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Kirby: With all these distractions, headphones are music to my ears

Published September 2, 2013 9:53 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If I had to list the most important tool a writer can have, it would be a good set of headphones. That and some good tunes.

Music is a major part of my working life. It is for most writers. Whether it's the clamor of a newsroom, classroom or home office, headphones are a valuable isolation tool for people who need to focus in highly distracting environments.

When it comes to blocking out the world with music, my taste is fairly eclectic. Country, metal, pop, blues, I'll listen to just about anything except gospel and karaoke.

Note: I didn't mention rap because I don't believe it qualifies as music.

As you might tell from responses generated by that note, differing tastes in music can be a volatile matter. It can even be injurious to relationships. I learned this when I started bringing rock 'n' roll home.

My father, who doesn't have a musical gene in his body, hated it. In fairness, he didn't specifically hate rock 'n' roll. It was the volume that bothered him.

I could listen to anything I wanted so long as it didn't intrude on him watching "Adam-12" or "Dragnet." When it invariably did, I was given one chance to turn it down before he yanked the eight-track cassette out of the stereo and filled it with Elmer's Glue.

This sounds extreme, but I couldn't really complain about it since one of the main reasons for turning it up was to bother him.

Music can inspire love, but it can also end it. I broke up with a girl in high school after she told me that "We've Only Just Begun" by The Carpenters was "our" song.

I know it's shallow, but I just couldn't look at her the same after that. Seriously, The Carpenters? Besides, our song was actually "D.O.A." by Bloodrock. What was she thinking?

At no point does a person's taste in music become so important than the moment you get married or move in together. Your musical tastes either blend well, or one of you has to concede a lot.

Hopefully, you figure this out early in the relationship. But it is possible to be so in love with someone that his or her fondness for polka music doesn't really register until it's too late.

When we got married, my wife liked Gordon Lightfoot and the Eagles. I was into the Stones and Jethro Tull. We managed to blend it together. I could get through "Sundown" if she was willing to listen to "Locomotive Breath" next.

It worked.

And then musical disaster struck: We started having kids.

Suddenly it was mandatory nonstop nursery rhymes. "Eensy Weensy Spider" and "Georgie Porgie" did not blend well with "Aqualung" and "Desperado."

Worse, music started being banned. We couldn't listen when the babies were asleep. When we were riding in the car, it had to be "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" instead of Van Halen's "Panama." What the hell does "tisket" even mean?

By the time &*#% Mister Rogers came along with his No. 1 hit "Won't You Be My Neighbor," we were toast. Forget music. Fed up with the nonstop noise of rearing children, my wife could fully relax only in total silence.

Meanwhile, I had retreated into the more manageable world of headphones. The kids eventually left and the headphones became less necessary.

I just found out that we're going to have a new grandchild in a few months — one who will be living with us. Guess how I found out? Yeah, my wife asked me where our old Mother Goose cassette tapes were.

If I want to keep a roof over our head, I need a new set of headphones.

Robert Kirby can be reached atrkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.