Sunday, May 10, 2009

Musical Memory Lane

Do you ever hear a group or a song and have it immediately take you back to another time and place in your life? That happens to me all the time. Music just has a way of zooming past right reason, directly into your subconscious. One minute I’m driving to work, the next I’m a little kid listening to the car radio and fighting with my brother and sister.

Here are a handful of my associations, right off the top of my head:

Simon & Garfunkel – Anything from “Bridge Over Troubled Water”: I was in probably 4th grade, living outside Chicago. Mom began playing this album all the time and it bugged me because it replaced the soundtrack to “Hair”, which she previously played all the time. “Hair” was much more fun, although I eventually grew to love S&G.

Carole King – Anything from “Tapestry”: I’m in 5th grade; we live in Bexley Ohio, driving to or from the grocery store in our brown 1960 Rambler (named “The Bomb”). Carole King was on the radio every 15 minutes back then… she was inescapable.

Anything by Bob Seger: We had just moved to Toledo from Columbus and were still getting used to everything being so far away, so we spent much more time in the car driving to the store and whatnot. Bob Seger is from Detroit, so we also had to get used to hearing him on the radio every 15 minutes, coming from the tinny AM radio in our yellow Jeep Wagoneer (named “Jaundice”). “Turn the Page”, however, always calls back the drunken sing-a-longs, standing arm in arm around the bar during our infamous Barn Parties.

Boston – “More Than a Feeling”: Driving to school in my buddy John’s beat up VW bug. You could see the road through the floorboards, but the speakers were good. I always remember the clarity of the high-hats ringing out as the song faded out. That album was brilliantly engineered in 1976, and still holds up today.

Rod Stewart – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”: Summer of 1979, driving down to Findlay Ohio with my buddy Rik, to see some girls. It was the disco era and Rockin’ Rod put out this steamy, thumping single that was definitely the soundtrack to our horndog activities. Rik’s girlfriend lived in Findlay and had a friend that wanted to meet me, so we hit the road in hot pursuit. I can still remember my Dad’s parting words of advice: “Be careful now… I don’t need any more mouths to feed.”

Molly Hatchet – “Flirting With Disaster”: Flying down Monclova Rd. heading for Dale’s Bar in Maumee. Wide open 2-lane highway, a great driving song on the radio and good times on my mind.

Anything by Pat Benatar: My college girlfriend was friends with a bunch of women’s softball jocks who worshipped at the altar of Pat. Benatar was played for pre-game psych-up and boyfriend break-up. When Pat came on, you best watch your ass, buddy.

The Cars first album: Pop perfection… I wore that cassette tape out on my daily commutes to and from Bowling Green. It got to be so predictable it was like, “hmm, if “Moving in Stereo” is on, I must be in Haskins.”

REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity: Totally belongs to said college girlfriend. “Keep On Lovin’ You” was totally ‘our song’, as I suppose it was for many, many others in 1980. We used to put that on the turntable in her basement (along with James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits” and Doobie Bros. “Minute by Minute”) and make out like crazed weasels.

Anything by AC/DC but especially the old stuff with Bon Scott: Barn Parties! Jamming in long, sweaty “performances” imitating Angus Young and invariably waking up with a stiff neck. (Click the vid below to see Angus play and you'll see what I mean.) Busting out the AC/DC at a Barn Party was the sign that the party was at its peak. No sense bringing out the heavy artillery too early… Best. Party. Band. Ever.

There are also a ton of concert memories, having seen them 5 times, but those are stories for another time.

Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Lights: College parties and dances, grabbing a partner and acting out the whole thing. That whole album “Bat Out of Hell” was phenomenal and I was just getting into it about that time. In fact, when I wasn’t playing The Cars on the way to school, I was playing “Bat Out of Hell”, especially if the weather was bad. I used to think, “If I’m going to buy it on this stretch of road outside of Haskins, I might as well go out to some good music.” It sort of became my good luck charm that way… when the snow came down, I put on Bat Out of Hell, because I knew The Loaf would get me home. I wanted to tell him that story back when I met him in 1993, but chickened out.

George Thorogood: I remember coming home late on a Saturday night and my Dad was watching Saturday Night Live. He said, “You gotta see the musical act…” George was on and he’d already played “Bad to the Bone”, but I waited long enough to see him come back and play “Back to Wentzville”. I will never forget seeing him rocking that big white Gibson while I pretended not to be drunk.
The next week I was picking out the records for my shift on WBGU radio and the jock before me was playing “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer.” I was like, damn, this guy’s good… I went out and started buying Thorogood albums immediately. You can always count on George. It occurred to me last year, as I was seeing him live for the umpteenth time, “if cavemen could rock, they’d play George Thorogood.

Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation” album: Doing one of my radio shifts and having our Program Director come in and whip this album on me and say “check this out!” The cover showed this tough looking leather chick… I scanned the song list… “Do Ya Wanna Touch Me?” I’m like, “that’s sounds interesting…” I put it on the turntable to cue it up and caught that opening riff and went, “Oh yeah… that’s the one.” Been a Joan fan ever since.



Joan memory Pt 2: Years later, I was at a listening party for “Up Your Alley” and I got to meet her as the sound system was blasting “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. I told her “I can’t wait to get this in the car!”
That song still crunches, and whenever I hear it, I have to think of getting to spend a couple minutes schmoozing with the Queen of Rock.

3 comments:

  1. "Music hath charm to soothe..." transport and transform! Wonderful trip dowm music memory lane.
    Discs still stay on my player for months. Odetta is there now. "O FREEDOM" galvinized the Civil Rights marchers, still shivers my soul.
    "Seventeen" remains at the top of my tunes. Janis Ian is me. '...no beauty queen...'

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  2. What an awesome post! I can totally relate to you and your choice in all of these memories and songs. Great choices. Meat Loaf, Thorogood, Tapestry, Simon and Garfunkel---every choice sublime. Sometimes lyrics from songs creep into my thoughts and conversations. The lyrics say just what I needed and when the other person 'gets it', well, it's an OMG moment.

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  3. So glad you liked...

    Music really is the soundtrack to our lives. Just a couple of notes have the power to transform a moment and when you hear them again, they take you right back.

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