What Would the Soundtrack to your Life Sound Like?

If you could create a soundtrack to your life, what would it sound like? What music did you listen to as a kid, teenager, in different relationships, when you broke up, made up and celebrated? If you were sitting in a nursing home, unable to grasp at your memories, what would the nurse play for you on your personal playlist to help you remember? I began thinking about these questions when I heard about the new rock cabaret from New Zealand, Daffodils, opening at Riverside in May.

Daffodils is an award winning show that is a true love story with an indie rock soundtrack woven into the action, almost as a central character in and of itself. The power of music, its ability to draw out our emotions and its resonance across the years as a soundtrack of memories is at the core of this theatrical experience that features the music of Kiwi greats such as Crowded House, Dave Dobbyn, The Swingers and a host of others from the 1960s to the present day. It’s also a heart aching love story, a tribute to playwright Rochelle Bright’s parents and in particular her father who died when she was a teenager. The songs are Kiwi standards rearranged by Stephanie Brown otherwise known as LIPS, and should be familiar to Aussie audiences. The power of music to evoke memory really got me thinking about my own life, my own personal playlist and what would it sound like if it was the score of a show about me. Somehow I doubt that my soundtrack would be as cool as the soundtrack of Daffodils.

My childhood was spent singing and dancing in the lounge room to the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash – the music of my parents. I recently introduced my 8 year old to the songs of Roy Orbison. He’s not into the love songs but he quite likes Pretty Woman and Working for the Man! It’s interesting to me how our personalised playlist regenerates itself in this way. The music stays with us and creates or enhances new memories.

My early teen years were spent with ABBA and the soundtracks from Fame and Grease. I would dance for hours and sing at the top of my lungs, my head full of dreams of being a famous singer one day. Someone would walk past our door, hear me singing and be amazed at the talent to be found in this tiny seaside suburb of Newcastle, whereupon I would be whisked away to begin my illustrious career as a genuine popstar. Surprisingly it never happened.

The latter years of high school were filled with KISS, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, The Church, Split Enz, Australian Crawl and INXS – a weird hybrid mix of the New Romantics, iconic Aussie/NZ Rock and heavy metal. Screaming at rock concerts, playing at being a groupie (I met a few musos but I was too much of a ‘good girl’ to ever be a real groupie) and saving my pennies to buy the next album. I trawled the op shops for second hand clothes to express my ‘individuality’, hung out with my girlfriends and dreamt of marrying a pop star and working in a glamorous job one day. Surprisingly that didn’t happen either.

That was all background music to growing up. The real soundtrack began at university when I discovered sex and the pain of love. Now it was The Cure, Prince, Madonna, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Yazz and Bananarama. Dancing exuberantly to The Only Way is Up still gives me goose bumps with memories of my first love, nightclubs, drama school and partying hard. My boyfriend was in an INXS cover band and there is not one INXS song that doesn’t send me right back there – I know every song, every word, every sax solo and riff. Then after 6 years he broke my heart and I cried all the way home from the airport howling along with Wendy Matthews singing The Day You Went Away.

Years of being single, travelling the world as a backpacker and finding my feet career-wise make me remember anthems like Hunters & Collectors’ Throw Your Arms Around Me, Cream by Prince and Charlie’s Song by The Whitlams. Meeting my husband and dancing to Woman with Soul by The Cruel Sea, seeing PJ Harvey rip it up at the Enmore before we had our kids and dancing 9 months pregnant at a Ben Lee concert. You get the idea. (It could go on and on but you don’t really need to hear about the Wiggles after we had the kids).

Love, heart ache, pain, joy, lust can all be evoked through music and memory and Daffodils does it brilliantly. We all have our stories and our own special songs. Songs that make us cry or fill us with euphoria. Songs that make us sad and songs that turn us on. Daffodils is a very personal look inside someone else’s story and songs, their love, their sadness, their misunderstandings, their pain – an exploration undertaken by a daughter attempting to understand her parents. It becomes a powerfully shared experience because their songs will tug at you too and it will move you to tears and leave you gushing. It’s intimate, nostalgic, heart wrenching and very, very special – don’t miss it.

(This article was written for Riverside Theatres and published on their website riversideparramatta.com.au)

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