My (unrequited) love affair with Taylor Swift began properly in 2015. On car journeys to and from home her voice kept me company.
In May that year, my dad died suddenly in his sleep. Dad was the main carer for my mum who had a stroke when I was fifteen-years-old so in addition to organising my dad’s funeral I had to find somewhere else for my mum to live and sell the family home. Being in the house that summer, for days rather than hours as I had been accustomed to on brief flying visits, I became a teenager again. Letters and photographs left behind when I left home had been moved into cardboard boxes in the shed. They were damp and mouldy but at least salvageable unlike the singles and records I found in an abandoned suitcase.
On car journeys across the Pennines home, I listened obsessively to 1989. Listening to the album became a way of forgetting about dad, forgetting about mum, and forgetting about all the objects I was finding. I clung to 1989 partly because of the album’s title—mum was still well in 1989, well enough to buy singles from Woolworths every Saturday morning—and partly because it reminded me of the memory of listening to pop music together. I was fourteen-years-old again, the same age as Taylor Swift when she moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville.
Since then I’ve picked up one of the older albums (Red) and kept up with the new ones, more or less immediately on release. My 11-year-old son probably knows whole albums by heart without thinking.
Some final dates and numbers…
The first time I heard a Taylor Swift song was in Savannah, Georgia, in 2014. On a warm October day on the way to visiting author Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, a fleet of segways flew past, one of them blaring “Shake It Off.”
The last live concert I attended was by The National in Manchester in July 2019.
Every time I listen to evermore’s “coney island,” the two memories fuse together as Swift and Matt Berninger from The National sing: “And the sun goes down.”
– Jonathan Ellis