The Soundtrack of Memories

As I was driving to work the other morning a Guns N’ Roses tune came across the radio.  I don’t even want to talk about the fact that it was on a classic rock station.  It can’t be possible that my beloved 80s metal bands are now categorized in such terms.  Classic rock?  What’s next…the oldies?  I shudder at the thought.

It seems like just yesterday that I was blown away upon first hearing Axl Rose belting out “Paradise City”.  If yesterday was 1987, that is, and for a few minutes during that mundane drive to work it was.  Iwas transported across the miles and across the years back to my junior year in high school.  I was no longer in my Accord in South Carolina.  Instead I was back in New Jersey in the passenger seat of my friend’s little red Nissan, and we were screaming out the lyrics right along with Axl as we rode to school.

Consider how often a song instantly makes you think of a certain person or group of people.  Feel how easily you are transported via your radio’s airwaves to a specific time and place in your life.  Chances are if you have a memory there is a song, an album, and/ or an artist attached to that memory.

If you hit “shuffle” on my iPod you would likely find yourself listening to one of the great singer/ songwriters from the 60s or 70s.  Let me hear Billy Joel or Jackson Browne, and I am back in my parents living room in the late 70s.  I can picture myself sitting on that gold carpet surrounded by my mom’s record collection.  I would pore over those albums obsessively for hours on end, picking one after another to place reverently on the turntable.

Some days it would be Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” or “I Got a Name”.  Other days were reserved for Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  I am surprised I didn’t wear the needle out picking it up and putting it down time and again to replay Elton John’s “Levon” or “Rocket Man”.  As a preteen girl I didn’t grasp the meaning of the lyrics yet, but I knew there was magic in those voices and in the songs they sang.

A few of the boxed set collections by my favorite artists

A few of the boxed set collections by my favorite artists

It was amidst that stack of mom’s albums that I discovered a treasure.  It was Neil Diamond’s Love at the Greek, a live double album released in 1977.  It changed my young life, and it turned me into a Diamond Girl forever.  I still get chills listening to him sing “Holly Holy” or “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”.  One of my all-time best memories is getting the chance to attend one of his concerts in 2002.  Fittingly, my mom, the person who formed my earliest love of music, was right there beside me listening to the “Beautiful Noise” of The Diamond.   (My husband was also there, but odds are he will deny it if you ask him.  Don’t let him fool you, though, as I spied his foot tapping more than once.)

There have been countless memories connected with music throughout the years.  I remember watching alongside my mom and my brother as The Who’s final concert aired on HBO in 1982.  Who knew (pun fully intended) that in the fall of 2012, thirty years after that “final” show, my husband would surprise me with tickets to see them in concert in Greenville, SC.  I can tell you that I felt the same awe in hearing Roger Daltrey’s voice belting out “Love Reign O’er Me” as I had all those many years ago.

It is close to impossible for me to hear a song from the 80s without a specific image flashing through my mind.  If I hear Bonnie Tyler singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” I am carried back to junior high school and the first co-ed party I attended, where we nervously paired up and danced to that song for what seemed like hours.  Put on Scandal’s “The Warrior” and I am at the football field on a Friday night cheering for either the Warriors or the Red Devils.  Hit me with Duran Duran or Thompson Twins, and I remember days with a wonderful friend, going to Devils hockey games or sleepovers staying up all night fixing the world and planning our futures.  Play anything by Bon Jovi or Mötley Crüe and a collage of my high school years appears before me, including images of great times primping (and crimping, if you remember Jersey hair in the 80s) before concerts with some amazing friends.

Time has marched on, and life has changed considerably over the past few decades.  There are new songs to hear and new memories to make (though if the truth be told more often then not I stick with those pre-90s songs).  I am grateful for the tunes and the lyrics that keep those recollections sharp in my mind.  I will forever love the music that commemorates my story and 
makes up the soundtrack of my life.

“Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me”
1977 ABBA “Thank You for the Music”

What are some of the songs or albums that bring you back to a certain place or time? Who are the musicians that created the soundtrack for your life?  As always I welcome and encourage your thoughts and comments!  Cheers! Karen

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33 thoughts on “The Soundtrack of Memories

  1. If it’s even possible to do so, I rock out when Paradise City is played in spin classes. I even sing along to Axl’s “so faaaaaaaaaaaar away”. Thankfully the volume (of the song, not of my voice) is always up loud…. Unfortunately, Slash’s 2 minute solo at the end is what we call a “time trial”, meaning stay seated with lots of resistance and pedal really fast until the song ends… I love Slash, but at those times I wish he’d taken it down juuuust a notch. 😉

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  2. Disco drove me to Nashville. Could be the title to a Ray Stevens parody song but in the 70’s, well, things went a bit off track. So now George Jones plays after George Harrison and Alan Jackson after Jackson Browne. It all works and helps me when I sit down to write or when I take The Child Bride over to Amish country to shop a bit.

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    • I remember my older brother had a “Death to Disco” pin when he was in high school. It was a fairly short-lived genre. Since moving to SC I have picked up some country as well. I am a fan of artists who actually write songs and play instruments! 🙂

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  3. You have a great choice of music, very diversified, which I like. My teen years were the sixties. So I grew up on the Beatles, Motown, Four Seasons, British Invasion, and everything in between. But I still love all kinds of music, including country since Garth Brooks got me hooked in the mid nineties. I’m also a major Springsteen fan as my blog will attest to..:) What I love most about music is how it transports you to a special place in time. There nothing like it.

