Memory Music: Part One

“Old days. Good times I remember ...

take me back, to a world gone away ...”


What music did you listen to when you were a kid? This past weekend, I was reminded that ‘back in the old days’ everything I loved came from the radio first. No iTunes, no Napster. We had radio, albums, and cassette tapes. That's it, unless you count the 8 track player. Which I don't. And even though MTV was birthed during my high school years, it doesn’t count either. None of my groups were on MTV. I was an ‘easy listener’. It’s embarrassing but true. Enough time has passed that I’m willing to come out and admit it.

My Top Twelve in High School:

Christopher Cross

Barry Manilow


Air Supply

Hall & Oates

Amy Grant

Lionel Ritchie

James Taylor

Kenny Loggins

John Denver

The Police

Dan Fogelburg

Don't yawn. And, just in case you skipped the early '80's, I’ll tell you. The bulk of that list is mellow, romantic, surfacey and middle of the road, really. Most of it has now been relegated to dentist offices and elevators. It's vanilla. But I still love it, mostly for nostalgic reasons.

Truly cool people like John F., the guy who sat next to me in homeroom C-103, listened to edgy rock like The Who, and Black Sabbath, and Led Zepplin. He had really big hair and always laid his head on his desk during announcements like he was recovering from some marathon head-banging party. I felt like a music virgin sitting next to him. He was a very nice burnout though. He was willing to talk to preppy me. We did find a song that we both liked. Which ironically described our life paths. It was “Separate Ways” by Journey.

I’d listen to my music turned up very loud in my Dad’s 1979-ish Peugeot. I played it “loud” because it felt better that way. Somehow, loud music gave me the illusion of being a hot & pretty thing in a racey car -- especially if I was driving with the windows down and the moon roof open. However, the loudness of my very soft rock music combined with the diesel clank of the old Peugeot in reality, at best, probably made me seem like a peppy little ice cream truck coming down the street.

My friend Sarah Kohlmeyer got me listening to the Eagles. My friend Ciprian introduced me to Peter Gabriel, The Fixx, Police, and Talking Heads. They significantly upped my musical cool factor. I think of those certain friends when certain songs come on the radio. In the same way, some songs instantly send me back to past seasons and experiences. Music has that odd power to contain and trigger memory.

I know you know what I’m talking about. I know you have a song that sends you somewhere. You have a lyric, chorus or bridge that brings a feeling that you haven’t had since ‘then.’ It’s a break-up, a God moment, an unexpected death, a year in school, a birth. Or maybe it's a romance, a grieving season, a kiss, a childhood friend, or just some vague feeling about who you used to be. Sometimes music wafts into our heads uninvited and reminds us of a world gone away.

If you get what I'm saying, you'll understand this next series of posts. I'll be tracking where music sent me while I was at my 25th High School Reunion. Stay tuned. And, as always, thanks so much for reading along.


Scott Jamison said...

I was pleased to see Hall&Oates on your list. I liked them back in the 80's but recently I've been learning new appreciation for songs of theirs that I didn't really know.

Scott Jamison said...

And I must admit, sometimes James Taylor makes me think of playing rook with you and Steve in someone's townhouse.

Steve Leigh said...

That's nice. I never really thought that I could be in someone else's music memories. I always just figured that everyone else was in mine.

Scott Jamison said...

Well, Steve, I am also reminded of you and someone else singing "Come On Feel The Noise" with Bethel Choir Stylings. I laugh.

Of course I don't hear this song that often. . .

Kleigh said...

Which is really a strong argument for "less is more."

James Taylor and Rook sounds like a very good thing right about now. Thanks for the reminder, Scott.
: )

GnipGnop said...

Just a couple weeks ago I created a music station on Pandora based on artists like Journey, and listened to that for a whole day at work. That day was a trip down memory lane, recalling memories I didn't even know I had.

Some of these memories were significant, like breaking up with a girl or embarking on a new relationship (which is where my head was most of the time), others were more inane like a specific drive back to college from home on a snowy winter night during my freshman year.

Give it a try, it'll blow your mind.

-Mike K

Kleigh said...

Mike... I don't know about Pandora. Will have to go check it out, with SteveL!

'Love how you describe the memory unlock and where it sent you. That so it. Exactly right.

Thanks so much for joining The Spill!
That's very awesome of you, I must say.