It took me reaching my early 30s to admit that I’m just not that into music. Thank goodness I’m married or what would I put on my eHarmony profile in place of ‘loves music and going to concerts’? What kind of weirdo doesn’t like music? That’s not completely accurate though; I do like music—I’m just not obsessed with it. I discovered audiobooks in college and fell in love. Someone will read me a story while I drive? Yes, please!
Until the introduction of audiobook apps like Audible, I felt panicky about embarking on a road trip without a new audiobook on hand. In the early years of my marriage—my addiction to audiobooks was a problem. Shockingly enough, two newlyweds just out of college couldn’t afford $40 audiobooks every week. Things got better once I discovered Cracker Barrel’s trade-in option. You rented an audiobook, usually on cassette tape, for $5 and returned it for another one for $3. The downside was that most of their book selection was abridged. I don’t understand abridging something you’re doing for fun. If you rent an audiobook hoping it entertains you—wouldn’t you want it to entertain you as long as possible? I never have been a fan of brevity, though.
It’s not that I’m not a fan of music either; it’s just that I would often rather read or listen to a book or podcast when I’m in the car or exercising. There are some songs I’ll listen to occasionally because they remind me of a certain time or are tied to a memory I want to fall into a bit. But don’t try to engage me in a conversation about popular music—I have no beef with it, but I gave up trying to keep up with it back when I realized I didn’t know anybody in an entire issue of People Magazine and cancelled my subscription.
My dad tried hard to expose his daughters to good music. He considers good music to be music from his youth. Since he came of age in the 60s—he’s right. I knew all the words to “American Pie” and “Moondance” before I was in middle school. Dad’s car radio was always tuned to 94TYX. He taught us about a guy named Peter who could make his guitar talk, and he made it clear that Motown was not an actual town but something much bigger.
He always seemed a little frustrated that we didn’t fully appreciate what a big deal the Beatles and Elvis actually were. I am 99% sure he watched The Wonder Years with us for years just because they chose Joe Cocker and “With a Little Help from my Friends” as their opening credits song. On Sundays, he would joke that we should listen to ‘church music’ since it was the Lord’s Day and then he would play Van Morrison’s Hymns of the Silence. I’ve played “Be Thou my Vision” by Van for my kids enough Sundays for my oldest to look up at me from the hymnal to ask why we were singing Van Morrison in church.
My husband and I danced to Bob Seger and Martina McBride’s “Chances Are” for our wedding dance but I lost my CD of it at some point. Once iTunes existed, I would look for it periodically but couldn’t find it anywhere. I once told my friend, Chris Drummond, about not being able to find it and he was appalled. After checking as well, (because I’m sure he thought I just hadn’t looked hard enough) he went online and found a used copy of the CD and had it shipped to me with the note, ‘Everybody needs to own a copy of their wedding song.’ I cried when I received it. So yeah—I like music. But it seems like I really like music when it is tied to memories.
I haven’t done as good a job at creating memories tied to music with my kids. Sure, I’ve blasted “Old Town Road” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” at their request, and to the detriment of my ‘cool factor,’ but my husband reigns supreme in this department. He took our oldest to a Willie Nelson concert that she still talks about. He refuses to play the tween-pop hit of the week for them and instead feeds them a steady diet of his favorites which range from George Jones to Widespread Panic.
I did roll the windows down, crank up ‘American Pie’ and do the crazy drive through the neighborhood recently. It was a crazy drive that would have made my mother, the master of the crazy drive, proud. It made my kids scream and my husband incredibly nervous. But that’s about the extent of my music-memory-making; of the two of us, my husband is the music person. His ideal day would include a music festival, blue skies, good friends, and a cooler.
