’m building a wall, every day it’s getting higher—
This time I won’t end up another victim of love.”

Leigh looked at me and sighed. “Well!” she said. “There’s no way we can go back in time and fix things now, is there?”

But this isn’t really about my views on love. Rather, that exchange made me realize just how influential certain songs have been in my life: shaping the way I think, forming my views on love, life in general, and the world we live in.

So I turned on my mental music jukebox, switched “rewind” and started looking at the songs that made an impact on me when I was growing up. Here are the ones that made it on my list.

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, The Beatles. My earliest memory of any song, rhyme or ditty is the chorus of this Fab Four classic: “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra!” As a kid I always thought they were referring to the female underwear, which made the song somewhat of a taboo for me. For a kid growing up in a semi-conservative household, it was shocking to hear a pop song be that blatant.

Yesterday, The Beatles. This song holds the record for most number of remakes made, but my most memorable version is the one by Andy Williams. When I first heard the line, “There’s a shadow hanging over me,” I had nightmares thinking that a shadow in the form of a hanged man was hovering over my head whenever I’d fall asleep.

Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. Even before I realized that the Lennon-McCartney lyrics were pure poetry, I was already struck by the plaintive, “Ah, look at all the lonely people.” Whenever I felt that I was all alone in the world—as a teen, one can feel that way a lot—I’d look to this song to validate what I was feeling.

For No One, The Beatles. One of the saddest songs by The Fab Four. Call me masochistic, but I always liked downer songs because they echo and reinforce the deep sadness I’d feel from time to time. “You find that all her words of kindness linger on when she no longer needs you” kills me every time I hear it. And the final blow: “And in her eyes you see nothing, no sign of love behind the tears; cried for no one, a love that should have lasted years.”

You’re In My Soul, Rod Stewart. It’s a cheesy song, but growing up in the 70s I had no concept of cheese. I just know that it spoke to my need for someone to share my life with. “You are my lover, you’re my best friend—you’re in my soul” was such a powerful concept. I’d imagine hugging someone while singing that song to… him or her? Hmmm, that’s weird. I think at that age I was still hoping I’d end up like everyone else, a guy who’d end up with a girl. Ewww.

I Don’t Wanna Talk About It, Rod Stewart. Another serving of extra thick mozzarella from Rod “Don’t Cha Think I’m Sexy?” Stewart. “I don’t wanna talk about it, how you broke my heart….” As you can see, I gravitated towards songs of love lost.

Boogie Nights, Heatwave. Then again, one can only have so much of sappy heartbreak songs. Whenever Heatwave’s dance hit would play on the radio, I’d stop whatever I was doing and stick my ear close to the speakers. I remember switching stations up and down the AM dial just to be able to catch that song. “Got to keep on dancing, keep on dancing….” The call to dance your troubles away was irresistible.

Weekend In New England, Barry Manilow. Now we’re entering the heart of Sap City and Barry Manilow is the mayor. To be fair, this song is one of his most evocative. The opening notes on the piano alone is enough to warn the listener that more drama and bombast is yet to come. Then he askes that heart-wrenching question: “When will this strong yearning end?” By the time Barry ends with, “and when will I hold youuuu…” and he holds that note until “…again…,” you wanna start screaming at him for an encore: “Again! Again! Again!”

Ships, Barry Manilow. I thought this song about the distance separating a father and a son echoed how I felt about my father. I found the line, “I said, love’s easier when it’s far away. We sat and watch a distant light…” so evocative. I viewed my dad as a distant father, and I wished he’d be more demonstrative. But that was before I realized he grew up without a father figure. After making peace with that, I eventually found the song irrelevant to me.

Knowing Me, Knowing You, ABBA. The Swedes scored with this excellent break-up song. “We just have to face it, this time we’re through” (and echoed by the back-up vocals: “We’re really through”) is such a great example of abject resignation for a relationship that has truly run its course. It made me realize that “til death do us part” doesn’t happen to all of us.

The Name Of The Game, ABBA. Love is a game. And in the game of love there are ruthless pros and naïve beginners. “If I trust in you, would you let me down? Would you laugh at me, if I said I care for you? Would you feel the same way too? I wanna know the name of the game.”

Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft, The Carpenters. This is the most un-Carpenters song in their entire oeuvre. And because this song was released just after the Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it helped increase my fascination for the stars, UFOs and science fiction.

Everlasting Love, Andy Gibb. At the time this song was on air, I saw the movie The Wild Geese and fell in love with most of the men in the cast (and it was an all-star cast headed by Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris). I was especially smitten by a supporting cast member (I forget na who, basta blonde siya) and I remember imagining that I was singing this song to him on the movie set! Weird. What fantasies one can have when you’re young and silly.

You Should Be Dancing, The BeeGees. I remember I was so fascinated with John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever. One night I was riding my bike along the neighborhood when I heard this song playing on the TV and I saw through the windows of a neighbor’s house that they were showing a scene from the movie. I rushed home only to find out they cut the song shot. It’s the kind of song whose opening beats alone could give me such an adrenaline rush.

If I Can’t Have You, Yvonne Elliman/The BeeGees. It has a straightforward sentiment: if I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby. Sung with plaintive precision by Yvonne “Mary Magdalene” Elliman, it was a song of desperation disguised as a dance ditty.

Emotion, Samantha Sang… this song written for her by the BeeGees. It’s a deceptive song—the melody is so rich and lyrical, you’d think it’s a sappy love song if you don’t listen carefully to the words. But it’s really about a brokenhearted girl who cannot find anyone to replace her former lover: “It’s over and done, but the heartache lives on inside. And who is the one you’re clinging to instead of me tonight?” I love the seeming incongruity between music and lyrics.

RESONATE talaga ako with you sa Carpenters' Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft! Also with Emotion ng BeeGees---pero the one other I resonate well with is Jive Talking. Other songs that are almost archetypal for me in my life (don't really have a blog so can't explain at length, so sharing na lang) is Make It with You by Bread, Old and Wise by Alan Parsons Project, (I've been to Paradise but ) I've Never Been to Me (don't know artist), Michael Jackson's Human Nature, Morning has Broken (the Johnny Mathis version), Afternoon Delight, Culture Club's Victims, John Denver's Rocky Mountain High, and oddly the Filipino version of Shalom I've always heard sung in mass in Ateneo.

i like weekend in new england and everlasting love. =) hehe.
great song choices...I especially like "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" ( I just recently saw Mama Mia the musical and this song was one of the first songs to be performed)...oh yeah "Weekend in New England" is another one of my secret favorite songs (its a secret coz I'd hate to admit that I like Manilow)
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