Riding In The Back

Thursday, April 19, 2001 - Thursday, December 25, 2008


The first experience one has with music is almost always determined by the influence of one's parents, and for some, their grandparents as well. My father and grandmother on his side had made the decision that I was to know what, and I quote, "real music" was. This terminology originated from their derision for most of the music that had been released in the decade before I was born. I heard much of this music whilst riding in the back of my grandparents' truck, hence the playlist's title.

Dividing Riding In The Back into chronological subsections is difficult, because this was before I had began compartmentalizing my musical tastes into different eras of my life. Additionally, the later playlists are often defined as the soundtracks to what Nosiphus was presently working on, but all but the final four months of this playlist occurred before Nosiphus even existed.

I had thought about dividing it by pre-school and school eras, but that had little effect on my personal life and my musical tastes. Simply put, as far as my home life was concerned, the average day in 2004 wasn't really that different from the average day in 2007.

However, while it might not be divisible by time periods, there are definitely major events I can pinpoint to songs throughout the entire era.

Source Eras


It can't be understated how deep Motown's boot was pressed into my forehead: the music of The Temptations, The Four Tops, Mary Wells, and The Supremes were all ingrained in me at an early age. Non-Motown Black music also had a huge role to play, The Drifters being a prime example of this. I also developed an appreciation for the music of early '60s girl groups.

The earliest hits of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons were worked in alongside many other songs from an album called Boys of Rock 60s: Volume 1. I remember thinking that their song Big Girls Don't Cry and Lou Christie's Two Faces Have I were by the same artist, as both used a falsetto singing voice, which I hadn't yet heard anyone else use.

Another disc, Wacky Favorites: Crazy Classics, would introduce me to several novelty songs of the time.

I wasn't exposed solely to rock and pop, however. I was aware of who Johnny Cash was pretty early on in my life, and he remains the dominant artist among a small list of songs and smaller list of country artists I listen to. 


As important as the 1960s were to me at this time, it was the 1970s that formed the bulk of what I heard, and cemented that decade's status as "my" decade, musically speaking, a title that it has never lost.

Disco was hugely influential on my young ears, and it is the dominant genre represented on this playlist. During the 1990s, a '70s nostalgia wave had caused Universal Music Group to release three compilation discs filled with disco hits titled Pure Disco, Pure Disco 2, and Pure Disco 3. Shortly thereafter, Rhino released Jammin' Oldies, all four of which my grandmother had purchased. Her numerous compilation discs would be influential throughout my life, but during the time of Riding In The Back, these four were unquestionably the most important.

Disco may have been the king at this time, but there were other genres of music that had importance too. In 2006, Time Life would release its Classic Soft Rock collection, and my grandmother would pick it up. The future importance of this set cannot be understated, and would be realized around seven years later, but in the era of Riding In The Back, only one of the discs found its way into my ears, which was Classic Soft Rock: The Air That I Breathe. 

Notable Tracks

Y.M.C.A. - Village People - 1978

The opening track of this playlist is unquestionably the most important. Y.M.C.A. was the definitional song of my early formative years, and reigned supreme as my favorite song, unchallenged in that position for at least five years. As the opening track on Pure Disco, I heard it every single time the disc was played. It was ingrained into me as the epitome of disco. To this day, if I think about that time period, it is the first song that I think of.

However, I also have a unique memory for this song, although it was not the first time I ever encountered it. My elementary school had an annual event called Jump Rope for Heart, and this song was played as the last song in the set they'd have during the jump rope event. I specifically remember the 2007 event. 

Boogie Oogie Oogie - A Taste of Honey - 1978

Boogie Oogie Oogie was the opening track to Jammin' Oldies, and as a result I would hear it every time the disc was played. I do have a specific memory for this song despite its heavy play. Sometime in early 2006, before I was in school, my grandmother played the disc on her living room stereo system. Although it wasn't the first time I heard it, I think it was the first time I heard it while not buckled into the back of the truck, meaning I could actually get up and move. I remember dancing to it without a care in the world. 

