I’m tired of thinking about shit-head idiots and bullies who need to be stomped into a puddle of their own shit in this world so I’m switching gears and writing about memories and music together instead. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do and it makes me feel good so I hope you enjoy this radical shift in gears here.
My earliest memory is of music. I was about three years old and sitting in the backseat of my dad’s Ford Mustang going down the road when I heard the opening guitar riff of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ by Buddy Holly. I remember seeing my dad turn the radio knob when that guitar riff came so that when Buddy started singing, the music was blasting out of the tinny speakers. I still crank that song up whenever I play it now.
One time I was driving around with my dad and I put in a cd with the song ‘Baker Street’ by Gerry Rafferty. The song came out in 1978 when I was about four years old, which about a year after we’d moved to Houston. My dad asked me what my memories of Houston were like and I told him I always associated that song with Houston back then. I told him I remember hearing it in the car as we were going down the freeway heading towards downtown, and how downtown Houston seemed to rise like the Emerald City out of the huge clouds of smog back then. That song makes me think of a gritty, grimy city that people live in but want to get out of like the song goes.
I remember sitting with my brother in his bedroom waiting to hear the new Van Halen song with Sammy Hagar on lead vocals. And I loved hearing the opening thumping sound that opened that song, ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’ and to this day, I still have that feeling of hearing that song for the first time in happy anticipation.
I also remember riding with my brother after he’d bought the first album by The Black Crowes and how we were listening to it in the drive-thru of the slowest Whataburger ever but not minding the wait at all. The music was rocking and sounded so damn kick-ass and fresh like it still does for me today.
Now as a child of the 1980’s, I first heard a lot of songs in music videos on MTV, such as ‘Two Hearts Beat As One’ by U2. They shot that video in the winter in Paris and it looked so exotic and different to the burnt-out hues of Texas I was living in at the time. I also remember seeing Duran Duran’s videos for ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ and ‘Save a Prayer’ they shot in Sri Lanka. ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was such a homage to the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’ but since I loved that movie I loved that video. And the video for ‘Save a Prayer’ is as gorgeous as the song so every time I hear the opening chords I see that gorgeous beach where the video begins.
I’m amazed sometimes I still feel these feelings despite having heard these songs thousands of times over the years. Like ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush. I’ve heard that song a million times and I still get into it every time I hear it. Of course it’s brilliant and complex but it’s got a rare staying power. And I wish to God someone would make a video for their song ‘Red Barchetta’ since it has such vivid imagery in the lyrics along with the music to go with it.
In the past, I’ve thought these musical images and memories masked a lot of painful memories underneath. No, these musical memories were a much-needed respite from those painful memories. And that’s why denying myself music gets to me after a while. It’s happened off-and-on since my twenties when my life went totally to shit back then and when I feel like I’m sliding down into that smelly pile of excrement, I still feel that pull away from the music. Don’t let that happen to you because those memories aren’t repetitive coping mechanisms- they’re respites from pain.
For example, the song ‘Running to Stand Still’ by U2 has been painful as hell to listen to over the years because of a lyric stanza that goes: ‘You got to cry without weeping/Talk without speaking/Scream without raising your voice’. I’ve felt like that for a long time but unlike the song’s protagonist, I didn’t numb myself out with drugs (the song is about drug addition according to the U2 autobiography I read). Now I can see that I’ve moved past those lyrics to know I have a voice and that I don’t need to numb it out.
So music and memories aren’t just moments in time. They’re memories you can learn from and in some cases, even reclaim (see how I reclaimed a song and a memory here).