No, I don’t know the name of that Beatles song ‘ so shoot me

Being forbidden to listen to popular music had its high and low notes

by Tatum Fjerstad

The next time you’re anywhere near a music-emitting machine and your friend doesn’t know the artist or song playing, I beg of you: Don’t say, “What? You’ve never heard of The Puking Lampshades?”

Man, I hope that’s a real band somewhere.

But I wouldn’t know. Because my parents didn’t let me listen to anything but hymns and classical music until I was a legal adult.

I was raised fundamental Baptist. And no, I’m not making this about religion or God. But by way of my church, I was raised in a very strict manner. I wasn’t a miserable teenager – just different, special even.

It might seem weird, but I envy those of you who know more about P. Diddy’s name changes than about the glory of Frédérick Chopin. Classical music is important, but all music is an influential instrument in developing one’s identity. Famous French composers are hard to appreciate when their sonatas don’t say much about French kissing.

All right, I’m not being entirely honest. My parents did let me listen to a few popular artists. Four, to be exact. I don’t know how they came to decide the following artists were OK. And they don’t either.

The first doesn’t make any sense to me and never will. You ready for this? Michael Jackson. I was obsessed. Thriller came out the year I was born. When my Michael married Lisa Marie Presley, I felt like most girls did when JTT got a girlfriend.

The second was Sheryl Crow. “If It Makes you Happy” was my theme song. But once my mom heard the word “hell” in the song, she told me I had to skip that track or promise her I wouldn’t sing along with it. So I just mouthed it.

The third artist is just weird. Alanis Morissette. “Jagged Little Pill.” I don’t know how I got away with that one.

The fourth was The Spice Girls. And I have nothing more to say.

My parents weren’t superheroes (or super demons, depending on the way you look at it) so they couldn’t watch (or hear) me at all times. So the few friends I had in high school would play music in their rooms or in their cars. And I would listen.

But I never sang along. They’d always say, “What?! You’ve never heard of Seal?” Do you have any idea how ashamed someone feels when you say something like that? Do you ever have those dreams when you show up naked to work or school and everyone is laughing hysterically at your shortcomings? It’s something like that, except I didn’t get to wake up.

While I didn’t know who the Beatles were until 10th grade (and still can’t name them in a lineup), I got something out of this upbringing. I remember the first song I danced to. I remember the first song I heard that had a swear word in it.

Certain kinds of music make up the soundtrack to most people’s lives. My friends will hear a song and it takes them back to elementary school or junior high. The music I recognize takes me back to a more recent time, and the memories are far more vivid.

I also didn’t really succumb to music fads because I just never got it. Once I was reading a magazine and there was a contest that offered a whole week with ‘NSYNC if you wrote a paragraph about your favorite shade of lipstick or something. When I saw it, I rolled on the floor laughing. I just couldn’t believe there was actually a band called ‘NSYNC.

My friend almost cried. She explained why boy bands were the next coolest thing. Right. I’m still laughing, sweetheart, and I hope you’re licking your Justin Timberlake poster and humming one of their whiny songs.

Since I turned 18, I’ve been open to all music. I’ll listen to Britney Spears. I own a Christina Aguilera CD. But my music library is possibly stranger than many you’ve seen. I have a few friends, most of them guys, who find out about my music virginity and will do anything to “educate me.”

But they don’t really do much to catch me up on what I’ve missed. They can only burn me CDs and send me recommendations that steer away from the mainstream. I’m able to – and have – found my own way.

So now when I’m the one with the CD playing and someone asks, “Who is this?” I inform the other party politely, and in a voice without a hint of taunting or shock, ask them if they enjoy the music.

Tatum Fjerstad welcomes comments at [email protected]