One thing I doubt I’ll ever change my mind about are outdoor music festivals. If my oldest friend, Majure Markow, reads this, he will probably fire me from the job of godmother to his son since he’s part of the Cathead team that is responsible for giving Jackson her crown jewel of music festivals, the Cathead Jam. I’m sorry, Maj, but outdoor music festivals are my idea of hell. Granted—I’ve never been to Cathead Jam and this year my newsfeed was flooded with attendees posting pictures of themselves having the time of their lives and writing glowing reviews of the bands and how well the event functioned. I mean—they spoke more fondly of Cathead Jam than they usually do about their kids. I have no doubt they love their kids more, but the point is—they had a blast and were incredibly proud that Jackson has such a feather in her cap.
I really hate sweating when I’m in regular clothes and I’ve never been to an outdoor concert where I didn’t look like I’d just walked through a car wash; so maybe I’d enjoy them better if I lived in one of those places I’ve heard tell of that doesn’t have suffocating humidity. Or maybe Majure can arrange one of those misting fans they have on the sidelines of football games for the godmother of his first-born child?
But I get that not adoring live music makes me odd, or at least in the minority. I’ve known that since college when my friends and I would go out somewhere with live music and I would stake our claim on a table far away from the band and then offer to stay with our purses while my friends danced. I also don’t really dance—not without liquid lies telling me I’m good at it, anyway. If you see me dancing, there is a very good chance that I’ve been over-served.
All of this makes me a dud and also makes it incredibly ironic that my husband and I were offered tickets to The Rolling Stones in New Orleans last week. The bad luck of Hurricane Barry forcing them to reschedule the concert became the good luck of my husband who loves music, adores concerts, and married the wrong woman. He was shocked when I agreed to start weaving webs of childcare in order for us to leave for New Orleans in less than 24 hours. I agreed to go because I really like the friends who invited us and because even I’m not dumb enough to pass up a chance to see The Rolling Stones.
The concert was at the Superdome so I didn’t have to worry about being miserable in the New Orleans humidity in July. I did worry a lot about what I was going to wear because there’s a very certain chord you have to strike as a 38-year-old mother of four attending a rock concert. You don’t want to look like you just left a PTA fundraiser but you also don’t want to look like an aging, wannabe groupie.
One of the friends we went with, Maggie Jones, solved that problem when she spotted The Rolling Stones merchandise bus on our way into town. I bought a black t-shirt with the iconic red mouth and tongue and threw that sucker on with black jeans like the rock-n-roll poser I am. I was getting swept up in the rock ‘n’ roll vibe of things and briefly considered cutting the sleeves off of my new t-shirt before remembering that all I had with me were tiny, curved fingernail scissors and that I am, in fact, still a 38-year-old mother of four. The sleeves stayed attached. Maggie, on the other hand, was purchasing her fourth Stones t-shirt because she’s a true fan and has been her whole life. I’m just grateful she and the rest of our crew were willing to be seen with a faker like me.
The concert was amazing. Even I knew almost every song and we had a blast. They may have traded in the stylish shoes of their heyday for orthopedic sneakers with extra cushioning, but if you let your eyes go blurry—you would never know those guys were septuagenarians. Mick still rushed around the stage like I’ve seen in footage from 40 years ago (my husband loves a good rock-umentary) and never stopped moving. Sometimes, he sort of resembled an old lady who’s in a hurry and looking for her purse, but then he would belt out a chorus I knew all the words to making it clear he’s still got it.
I was so unworthy of attending that concert. I didn’t even own a single Rolling Stones song in my iTunes library unless they were on the soundtrack for the movie The Big Chill. I felt incredibly guilty that my parents were keeping my kids so I could go hear the legends of their youth sing some of the most enduring anthems of all time—but not enough to offer them the tickets. Deserving or not, I’m really glad we got to go. I’m glad my dad made me like ‘his music’ when I was a kid, since it turns out I still like it today.
I’ve downloaded some Stones on my phone and beefed up my Van as well. I won’t be giving up my audiobooks any time soon, but maybe I’ll finally find my way to Cathead Jam and play music at home more often so my kids can have some good memories tied to good music they can play in the car with the windows down on a pretty day.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.