Memories of a Lifetime

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In Which I Describe Songs from my Heart

Isn't it funny how hearing a song can instantly take you back to a moment, an event, a place and a time?

My car came with a year's free subscription to Sirius satellite radio. The range of available music is extensive. And no commercials. In the course of a just a few minutes in the car I can hear songs from my pre-school days all the way up to this week. And I've been noticing lately how nostalgic I get when I hear a certain chord, lyric or guitar solo.

For example: on the 60's station I might hear "The Rapper" by the Jaggerz which takes me back to 7th grade at D.L. Barnes Jr High and the girls who played records and danced at lunch time each day (does anyone else remember that?).

Or, I might hear the Vietnam song, Country Joe and the Fish's classic from the Woodstock album. Instantly, it's a warm summer day on Acorn Dr. My mom has gone to the store and my older brother has the stereo turned up so loud that you can hear it a block away. He knew that some of the neighbors were hating it, but he didn't care -- some songs just demand being played at high volume.

They play a wide variety of 60's music, so the next thing I might hear is Sonny and Cher singing "And the Beat Goes On". This one never fails to remind me of Christmas Day the year my sister got the album. We were in the basement rec room listening to her new records while we wallowed in all of our loot. The basement door opened and we heard my father coming down the stairs. Usually, he detested that "damn rock n' roll" and would make us turn it off. But this particular song must've really appealed to him, because next thing we knew he was kinda soft-shoe dancing as he came down the stairs and actually sang "And the beat goes on". We couldn't have been more shocked if our mother had started singing along with the Beatles.

And speaking of the Beatles, Wow. The memories their music invokes in me are too many to name. We got Beatles rock band this year for Christmas and as I was playing one of the songs my sister asked me "Do you have a place in your brain with the lyrics to all of their music?" Of course I do, and all of them will forever be entwined with her, as she was one of the original Beatle-maniacs. I'm proud to say that my daughter recognizes their music and even has a lot of it on her 'pod.

My cousin Tom loved Queen. We all used to head bang to "Bohemian Rhapsody". I admit we stole the idea from the classic movie "Wayne's World," but that didn't make it any less fun! I still remember one party where we head banged for just a little too long and Tom's wife and I couldn't move our necks the next day.

My friend Jim Matuszak, who passed away several years ago, loved music. Just for fun and sharing he would make mix tapes for his friends, (he passed away before the advent of copying CD's, bless him, he would've loved to do that). He battled Hodgkins disease for a couple of years before he died. During his ordeal he made me a tape entitled "I'm no angel (not yet)!" with the lead song being "I'm no Angel" by Gregg Allman. Not only does that song have one of the greatest lines in rock history ("C'mon baby, let me show you my tatoo."), but when I hear it on the 80's station I never fail to go back in time to lunches with Jim and my cousin Tom. I miss him.

Certain Elton John songs always make me remember 2 special young men from my junior high school days.

Billy Joel's "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" brings back the cold fear and anxiety from those tense days following 9/11 when we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop or the anthrax to kill us.

My cousin Rachel and her mom? Elvis' "In the Ghetto." They know why.

My dear Uncle Ned was a HUGE Sinatra fan. Siriusly Sinatra? Can't even listen to it. Some memories are just too painful.

But then there are the camping songs! Nothing like getting drunk and singing around the campfire. And of course, the more drunk we were the better we sounded. If we heard Bob Seger's "Night Moves", Steve always had to tell us he knew a girl who was "way up firm and high" just like the song says.

My cousin Gabriella and I always wondered what happened to "The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA", Donna Fargo. When we weren't singing show tunes, that is.

Her sister Susan favored "Morning has Broken" by Cat Stevens.

Their sister Pam liked the "tit-bits" in Elton John's "Good-bye Yellow Brick Road."

I remember when I was growing up my mom and the neighbor lady would listen to music from the 40's while they were doing each others' hair at our kitchen table. If the song evoked a strong enough memory the hair on their arms would stand up. We kids would all laugh at them. I wish they were both still here so I could tell them that the same thing happens to me now when I hear a special song that takes me immediately into the arms of a special person.

The turmoil that was my high school and post-high school years is chronicled on Sirius' 70's & 80's stations. There are so many moments -- most deeply personal and hard to talk about -- that come back to me that I rarely even listen to the 70's station. Better memories associate with the 80's station -- one of the best decades for pop music IMHO.

Today I got the bill for continuing the Sirius radio. Without any hesitation at all I wrote a check to renew it for another year. I enjoy it too much to let it go.