Jan. 18th, 2011

janradder: (watt)
A Song That Reminds Me of an Event

When I was in 6th grade, about a month into the school year, I was finally accepted by the kids on the bus. Or at least the kids in the back of the bus, who had been my main tormentors for years. That meant I got to sit in the back with them and listen to their jokes and no longer have to hear their taunts or cover my head as a barrage or raisins or spitballs rained down on my head. How did I gain their acceptance? I fought the toughest kid on the bus. Well, the toughest kid on the bus that year. See, I'd gotten into plenty of fights with the toughest kid from the year before (who was a year older than me and who had gone onto junior high by the time I was in 6th grade), as well as a bunch of others, but that hadn't had any effect on my social status. For whatever reason, though, the sixth grade fight did.

Anyway, after the fight I was now "one of the crowd," and one morning another kid from the crowd brought in his portable cassette player. He pulled it out of his backpack, pressed play, and from its tiny single speaker blasted AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." Not that I knew at the time that that's what it was, because I didn't. Really, at that point in my life, I was completely clueless about heavy metal or anything having to do with music except for my Peter Pan records like "The Pony on the Merry-Go-Round" or stuff my parents listened to, like the Beatles or Billy Preston. But I soon found out what it was when one of the kids next to me shouted, "That's AC/DC, dude -- turn it up!" And the kid obliged. And then, as the song played, some of the kids around me started to sing along with it. When it reached the guitar solo someone told the kid with the tape player to go back to the beginning, so he did. And this time more kids started to sing along.

I had no idea what the words were, but I didn't want to let anyone know how out of touch with coolness I was. So I pretended to sing along too. And I listened and tried to remember what I heard.

When I got off the bus, I walked into school, trying to hold onto those words like they were a life ring thrown to me. All I could think was, maybe this is how I could get kids at school to like me -- by listening to music they liked. And if someone played that song again, I wanted to make sure I knew it.

That afternoon on the bus, the kid with the tape player did play "You Shook Me All Night Long" again, and this time more kids joined in singing. I sang what I'd remembered from the morning, and I paid attention to what lyrics I still didn't know, and then when he played the song a second time, I was able to sing even more of it.

For whatever reason, from that day on, it became a ritual on the bus to play "You Shook Me All Night Long" over and over. And each time it played, all of us in the back of the bus would sing it as loud as we could. At the time, I honestly had no idea what I was singing about except that it had to do with sex, and because of that it was something taboo and therefore even cooler than an average rock song. But I also knew that what we were singing about was something that I had no hope of attaining. I wasn't some cool stud that all the chicks fell for. I was a dork, and I wasn't even much liked at school. In fact, most of the girls at school either ignored me at best, or put me down and sneered at me at worst. But singing -- no, shouting -- those words as loud as I could felt powerful. It was the same feeling I'd have years later when I first started singing in a punk band. When I was singing, I was someone different, maybe even someone cool. And for however long that song lasted, I could pretend my life was different than it really was. Singing "You Shook Me All Night Long" was the first time I ever had that feeling about music, and it's something I still remember each time I hear it.


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