The year was 1995. I was 12. Our living room was carpeted and had a boxy TV set. It was cold and flat and quiet outside, like always, in Central Minnesota. No Internet. No cable. Access to corners of the world beyond Stearns County came from network shows—TGIF on ABC, or Star Trek: The Next Generation (highly influential) on FOX; and, of course, from all my favorite VHS movies: Major League; French Kiss (also, huge); Father of The Bride.
But life lacked subtlety. These were fairytales with cut and dry endings. Then, my family was stable. I got along with my brothers. Everyone in town went to mass on Sunday. I knew there was more out there, darkness, or even just grayness, something emotionally richer—I believed it existed in other states, cultures, and countries—but it was not where I lived; I didn’t know how to access it from there.
There, specifically, was the carpet in our living room, where I sat in front of the TV, enduring commercial breaks spliced between seven-minute clips of Family Matters, or Twins innings. Actually, for the purposes of this story, I was probably watching golf because ABC or NBC, or whoever aired the tournament, always ran a ton of car commercials, usually from stuffy brands like Cadillac and Lexus. So I sat there zoning out. And then, something different.
I cannot figure out what car it was. I only know it was an SUV and that it zoomed over wet roads and scraggly rocks somewhere, I think, and that its soundtrack was the song “Connection,” by Elastica. What? This sound, it was so new—dark and angsty. The lead voice was foreign and contained so many feelings. I wanted those feelings, too, the life that made those feelings.
I asked my parents to drive me to the next big town where there was a Media Play, the Best Buy of the Midwest. I asked an employee if he knew that car commercial, or the band whose song it was. Elastica, he told me, they were from England. The CD cover showed band members lined up along a brick wall in black and white and grey. Their faces stared straight ahead: We feel so so many things, their faces said. We know a secret.
In my room, on my hybrid Tape Deck/CD boombox, I listened to Elastica on repeat for at least a year. Beyond “Connection,” there was “The Car Song,” “Annie,” “Stutter.” Oh my god, music can sound like this! I thrilled. I was hardly a teenager so I couldn’t leave the Midwest, but Elastica gave me hope that—in the eternity from that moment until I turned 18 and could—life, somewhere, did feel different. Until then, Elastica was my placeholder for wherever that was; it was my bridge to the future.
This is one of more than 50 posts that make up our musical map of the United States, published by region—the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast—by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state.