Autobiographical Music Thread

Simple enough:

  1. Post a song that was in some way important in your life.

  2. Tell us why. No cryptic hints, give us the dish. The more detailed the better.

To begin:

The Pogues, The Sickbed of Cuchulainn

This is the song that was playing at the exact moment that I first fell in love.

I was 19, she was 17. Let’s call her L.

We’d met a few weeks earlier, introduced by a mutual friend at a dodgy goth/industrial club in Kings Cross (Sydney’s red-light district). We hit it off immediately; she thought I was funny, I thought she was beautiful, smart and kind. However, she was spoken for at the time.

Her boy was a six foot tall alcoholic methhead who we’ll call T. Physically speaking, he was a Peter Murphy clone with a Robert Smith hairdo. Personality-wise, he was a bit of yob, but a nice enough bloke in general. She thought he was 16; we discovered later that he was actually 14. He’s a successful session guitarist and graphic designer these days.

The three of us ended up crashing at my house after a night out in the clubs. At the time, I was living in a crumbling slum, sharing it with an assortment of teenage heroin addicts.

It was a grand old terrace house, that would have been nice if it wasn’t for the dodgy neighbourhood, inoperative plumbing and rotten-through floorboards. I had the largest of the bedrooms, upstairs with the balcony (which was a deathtrap; rotted wood, rusted railing).

When I moved into the place, my first task was to clean out the room; the previous occupant had made a habit of throwing his old syringes into the wardrobe and his old condoms onto the balcony. That guy eventually fled the state in a stolen car with the police in hot pursuit, but at least he had the good taste to leave a Jane’s Addiction album (Nothings’s Shocking) in the wardrobe for me to salvage.

At the time, the only furniture I owned was a shelving unit. For a bed, I had a piece of foam that I’d found on the side of the road. Apart from that, there was the aforementioned syringe-filled built-in wardrobe, plus a mirror bolted to the back of the door. The mirror had been partially smashed sometime in the distant past, leaving a sharp edge of broken glass along the side of it.

Anyway, we made it back to my room after clubbing, at around sunrise. T immediately passed out in the corner, but me and L were still fairly thoroughly wired from our dancing chemistry of the previous evening. So I fired up the stereo, and put on the Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

We started dancing to the music, but after a short time I collapsed upon the bed. L kept dancing, in something approximating an Irish reel. She was spinning around, arms spread wide, with a grin on her face as wide as it could go. But at some point during this, her hand caught the edge of the mirror, slicing a finger wide open.

She didn’t notice. She just kept spinning, arms out, smile unchanged, while a stream of blood droplets spread in a perfect arc from her hand across the walls of the room.

And that’s when I fell in love. That freeze-frame image of L spinning and smiling with the blood streaming from her hand will stay with me forever.

Anyone else? Big drama, small drama, no drama at all. It’s all good so long as it’s true,


the first time i heard this song i could not believe i had heard the set of words that i had heard and replayed it in my head, over and over. i bought the album soon after and listened to it over and over.

what caught me up so thoroughly was the way in which this song was both vapid and deep. what caught me up was finding an artist who expressed the concept of time as i experienced time.

time and memory are both a river and a raindrop. at every moment life is truly once in a lifetime, at every moment life is a continuous trail of existences.

my past and my present are both so present i wonder that i can’t reminisce about tomorrow. finding a band that could express that notion so cogently set me on fire.


High school was not a fun time for me, as I was the class nerd and had a hard time fitting in. College was a revelation: it was suddenly cool to be smart! I had the chance to start over, and made new friends, rebooting my social life, and felt accepted and fun, which was a whole new concept. My best friends and I got an apartment together my sophomore year and things seemed great. But the design program at my college was rough; I was in the studio every night and through the weekend, and my roommates complained that I was never hanging out. The tension got worse as the year went on, and I was told that if I didn’t make time to be social, I was “out”. I didn’t, and pretty soon I’d lost all of my friends; my life was back to where I was in high school, the studio work I was pouring my waking hours into looked like crap, and I felt talentless, friendless, and aimless. I considered dropping out. I drew pictures of dark holes and caves and deep valleys. I wondered why I was even bothering.

At the lowest point of my life to date, I went music shopping; why not? At random, I ran across the soundtrack to “The Point” by Harry Nilsson, a cartoon I loved as a kid, and when this song came on — “Life Line” — I felt like Harry had written a song for exactly the way I felt. Down at the bottom, fears all around me, cold, so lonely. It brought me out of my dark thoughts. I stuck with things, thrived on my own, and came away stronger than I was before.


