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Music’s Powerful Effect On Our Teenage Lives…And Beyond

Mark Peter Hughes

When I was a teenager music was a big part of my life. It still is. But there’s something about the music we listen to when we’re in our teens that sets it apart, it seems to me. At that age music is more than just music, it’s a statement about who we are. We have lots of time for it—at least I did. Time to sit around and listen to a new album, taking in each song, track by track, lick by lick, lyric by lyric, over and over. Absorbing it until it becomes not only a part of us, but the soundtrack of that pivotal chapter in our lives.

I turned thirteen in 1979, so for me it was Talking Heads, The Cars, The Clash, Elvis Costello, the B-52s, The Pretenders, Madness. These sounds (and many others) are now like my own personal time machines, emotionally evocative with a specific power no other music could ever have for me. Even now when I listen to “Planet Claire” by the B-52s or “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders, I’m a teenager again in a way that simply never happens when I listen to other music, even great music, that wasn’t of that era in my life.

But the music of our teens is more than just a source of nostalgia—and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this. In ways large and small, the soundtrack of those years actually affected who I became. Really.

An example.

In 1983 I was at my friend Shawn Hainsworth’s house when… (continue reading)