Monday, August 31, 2009

The Power of Music

You’re in line at the supermarket waiting to pay for your new issue of Mad Magazine and a quart of low grade motor oil when the piped in music starts playing the song you lost your virginity to. Without realizing it you’ve been transported to the back of your dad’s ’78 station wagon. In the market line you’re gyrating in a way that has caused the other patrons to move slowly away from you and the music is interrupted by a page for security.

That’s the power of music. Songs enter our heads and become glued to a certain memory or event so every time we hear that song we are instantly in that moment.

A few examples from my own life: I’ve always loved the .38 Special song Hold on Loosely. The first time I heard it was on a bus to an away track meet in 10th grade. One of the upper classmen always had his boom box with him and being the early 80s it was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle with enough buttons and switches to land small aircraft on the football field. I remember the bus was just pulling away when he tuned the radio to FM 104 and they played Hold on Loosely. Every time I hear the song I’m taken back to that bus.

There’s a song I don’t hear often but it conjures up one specific memory each time. It’s The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. It starts like this:

In 1814 we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
and we caught he bloody British in the town of New Orleans

A few summers ago my brother and I played basketball after work a few days a week. During one game I asked what the score was. He replied “its 18 14”. He then proceeded to sing The Battle of New Orleans while doing a little dance. And he knew every effing word: The chorus, every verse, and every inflection that Johnny Horton used when he recorded it. More than his singing though, I’ve been traumatized by the dance.

My last example is actually an introduction to a song and not the song itself. It’s 1977 and I’m in 7th grade. Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo has just come out. One of my classmates brought it to school and described the intro to all the jealous boys. We got to music class and lo and behold we had a substitute. Jim sweet talked the sub into letting him play some of the record because we were just having a study hall anyway. Jim put on the oh-so-subtle Wang Dang Sweet Poontang and we all listened to Ted:

Nobody out there came to me mellow tonight did ya?
Ain’t nobody out there that even wants to be a little bit mellow is there?
Anybody wants to get mellow you can turn around and get the fuck outta here all right?

Whenever I listen to Double Live Gonzo and that intro, I’m back in 7th grade in the music room under the withering stare of the hapless substitute who I think was wondering why she ever went into teaching in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I just had a moment like this on the drive home from an eleven hour trip. I left on the first radio station that wasn't blasting country or techno hip-hop. After listening to a few decent tunes, they started to play Bad Blood by Neil Sedaka. Feeling a bit loopy from the long drive, I started to sing along... AND REMEMBERED EVERY FREAKING WORD!! I even knew where the "do ron do ron, di di, dit dit, do ron ron" part came in. The scary part is that I can't remember why I just walked into a room, but the lyrics to a lame '70s pop song that I probably haven't heard in over 25 years is crystal clear. But, yes, it took me to my 13 yr old self lying on my bed listening to the clock radio I treasured from the previous Christmas.

    And I have yet to find a radio station as awesome as FM 104.