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Lyrics and Life


By Caitlin Ward

Old Time Rock and Roll
Bob Seger

Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ‘em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll
Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll

Still like that old time rock ‘n’ roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul ooh
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock ‘n’ roll

Won’t go to hear them play a tango
I’d rather hear some blues or funky old soul
There’s only one sure way to get me to go
Start playing old time rock ‘n’ roll
Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll


We approach zero hour, my friends. Now, I know I’ve been writing about riots and misogyny, losing our civil rights and warfare abroad, lately. But it is a whole other kind of madness of which I speak today.

You see, in three days, my sister gets married.

Now, it’s not that it’s a big wedding, or anyone’s being particularly unreasonable about anything. There haven’t been loads of massive blow-ups or organizational nightmares. It’s just that there’s something about weddings that brings out a sense of total imbalance: the frenetic energy of knowing there’s far too much to do in too few days. There are lovely offers of help from all sorts of people, but there’s also the feeling that no one’s got enough of a handle on what’s going on to delegate responsibilities.

Of course, I haven’t helped matters for myself. Two days after the wedding, I leave at 4 a.m. for a mountain community in the Dominican Republic. I’m going there for work, and it’s the sort of thing that sounds relaxing until I explain I’m travelling via donkey because it’s the only way into certain communities. Not all the way to the DR, obviously — there’s a plane for that — but once we get outside of Bonao, roads are rustic, at best and treacherous, at worst. So a’donkeying I go.

Upon hearing this, my physiotherapist got a bit stressed. With my still-injured back cracking every time I move, she talked me into going to the chiropractor. I tend to be a bit skeptical of chiropractors, so it’s only in desperate times that I can be compelled to see one. It’s not that I have an aversion to alternative therapies in general, but this is my spine we’re talking about. Spines are serious business.

Luckily, I have a very nice chiropractor who also likes to mock me mercilessly. Chatting during the appointment, he stopped in the middle, listed off all the things I had to do this week and next, and finally said, “Caitlin, do you think your back problems maybe have a little bit to do with stress?” I took this under advisement, and I might have gone so far as to believe him. In the next minute, though, he was folding me into a pretzel and sitting on me, so I’m not sure how seriously I should take his advice.

Throughout all of this, there’s a sense of, “if only . . . if only — ” in my mind, at any rate. If only there were a list exhaustive enough, a schedule detailed enough, a plan comprehensive enough, everything would be fine. I am my mother’s daughter. In our family, we believe in lists with the same intensity of feeling we believe in the blessed sacrament. On busy days, a little more so.

You laugh, but the list is a thing of beauty. It is a comfort in times of trouble and a practical tool when reality feels impossible to navigate. I would be nowhere without lists, either in shopping or in life.

It is this list business that prevented my sister and her fiancé from hiring anyone to help with music for their reception, actually. She is a woman of particular taste, my sister is, and there was the general sense that we likely wouldn’t be able to find anyone who would meet her standards. Or, more specifically, we couldn’t find anyone who would be guaranteed not to play a song that she or her fiancé hates. I proposed that we could give any DJ a list of songs not to play. That said, she reminded me that lists are made by human beings, and as such, can be flawed, or problematic, or at the very least, incomplete. There was no guarantee we wouldn’t forget to put something on the list, and everything would be fine, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines or Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl or, worst of all, Old Time Rock n Roll by Bob Seger would come on.

And more than anything, it would just be so infuriating. That stupid Bob Seger song comes on at every wedding and every dance and every bad bar at some point during the night. This would be the one time when she could have guaranteed that song wouldn’t come on, and yet somehow, because of her oversight with the DJ, there it would be. Playing. At her wedding.

It was more than she could bear. And thus, we are building our own list — a list of songs that will play in the background at the wedding. Songs that she and her fiancé like.

The irony, of course, is that Old Time Rock n Roll is about having very particular taste in music. And based on what Seger says in the song, I’m not sure he and I would disagree overly much about what sort of music we like. I’m trying to get the entire Chess Records back catalogue on the wedding playlist, for example. But every time that track comes on, all I can think is, “Bob. If you like that old time rock n roll so much, why have you written such a crap song about it?” before I beat a hasty retreat to the door. To be completely honest, part of me is horrified I have allowed the lyrics to be reprinted somewhere. It’s a little painful.

You might say it’s just a song. But here’s the thing planning a wedding has taught me: you’re right. It is just a song. But sometimes the song is the important part. The dress, she made. The centrepieces are sanctuary candles from a market down the street from my house. We’re picking flowers from the garden for bouquets and we’re drinking wine out of jam jars instead of glasses — not because it’s kitschy or cute, but because it’s inexpensive and I’ll use them for canning afterward.

In the end, it’s about the sacrament, not the stress, but it’s also about the song. There is no list comprehensive enough, no plan detailed enough, no person organized enough, so you just have to choose the things that matter the most. Or the things that annoy you the least.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at