Let's Stay Together - Al Green - 1972

Unlike the Pure Disco collections, Jammin' Oldies was not a solely disco-oriented collection. The inclusion of Let's Stay Together, an early '70s rhythm and blues track, was a key indicator of this. I distinctly remember that we were pulling out of a parking lot as we began a drizzly morning drive in early 2007. 

I'll Be Around - The Spinners - 1972

I still remember daydreaming while listening to this song one afternoon. I was sitting on the couch in my grandparents' living room, facing the fireplace. I seem to remember my mother sitting on my right. My father and grandparents were doing something else in another part of the house, but I can't remember exactly what. What I do remember is that as I'll Be Around played, I looked up above the mantlepiece, and I imagined that through it, there was a river, surrounded by forest on both sides. The water was glowing gold as the sun was setting, and I imagined myself on a wooden raft with a small sail in the middle, and I also remember a red bucket sitting on the raft. A cool breeze was blowing, and I watched as the raft, with me on it, sailed into the sunset. I'm not sure how this memory came to be, but I do remember it very fondly as the earliest of the detailed daydreams. 

Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash - 1963

I've never been a particularly big fan of country music, but this man was an exception to that. Ring of Fire was a favorite of mine for a very long time, and I distinctly remember that when I asked my grandmother to make a tape containing a whole bunch of songs, I asked her to place this song on it twice. I tried to get a third, but I she wouldn't let me. My grandfather noticed immediately when it appeared the second time. If I ever find said tape, I will create a Spotify playlist of it. 

Rock the Boat - Hues Corporation - 1973

Rock the Boat as a song was not a particular favorite of mine, but the name of its artist certainly was. While I'd first heard the song years prior, I only discovered the name "Hues Corporation" in September 2008, shortly after the creation of Blue Cove in August. I had entered the Nosiphus era (although that name was still years off), and as a result, I drew a logo for them. This was an early example of the Nosiphus proliferation that was yet to come. 

Cindy's Birthday - Johnny Crawford - 1962

Cindy's Birthday is important because the memory I have for it perfectly represents how those truck rides were. My grandparents were just wandering the roads of the county, and I was sitting in the back while this song was playing. It wasn't a particularly eventful drive, but it's a great example of how most of the rides went. 

When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman - Dr. Hook - 1978

This song had a more monumental impact on me than I realized at the time. I was in first grade, and had my first long-lasting, important crush. It was 3:00 on a beautiful, bright, clear-skied Saturday in the spring of 2008, and I was in the back of my grandparents' car. While we were driving home on the freeway, my grandmother put Classic Soft Rock: The Air That I Breathe into the car's slot-load CD drive. When I heard this song, I remember thinking about that girl. At the time, it was just an innocent thing, but looking back from today, I realize that this was the first time I had made a mental connection between a girl I liked and a song. For the first time, these two separate parts of my life had intersected. 

Too Late To Turn Back Now - Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose - 1972

One day in first grade music class, we were lying on the floor working on assignments. I was sitting next to a girl, and, being first graders, we started playing with our jackets, attempting to zip them together. My music teacher was playing some music while we worked. I remember this track playing in the background as that happened, which caused my existing crush on this girl to intensify as I thought about it later that day. This was the second time I had made that mental connection, and the first time it happened where the person in question was actually present. 

He's The Greatest Dancer - Sister Sledge - 1979

He's The Greatest Dancer is the opening track to Pure Disco 3, which my grandmother hadn't actually bought alongside the first two. When I discovered it existed, I told her about it. Eventually, my father found it and bought it for her, but we didn't immediately play it. She decided to play it while we were in the van on the way back from a restaurant around 50 miles away. It was a fall afternoon around 7:00, and it was already dark. She put the CD in, and it started to play. I had never heard this song before, but I loved it from the moment I heard it.