17 is an age for many things - the first kiss for late bloomers, the thrill of getting a driver's license and the almost certain subsequent first accidents, applying for college and the fear of rejection.
It's also one of those perennial ages, where everything is life and death and life itself throbs with the unfulfilled desire of being caught between freedom and captivity. There is nothing more emotional than being a teenager, of being stuck between what your parents want of you, what your friends expect of you, and what you yearn of you.
And listening to a mix CD labeled "Meghan's Birthday Mix - May 9th, 2003" brings me back into the thick of it.
I was in the heady, passionate thrall of my love of late-night heavy metal radio shows, leather and electric guitars, concert t-shirts from the 80s bought off Ebay for exorbitant sums, and wearing glittery royal blue eyeshadow.
To put it in its proper pop-culture perspective, 2003 was the year Ruben and Clay battled it out on American Idol, when Britney Spears released her last album that could be considered teen friendly ("In The Zone"), when people were just starting to really buy DVDs and burn CDs, the TV shows of the summer was The OC, and the one hit wonder of the summer was "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne.
And it was the year that split my junior and senior years of high school.
1. The Strokes - "Last Nite"
Most likely included because it was a hit (particularly in Europe) the summer beforehand and it was really this song and this band that led the "The bands" craze. (IE: The Strokes, The Hives, The White Stripes). The Strokes were the most interesting and tolerable of all these bands, while The Hives reminded me of the world's most awful bar band and The White Stripes fancied themselves too art-deco to be accessible to your average music fan.
2. Winger - "Seventeen"
How is it possible to have a 17th Birthday Mix without the inclusion of this song? Yes, it may be painfully literal, but it is also perpetually awesome.
3. Zappacosta - "Overload"
A forgotten gem off the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack. This song summed up the feelings I had for everyone I wanted but couldn't have.
4. Def Leppard - "Animal"
Whether a nod to my fledgling love for hair metal or a pointed reference to my devotion and insomnia, I'm not sure. All of us know this level of obsession and if you haven't, you haven't lived.
5. Motley Crue - "All In The Name Of..."
Hair metal, lascivious references to underage girls, and selling your soul to rock 'n roll. Sounds like my teenage years.
6. Sheryl Crow - "Anything But Down"
An odd inclusion on what is generally a fairly upbeat mix by its very nature of being assigned to a birthday. In a rare occurrence, I once used the lyrics of this song in an away message as the perfect way to describe the situation we were in - and the person on the receiving end actually understood the message. It was so much easier before you became you. But it doesn't surprise me that my 17-year-old self included this song of sadness in the middle of happiness; always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
7. OK Go - "Get Over It"
Still a great workout song and a semi-popular song at the time.
8. Rolling Stones - "Honky Tonk Woman"
9. Rolling Stones - "Brown Sugar"
10. Rolling Stones - "Beast Of Burden"
A trifecta of Rolling Stones songs. I lived for classic rock and 95.9 THE FOX back in the day.
11. 50 Cent - "In Da Club"
Little known fact: I actually own 50 Cent's CD "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'". And this song is essential for any birthday celebration.
12. J. Lo & Ja Rule - "I'm Real (Remix)"
A 2001 hit for the pair that still holds up today as a great song.
13. The Donnas - "Too Bad About Your Girl"
For any girl who ever wanted a guy who had an awful girlfriend. A less popular but still awesome song in the vein of "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne.
14. Brand New - "Jude Law & A Semester Abroad"
Brand New's first hit, a minor one but a memorable one. I remember watching the video for this on MuchMusic (now FUSE, which is not half as good).
15. Prince - "Raspberry Beret"
16. Prince - "Little Red Corvette"
Arguably two of Prince's most popular (and best) songs. Both of these songs scream youth to me. "Little Red Corvette" is about vehicular sex and the point where experience meets naivete.
17. Third Eye Blind - "Semi-Charmed Life"
I didn't know that I would end up headbanging to this song at a Third Eye Blind concert 4 years later, or that headbanging is wildly inappropriate for a Third Eye Blind concert. More than 10 years after its release, this song will never remind me of any one era in my life as it has so successfully permeated all of them.
18. TLC - "Creep"
And if the mix hadn't already descended into complete randomness, this is where it begins. My birthday music ran the lot from hair metal to 90's R&B, classic rock and 00's pop.
19. Gary Wright - "Dream Weaver"
My most recent attachment to this song had to be through the Wayne's World soundtrack which was suitably eclectic for my taste, again ranging from Rhino Bucket to Alice Cooper.
20. The Rolling Stones - "It's Only Rock 'N Roll (But I Like It)"
A perfect song to close out the mix, which is interestingly heavy on the Rolling Stones.
The number for Bennigan's is written on a Post-It from the Buenos Aires Hilton inside the CD case. I painstakingly typed up the track listing, printed it out, and pasted it on to the front of the burned CD cover paper.
Well, that was 2003 and Bennigan's closed sometime around the start of the recession and the end of my college career in 2008. With it went a lifetime of high school memories, birthday parties, bad decisions, Kilkenny Country Chicken Salads, and flirtations with waiters named Mike.
It was only a year later that I would include "If U C Jordan" by Something Corporate on my College Mix Volume 1, which includes the best kiss-off line ever: High school's over and you just won't quit. I felt like I was saying goodbye and good riddance to high school, but that was still a year away when I cut and pasted songs from a varied set of genres and decades into one CD.
But Bennigan's was the site of my 17th birthday party. I arrived with at least two and possibly three other friends, and yes, we listened to the mix the whole way there in my friend's Chrysler Sebring convertible. It seemed like the height of cool at the time, and of course, it was.
Man, we were killing time, we were young and restless, we needed to unwind....