There’s this American dude called Nathaniel Baldwin who, to be quite honest, should be on all of the American money. In 1910 he invented the first successful set of headphones and since then* people have been able to lock themselves away from the real world and be submerged in music.
*sort of…okay, since like whenever the Walkman was invented, which I can’t be arsed to research.
I got a CD Walkman around aged 10. Back then I used it to listen B*Witched, Westlife and various Now CD’s. You often had to be careful how you held it and when listening in the car you would pray for a smooth ride because even the tiniest jolt would skip the CD and send a whirring noise into your ears. But it was still an amazing sense of freedom. I’d only just been allowed the pleasure of my own room and I still had a little sister who acted like a shadow, but the CD Walkman and those headphones gave me something that nobody else could hear, enjoy, or copy.
I had spent a good portion of my childhood acting out plays that I had tapes of, rewinding them and choosing a different part to lip sync to, and now I had my own private music performance to act out. Of course it wasn’t until as a preteen I purchased Avril Lavigne’s Let Go and Amy Studt’s False Smiles (shoutout to anyone who loved that album as much as I still do) that I discovered the true power of angsty lip syncing to lyrics that you related to in a “nobody truly understands me” kind of way.
Due to the fragility of CD Walkmans it was still a lot easier to lipsync and dance about with music blasting out of my hifi, but the more relatable lyrics and the fact that music videos were becoming more available to me, meant that singing along was now accompanied with dance moves, and flinging myself about my room like I was in a less coordinated Sia video.
As my music tastes progressed, so did technology and soon I was listening to mp3’s of My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Bowling for Soup on a chunky ipod mini that didn’t need to be carefully balanced. This meant that music videos could now be acted out anywhere outside of my room. Bouncing up and down on the trampoline was a great place to start because I was now listening to a lot of early punk stuff, but I would also run round in the wheat fields (Theresa, girl, can you feel me?) behind my house spinning around to Jimmy Eat World. Of course, there was also the classic, staring out the window contemplating every part of life whilst listening to power ballads.
It was an escape. Pretending that I was in a band and actually being filmed for a music video, helped me forget that I was trapped in a rural, religion filled, conservative hellscape where I couldn’t dye my hair red, or find black skinny jeans in the 2 shops that existed in our town. Music and my headphones transported me into a world where my Mum wasn’t rubbing off my eyeliner and where people wanted to talk about emotions, politics and philosophy – not horse riding.
I think when you become an adult, you are supposed to only use headphones to listen to intellectual podcasts, or secretly listen to 50 Shades of Grey on audiobook, or to blast banging tunes to jog to. And don’t get me wrong, I love a podcast, but sometimes you still need to put your headphones in to blast out adult thoughts.
Whether it’s your tax form, thoughts of self hatred, fear of never achieving anything, or perhaps you are just drowning out the ticking of your biological clock, as an adult those headphones are still important.
So crack out a pair, find a window to look wistfully through, crank up the power ballads and practise your long, meaningful, stares to the camera. You are the director and the star, and you can no longer hear that tiny voice in the back of your head saying “You know earlier when you were taking the bins out? And you bumped into hot Jamie from across the hall? Yeah? Well you still had lasagne on your face. And there was a tampon hanging out the of bin bag.”