I recognize the first five chords on that synthy-sounding keyboard. It always puts a smile on my face because I know what comes next – a thumping bass drum that plows through the noise to make way for Andy Bell’s amazing voice, as he belts out: “I try to discover…”
I don’t remember the first time I heard Erasure’s A Little Respect. I don’t associate it with a person or an event or even a time in my life. And, maybe that’s the reason why I love this song so much. Quite the opposite of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, which was a great song until it was overplayed at every single wedding, quinces, baptism, birthday party – not to mention it was the song my high school sweetheart and I would dance to in perfect 1980’s choreography – and then further murdered when a boss I had karaoke’d it every where we went.
If I could be as discerning as to come up with a top 10 all time favorite songs, A Little Respect would be on it. My list would probably also include Lipps Inc.’s Funkytown. This was the first 45 record I chose to play over and over. I would sit in front of the player watching the mini-vinyl spin and spin, fascinated by the woman with the electric voice. Lord knows I can’t audibly ingest lyrics, see Tailor made for reference, so I had no idea what she was talking about. Except for when she sang, “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.”
I still have the 45 and I still play it and it still transports me back to a time when I wore pig tails. Doop-doop doop-dip-doo doo-doop-dip-doo-doo.
Another 45 that would have to make my top ten list is Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust. Before I even learned to read the label, I knew from the black lettering on red that this was the scary record. This song would terrify me to the amusement of everyone in my house. Every time my brother would play it, I would uncontrollably cry and run for cover, as I was convinced Freddy Mercury was the devil and the guitars and synthesizers were actually the sounds made by demons serving as back-up singers. To this day, I won’t listen to this song alone. Even if I was in a room full of people while this song played and, let’s say, the lights would so much as flicker, I think I’d still run out of the room crying.
I guess I would also have to reserve a spot for Dave Matthews Band’s Say Goodbye, as it was one-third of the getting laid trifecta of my late teens to early twenties. I’d start the evening with a viewing of (1) Gia; once over, I’d play the mix-tape that opened with (2) this song while the movie rewound in the VCR and closed the deal with a long gaze into her eyes while, in my sexiest voice, saying my favorite line: (3) “Why are you so fucking beautiful?” 1-2-3. Sure, sure, roll your eyes now, but it worked.
And, like a good narcissist, I convinced myself that Tracey Thorn wrote Troubled Mind for me. As such, this Everything But the Girl song would beat out Walking Wounded, Blame and The Heart Remains a Child – all incredible, each with a story to beat out the next, but really, there is no competition when the song is actually about you. Every single relationship has expressed the first verse (either verbally, in a letter or on my Facebook wall): “Don’t say one thing one day, then something else the next day. I’m trying to keep up with you – it’s hard enough when you speak clearly, but when you’re confused, it’s like a goods train running through these rooms.”
Similar to Everything But the Girl, there are so many songs by the Indigo Girls that would make the list. Anything they released from 1987 to 1997 was the soundtrack to my coming out process. The first time I saw them live was the Summer of 1998. I drove up with a group of friends that didn’t know I was gay until my then girlfriend sat in between my legs on the lawn of the outdoor festival. Surprise!
More than a decade later, I had the opportunity to see them once again and although they sang Galileo and Closer to Fine they didn’t sing Language or the Kiss in either instance. Which was fine because it makes me weep whenever I hear it – even though I have no idea what this song is about.
I would round off the list with more songs that are lyrical mysteries to me, like anything by Coldplay or Bjork. They inspire a feeling that is the equivalent of audible steroids. Blasting Clocks or Hyperballad makes me feel like I can sing and play any instrument, contemporary dance and walk on water all at the same time. They make me feel confident, strong and happy. They are the musical equivalent of love and passion and force. For this reason, both songs are the ones that I associate the most with my partner of almost 10 years. A secret I’ve never shared with anyone – not even her. They make me feel the same way she does, which is a way that I can never put into words.
For my sake, I hope these songs aren’t really about anal rape or toe nail fungus, otherwise, she may be singing Erasure’s A Little Respect right back at me.