Monday, May 3, 2010

The importance of music, well... to this girl

This is what I was listening to twenty years ago.

1990 was probably the last year I was still heavily into pop radio. At the end of every week, the local hit station would publish its charts in our paper. It was pretty standard stuff for late-80s, early-90s radio, with maybe a few surprises thrown in. I barely remember Electronic's "Getting Away With It," or "I'll See You In My Dreams" by Giant, and I'm totally drawing a blank on "Drag My Bad Name Down," and "You're the Voice." Sinead O'Connor was considered a risk for top forty, and this was before she tore up a picture of the pope. I used to clip those charts out and save them to scrapbooks. I didn't keep a traditional teenage diary, and it was my version of a time capsule.

Although the reviews have been decidedly mixed, Lavinia Greenlaw's The Importance of Music To Girls, is also a time capsule of sorts: a memoir of a girl navigating her way through life through the music she loves. The Washington Post says:

"The daughter of two sensible doctors and the sister to three boisterous siblings, Greenlaw begins her story in early childhood. She recalls listening to her mother quietly singing "Greensleeves" and "Scarborough Fair," and being transfixed by her father's handful of vinyl records, in particular Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline." These musical memories co-exist with recollections of fierce sibling squabbles told in funny, if gory, detail. Eight years old in 1970, Greenlaw pondered the distant creatures known as teenagers that she saw in the streets of London, from earth-toned hippies to flashy glam-rockers. She tumbled through brief infatuations with American teen idols Donny Osmond and David Cassidy."

I've been wanting to review this book for a while now. I read it a little over year ago, and again a few months ago, and while I really like the concept of setting a memoir to the music you loved as a child, I wish I liked the book more. The Independent says that " any woman -- or girl -- who expects the memoir to be an unholy coupling of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and The Great Big Glorious Book For Girls will be sorely disappointed." Well, should it be?. Girls (yes, I'm generalizing) experience music with close friends or alone in their bedrooms, rather than in the fraternal atmosphere of a record store. To be honest, when I saw the title I expected it to be a pedant-slash-feminist-slash-music geek's dream: an actual study of pop music's influence on girls. An untapped market, as far as I can tell.

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