I rotate theme songs often, depending upon my mood.

Recently, it’s been this self empowerment anthem by Jess Glynne:

My life has been a not so long but still hard journey towards self acceptance; and no matter what, I’ve always been my own toughest critic.

This song resonates with me as a reminder that even on my worst days, I’m still not doing too badly.

Although pain is pretty much inevitable in life, suffering is often a choice.

(It was around the time that I learned I was going to be a mother that I decided to make a concerted effort to minimize my suffering. It’s been an ongoing work in progress ever since.)


The relationship described in the OP lasted about six years.

After we split up, there were a few brief entanglements, but nothing lasting. I was a mess; I jumped on my bike and headed to the desert for a month to clear my head,

After I got back, I met someone. She drew my eye the second I saw her; after we got to know each other, I’d find myself unconsciously orienting myself to her whenever we were near. If we were sitting around a campfire, I’d be facing her; if we were walking, I’d be beside her.

But she was married.

So, I buried it. Until the night of the party…

I ended up crashed out in a corner at their house, after a spectacularly drunken evening, trying to ignore the noises coming from the other end of the room.

And then she grabbed my ankle. It turned out that both her and her husband were into group scenes.

That was fun, albeit confusing.

Later on, I went to visit them. She was keen, he was uncomfortable. He was a bit of a yob, and more than a bit controlling; he liked watching her, but he didn’t like the thought of her doing anything without his permission. It was awkward.

So, I backed off and tried to stay clear.

And then she came to visit me.

I’d made clear that while I was okay with poly, I wasn’t interested in messing up anybody’s marriage. I had no interest in being someone’s bit on the side.

But she was there, and she wasn’t keen on taking no for an answer.

And I fucked up. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever been faced with something that I absolutely knew was wrong, but did it anyway.

And then, of course, it all blew up in my face. She was just getting back at him for an affair he’d had a year earlier.

Which is why that bit of my life is always tied to this song:


Too many stories about old girlfriends. :wink:

For something different: the month in the desert mentioned in the above post was my first (but not last) desert bike tour.

At the time, I had a fifteen year old Suzuki GS450E that I’d bought second-hand for $1,500. It was a cheap commuter bike to begin with, and it was thoroughly worn out when I bought it.

The flat-out top speed was about 130km/h, the tyres were skinny, the brakes were crap, the suspension was knackered and the top-end was so in need of a rebuild that you had to add a litre of oil per day if you were travelling at highway speeds.

But it carried me around, safe and sound. I sold it years ago, but I still love that bike. :slight_smile:

At the time of the trip, I was recovering from a back injury. Because of this, I couldn’t spend more than an hour on the bike at a time; the pain would start to build at around the half hour mark, and gradually increase until it became unbearable.

Fortunately, all it took was a quick five-minute walk around to reset the clock and allow me to continue. So, for the entire trip, I stopped for a photo every hour:

(edited highlights, click through for album)

The trip was around 8,000km, and I took about a month to do it. I started in Sydney, visited some friends in Canberra, then did the same in Melbourne. After that, across the Coorong and up the Stuart Highway to Uluru/Kata Tjuta, then north again to visit my brother in Tennant Creek. Over the Barkley Tablelands back to the coast, visit a few more friends on the Queensland border, then back south again and home.

And for the entire month, I had this song on permanent loop in my head:

I didn’t mind; I love that song anyway, and it was ridiculously appropriate for the circumstances.

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About fifteen years ago, I joined my mate Tony for a trip down to Mount Arapiles.

Arapiles is a mecca for climbers from across the world; it’s the best trad climbing location in Australia.

It’s a giant lump of rock that is reminiscent of Uluru. However, while Uluru is made of hyper-crumbly sandstone, Arapiles is made of granite-hard quartzite. And, while Uluru is out in the middle of the desert, Arapiles is bang in the middle of rural Victoria.

Anyway, we’d piled into Tony’s ute and headed down from Sydney to Arapiles; it was about a three day drive. Fortunately, Tony is always good company.

He’s an interesting guy; his dad was in the South Vietnamese Army in the early '70’s, which is why Tony’s earliest memories are of begging for food in an Indonesian refugee camp. Despite his background, Tony is one of the “Aussiest” people you’d ever meet; he’s very much an Australian bloke who just happens to be from Vietnam. In contrast, his wife Triet is very much a Vietnamese woman who just happens to live in Australia.

They’re both lovely folks.

