Thursday, April 06, 2006

When songs recall memories

To say music can be the soundtrack to your life is a bit of a cliche, but it's true nonetheless. Hearing certain songs can bring back memories you might have otherwise forgotten. For your edification, here are some songs which recall memories for me.

"Blue Velvet," Bobby Vinton, 1963- Nothing takes me back to junior high school days better than this song. We even had a program in the William W. Oliver auditorium during which student Judy Pepin sang a memorable version of this hit.

"Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," Lesley Gore, 1965- From the film, "Ski Party," this wasn't one of Leslie's bigger hits. Still it reminds me of the crowd of kids going to Saturday matinees at the Delft Theater to see the teen movies starring Frankie Avalon and the titillating Annette Funicello. Following the show, I raced home to do my paper route.

"Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)," John Fred and his Playboy Band, 1967- A parody of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," I loved his song and bought it as a 45. And, I snickered when I heard it on the radio, due to the salacious lyrics: "Cross your heart, yeah, with your livin' bra." Nothing takes me back to 10th grade like this song.

"This Magic Moment," Jay and the Americans, 1969- Our Escanaba High School graduating seniors picked this tune as the class song. Few probably realized it was actually a remake of a 1960 hit by the Drifters. We didn't pick the perennial "Color My World" by Chicago because it wasn't recorded yet.

"Bang a Gong (Get It On)," T-Rex, 1971- This song was a favorite, apparently, of our dorm neighbors at Central Michigan University's Herrig Hall. They played it disturbingly loud 24 hours a day. My roommates and I learned to detest the tune. In retribution, we played aboriginal chants and pounded beams into the walls. We probably annoyed ourselves as much as them.

"Wildlife," Wings, 1972- My friend Bob Nygaard and I kept this tape in the eight-track player during a road trip to Minneapolis. Thinking we were going to class-up ourselves by attending Shakespeare's plays "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "King Lear" at the Guthrie Theater, we instead became hooked on Paul McCartney's first disc with his new band. Critics, on the other hand, hated the album, but loved the plays.

"Angie," The Rolling Stones, 1973- This song broke out fast and received heavy airplay everywhere including the Green Bay market. It rang in my ears when, as a recent college graduate, I submitted job applications around Packerland hoping to secure work at the Green Bay Press-Gazette or one of the area's television stations. I didn't get a job, but the Rolling Stones scored a number one hit.

"Flat As A Pancake," Head East, 1976- Many local folks have fond memories for this album because it serves as a souvenir of the band's concert at the newly constructed Ruth Butler Exhibition Building. The place was jammed for one of the only major shows in Escanaba from that era not having to do with the U. P. State Fair. If you don't recall, Head East's hits included "Never Been Any Reason" and "Love Me Tonight." Unfortunately, most of their albums are out-of-print today.

"Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Gordon Lightfoot, 1976- This classic about the tragic sinking of an ore carrier on Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, brings me clearly back to that day. As city editor for the Daily Press, I heard the news from wire editor Bill Cadeau, who was visibly shaken, upon reporting to work that morning.

"(Just Like) Starting Over," John Lennon, 1980- After a five year break from recording to raise his son Sean, Lennon had released a new LP, featuring this song. At 6:30 a. m. on Dec. 9, my mother-in-law, Helen Hahn, called to tell us she heard one of the Beatles had been killed, but she didn't know which one. During his 7 o'clock broadcast on WDBC, Dave Andrews delivered the heartbreaking news that Lennon's return was cut short by a crazed assassin.

Well, those are some of the songs that trigger memories for me. Now, review your own.

1 comment:

CedarElkWoman said...

I could never write about songs that trigger memories for me. It would take the rest of my life. Even thinking about memories that songs trigger could take forever. I just got back from checking through cd's to find a certain song, & it took several hours, playing snippets of all the intensely memorable, meaningful songs I came across in my search. So, I'm back, without THAT song, but with plenty of comments about Steve's memory-evoking list. I have to confess, "Blue Velvet" is, for me, a great film. I'm not saying I'm younger than Steve, just that memories differ. (I do remember the Auditorium & the Pepins.) Annette Funicello - well I'm not going to go there here. Paper routes, in those days, were for boys, not girls, or as these days, middle-aged men. The Delft Theatre, on the other hand takes me back fast. As for Lesley Gore, another gender difference emerges. For me, she is the voice behind "You Don't Own Me" & other proto-feminist songs. Who could forget "Judy in Disguise"? A true parody, a comedic opposite of the Beatles, while the Stones were busy with their satanic majesties request reversals of the Fab Four. "This Magic Moment" is where Steve's memories and mine really reverberate. I sought out Jay & the Americans as an adult for the vocals & raw emotion on that song and "Cryin'". Neither unique to nor best rendered by Jay & All, but first remembered as sung by them. "Bang a Gong" must have been ubiquitous, and must have represented something to someone. Who can forget it, try though we might? Wings, well, there's a reason Steve's friend Bob called me "Rocky" and I called him "BG". It took me years to find & appreciate the best of solo Paul. "Angie" is one of those Stones songs - and there are many -that keeps this staunch feminist loving those staunch misogynists, right up through "Emotional Rescue". As Steve knows, one of the first songs on my funeral cd will be "Ruby Tuesday" & despite themselves, I found & find a feminist anthem there. Of course I remember the UP State Fair, & perhaps surprisingly, "Love Me Tonight." Could it be that booking agency Sweet Sue Seymour and I worked for? And now we come to the wrenching memories. I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, with a cabin on Whitefish Bay. We learned the ships' names & flags, waved to the crews as they passed through the Locks. I know each word to "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and cry each & every time I hear it. And now, the near-impossible. John - I even bought Life with the Lions #2 - when it came out! I have all of John's, Yoko's, and their collaborative work I can afford to replace from vinyl to cd. So, I went to New York to go to grad school. I drank too much, got lost, drove around with the radio on. They said "John Lennon has been shot." The world stopped. The tears started, then sobs, then hysterics. I had to pull over. And then the saddest news of all. I can pull two positive things out of this: I began collecting Yoko -"Season of Glass" remains a favorite, bloodstained-eye glasses, "Bang, bang, bang, bang." And, as a million of us passed the Dakota marching against nuclear weapons, wave by wave, we sang, LOUDLY, emotionally, "Give Peace a Chance."