When I hear what is now classified as an oldie, I get happy. Bouncing in the seat happy. I hear ‘Be young, be foolish’ by the Platters, I’m transported to Folly Beach Pier with my then sweetheart, a Citadel cadet, and I’m rocking with the entire senior class. Yet I couldn’t name another song by that band. I hear Bad Company or Steppenwolf’s Hey Lawdy Mama and I’m suddenly riding in a Marine MP’s jeep with my best girl on our way to my Marine boyfriend’s place. (Ah, that would be Bob, married 35yrs) It has more to do with riding over the Chechessee River Bridge in an open jeep than anything. The tires thumping on slab concrete and wood rails had a rhythm of its own.
Our music tastes coincide with moments of maturity. They mark our lives early when we don’t really know who we are inside. At least it did for me.
Trip back a few years and my memories are connected to The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Tommy James and the Shondells. (yes, I’m that old) I have a clear memory of Iron Butterfly’s ‘Innagadadavidah’ playing at a school dance. Songs like the Loco-motion, Good bye Yellow Brick Road, Oh Very Young and everything Jim Croce garner a memory. Yes, I cried when he was killed. He was my favorite.
Something rock and roll was playing when a broadcast was interrupted to say JFK had been assassinated. I remember my parents reaction, the tears and every one huddled around the Hi-Fi. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. I was about six or seven and we were living in Iceland. All I knew was they were very sad.
The Beach Boys, Mama’s and Papa’s, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross music floated on the air during teenage sleepovers and after school activities. Woodstock and the Million Man March was the time of my youth, but I lived a sheltered life. I might have looked like a hippie then with purple leather, love beads and my hair ironed, but that’s about as far as it went. We all did it to be cool, but that’s when our choices weren’t always our own. No one could tell us what music to love. The teenager battling high school hormones, homework and curfews know what they like. It was about the only thing that was certain in our lives. Sure, parents didn’t understand our choices just like I don’t understand the appeal of rap and never will.
In my early twenties disco was everywhere, but it’s not a part of me. I was married, doing hair, but honestly, I can’t dance. No rhythm here, at all. It’s probably why I have little connection. But I digress. Often it’s music that flares a memory between the maturing years in our lives when decisions are often life altering. College? Military? Peace Corps? Music is wrapped in the freedom that one year– from seventeen to eighteen– marks. I was enjoying the heck out of life then.
I’ve lost a chunk of years with American culture. Anything produced between 1988-1992 is Greek to me, including all television. We were living in Okinawa then. AFRTS was the only English speaking channel and military radio sounded like Good Morning Viet Nam. That’s another reason why I prefer my oldies to anything on the air now. I get annoyed when I read lyrics to a new favorite and find out its senseless, vulgar trash. Yet I like the beat. (It’s easy to dance to, Mr. Clark. I give it a 98)
I’m not slamming anyone’s taste. Few songs made sense in my era too. Remember Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Jumping Jack Flash? Or Muskrat love? No one cared. We remember what was playing when an event changed something in our lives. Small or large, it doesn’t matter. It could be the week someone broke your heart or the day you made the cut at tryouts. It means something to the individual.
The week my husband proposed was full of activity but a constant was Boz Scaggs and Donovan playing in the background. When I hear either’s song, the memory of that week pops up. Yet I can’t recall my husband proposing. Not one moment of it. Strange but there it is. Might be though, that it wasn’t the first time he’d asked.
My writing career forced me to stop listening to country music with lyrics and a decent beat when my medieval knight in Ireland sounded like a cowboy bringing in a herd. I solved this with some Rachmaninoff and a little Mozart. With so many instruments, I couldn’t single one out. It helped with my job, yet now, I can’t listen to anything but the snap of the keys.
Music can change your mood and lift it up. When it trips a memory, its even sweeter or in some cases, bitter sweet. Sometime when I sing along and know all the words, I’m a little stunned that I can recall the lyrics of a thirty year old song. At the same time I recognize it for the memory it evokes and think, “Oh yeah, that’s when I…”
So I’m curious…. what song trips a special memory for you?