In my younger and more vulnerable years, I used to go to my friend’s house every Thursday after school and watch bootleg DVDs of One Tree Hill. We’d sit on the floor, a foot from the TV set in his dad’s study. I with a legal pad and a no. 2 pencil, he with a stolen pint of Bintang beer. That’s how we baptized ourselves into the world of American pop culture. We were thirteen then, playing out adolescent angst as sold to us by the WB. Enter Peyton Sawyer: driving dangerously fast in her black Mercury Comet, blonde hair swaying in the wind, to the sound of a Forty-Foot-Echo-fueled desperation. Mark Schwahn painted the ideal scenario: a Maugham-reading, NOFX-referencing, attractive and sensitive jock, courting an equally attractive part-time cheerleader, part-time goth illustrator with a penchant for wearing metal band-shirts. One Tree Hill was as close as a TV show could get to the glossy appeal of 2003-end-of-rope rock.
We performed our Thursday afternoon ritual year after year, endured the reappearance of Peyton’s biological mother, the death of Peyton’s biological mother, the appearance of Peyton’s fake biological brother, the appearance of her real, biological brother and, if you’re still with me, several Sunkist product placements. We couldn’t understand what kept us glued. Here I am, still figuring it out, but I guess it was the music that was to be blamed. Where else on earth could you watch professionals play basketball to the Beta Band? Blame it on my top 20 songs featured on One Tree Hill.
20. Doktor Kosmos – “Holiday”
19. Story of the Year – “Sidewalks”
18. Tegan and Sara – “Walking With A Ghost”
17. Ryan Adams/ Bethany Joy and Chris Keller – “When the Stars Go Blue”
16. Hot Water Music – “Remedy”
10. Dashboard Confessional – “Hands Down”
Peyton lost control over the wheel as she rummaged through her pile of CDs in the backseat and/or because she was rocking too hard to “Hands Down”. She came to a screeching halt when she saw Lucas, crossing the street with his hood up and headphones plugged in (let’s assume he’s listening to Travis). He walked away, partially amused, partially disgusted but you could tell he’d always remember the sound of the stereo.
9. Jack’s Mannequin – “The Mixed Tape”
Remember the brown envelope labeled “this is a story…” Macmahon dropped off on his ex-lover’s doorsteps in the Mixed Tape music video? Well, guess who that ex-lover was? Yup, Peyton Sawyer. It was a truth universally acknowledged, that dropping your tape off at the Sawyer residence would take you far. “The Mixed Tape” became a One Tree Hill classic. It was, after all, the song that played during the Raven’s first game of the season against the Bear Creek Warriors.
8. Travis – “Re-Offender”
“Re-Offender” sharpened the angles of the Peyton-Lucas-Brooke love triangle when it played at the end of Season 1, as Peyton knocked on Lucas’ door to confess her feelings for him but found Brooke in his bedroom instead. Creator Mark Schwartz considered “Re-Offender” the soundtrack to the show’s success, propelling the second season to much higher ratings. This probably explains why the band became an on-going Peyton/Lucas thing — like, when Brooke consulted Peyton for some 411 on Luke and she handed him Travis’ 12 Memories, which Brooke then gifted to him, asking him to listen to track 13 (Spoiler alert: there are only 12 tracks). I suppose you could describe Travis as the band for sixteen year old deep thinkers.
7. Get Up Kids – “Overdue”
“Overdue” was essentially the letter Luke wrote but didn’t send to Dan. It fit in seamlessly with the show, so much so that it seemed as if it was narrating his life story when he talked to the boys at River Court in the second episode— “you’re a few years overdue/ I spent them here waiting for you/ now you’re charity is refused/ I can name a penance for abuse”.
6. The Honorary Title – “Stay Away”
Ah, nothing aligned OTH frames better than an Honorary Title narrative! Though the band had been heard on previous seasons, their placement in season 5 earned them a spot on the One Tree Hill Road Mix compilation. Lindsay, Lucas’ editor-cum-fiance, got into quite the argument with him at TRIC while watching the band perform. It finally dawned upon her that he’s only with her because she’s “a single, white female” with “Peyton blonde” hair (don’t worry, a few episodes later, she concluded that Luke was only writing a book about comets because Peyton drove a Comet). Of course, the conversation ended with Lindsay declaring they were both “screwed” while Jarrod Gorbel provided insight with his ballad: “Stay away from me ‘less you’re going to see me out.”
5. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar We’re Going Down”
“Pete from Fall out Boy! You showed!” greeted Brooke, Lucas, and Rachel in season 3. We were equally surprised. Pete was supposed to be her snuffleupagus — I mean, you didn’t just date Pete Wentz in high school. I guess tattered souls can recognize their tribe anywhere. Either way, it was 2005 and From Under the Cork Tree had just come out. Our infatuation with Fall Out Boy was new and we were still memorizing their self-indulgent song titles. Besides, how can you say no to skinny dipping, river-court-fighting montages set to “Sugar We’re Going Down”?
4. Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
There’s probably no better visual on TV than a cheerleader blasting “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” at a North Carolina high school beach party. Peyton was different from any other character on television in the early 00s — she didn’t subscribe to a stereotype, and in return, we accepted her unresolved family ties, blogs, issues, and plaid flannel shirts. (Note: she also discussed Bauhaus on her podcast, Punk ’N’ Disorderly).
3. Led Zeppelin – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
The moody, folk guitar of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” laid out the road map for Rachel and Cooper’s near-collision with Nathan and Haley after their wedding ceremony. When Rachel and Cooper tried to steer away from the car of the newly-wed couple, they drove off the bridge into a lake. Nathan got out of his car and dove after his uncle while Hayley, still in her wedding dress, screamed frantically. (And all the while, Lucas kept quoting a Shakespearean sonnet with mock-adult sobriety). This scene was reason enough for Led Zeppelin to finally license their music for network television.
2. Sheryl Crow – “First Cut is the Deepest”
There is something magical about having Sheryl Crow walk into the cafe where you work and play one song per cup of coffee. And the moment gets more magical when you find out she did this take on Superbowl Sunday, after her performance in North Carolina.
1. The Replacements – “Here Comes a Regular”
“You’re gonna tell me you don’t get chills when you hear the violin on ‘To Wish Impossible Things’?” asked Ellie when Peyton dismissed The Cure discography after Disintegration. Though it was a viola, not a violin, Ellie had a point. The conversations between her and Peyton had become one of the highlights of Season 3 for me. In one of the episodes, Ellie told Peyton how Paul Westerberg got up on stage in the middle of a rainy festival when every other band had packed off and performed “Here Comes a Regular” with an acoustic guitar. It was the moment she felt most alive. Eerily enough, it was the last song Ellie heard before she died. The last four minutes of the episode set to the song made for one of the most touching sequences on the show.