Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Power of Music

For as long as I have been able to remember, music has been such a powerful element in my life. I have memories of dancing to "Shake your Booty" by KC and the Sunshine Band with my parents. The year was 1979 and I was 4 years old. I can still recall the disco beat pulsing throughout the house as we boogied on our rusty-red shag carpet. To this day, if I hear that song, I flash back to when I was 4. In my head, I instantly visualize our funky carpet and my mother's earth toned couch and love seat. It's like the 70s all over again.

When I was in elementary school, my dad would play 50s rock and roll records on the weekends. One lazy Sunday afternoon, Dad was listening to Carl Perkins in his study. I heard that rockabilly sound and I felt transformed! At that moment, I could have cared less for Salt-N-Pepa and Lisa Lisa! I wanted more guitar and upright bass!

As a seventh-grader, I knew more about Bo Diddley and Duane Eddy than I did about Poison and White Lion! (Gross!) I had no interest whatsoever in most modern music. If I wasn't listening to 50s rock, I was playing my Depeche Mode, Cure, and Echo and the Bunnymen tapes.

Putting musical taste aside, music is just one of those things that has this exceptional ability to trigger memories. Not only do I love 50s music, I cherish it simply because it reminds me of my dad and being young.

Whenever I hear any Depeche Mode song, I remember the fun moments spent with my best friend, Sunny, when we were in middle school. The very first time I had a sleepover at Sunny's house, we sat on the floor and listened to the entire "Speak and Spell" album. One song in particular, "Boys Say Go," was just totally ridiculous! I do not think the band meant it to be that way but it was funny regardless of the intent. The crazy beat combined with the inane lyrics caused Sunny and I to 'lose it!' She and I were laughing so hard that we woke up her mom and dad! Her mom knocked on the door and told us to "keep it down and go to bed!"

In 1989, my mother and I took a trip to Ireland and the UK to visit family. One of my cousins was totally in love with Robert Smith from the Cure. At this point in my life (14), I heard of the Cure but I was unfamiliar with their work. My cousin took it upon herself to introduce to their music and she lent me "The Singles" album. Again, I had another "transforming life moment." The Cure became an instant favorite.
In 1996 at age 21, I visited Breckenridge, Colorado for the first time with my new in-laws and husband. It was the first week of December when we arrived in Denver. The the sky was gray and the air was cold. The steely peaks in the western sky were covered in white slashes of snow. Their icy hues contrasted the flat and barren fields that encompassed the airport grounds. The Front Range was completely devoid of any semblance of winter. But as our rented mini-van chugged its way down I-70 West, the urban scenery slowly changed into rural views adorned with towering shards of snow-capped rock studded with lanky pole pines and fat blue spruce.

As we ventured further west towards the Continental Divide, the road became white with snowpack. My father-in-law was driving and he decided to slow his speed. I was already feeling restless so I reached into my bag for my Walkman and I put on my headphones and pressed "Play." "A Forest" by the Cure flooded my ears and I felt like I had my own soundtrack. Together, the foreboding lyrics and the eerie pangs of Robert's Smith's guitar seemed to mirror the somber mood of the darkening crevasse. The once-white snow turned blue as the heavy clouds consumed the last remains of sunlight.  There was uneasy feeling of danger mixed with a tranquil serenity. The snow began to fall harder as the car engine groaned in a futile effort to fight the ever-changing tilt of the road.

No matter where I am, if I hear "A Forest," I immediately see the mountains of Colorado in my mind. That song will always remind me of that snowy ride.

There are so many examples of songs that trigger memories. I could "go on and on" but I would never stop writing! Both "Feed the Tree" by Belly and "Linger" by the Cranberries reminds me of bad (stupid!) ex-boyfriends. "Whoomp There It Is!" by Tag Team brings me back to the summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. That song was played so much on the radio and MTV! I really liked it at first but after a while, it drove me nuts! Another freshman year overplayed tune was "Funk Dat" by Sagat. "Why is it that bums ask me for money, when I ain't got none?"

As I get older and the years continue to slide by, I keep adding to my 'music and memories' collection. I do not mind. In fact, I love it. Music-inducing memories indicate that I am trying to "take it all in" before it's "my time." I am looking forward to the many memories to come for sure.

So, do you have songs that remind you of special times?


  1. What a beautiful post. There are songs that I literally could not listen to for years because they would not only trigger memories, but the feelings associated with the memory. Most song memories are good, but please don't play "Question of Lust" by Depeche Mode!

  2. I def have songs/music like that. I also have this strange connection with styles of music and the seasons. As soon as it starts feeling cold, I have to listen old British punk, and then in the summer I start feeling like I have to listen to pop-punk and rockabilly. I listen to so many types of music, so I'm really not sure why that happens

  3. Yes yes and yes. Music has been a huge part of my life too. I loved music all my life and used to listen to all sorts of music and styles until I discovered my beloved R'n'B (I hasten to add real R'n'B not what they call it now!)

    Many songs evoke memories but as it's early in the morning, my brain is concentrating on breathing rather than thinking ha ha!

  4. What a lovely memory, I can just imagine it. Isn't it great when a moment comes together like that, all on its own.

    Sometimes you also link songs with someone elses memory. I remember when I was a teenager, my mum telling me that whenever she heard Fleetwood Macs 'Go Your Own Way' she remembered being in a car with an ex-boyfriend and singing along with it turned up on the radio. And now when I hear it, I think of my mum being young.

  5. Kim,

    Thank you for the compliment! I know what you mean! My best friend, Sunny, LOVES "A Question of Lust!" It's funny: when you I read your comment last night, I had that song in my head for hours! Every DM song reminds me of being with my best friend when we were in school! I think my favorite DM song has to be "Stripped."

    If I hear that dang "Linger" song, I instantly want to change the channel on my XM radio! When I was dating this guy during my freshman year, that song was huge! When I hear it, I think of that lame butthead and it's like 1993 all over again! lol

  6. Betty2Tone,

    I can relate! In the summer, I love hawaiian music and reggae! In the winter, I like Sisters of Mercy, Skinny Puppy, and The Cure. I love 50s rockabilly all year round. The only genre of 50s that I do like is Doo Wop! For some reason, I find it annoying.

  7. Straight Talking Mama,

    I love original r and b and blues. John Lee Hooker is amazing. I got my first CD of his music from my brother-in-law on my 18th birthday.

  8. Thank you for your comment, Penny Dreadful! I know what you mean about being able to visualize someone else's memory! Whenever I hear the Beatles or The Rolling Stones, I think about all the times my mom told me about her love of their music when she was a late teen-early 20 something. My mom also told me about how she and her friends would go to dances and listen to the music.

  9. Great post! Its often the most random of sonmgs that evoke strong memories! My sister hates the fact that 'her' song for me is Bonnie Tyler, Total eclipse of the heart. She used to have big bonnie hair in the 80s and played that song to death. I was only about 5 (she was 18), but it really stuck with me and even now - if someone said what song reminds you of your sister? That would be it!!

  10. Thank you, Clare! My sister had big 80s hair too! If I had to think of a song that reminds me of my sister it would definitely be "Suicide Blonde" by INXS. My sister is a blonde and joked that the song was about her! LOL! My sister loved INXS and thought Michael Hutchence was the hottest man on earth when the group was massively popular.