Violent Femmes: Why Do Birds Sing?

Song: “American Music

You know a song’s good when you can get your heart broken to it, and years later it still makes you dance.

We were driving in my boyfriend’s car, my best friend in the backseat. My boyfriend was singing this song along to the cassette, his hair blowing in the wind. He was gesturing toward my friend in the backseat, singing certain words only to him.

“It reminds me of you!” he’d sing, fingers pointing back.

I was too young to have the guts to ask what I knew right then and there: my boyfriend had a crush on my male best friend, and I was now in a situation where there was no way I was going to win.

The first time I heard the Violent Femmes I was in the eighth grade, in Mississppi, and I was in a house I’d never been in before, listening to a girl’s older sister’s copy of the first album. The girls were dancing in front of the bathroom mirror as they applied makeup, counting down with the song “And ten, ten, ten, ten for everything! Everything! Everything! Everything!” as they crimped their bangs and loaded their lids with eyeliner and I thought, “This is the coolest house I’ve ever been in.”

And then they blew my mind. They put on Are You Experienced? (on vinyl) and for the first time in my life I heard “Purple Haze.” My concept of music and what was my music was forever changed. I watched a boy I didn’t know jam some serious air guitar, mouthing the words and shaking his head and I thought, “This is dangerous. This is cool.”

My entire music collection changed after that day. I remember how confused my mom was. “Who gave you Jimi Hendrix? Where did you learn about this? Who are these friends? I need to meet their parents.”

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