Life makes more sense with pop music.
Life makes more sense with pop music. That’s why I’ve gone back, year by year, and chronicled the song that meant the most to me then. This song may not have been released that year, it may not have been big that year, but it was relevant to me in a personal way that defines that period of my life.
Also, I didn’t do too much research to make sure I got these years right. This is my life, after all, and if I confuse 1998 with 1999, well, that’s my right.
2003: “Junk” by Paul McCartney
I proposed to Renee in France, 2002, and we were married in May of the next year. We took the formal route. Church wedding, tuxedoes. A string quartet played in the sanctuary. We rented a big room at the Peabody that night, and even ordered room service.
The rest of the wedding weekend was delightful, if not necessarily as traditional. It was a wonderfully warm May, and our guests were in and out all month. Renee and I were living on the sixth floor of a high-rise apartment that overlooked the Mississippi River. We kept our balcony doors slung wide and our guests oohed and aahed at our view of the showboats that puttered here and there on the dark water.
In lieu of a bachelor party, my band booked a show at Earnestine and Hazels, downtown. My brother’s band from Milwaukee played beforehand, some of my former students attended, and Renee’s bachelorette party even stopped by for a moment.
I loved our wedding reception. Instead of renting a generic hall or fancy hotel ballroom, we had our party at the Hi-Tone, the venerable club where every good band in Memphis played at least once. (A year after the wedding, Elvis Costello would play four sold-out shows there, which were documented in the DVD Elvis Costello and the Imposters—Club Date—Live in Memphis, 2005.) It’s a good-sized venue with pool tables and Ms Pac-Man and Galaga in the corner. For party favors, Renee and I tied seventy-five cents in quarters into white cloth pouches and scattered them on the tables, so that our guests could play the arcade games.
The proprietor of the club scrubbed the floors, cleaned the place up, and had our names placed on the marquee outside. A few of my students showed up, some in their school uniforms. Our DJ, my older brother, played three hours of Memphis soul music—Al Green, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave—and friends of ours who never danced got out on the floor and did the Twist. After the reception was over and we had gone down to the Peabody, they cleaned up the place in time for the Reigning Sound to load in for their gig that night. A lot of my friends went right back to the Hi-Tone to cram themselves in to hear the show.
But more than Al Green, or Sam and Dave, or Elvis Costello, or the Reigning Sound, the song that I remember the best from 2003 is “Junk,” by Paul McCartney. This is what the string quartet was playing as she walked down the aisle. Some songs you only need to hear once.