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    • You grew up during a great time for the evolution of music! I could have made this a 20,000 word post to try to cover all of the best. My father instilled in me a great love for the 50s and early 60s stuff- The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Buddy Holly and the Crickets… I could write a whole separate piece on Al Green alone! I love reading your Sunday Springsteen features! You are so right about music. There is nothing else like it to evoke such strong emotions.

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  4. I loved this post-Karen. I too am a fan of ‘Classic music!’ for me it was Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, Human League, Spandau Ballet. Laura Brannigan, and Pat Benetar to name but a few! I still live in my little musical bubble!

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  5. I love the old classics, but cringe at the cover versions that fill the airwaves sometimes. There are quite a few songs that trigger memories, not all good or happy, but sometimes it’s nice to be transported back to ‘the good old days’ when music was music, not noise, people could sing not warble with a voice enhancer, and groups could actually play their instruments.

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      • I have one that I haven’t listened to or heard in over ten years, Every time I look at you by Il Divo, a track on their first album. The only time I ever heard it played on the radio was when we had a phone call from the vet with bad news about our dog. The song is beautiful, but the memory not, even after all this time.

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  6. I always say I was born in the wrong era because my favourite music is what is considered “classic rock” now! I love the Beatles, and any time I hear certain Beatles tunes or Paul McCartney solo stuff, it takes me back to the time I saw him in concert 5 years ago. Seeing him again in a few short weeks and I can hardly contain my excitement!! 🙂

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  7. OMG, we must be the same age–love all those songs and groups you mentioned! Now I am clueless about what songs are popular. In the car I listen to satellite radio’s 60s, 70s, 80, stations , the bridge and a couple of others. At home I listen to Pandora or Spotify with instrumental relaxing music.

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  8. I love loads of stuff that came out before I was born: The Smiths, Bob Dylan, The Beatles etc which is a good way to avoid feeling old when listening to the radio! I feel old when I realise that the Oasis album I played every day as a kid is now 20 years old though! Music is a great way to bring memories back. 🙂

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    • See, give that Oasis album another 5 years and it will qualify as “classic rock”, too. Way to make us feel old, right? I have to say that I have a hard time imagining many of today’s bands enduring the way The Beatles and other bands did. Time will tell…

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  9. Just this morning on my way to work, Grease came on the radio. I was instantly transported back to my parents’ gigantor yellow boat of a car headed to my elementary school. That memory makes me laugh. Thanks for the memory jogging post! 🙂

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  10. Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire takes me back to a hot August afternoon at the county fair in rural Pennsylvania and a dirty red pickup truck with my sister teaching me the lyrics.

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  11. Oh my gosh… just read this one, Karen. Spandau Ballet… Human League… I was already in my twenties!! But we listened to much of the same music. My cousins are all huge Neil Diamond fans. It’s so funny that you wrote about “Holly Holy” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” As soon as you mentioned that live album, I started humming those two!

    “Color My World” by Chicago brings back annoying memories from high school dances. I always picked the date that had to start crying when she heard that song. REALLY?? Ugh…

    How many weddings have I been to where we’ve all belted out in unison “CEL-e-BRATE good times, COME ON!!” (Kool & The Gang), danced to the B-52’s, done the Hokey Pokey, and annoyed our kids by having way too much fun doing the Chicken Dance?

    But deep down, I’m a hard rock guy who cut my adolescent teeth on the masters, Black Sabbath. Also many fun memories listening to tongue-in-cheek Blue Oyster Cult songs with my cousins in our college dorm room.

    Probably my all-time favorite music memory is sitting upstairs in my bedroom, with my dad, listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album. It was the late ’70s, if memory serves. Clare Torrey, who wails the wordless solo on “The Great Gig in the Sky,” sounded like she was right in the room with us on those awesome Infinity speakers. Dad could listen to hard rock with me…
    ——-
    Wait! We interrupt this ‘favorite Dad music memory’ for one other ‘awesome Dad music memory!’ One day in the early ’90s, my wife and I stopped by Mom and Dad’s house unexpectedly. I think it was a Saturday night. We rang the doorbell. No answer. We knocked on the door. No answer. We knew they were home. All the lights were on and the music was blaring! I mean, not loud… I mean BLARING. We opened the unlocked back door and walked up the stairs. We were listening to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The album version.

    So was Dad! And he was holding a can of Pledge in one hand and a dust rag in the other. It was one of the greatest Dad moments ever! Dad doing housework, rocking out to Iron Butterfly. I don’t even have a clue what Mom was doing.

    Anyway, back to our previously scheduled memory…
    ——-
    Dad could listen to hard rock or a polka and just about anything in between. I’ll never forget his playful singing while he groomed in the bathroom, usually twisting the words of a popular ’60s easy listening ballad that so exquisitely displayed his sense of humor. His favorite radio program was on a local Chicago station that had a Polish program that played polka music on Sunday morning. He’d listen almost every Sunday after church, usually while he made breakfast, giving Mom the morning off.

    Oh my gosh… thanks for triggering such wonderful, powerful memories, Karen! I was searching for an email when I accidentally stumbled on your email notification for this post. I was almost in the process of a meltdown, dwelling on the year that was and the awful early days of May when Dad passed away.

    And then, your wonderful “Soundtrack of Memories” rescued me.

    Thank you again, Karen! There truly are no coincidences.

    (Sorry for the long comment. I guess you got me going!)

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    • Oh my goodness, what a treat to log on to find this comment today! I lost my father in September of this year. I will always associate the earliest days of rock music and the best of Motown with his memory.

      Thank YOU, Dave, for sharing all of these amazing memories. You just kicked up a new batch for me!

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