Setting the Tone
History of a Theme Song
you're 12 years old, the world does not often extend beyond your bedroom walls.
There's not much outside of your small group of friends struggling to give up
recess time in exchange for the suppressed boredom of junior high lunch breaks.
Who you are as a person would seem to be far from being decided. At twelve,
you're just starting to strike out from a daily routine of toy boxes and early
bed times; at least, that is how things appear on paper or in theory. Even now
I, pushing the benchmark age of 30, look back at being 12 and can think only of
being a kid. Yet, just the other day I was driving along in my grown-up car,
leaving my grown-up job, thinking about my grown-up problems, when I put in a CD
of some of my favorite old pop songs (otherwise known as "Oldies"). Tucked in
the middle of that compilation was Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock." Ah, yes,
one of my all-time favorites. A two minute, 52 second gem about isolation,
loneliness, and a desperate game of run and hide from potentially painful
emotions. Just hearing the opening strums of Paul Simon's acoustic guitar
brought back a dearth of memories from the nights that I would listen to the
song over and over, losing myself in the sad words that cry "I won't disturb the
slumber/ of feelings that have died/ if I never loved/ I never would have cried"
and "I have my books and my poetry to protect me/ I am shielded in my armor."
The memories of those feelings are still strong because they're still there. I'm
still in that frame of mind. In fact, I never left that song. It is my theme-
the mood and the moment. The cry for help behind a high wall of isolation. It is
me. I am a rock… and I discovered that at 12.
There are thousands of songs out there for one person to sift through. There are
thousands of bands and artists with thousands of different (and not so
different) emotions, lyrics, and tales of heartbreak for one soul to dive into
and find a home. Why do we all have one style that we come home to? Sure, any
music fan worth his weight in Columbia House subscriptions will have various
tastes and styles, but there is always one theme that you come back to when
things go wrong or the day runs long. When the lights go out and you're left
alone in your room, there is always one type of song you play. Even if you play
several different songs in those moments of need, they will all share a similar
voice and point of view. We all have a theme.
The connection comes early. At 12 years of age, I knew nothing of the pain and
isolation Simon and Garfunkel sang of. Yet that was the first song I clung to,
the first song I heard and had a distinct and strong connection to. I was
introduced to music through "oldies." A friend turned me onto the Beatles, and
my parents encouraged that growth because to them, it was a far better choice
then the hair band mania of the day. The songs of the '60s and early '70s were
my early musical playground and of all those songs, including some obvious
Beatle choices, it was that somber Simon and Garfunkel song that my heart leapt
to. It was the first time I heard something and said, "That's it. That's how I
feel." Since then I've branched out and stretched my musical tastes and
knowledge, but honestly, when I scan through a CD I'm looking for one type of
song. I'm looking for something that will take me home to that certain and
specific theme of, not just love lost, but a life lived behind a wall of
I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had found another type of
song. Sometimes, as I sit alone in my room too afraid to reach out and grab
life, I wish that my theme song was a little more angry or ballsy. Sometimes I
wish my theme song was positive, but really, what's the fun in that? At the very
least, I sometimes wish my theme song was louder and of a faster pace. A recent
spat of obsession with the TV show Rescue Me put the Von Bondies "C'mon,
C'mon" front and center. Now, that would be a good theme song. It has lyrics
with some introspection and ache, but it's a fast paced punch perfect for, well,
the theme for a television show. But I digress… the point is, I can't wonder. My
heart found solace in a certain type of song. It found what I was looking for
before I even knew what I needed.
I was 12.
I was right.