Home > Uncategorized > Music triggers memory, and the other way around…

Music triggers memory, and the other way around…

memoriesI was recently talking to a musician friend of mine about how songs frame our memories. There always seems to be a soundtrack. And from that moment on, that song, or that band, or that concert, always conjures up those memories.

It doesn’t need to make sense either. Sometimes it’s simple timing.

When my Mom passed away a few years back me and my sister’s met at the funeral home to go over arrangements. From there, we piled in my car and drove to the casket company to pick one out. Maybe a 15 minute drive to Scranton. On the way, the Oasis song “Champagne Supernova” came on the radio. I’m sure other songs came on during the drive as well, but for some reason this song stuck with me. And forever after it reminds me of my Mom. Both losing her, and being lucky enough to have her.

Wake up the dawn and ask her why
A dreamer dreams she never dies
Wipe that tear away now from your eye

Who knows. Maybe Noel’s goofy lyrics finally hit somebody’s nerve. (But still. Don’t ask me why he thinks a cannon ball is fast. Cocaine is a powerful drug methinks….)

This got me thinking about my Dad. He’s gone 10 years and I still laugh at the absurd memory of us driving to his brother Matt’s apartment that one early morning. The police had just just called and informed us that Matt had had a fatal heart attack. The paperboy noticed paper’s piling up on the porch and peered through the window and saw him on the floor. Cops saw nothing suspicious and wanted to be relieved from guard duty. We should get there to attend to things. Call the funeral home. The sort of family duty you generally don’t think about.

We took my car. It was a quiet, sad ride, for obvious reasons…..so I reached and flicked on the radio. There was a CD already in the player. Tom Lehrer. “The Vatican Rag” started blasting over the speakers. I was appalled…..as my Dad was a strict by-the-book Catholic and would surely be offended……and then I heard him laughing. Guffawing. And then…

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

…and the both of us roaring. And then he said, “don’t tell your Mother” and I promised I wouldn’t and never did. My Pops was a cool cat. The first time back to the house after he died I noticed a record on the turntable in the dining room. Paul Simon’s “Graceland”.

I miss them both. Many things trigger memories of them. I’m glad music is among them.

And then there was unrequited love. I was a Junior in high school. This girl could crush me with a quick avoiding turn of her head in the hallway……and then bring me back to life with a flirtatious smile after the next bell rang. I was beyond pathetic. The radio was overwhelmed with the shmaltzy Bryan Adams song “Heaven”, which reminded me of this girl because, as I mentioned, I was pathetic and songs like this were written for dolts like me. I had an after school job unloading trucks, and the same radio station would be on…playing the “top 5 at 5”, and this fucking song was number one for what felt like the entire year. So every day, with literal clockwork precision, my heart was ripped out of my chest anew. And to this day, that song reminds me of what it feels like to care about somebody waaaay more than they care about you. Which is a pretty shitty feeling. So fuck that song.

Being this sad made me a natural for picking up the guitar. At least I could spend my weekends not being popular trying to rectify that very thing. So I struggled and quit and tried again and eventually made progress. I could play a few chords. Then a few more. Learned the magic of the capo. Could never play lead guitar, but a man’s got to know his limitations. It seemed to me that after a while I could play just about as good as Bob Dylan (if he didn’t play lead, why should I?). That ain’t bad, right? Because the songs. The SONGS.

I wanted to do that too. Be able to do with words what he was doing. And it was “Girl From the North Country” that started it all. Maybe the first song I learned to play start to finish. And I felt like….if I could play it…..maybe that meant I could…

Well…no. I couldn’t. Not then and not now.

But it gave me the push I needed to try. And that’s all I needed. Once I started, I never stopped. That was over 30 years ago.

It’s the song I heard that made me say….”I want to do that too”.

What a memory that is.

In a bit..


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