Tonight I am taking a major trip on a musical time machine.
It was July, 1985, when my folks dropped me and few friends off in the parking lot at The Spectrum in Philadelphia somewhere around noon. We simply had to get there very early.
We baked in the 90+ degree direct sunlight all day with a bunch of other punks. Then finally the doors opened. In a mad dash, hundreds of fans ran through the wide open hallways of the empty stadium, sprinted down the steps to the general admission floor and pressed up against the gate at the stage. There was still another three hours ’til show time. Another three hours ’til Billy Idol took the stage on the Rebel Yell tour. We were in the second row. F yeah!
I cannot express enough how Billy’s first two albums, and his work with Generation X, his previous punk band in London, affected and inspired me as a teenager.
“White Wedding” was one of the first songs I ever learned on guitar. In fact, I played it in Spanish class and sung the song in translation. I wish I had a video of that one.
The rebelliousness, the questioning of authority, the angst, his motto “Too much is never enough,” were all powerfully drivers and touchstones of my early years. We cranked those records while driving around, living life with reckless and abandon. F! Those were the days.
Tonight, lifetimes later, I’m going to see Billy and his amazing original guitarist Steve Stevens, play an acoustic show. I will not be waiting in line all day. I doubt I will be running anywhere. But I have a big feeling that I will time travel in big ways into those teenage days.
This is one of the magical elements of music. Music is a time machine.
Music is the soundtrack to our lives. When we have intense emotional experiences, it’s common to attach music to it. The songs of falling in love. The songs of heart break. The songs of triumph and celebration.
Some of these blast into the culture and stay there. Everybody gets it. When you’re at the wedding and they play “We are Family” it’s a given. And that’s cool.
Even cooler, the songs that touch us deeply in our individual experiences. Like when I sat alone in the car on a dreary, freezing cold afternoon in my 20’s to listen to “Love the One You’re With” and knew that it spoke to me. Reminded myself to love myself.
Or that time when “Rock the Casbah” nearly exploded my heart with energy and truth. Or that night I scored a free ticket to see Third Eye Blind on their first tour in the 90s. They played the amazing single “Semi-Charmed Life.” My grandfather died while I was at the show.
Music is f*ing big.
For everyone who listens. Listen deeper. Feel it bigger.
For the SuperStars who make music, this is your mission. To create the soundtrack to our lives. With deep authenticity, truth, craft and soul.
Even if no one else listens to your song, you’ve still created a powerful experience. You’ve written a song to the soundtrack of your own life. Years later, you’ll be able to listen or play that song again and remember in unthinkable ways what you were feeling in those moments. Music is a time machine.