Happy Fourth of July Weekend!
Some holidays demand awesomeness. They force everyone to play their game of high expectations and unprecedented frivolity. The implication is clear: no matter where you are or what you’re doing, everybody elsewhere is having a better time. “But what are you doing for New Years Eve?!?” You know what I’m doing on New Years Eve? Being wildly disappointed by New Years Eve. Again. Just like you.
These holidays include (but aren’t limited to): New Years, milestone birthdays (for guys), and every birthday (for girls). Halloween is guilty to a degree, but Halloween is also typically awesome. It talks a big game, but it walks the walk.
July 4th, for me, is the anti-New Years. Sure, you got plans, but how high are your expectations, really? And yet the day itself is usually a quiet awesome time. Mostly, this is because July 4th is the rare holiday for which any celebration feels appropriate. Quiet time with family? ‘Merica’s all about family! Blowout pool party at a friend’s house? ‘Merica cannonball! Mellow fishing and brews on someone’s boat? Beer me, ‘Merica!
Anyway, there’s one song that I always associate with Independence Day.
Song of the Week: Oasis, “Lyla“
Every July, I need to hear this song. I play it loud in my car with the windows down. I sweat in Ruby’s drivers seat and stubbornly refuse my AC option. I include it in whatever “Independence Day Mix” I make for that year’s July 4th festivities. I rock it poolside. And then, I fondly recall doing this the previous year, and the year before that.
Here’s the problem: I have no idea why I associate this song with July 4th. To be clear, something prompted it; I never attach a song to a specific date every freaking year without something in the past sparking that tradition. There is absolutely an origin–I just can’t remember it. At all.
I’ve tried breaking it down:
1) This isn’t a patriotic song. It doesn’t have “America” in the title. It’s not about stereotypically “American” things (e.g. Dixie Freezes, freedom, pretending to care about baseball). In other words, it’s not an “obvious” July 4th song. At all. I’d go so far as to call it an “impressively random” July 4th song.
2) This isn’t an American song. It’s performed by a Brit-pop rock band. It’s not like the singer represents some vaguely American ideals. Bruce, Johnny Cougs, Tom Petty, and are somewhere else, picnicking. You know who is singing? An Englishman with an alcohol problem who’s stated, publicly, that he doesn’t know what some Oasis songs are about.
3) It does feature a loud ring-a-ling bell moment, which is kinda Euro.
4) The girl in the song isn’t really a metaphor for anything (e.g. country, home, pride, etc.). In fact, I’m not sure the girl in the song really is anything. There is no “stretching the meaning to include Independence Day” here. Like other awesome Oasis songs, it communicates–and nails–musically something it only flirts with lyrically.
(NOTE: I don’t want this to sound like I don’t like and admire Oasis. Like any child of 96X, I absolutely like and admire Oasis. Maybe too much. I’m just listing the ways this song’s particular brand of awesome don’t really coincide with July 4th’s particular brand of awesome.)
So, obvious links between the song and the date aren’t there. Maybe the link is more memory-based than content-based? In other words, did something happen to me on July 4th while listening to this song?
I only have one memory attached to “Lyla.” One night in Nashville, several summers ago, I met a girl at a friend’s fake birthday party (longer story). We hit it off, and the party went late, and by the time I got home it was nearly dawn. I was too wired to sleep, so I went to my room to pick around on the guitar. And right then, “Lyla” came on my laptop’s shuffle. It’s about the excitement of something new, the simple pleasure of a pretty girl, a night with no one to answer to and nothing to lose. It’s what would happen if Oasis wrote a Springsteen song. It’s thrilling, gorgeous, and simple; it says everything without hardly saying anything. It was exactly what I needed to hear then, coming home as the sun came up, wanting to call that girl right then, right there, take her to get pancakes, take her to someone’s pool, take her to Kentucky. Didn’t matter. Right song, right moment.
Good memory, right? Here’s the problem: that didn’t happen on July 4th. I think it happened in May, but it could’ve been early June. Either way, this memory ain’t it.
As much as I’d like to just enjoy this mysterious annual tradition–origins be damned–but it bothers me. Clearly, I love music. Much of my life has been spent playing, writing, listening to, thinking about, talking about, arguing about, and generally loving every aspect of pop music. I can’t do long division. I don’t remember anything meaningful from any science classes (except which girls sat nearby). But I’ve always been able to place music I love in my own little autobiographical context.
So, the Lyla Mystery continues.
What songs do y’all associate with July 4th? Why?