There are so many things that we tie into the music we grew up with, or heard at some event, it holds special meaning. Even if that meaning is negative, it still grabs hold of us years later and brings back those emotions, good and bad. Lately music has been a cruel companion, restful while doctors were working on me last week and an unwitting visceral torturer during every other moment.
Music has a way of making us remember details of experiences we sometimes forget. There will always be the memory of the first song you danced to at your wedding, those are obvious memories. But what about the ones you keep hidden that your mind brings up at weirdly spaced intervals? What was on the radio the day you heard the space shuttle had exploded? [no music, I was listening to Saturday morning talk radio] What song was on the radio during the first time you ever went to baseball practice at 7 years old? [Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd] I will even admit to remembering the song that was on the radio when I first hear the words “I love you” from a girl? [All I Need by Jack Wagner. Yes the soap star!]. I remember the song on the radio as I got to the hospital too late to say goodbye to my daughter [Nightingale Song by Toad the Wet Sprocket]. That last one has been removed from my devices, can’t hear it.
This morning’s Daily Prompt had me thinking and at lunchtime I headed out to my car and ate an apple. It wasn’t all that far for me, because I was actually still at home so no one was going to question anything. I had my choice of the 6 discs loaded into the stereo, my iPod sitting in the glovebox or just picking something at random off of the radio. Well let’s gamble with the radio for now…
The number of times I hear Stairway to Heaven during the lunch hour, whether I’m in the office, driving the car or home just playing with the dog is innumerable. It takes me back to the last dance song from every junior high event I ever attended. Didn’t matter what else was being played or even if there was some theme to the event, it always ended with Led Zepplin! You get to a point where you would prefer hearing Barry Manilow sing Mandy than hear that ever again. The angst of youth from being so much taller than the girls in my class and having a friend jokingly pull out a chair for some girl to stand on so that she might reach my shoulders. 30 years later, I still don’t like that song very much. In current days it always meant that I should pick up the phone and give Whitney a call. Just to let her know I was hearing the same track, at the same time of day. It was almost a ritual, but it was more than that. It was an excuse to touch base, see how things were going in her day. Since that option is no longer available, let’s try something different…
The CD player – Most of the discs I keep in there are ones that have a few tracks each that I can listen to while I make my 12 minutes drive to the office. Something simple, sometimes loud, often to no one’s liking but my own. And since I truly hadn’t been driving much lately I couldn’t remember which disc was in which slot. After I hit the CD button on the dash, on pops Lover by Alterbridge. “If you deny the wounds of your lover you will discover, that what you had is shattered and wasted, did you have to take it so far?” That isn’t a good choice. A song about how you feel empty because while you were hurting someone else was ignoring the source of the pain. It left the relationship in tatters in the end. Hits too close to home, my heart is racing from the anxiety it brings. My arms are numb, hands shaking as I reach for the radio, I need to get that one off fast.
iPod selection – I just hit Random Track and see where that leads me. It was the damn bootleg of the festival we went to a couple of summers ago. She knows I have it but doesn’t know why it was so important to me. It wasn’t even the bands, I had seen Dream Theater every time they had been in town, it wasn’t Dweezil Zappa doing his “Zappa doing Zappa” tribute to his father. It wan’t even the oddly entertaining BigElf with the lead singer playing a Hammond B3 while wearing his giant black top hat! It had been because on the drive over there she had told me there was no place she would rather be then with me that night. Even tho some of the music was not to her liking, she knew I got giddy and childlike when listening; that was what she wanted to see. The glee of watching 6’4″ me jumping around, running up to the stage to get a picture. Seeing her smile like that made me glad to be alive. Even if she did have her hands up to her ears at points!
Music has a power few other things have. Sure, you can remember the smell of flowers sitting on the desk. And sometimes the smell of honeysuckle can make me tear up. The flavor of chai tea reminds me of a dear friend who I wish I still talked to. Those hours spent sitting in a coffee shop just talking. And there are pieces of art, French Impressionist to be specific, that make me long for the time when we sat in front of a computer for two hours trying to find this particular painting I once saw in Philadelphia. I keep thinking it was called “The Wandering Path” and it had been on display during a Monet exhibit. But in the years since, I have never come across it again. The one time my rather good recall for details has failed me. Could be a different title, maybe a different artist, but I know that woman walking by the river with her parasol knots my throat ever time I think about her.
I look forward to re-experiencing that all encompassing joy that music can provide. Like most pain, it will fade in time. Become another one of those flashes of regret or longing some other song reminds any of us about. And there will always be that song I wanted to dance with her so badly to – All I Ask of You from The Phantom of the Opera. Such a simple theme, to people only needing each other.
Tell me what songs mean something to you. Could just be the title, or an artist you prefer.