Claire at 16: A Mixtape

Picture above: Me at 16! I’m the one in the glasses making the serious face. Rahnia Mersereau is the one rocking the tiara.

I had a writing teacher in high school who once told me “Don’t look down on your former self. Once upon a time, she was everything.” So with that sentiment in mind, this week we’re taking a look back at our music collections at age 16. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, some it’s worse—it’s a cringeworthy good time (don’t worry, just for us—that is the price of having ever listening to DMB). Sit back, enjoy, and as always, leave your musical memories in the comments.

“Rising Sun,” by The Bridge

Junior year of high school, Joshua and I worked at an after school daycare center for kids. It was a solid high school job, one that I’m not sure either of us were any good at, but one of the perks was that our coworkers were awesome. Faye Berman helped teach me how to drive and introduced me to Israeli food. Our boss Bob unintentionally taught me how to dress for work. And Kenny Liner gave me a seemingly endless stream of advice on boys (they’re the worst), school (stay in it), and music (don’t listen to crap). Part of that music lesson involved Joshua and I seeing his band, The Bridge, all the time. Kenny didn’t tell us to follow his band; we liked them, and him, enough that we didn’t need prompting.

After we graduated from high school, The Bridge exploded on the jam band scene. Friends loved them, they were at all the big festivals, they were everywhere, and we were stunned. Everyone has local bands who they follow and think “Man, these guys should be bigger”; it was wild to watch that actually happen. The Bridge has since broken up, and by the time they did, I had stopped listening to jam bands and moved across the country. But still, so many of my memories from being 16 involve standing in a sweaty crowd with Joshua and our high school friends, singing along to “Rising Sun.” It would have been nice to see them one last time.

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” by The Ramones

The first time I ever drove by myself, this song came on the radio. My adventure options were limited since I wasn’t allowed to stray too far from my street, so I think I bought a lipgloss and visited my Grandma. But driving for the first time solo, windows rolled down and this song blasting—I had never felt cooler.

“The Scientist,” by Coldplay

I don’t know what to do about Coldplay. I know we’re all supposed to hate them, I know—I got the memo, just like the rest of you. But sometimes they’ll have a song that I genuinely enjoy, like “Green Eyes” or “Lost!”, and I thought Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends was a solid album, and this is all information I feel uncomfortable with because it grates my inner snob (who, between this and another post this week defending Top 40 radio, is not having a good time of it lately).

This song doesn’t currently fall into the category of Coldplay songs that I like, but listening to “The Scientist” now, I know why 16 year old Claire was so into it. At 16, this was the kind of quasi-deep nonsense that I ate up, along with David Grey and Dave Matthews Band. A Rush of Blood to the Head (which this song is from) is the soundtrack of hormonal melancholy and suburban ennui, developed to facilitate clumsy backseat makeout sessions and terrible post-makeout session poetry.

“Nugget Song,” by Voodoo Blue

If you were a teenager in Baltimore County in the early 2000s, you know who I’m talking about. Voodoo Blue was THAT local band—everyone listened to them, everyone went to their shows, everyone knew someone who knew someone who partied with the band, and they were totally going to get invited to an after party, one of these days. I saw them at least a dozen times with my best friend Jamie, usually at Fletchers or the Recher.

I don’t remember the music very well, and I don’t even know if I liked them. What I do know is that this marked the beginning of a solo show going time for me. My dad had taken me to tons of concerts, but this was the first time I was seeing live music with friends. And these weren’t shows he would’ve remotely approved of, full of sketchy guys and cigarettes and songs like the one posted above. It was a solid stab at¬†independence. Nugget Song? It’s terrible. So was everything else by them that I listened to today. Terrible like I blushed furiously at the “Diggity-dank” line, and I’m sitting in a quiet apartment, by myself. But even though I’ll never listen to “Nugget Song” again, they were important to me in a classic teenage way. I’ll always associate Voodoo Blue with hanging out with my best friend, dancing in dirty clubs in the city, and listening to music that my parents would’ve hated.

“Karen by Night,” by Jill Sobule

I liked Jill Sobule because she told stories and because she had a weird, nasally voice, which years of listening to Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews had really primed me to enjoy. Her songs had a totally different narrative flow from anything else I was listening to. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus, at a time when I was really into purchasing random albums, taking them home, and devouring them. No context, no recommendations—just a gut feeling and solid cover art. It felt really daring and¬†adventurous, and of all the experiences I could’ve gotten into at 16, I’d like to believe my parents enjoyed the fact that holing up in my room with a random CD was my go-to crazy thing to do.