The soundtrack of our lives


As I was listening to The Tallest Man On Earth’s fantastic new record last week, I started thinking to myself, “this is such an autumn/winter record. This record doesn’t sound like something I should be listening to now.” It’s a great record, but it doesn’t especially lend itself to listening at max volume with the windows rolled down.

And then, I started thinking about how odd the phenomenon of seasonal records can be. I almost exclusively listen to Beck in the summer. Bob Dylan in the fall. The Knife in the winter. There’s no reason I can’t listen to Beck in the winter, but his sound strikes me as so unmistakably “summer” that I don’t think about him much during the other seasons.

Just as certain songs or albums attach themselves to the four seasons, certain songs often become attached to specific memories in our lives. Our memories are not silent; they have soundtracks and meanings.

My birthday is September 3. When I was a freshman in high school, my birthday fell just before the year started. I had a large birthday party, but requested that guests not bring gifts. A couple of people did anyway, though, which resulted in kind of an odd phenomenon for me: I only got one CD for my birthday that year. That album? A radio-edited version of Why Do They Rock So Hard? by Reel Big Fish.

Beats me!

Now, thanks to Danny Baller*, I had my soundtrack to the fall of my freshman year of high school. Which, of course, was filled with a great number of things – but one of the most significant for me was the beginning of the cross-country season. That first year, I listened to it on the bus on the way to every away meet. I ran XC for four years, and Why Do They Rock So Hard? became my XC theme music. Through four years of cross-country, teammates and coaches changed, we added a new school in our district, my 5K PR dropped… but I always had Reel Big Fish.

Every time I listen to this record, I’m immediately transported back to cross-country season. The smell of just-fallen rain on the course, the pain of a grueling race, the camaraderie of the relatively small team, the long bus rides, the invitationals, the “Glencoe pack in the back” shirts, running with the varsity girls, getting thrown into pools at pasta feeds… even though it was a decade ago, it all comes back to me as if it were yesterday.

Here’s a video from the record that encompasses all that is late-90s/early-2000s third-wave ska. This may not scream “running” to you, but it sure does to me:

*Baller is the one getting owned here, not the one doling out the punishment.


One Response to “The soundtrack of our lives”

  1. 1 Robi

    This is so interesting to me, I don’t think I have ever thought about the “seasons” of music! I am mostly reminded of people and events in my life…I guess Christmas might count as a season! But this gives me another perspective. I like this Caleb, thanks.

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