Good citizen, it’s wonderful to have you present in my tiny corner of the interweb. Recline back in that Ikea Poang chair I picked up for your comfort, and I’ll regale you with another installment.
I have been playing in bands since I was about 16, to the absolute horror of both of my parents. My father played guitar in bands through high school and college in NYC in the wild years of the 1960s, and so when I was born my parents had determined from his experiences that they didn’t want their son anywhere near those kind of bad influences. When I was in 5th grade, I wanted a Casio keyboard more than anything. My parents allowed me to buy one, but only on the condition that I not join a band and fall into the rockstar lifestyle of booze and loveless sex, as so many 5th graders do. I believe I had to sign a document to agree to my parents’ terms and conditions for the Casio keyboard. At 16, I actually broke my Casio contract and joined a punk rock band. I’m now 37 and there have been few times in my life where I wasn’t active in a group. It’s one of the most important and satisfying things in my life.
Being in a band is comprised of some things you would assume, like practices and playing shows, and a whole lot of other rigmarole that you don’t think about, like learning new songs, writing set lists, and trying to keep that set list fresh and interesting. Now that Melissa is an instructor, she has the exact problems i have. She creates set lists and learns new songs constantly. She gets excited about big classes that holler out cheers of encouragement during her sets. In the same way, I return from a show I played excited because of the positive response we’d received from the crowd. Similarly , Melissa and I now commiserate when we performed to an anemic reaction. After 8 years of being together, we now have this in common and can fully empathize.
When Melissa started going to Jazzercise, an almost immediate change in her musical tastes occurred. Because she was always so busy trying to learn songs, the music in her car changed from Vampire Weekend, The Shins, The Smiths, and other underground / alt indie fare, to Pitbull, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, etc. This irked me like crazy and I complained heartily. To me, Top 40 was overproduced corporate bullshit with little redeeming value, like the sonic equivalent of a McDonalds hamburger.
Instructors can’t just choose whatever songs they want, though, and do leglifts for an hour to Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album. They get these DVDs in the mail regularly, with all the latest routines. In order for a set list to be considered “legal”, it has to be comprised primarily of new songs- stuff that is current on the radio. As a result, you end up hearing A LOT of songs by the aforementioned Top 40s artists, and they start to grow on you, despite your best efforts to resist. On some level it’s completely Pavlovian; when you work out you release all sorts of happy brain chemicals and hormones, and so your brain begins to develop happy feelings about those songs when they come on at Jazzercise or anywhere else. For weeks, I’ve been walking around the house singing “Adios” by Ricky Martin and moving my arms in some graceful swoops. Last night I remarked to my wife “You know, I think I really like Fall Out Boy!”
The 16 year old, leather jacket wearing, punk-rock me is rolling around in his safety-pin and patch festooned grave.