listening to music in cars

Showing 2 posts tagged listening to music in cars


Say Goodbye


O Positive


Only Breathing/Cloud Factory

O Positive - Say Goodbye

“It’s the last day of middle school, and you couldn’t even wash your hair?”

I climbed into the front seat of Mom’s car, shrugging with a studied nonchalance that I could never quite summon when I needed it.  “Wasn’t worth it,” I said out of the side of my mouth as I snapped the seatbelt shut. 

School had let out early, and Mom had picked me up to take me out to lunch before letting me go home for the rest of the day.  I found myself in my usual stance in the front seat, resting my cheek against the seatbelt and gazing out the side window.  The two mulleted boys from my homeroom threw a Frisbee around on the front lawn, almost beaning a kid in the head. 

Mom stretched out her arm and rested her wrist on the top of my seat.  She tapped out a rhythm against the headrest supports.  “My little baby’s going to high school,” she trilled. 

“Not for a few months,” I shot back. 

“High school will be better for you.  There are more kids with your interests.  People grow up, and you’ll find your – “

“Mom!” I interrupted.  My ears were trained to the sound of a familiar riff.  I lunged to the radio dial and turned it up a little louder. 

“Sitting in for Mark Parenteau, this is Albert O-Positive,” the afternoon DJ intoned over the opening notes to “Say Goodbye”. 

“YOUR GUYS,” my mom chimed in excitedly. 

Albert O. was giving away tickets to see O Pos play with Mechanical Shark Head at the Edible Rex in Billerica to lucky caller number five.  Even if cell phones existed in 1991, Edible Rex was an hour’s drive from my sleepy burg, and I sensed the bouncers would not have taken kindly to a scrappy fourteen-year-old seeking entrance.  After a moment, the DJ just shut up and let the music play. 

Mom and I were both quiet as the song began.  The lyrics – “say goodbye to the past/you know these memories were never meant to last” – seemed prescient as Osterberg Junior High shrank in the rearview.  I mouthed the words and swayed along with the pinging melody. 

A fine coating of dust had formed on my O Positive tape collection.  I told myself I was eagerly awaiting their next album, and I didn’t want to get sick of them.  Though I tried my hardest, I wasn’t able to follow up my story on Boston’s finest with anything that felt like another “get”, and much of my eighth-grade year felt like a letdown after my interview with Dave hit the stands.  If I was really honest with myself, I still felt a little embarrassed at making a bad impression on the band by being an awkward teenager.  Meanwhile, the kids at school didn’t pay much attention to the budding Ellen Willis in their midst.  Doing interviews was still the only way to get people to talk to me. 

All those thoughts ran through my head until they became white noise.  The lapse in conversation made me feel a special kind of alone that isn’t really alone…I was in the car with my song, a kind of bespoke aural security blanket that helped me get through some tough times. 

Mom’s car glided to a stop at a red light.  I looked out the window and saw a group of girls from my school.  Erica, my school-appointed bestie in fourth grade, tread on the sidewalk closest to our car.  For a split second we made eye contact, but when the walk light came on her gaze slid over me and she started crossing the street with her friends. 

Mom shifted gears, then tapped me on the knee.  “Your time will come,” she said.  A moment passed, and she added, “I’m proud of you.”  The light turned green and we were off.


Imagine That


O Positive



O Positive - Imagine That

I first heard O Positive sometime in the summer of 1990.  My mom had come to pick me up from the allegedly-artsy day camp in which I was enrolled, and we drove back home with the windows down and the car radio on.  As her car pulled away from the curb, a dreamy, contemplative ballad insinuated its way over the airwaves.

We drove past row houses and city parks, the sparkling ocean merging with the skyline in the far distance.  I leaned my cheek against the cool of the safety belt and stretched my arm out the window.  The insistent melody and the singer’s gritty-yet-reassuring sigh of a voice seemed made for a balmy summer afternoon.  When Mark Parenteau* broke the mood with a station ID, I realized that I’d heard about this band for a few months.  The Boston Globe had run a splashy review with a photo a few months prior, and their previous hits “Talk About Love” and a song I initially thought was called “Smoke A Cigarette”** played in ads for the suburban clubs. 

At the time I wrote music reviews for a short-lived teen newspaper, PS North Shore. “Modern rock” godheads like the Cure and REM filled my column because they were easy for my readership to find (a few rows down from the odious New Kids on the Block at the Sam Goody in the mall).  However, music always seemed like an exotic thing that was made elsewhere.  Listening to WBCN and WFNX had opened my ears to local bands, but the Pixies and Throwing Muses weren’t exactly beating a path to play at the neighborhood watering hole. 

When I got home, I knew I’d found my new favorite band.  With my mom’s permission I called Epic in New York and spoke with one of the publicists about interviewing them for my column.  Within a few days, I got a big package with a CD, a press kit about an inch thick, and some stickers.  For a kid who still had to buy her review copies at the aforementioned Sam Goody, this felt a little like Christmas.  (Stickers, people.)  About an hour later, my mom answered the phone and promptly handed it to me. 

 “Hi, this is Dave Herlihy of O Positive,” the voice on the other end of the line said. 

I almost dropped the phone on the floor, but managed to keep my composure long enough to schedule an interview and take down his number.  He asked me about the newspaper and my column and addressed me as an equal instead of as a cute kid, which calmed my nerves. 

I ran in the next room with jelly knees.  My mom high-fived me.  This could be the start of something big, I thought. 

 * =  Yes, the “disgraced and disgraceful” Mark Parenteau.  Those radio pre-sets came in handy when mom was driving with us, boy howdy. 

** = Actually, it was called “With You”.  More on this in a bit.