Mrs. Janovitz teaches 10th, 11th, and 12th grade English at BHS, and is the advisor for The Devils’ Playlist. This is what she has to say about what she was listening to at sixteen:I have always had a strong affection for music. So many songs are inextricably tied to my memories of childhood. Harry Chapin songs make me think about sitting in my dad’s Buick during my brother’s little league games. Kim Carnes reminds me of rolling down the windows in my mom’s station wagon. Hearing Ozzy Osbourne immediately brings me back to the beach house we used to visit each summer, sitting at the top of the basement stairs in an effort to hear whatever the older kids were talking about. Pink Floyd, Genesis, Mötley Crüe, and ZZ Top transport me to Friday nights at Roller Kingdom, trying desperately to master the ‘shoot the duck’ technique without looking ridiculous (turns out, it’s impossible). Listening to Blondie evokes memories of snow days spent sitting in front of MTV waiting for VJ Martha Quinn to introduce my favorites. I am lucky to have recognized early on the warmth and energy and inspiration and joy that music has to offer, but I didn’t full-force fall in love with music until the eighth grade.That year, the girl who sat behind me in homeroom gave me my very first mix tape, and listening to it somehow changed everything. It was my introduction to punk, alternative, post modern, glam rock – really anything not mainstream. Hearing bands like The Cure and The Dead Milkmen for the first time somehow made my life seem more important, more intense, more mine. Before that point, I had been listening to (and enjoying) pop radio, but that music didn’t belong to me. I still stand by some of my early favorite artists: George Michael, Madonna, Belinda Carlisle, to name a few. I did not, however, feel the same connection to that music that I did with what I found on the mix. In those songs I discovered the strength that comes with rebellion, the ache that comes with a broken heart, the excitement that comes with new love, and the joy that comes with revelation. I discovered familiarity and the projected possible all at once.
2. “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth: I liked Sonic Youth’s loud, angry distortion. I loved that a woman was singing and playing loud, angry distortion. She was everything I was not. Seeing her on stage was empowering for me. At sixteen, I pretty much thought Kim Gordon was the coolest thing around. I kind of still do.
5. “Ask” by The Smiths: I quoted this song in my yearbook caption. Next to my picture — along with a list of random initials, cryptic references, and expressions of gratitude — reads the opening to a Smiths line that sums up a lot of my high school life: “Shyness is nice…”
7. “Peek-a-Boo” by Siouxsie and the Banshees: I saw Siouxsie Sioux on MTV’s 120 Minutes and immediately purchased black eyeliner (that I was too timid to wear out of the house – or even in the house, really). This is the song I listened to after I got my license, the very first time I drove with nobody else in the car. I was petrified and felt super tough at the same time.
9. “The Happening” by The Pixies: The Pixies battled The Smiths for my favorite band in high School. Although The Smiths sang the song that my high school boyfriend and I had claimed asour song, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” (which was the height of romance at the time, but now seems exceptionally morbid), The Pixies had a sort of American rebel sound that I adored. Plus, this ‘loud-quiet-loud’ band hails from Boston and, at the time, had Kim Deal singing back-up vocals and playing bass. The Pixies eventually ousted The Smiths as the band of preeminence in my heart, and became my favorite.
11. “Left of the Dial” by The Replacements: I discovered The Replacements, considered some of the forefathers of early American alternative and indie rock, through their 1990 albumAll Shook Down. WFNX featured some of the tracks on this album; “Merry Go Round” was in heavy rotation for a while, but I preferred “Sadly Beautiful.” It led me to seek out their earlier releases, which are definitely superior. The Replacements (The Mats) were the first band I actually researched. Because I learned that they were influenced by The Clash, The Ramones, and Big Star I got into those bands as well. “Left of the Dial,” from the album Tim, was one of my early Replacements favorites.
12. “Not Too Soon” by The Throwing Muses: I discovered the Throwing Muses early in my senior year (just before I turned 17). When I began the college search and exploring schools in Rhode Island, I started looking into local RI bands, shows in Providence, and college radio. On our way home from my tour of Providence College, I listened to their radio station (WDOM), and the DJ played this song. I listened to it a lot after that. The women in this band are AMAZING! I recently got to meet Tanya Donelly, a guitarist and vocalist in The Throwing Muses who went on to be part of The Breeders and Belly (two of my favorite bands in college). I was tongue-tied and giddy when I met her.