Anyway; we made it down there eventually, and spent the first day doing an epic 300m multi-pitch route on the north face of Arapiles. This was a mistake; we both got so fried by the sun that we were completely incapacitated the next day. But after that, we had a few fun days doing easy short routes all over the place.

Then, on the last day, we decided to do one more epic. Unfortunately, the night before was something of a party at the campsite; both of us were sufficiently hungover the next day that climbing before midday was out of the question.

But, eventually, we dragged ourselves out of bed and over to the rock. The route we had planned was a giant chimney; the sort of climb when you spend the first hundred metres wedging yourself into a 1m x 1m featureless slot in the cliff face. No actual holds to grip onto, but that doesn’t matter when you can take advantage of the counter-pressure between two opposing walls; just push hard on both sides and wiggle your way up.

Anyway, we made it to the top of the first pitch, and were planning the second when we began to notice that it was rapidly becoming dark. We were on the southern face of the mountain, jammed into a chimney, and there was no chance in hell of making it to the top of the route before the light failed entirely. And, unfortunately, Tony had decided to leave his headtorch in the car in the interest of saving weight…

So, now we had a problem. Retreating down the mountain was no problem; it’s just a series of abseils. However, we only had one light; as soon as we split up, one of us would be blind, which makes the task of shifting from anchorman to abseiler somewhat perilous. Nobody likes trusting their life to knots tied by a blind man.

Eventually, we figured out a procedure where we could get all of the tricky ropework done in advance, at the cost of abandoning a few bits of anchor gear. So, we got the ropes sorted and Tony headed down with the headtorch while I belayed. But then it was my turn to descend…

As mentioned above, we’d got the ropes sorted out already. But I was still abseiling blind; I couldn’t see my feet. Because of this, I was continuously kicking rocks loose from the cliff face, which would then ricochet down the chimney to bounce off Tony’s helmet.

But that wasn’t the dramatic part.

Arapiles is quartzite, but it is quartzite with a high iron content. Every rock I kicked loose ricocheted down the chimney, striking sparks from the walls every time it hit. So, as I abseiled down a pitch-black 50m chimney, with a ludicrously bright strip of rural stars visible above me, I also had a collection of ever-changing spark constellations developing below me.

It was mindblowingly beautiful.

Which is why I associate that trip with this song:


This summer was rife with personal traumas irrespective of but amplified by the U.S election. The least direct of these was attending my 20 year High School reunion. Blackfoot High School is right on the edge of Shoshone-Bannock’s tribal lands.

Among my best friends during my time there were Joe and James; skateboarders and descendants of peoples inhabiting this continent before Columbus, or vikings, or whatever. Joe was the most beautiful being I had ever seen in my mere 14 years. Strong, graceful, poetic, I was captivated. James with his gregarious and irascible ways creating adventure at every turn.

I was as in love with Joe as my puppy brain could allow. It was he and my best friend however that got to it first and by some cruelly misguided sense of loyalty or friendship I couldn’t bring myself to pursue what all my other senses strongly urged. Crying myself to sleep at night instead.

James hooked up with a girl from a neighboring school who was discovered to have had adult relations at 16 with newly turned adult James. Just months after his 18th birthday with his long black braids and brown skin they must have thought he was just asking for a prison sentence sleeping with a nice white girl like that.

Joe’s cousin committed suicide while I was still in school. She was all ready to graduate until the school informed her she had insufficient credits for graduation. She was dead before the ceremony. Two years after I graduated, 4 after Joe had and only months after his younger brother did, Joe hung himself to death.

I don’t know what I expected going back; maybe looking proof that I’m not just a cynical misanthrope but society really is functioning on a highly compartmentalized scaffolding of cognitive dissonance or simply erasure of that which conflicts with their anemically amiable authoritarianism. I also wanted to dress up, show off, and drink too much.

At the reunion a mutual friend told a story he stole from Joe as his own. He and his wife all into some rockabilly style. The pre civil rights era nostalgia, gun fetishizing, and blaring dog whistles left me with a worse hangover than the rainbow shots.

This topic spoke to me because music feels more like my means of expression than most things. I mostly mistrust my words, my right to express my thoughts and feelings. I am afraid of my anger, of confrontation.

I hated this song for so long. One night at the house of that fateful girlfriend not long before the fateful birthday, an assembled group having just consumed a rather noxious marijuana joint were made by Joe and James to listen to it on repeat for what seemed an eternity. I distinctly remember losing my shit on the way home crying huddled and inconsolable. Have never really be able to enjoy the doors since. Putting this down and listening now is providing a bit the catharsis of the aptly named poster of this video.


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