I was 14 years old when my girlfriends and I got tickets to see Styx. I was giddy with anticipation for my first concert, and then I got mono. The day of the concert, I was in bed with a wicked sore throat and high fever while my friends were having the best of times without me.
My memories of being a teenager are scattered, but the memories of getting tickets for that show and then not getting to go are still quite vivid. And to this day, if I am sitting in the car and a Styx song comes on, the words come back to me without hesitation. For the length of the song, I’m not Mom or Mrs. Mazzella, I’m just a teenager wishing I could be out with my friends on a Saturday night. It doesn’t matter where I am going — to the market, the train station, or the soccer field — songs from my youth take me back in time.
I feel bad for my kids. They make playlists of their favorite songs and listen to them anytime they want. They do not know the joy of hearing a song you love but haven’t heard in a long time pop on the radio. When it happens to me, I sing and dance, especially if I am alone without an audience to reign me in.
I feel bad for my kids. They make playlists of their favorite songs and listen to them anytime they want. They don’t know the joy of hearing a song you love but haven’t heard in a long time pop on the radio.
Songs from the ’80s especially are like setting my high school diary to music. When I hear Madonna’s “Lucky Star,” I see myself in my purple bedroom with the ruffled comforter and the eight-track player. Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” places me on the beach, listening to a huge boombox while covered in baby oil. Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” reminds me of watching General Hospital after school. It was a time when rock stars were discovered on afternoon soap operas instead of YouTube.
I know I am not alone in my joy about listening to music from the past. From The Eagles to the Rolling Stones to Aerosmith and Phil Collins, there are many bands that started out decades ago still rocking out across the country every summer. Stadiums and amphitheaters are filled to bursting with middle-age fans. My kids think that I am obsessed with going to concerts — and I guess I am. When I watch a musician perform, my body relaxes and the only thing I think about are the lyrics, which seem to flow effortlessly from my brain to my lips. Being in the crowd at a concert and hearing songs that debuted in a different time in my life are like meditation. I’m fully present (even though I’m in the past).
I did finally get to see Styx in concert. A few weeks ago, the band played at a theater near my home and I convinced my husband to go with me. As the show approached, I was pretty excited. When we got there, it was clear they weren’t the same band I had tickets to 40 years ago. They’ve changed, but so have I. When I bought the ticket at 14, I felt grown up. At 53, listening to “Come Sail Away,” I remembered for a moment what it was like to be a teenager.