13. “Ocean Size” by Jane’s Addiction:When my sister was a senior and I had just turned sixteen, she drove my brother and me around quite a bit. She was kind enough to give us radio control on occasion. My brother, who started his love of music with rap and early hip-hop, made the switch from Public Enemy and Slick Rick to Sam Black Church and Corrosion of Conformity at about this time. We had Jane’s Addiction in common so it was on my sister’s radio a lot. The booming, screaming sounds in “Ocean Size” somehow made us both happy. It was a pretty good psych-up song before school. Now, when I’m preparing for a particularly challenging lesson and need a psych-up song, I listen to my brother’s old school rap (radio edits only).
16. “All I Ever Wanted” by Lenny Kravitz: I discovered Lenny Kravitz through my ridiculously immature celebrity crush on his once wife Lisa Bonet. Bonet, who played Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show and A Different World, was my earliest fashion icon. Once I learned that she was married to a musician, I bought his albums. Although I liked Lenny Kravitz’s debut release, Let Love Rule, his second album, Mama Said,was all about his love for Bonet and their daughter, and his regret for whatever happened in their relationship. I liked the idea of creating an album as a love letter and as an apology of sorts. His fashion was pretty amazing as well – perfect casting as Cinna. This one was another early senior year favorite.
When I turned sixteen, in 1990, my parents gave me a CD player and let me hang up posters in my bedroom. I spent hours in there listening to Moods for Moderns on WFNX, watching 120 Minuteson MTV, reading Sassy magazine for their ‘Cute Band Alert’ section, and making mix tapes of my own. Here is what I was listening to:
1. “Love Buzz” by Nirvana: At that age, I was on the ‘scooping crew’ at Skip’s Ice Cream. Lucky for me, some of the ice cream stand’s past employees would pick up shifts during spring break, and they brought with them the sounds of college radio. My boss used to let us listen to whatever we wanted to on the nights he wasn’t there, and she who had seniority controlled the cassette player. I first heard this one courtesy of the ‘scooper’ who trained me. I will be forever grateful.
3. “Age of Consent” by New Order: I discovered this song through classroom desk graffiti. Someone from a different period, who sat in the same seat as me in Chemistry, wrote a section of the lyrics on our shared desk. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who enjoyed it because the next day a different student reciprocated by sharing lyrics from another song. This exchange continued throughout the year. Those lyrics were just about the only reading I completed in Chemistry class that I entirely understood.
4. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Camper Van Beethoven: This is a Status Quo cover, but I didn’t know that at the time. I liked the song’s mix of psychedelic, Americana, and alternative sounds, which seemed really fresh to me. I definitely used my hairbrush as a microphone while singing along to this one.
6. “From Under the Covers” by The Beautiful South: I was a huge fan of The Housemartins, a band that was featured on that first mix tape. Their lead vocalist, Paul Heaton, sings for The Beautiful South. The Housemartins were my introduction to Marxist politics and British dialect. Listening to them prompted me to join the British Exchange program. This song was one of my exchange student’s favorites.
8. “The Hardest Walk” by The Jesus and Mary Chain: I spent a lot of time watching John Hughes movies as a teenager. This song is from Some Kind of Wonderful, which, like many John Hughes films, focuses on class and cliques. I loved the character Watts in this movie. She wore red fringe gloves and played the drums. This song, about the end of a relationship, is all distortion and fuzz. I couldn’t get enough of it.
10. “Beyond Belief” by Elvis Costello: Elvis Costello’s lyrics seemed like literature to me. There was always something smart about them, something to learn in them, and something to uncover. I used to play this one on the way to school when I could finally drive myself. Something about it helped me prepare for whatever the amazing Mrs. Queenan in Latin class and the protagonist of our Latin text, Caecilius, had planned for the day. Caecilius est musicam ausculat. (Is that right?)
14. “Day Ditty” by Shudder to Think: This one I owe entirely to my brother. He shared the band and the song with me, and it quickly made the rounds on my mix tapes. I was always looking for short songs to fill the tiny space at the end of cassettes. Leaving two minutes of dead air at the end of side one was just cruel.
15. “I Won” by The Sundays: I played this song on repeat the summer before my senior year. The Sundays were great for rainy day. I sometimes still break out Reading, Writing & Arithmetic when the sky turns gray.
Many years beyond sixteen, music continues to be a very important part of my life. I am just as passionate about it now as I was then; although, now I don’t shut the door of my room and blare The Smiths when I’m upset about something or spend any time singing into my hairbrushes. Now I share music with my daughter, and have the great fortune to see her face the first time she hears what will become her favorite songs. Now I roll down my windows and turn up (to a responsible volume) Neko Case, Courtney Barnett, Joni Mitchell, and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Now, when I hear music I can still find the familiar and the projected possible all at once, and it is lovely.