Soundtracks are like the best mixed tapes. And if you really like a movie, chances are you can name a few of its key songs. Music can even make or break a film, which is why some soundtracks are pivotal to nostalgia. Memories that accompany listening to a certain cluster of songs all together, or even just one out of context can bring you back to a certain time and place. I’m asking you now to relive a time and place! Go!
Bridget McManus: When I was a freshman in college, my mother bought me the Titanic soundtrack for Christmas. At the time, Titanic was the ultimate straight romantic epic that wouldn’t go away and somehow I ended up seeing it three times in the theater. (Titanic is 194 minutes so that’s nine hours and 42 minutes of my life I will never get back.) As a freshman, I was still closeted to my parents and all my dormmates, although I was out to my sister and some friends at home in Connecticut. The Titanic soundtrack reminds me of a very difficult year in my life when I was depressed, ashamed and I felt that I had to hide who I was in order to be accepted. Thanks a lot, Celine Dion!
Marcie Bianco: I will forever — forever and ever — associate the Transamerica soundtrack and, specifically track 20 (Lucinda Williams‘ “Like a Rose”), with my budding, passionate and long awaited affair with my
professor/advisor. Well, to clarify, she was no longer my professor, since I had graduated from the programme three years prior to our date to the cinema to see (yes) Transamerica. A few weeks after that cinema date in Washington D.C., she was back in England, while I was in Philadelphia, and what arrived in the post but a copy of the film’s
soundtrack with a note (“Still remembering x”). Le Sigh.
Emily Donofrio: So, the subject of having a soundtrack describing a moment in my life is something I’ve actually thought about before even asked by the beauty that is Trish Bendix. But this question really forced me to decide. The Amelie soundtrack is all over the board but with an overall whimsical theme and that’s essentially what’s going on in my brain, so I’m going to go with that. I could live with Parisian undertones dancing through my head for all time, couldn’t you?
The Linster: When I was struggling with acknowledging my sexual orientation, a friend (who became a girlfriend) took me to see Harold and Maude, which was part of a classic art film festival in another city. About mid-way through the movie, I started tearing up and pretty much stayed that way through the rest of the film and beyond. Harold and Maude reached a place buried inside me that told me I could "be me" — and that everything would be OK.
The soundtrack was awesome — and whenever I hear any part of it, I know everything is OK. And so am I.
Karman Kregloe: I own some really great movie soundtracks, like Velvet Goldmine, O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Last Waltz, and Chicago. But none of those hold the special place in my heart like the corny, muzak-y mess that is the soundtrack to Tootsie. While my teen contemporaries were listening to and loving the amazing Purple Rain, I was spinning (yes, vinyl) Stephen Bishop‘s compositions for the gender-bending romantic comedy that helped me figure out I was gay. The camera loved Jessica Lange and, I feared, so did I.
Trish Bendix: I thought I was pretty cool for getting to go see Clueless with my friend Kristy, who was at least three notches more popular than me on the invisible junior high hierarchy. The movie about a Hollywood high school had such enviable fashion and jokes that were way over my head. (Years later, I finally realized what Brittany Murphy meant by “No s–t, you guys do coke here?” She didn’t mean soda pop. And Christian was gay? I seriously had no idea.) The movie also had super songs like Jill Sobule‘s “Supermodel” and David Bowie‘s “Fashion” (which, by the way, is not on the soundtrack. Uncool.) I promptly bought the book, posters of Alicia Silverstone that explained the film’s vernacular (“As if,” “whatever,” “full of monet”) and, of course, the soundtrack. Luscious Jackson, Radiohead, Coolio and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones — that is the mid-’90s in all of its glory. Who can hear “Kids in America” and not think of this movie?
Mia Jones: To this day, the soundtrack to The Craft takes me back to an entire chunk of years together. It starts back to a café I used to hang out at in high school. It was one of the only places I could go with the group of queer kids I used to hang out with that I knew my straight jock friends would never go to. This gave me ample time to try to pick up girls – but I always ended up being too shy to say anything. I would sit at a table, smoke a disgusting amount of cigarettes and hope that someone would eventually hit on me. When I first started going, I was really into hippie-looking girls. The second I saw The Craft, though, my eyes would follow any cute girl with piercings and a book on Wicca sticking out of her backpack. A few years later, when I dated mah boo for the first time, we discovered our mutual love for that movie and soundtrack – so, you know, we made our own magic happen.
Heather Hogan: You know that Bruce Springsteen song “Secret Garden” from the Jerry Maguire soundtrack? That song reminds me of the specific time in my life when I started wanting to punch Tom Cruise in the face. I was like 15 when Jerry Maguire hit theaters and I didn’t know I was gay or anything, but I remember watching it with all my straight friends and then for months (and sometimes years!) afterward listening to them cry and wail and stomp their feet about how they needed a dude to complete them. “Secret Garden” got so much radio play in 1996 it was like there were entire radio stations the existed for the sole purpose of remixing it with Renee Zellweger and Tom Cruise talking over the lyrics. “You complete me.” “You had me at hello.” You make me want to barf.
What soundtrack brings you back?