“Music’s Powerful Effect On Our Teenage Lives…And Beyond” – Author Mark Peter Hughes Joins Us
Today we welcome Mark Peter Hughes author of the novels I am the Wallpaper, A Crack in the Sky, Lemonade Mouth, which was made into a very successful Disney movie, and the recently released Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up. Mark joins us to talk about the impact music has had on his life and his books and gives us food for thought about the role it plays in all of our lives too.
When I was a teenager music was a big part of my life. It still is. But there’s something about the music we listen to when we’re in our teens that sets it apart, it seems to me. At that age music is more than just music, it’s a statement about who we are. We have lots of time for it—at least I did. Time to sit around and listen to a new album, taking in each song, track by track, lick by lick, lyric by lyric, over and over. Absorbing it until it becomes not only a part of us, but the soundtrack of that pivotal chapter in our lives.
Mark Peter Hughes
I turned thirteen in 1979, so for me it was Talking Heads, The Cars, The Clash, Elvis Costello, the B-52s, The Pretenders, Madness. These sounds (and many others) are now like my own personal time machines, emotionally evocative with a specific power no other music could ever have for me. Even now when I listen to “Planet Claire” by the B-52s or “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders, I’m a teenager again in a way that simply never happens when I listen to other music, even great music, that wasn’t of that era in my life.
But the music of our teens is more than just a source of nostalgia—and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this. In ways large and small, the soundtrack of those years actually affected who I became. Really.
In 1983 I was at my friend Shawn Hainsworth’s house when he put on the LP Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads. I’d never heard anything like it. Drums that filled every space like a giant rhythmic wall tapestry. Jangly guitar chords that held back rather than taking center stage, like little brushstrokes in a painting. Lyrics that were strange and non-sequitur, even nonsensical, and yet evoked in my teenage brain a new country I’d never before imagined, one where limits were stretched and rules were broken and the result was both beautiful and fun:
“You don’t have to wait for more instructions
No one makes a monkey out of me
We lie on our backs, feet in the air
Rest and relaxation, rocket to my brain!”
Even as I type this my pulse is racing and I’m there again. Immediately I went out and bought the cassette. I played it non-stop for days—weeks, maybe–until my father told me he was sick of it. But I’m still not sick of it. It opened my eyes and expanded my world. Not just musically, but in everything I saw around me. It pried open and helped set free my own creative impulses. Things became more interesting and the possibilities wider.
It was around that time that I bought my first guitar, which became a doorway to great fun, creativity, and social connection that has continued and grown throughout my adult life. Now I’m a 46 year-old writer and father of three. And let’s be honest, Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up wouldn’t exist without those albums: Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads. This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello. Learning To Crawl by the Pretenders. And many others just as startling and powerful to me. The music that shaped my young life.
Today Mark makes music and has wild fun with his band The Church Ladies
I wonder how many of us in the years after high school think about the music of that time—whatever it happened to be–and who we would have become without it.
Mark Peter Hughes’s newest novel, Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up, is about a group of five high school musicians, each very different from the others, who stumble into greatness when their well-meaning actions get them into big trouble and sparking a national revolution for underdogs everywhere. Kirkus Reviews raved, “Warmhearted and innocently wild, this stand-alone sequel will find appreciative fans among teen music obsessives and social activists.” Mark’s other books for middle graders and teens include I am the Wallpaper, A Crack In the Sky, and Lemonade Mouth, which the Disney Channel made into the #1 cable movie of 2011. Connect with Mark at www.markpeterhughes.com.
For your viewing and listening pleasure, check out these two videos:
Many Thanks to Mark Peter Hughes for joining us today! I’m sure we’ve each got one of those songs from our teenage years playing in our heads right now—please share your song with us in our comments section.