Music and memories…

What songs bring you the most intense memories?

One of the great things about music is its associative power — that is, its ability to deliver you to a specific time and place. Obviously, this trait shows why music is so powerful in the advertising and marketing worlds. A simple three-note melody can instantly bring to mind a product or brand.

But today I’m more interested in personal memories, scenes evoked by a certain song. I’d love it if you could provide one specific memory that a song brings to mind.

Here are a few of mine. As it happens, they all involve my college years… does that mean I listened to music more in college? I’m not too sure about that. Regardless, here they are:

Steppin’ Out, by Joe Jackson.

College was a seminal experience for me. The first time I ever set foot in the state of Missouri was when I went to a pre-college orientation at Mizzou. I really didn’t know anyone in Missouri, much less at the university. But after an awkward few months I began to feel at home, thanks to my quick friendships at my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.

Soon I was actually enjoying college. This song, aside from being a killer tune, brings up the distinct memory of getting ready to go out – probably to a college bar like the Fieldhouse or its predecessor, Bullwinkles.  It’s probably Friday night. A week of school work is done, and I had probably spent the afternoon playing basketball with the fellas. Now, it was time to go out, to see and be seen. A world of possibilities awaits.

Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Chicago

Things were not all sweetness and light in college, however.

I arrived on campus exhausted. My room in the “pledge” floor of the fraternity house was, quite literally, a pile of rubble with a partially assembled bed frame and a dusty mattress in its midst. I fell asleep early that first night. The next morning I awoke with a fine surprise: I was covered with bright red welts, head to toe.

I had chicken pox.

I quickly realized I had contracted them from helping my high school girlfriend Beth babysit. One of the kids had the malady. I assumed, of course, that I had had it as a toddler. I was wrong.

Having recovered from that socially embarrassing disorder, I was happy to arrange a visit by said girlfriend, a Baylor student. Alas, I soon learned she had made the trip to break up with me.

I was devastated. And that night, through my tears, Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” seemed to come on the radio every few songs.

Maudlin, I know. But it seemed to speak to me: “After all that we’ve been through, I will make it up to you…”

Ah, the pain of teen love.

Sunset Grill, Don Henley

What is college without a road trip?

My friends and I decided we had to see Missouri play Texas in Austin. So we rented a Winnebago and hit the road, driving all night to reach our destination.

As it turned out, I was the only guy in the bunch who wasn’t intent on getting drunk. So naturally, I was given the late-night driving shift. Which meant that there I was, tooling down I-35 sometime before dawn, a screaming group of fairly well lit friends behind me, sprays of beer foam periodically dousing my back. They were playing drinking games that somehow required all interior lights to be on, and music to be cranked. “Am I okay to get over?” I asked at one point, trying to find an exit. “COME ON OVER!” came the reply. Of course no one had actually LOOKED in the lane I was trying to get in.

Somehow I missed the car and made the exit. Then, just as the sky turned auburn with the coming dawn, “Sunset Grill” came on. True, it was a sunrise, not a sunset, but somehow it seemed appropriate.

Okay, those are a few of mine. What are yours?

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5 Responses to “Music and memories…”

  1. Erica Smith Says:

    There are certain old country songs that remind me of the summer of 1985 at my grandmother’s house, and a fantastic AM/FM stereo with a turntable and eight-track player. Growing up, we listened to the “oldie” rock station on the way to church; they are still connected in my mind.

    In high school, I listened to The Eagles and Don Henley on the way to work. That stretch of I-70 still makes me think of them. One of the editor’s of the college paper played Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel and Ben Folds on deadline. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” takes me back to the computer on the far right of the room, laying out pages on deadline. (And makes me cringe at how rudimentary those pages were.)

    I first heard Maroon 5 and Blue October when I lived in Tacoma. I still associate early music by both with that city. The Fray and Augustana were big when I moved to St. Louis, and I couldn’t seem to escape them. They remind me of that drive from northern Indiana to St. Louis. (Specifically the intersection of Hwys. 24 and 41 where there’s a railroad crossing, a McDonald’s and a gas station. And a right turn.)

    Sometimes it’s people, not places. Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” makes me think of my brother. When he was in college, his alarm played that song every day.

    I grew up without a TV in the house, so music was almost always playing. That meant we listened to baseball games on the radio, too. (I’d still rather hear a ballgame than watch it on TV most times. Of course being in the ballpark is even better.)

  2. Silk Says:

    Chris, I have a college memory as well. Every time I hear “What I like about you” by the Romantics, I am transported back to the Fieldhouse. I can practically smell the beer and feel the crush of the bodies on the dance floor. You always knew it was almost closing time when they played this song.

  3. Christopher Ave Says:

    Great memories Erica and Silk — and great tunes!

  4. Desiree Perry Says:

    My great aunt had a music box that I was allowed to play with when I was 5 or 6. It played the 1930 song “Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It.)” To this day if I hear the tune I fondly think of her. For me it’s often a less often heard song that will hit me with the most emotion and memories. I’m not a huge Babys fan, but my first serious boyfriend took me to see them open for Journey in concert. The song “Every Time I think of You” will always make me smile.

    I had an on & off relationship that lasted 10 years and he loved The Alan Parson Project. To make a long story short, we could not make it work and finally parted for good. It was for the best and we both moved on. But still, all these many years later, if I hear the songs “Don’t Answer Me” or “Time” on the radio they make me feel a little wistful and bittersweet.

    “Time”
    Goodbye my love, Maybe for forever
    Goodbye my love, The tide waits for me
    Who knows when we shall meet again
    If ever…

  5. musicteacher541 Says:

    Wow. Your post, Music and Memories, made me feel more excited as this really interests me a lot. I have always been an emotional and a sentimental person; I value memories a lot especially those I got from music teaching. My memories with my family, loved ones, friends and students are good enough to make me live happier and more inspired. I always have the heart and the ear for music – such passion and dedication I can only give to something that I sincerely and honestly love doing. Please continue sharing your thoughts and experiences to most music educators like me. Your bright ideas can surely be effective and useful music teaching resources today. Thanks again and more power. Til your next posts. See you around and Happy holidays!

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