The soundtrack to your coming of age

· Music

Mac at Tacitus asks the musical question

At that point in your life when you hit the brink of adulthood (college graduation, dropping out, joining the navy, being kidnapped by cult of left-handed redheads, whatever it might be) what was the single most defining album/CD that the largest number of people you knew were likely to own?

Here’s what I posted off the cuff:

Coming of age is hard to define, no? The biggest single album of my college years may have been Purple Rain, with “When Doves Cry” as the song noted most likely to be cranked out of dorm windows into the quad in the spring of my junior I think year (of college).
But first-job era? Hard to remember, it was the very bland pre-Berlin Wall late ’80s and I was seeing a lot of Dead shows and listening to a lot of jazz and blues, so I wasn’t really tapped into what was popular. The next album to make an impression was probably Nevermind which captured a sound a lot of my friends’ bands were groping for and somehow signaled the end of my youth.

Re-reading the thread I guess I could have picked a U2 album, such as Joshua Tree or the live one, to straddle that end-of-college/first-job divide. You know the part where I’m living in a commune that straddles two houses a block apart and Reagan is still president?
Since then, even without such profound turning points in my life to accompany, other albums, songs, or bands have still managed to affect me like the ones that ruled the airwaves as I became an adult (assuming I did), though I’m more disconnected from the wider world enjoying it at the same time.
At least with Nevermind I got to share it with friends who were themselves no longer teenagers. By the time I was playing Contemplatin’ the Engine Room or OK Computer or Yoshimi over and over on my CD player or my iTunes setup, I was getting heavily into this or that record entirely by myself, able to imagine the bigger mass audience but encountering it only online or at my increasingly infrequent live-concert outings.
Just remembered another candidate for the “coming of age” album: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart by Camper Van Beethoven.
I think all the semiautobiographical stories I want to tell have implicit soundtracks and in at least one, the music is part of the story and part of the structure (bootleg and mix tapes cue anecdotes and reminiscences – they function as little time-travel chutes and ladders).
In “Shady Lane,” Malkmus (I need to listen to his Jicks albums) sings something like, “You’ve been chosen as an extra in the abstract for the trailer of the sequel to your life….”