Monday, March 4, 2013

Music and Memory

Every day you get to listen to music is a good day.

In the last year, one of my goals has been to enter all music we have into iTunes. This is not a universally appreciated idea. My musical tastes are a little less discerning than M's. As a consequence, there are some things that I really like that aren't popular elsewhere in the house.

Some of these discriminations (Dread Zeppelin, Primus) I understand. Others (Bowie, Pink Floyd) are harder for me to reconcile. But our blended musical family includes a few characters I could live without as well (I'm looking at you, John Mayer, and you too, Raveonettes).

Truth be told, though, we've both won a few battles. I actually find a handful of songs by the Raves pretty good. If I felt the same way about John Mayer, I'd never confess to it.

I mean, anyone who wrote "Your Body is a Wonderland" deserves to be scorned forever, right?

There was a time when M absolutely could not tolerate Steely Dan. Now she likes them. I'm doubtful that I will get her to accept Bowie, but at least I won with Steely Dan.

We've got close to 13,000 songs into the archive. That's a pretty big list -- more than five weeks' worth. But as Willie Stokes told Thurman Merman, "They can't all be winners, kid."


Music has added a lot to my life. It's fun. One of the things I love about it is how it can conjure a memory of a specific time or a place. It truly is a transportation device.

While working on some things this morning, the shuffle dialed up a U2 song, "Red Hill Mining Town." It took me to a place I couldn't find now if I tried, and to people who I no longer know.

And that's fine. The first time I heard The Joshua Tree was at Noxon's. We were co-workers, not friends, and he lived in a ratty house in Arlington. There was a party there, but his girlfriend Nancy was  the real attraction. Me and Rico went.

I can remember that night, but solely because it was the first time I heard that album. Albums were still the dominant musical delivery method in the first half of 1987. The party was raging, but seeing that iconic Anton Corbijn cover art captured my eye more than Nancy did. I liked Nancy; I loved U2.

I bet none of those people remember that night. They probably don't remember me. But that song came on, and I was right there all over again.


And I've got many songs that do this. "She Loves You" takes me back to jumping on my parents' bed in 1964. "Bohemian Rhapsody" puts me in a car passing in front of Hill Junior High on a warm summer night in 1976. "Love Lies Bleeding" takes me to my first concert. "I Ran" is a wrongly ridiculed song, and I like it a lot, but hearing it takes me to a funny episode with my brother, who was playing it so loudly that we couldn't hear the landlord knocking at the door.

And certain artists are associated with people. Walk loved Jackson Browne, so I remember her when Jackson Browne shows up. Cephus loved REO Speedwagon. That's his.

Then of course, there's "The Waiting," which changed my life. That story's too unbelievable, but totally true.


Because of the things that have happened to me, and the way a particular piece of music can imprint itself forever in my memory, I would prefer to have it around more often than not. Because you never know when it's going to stick, and maybe even make a difference.

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