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Home » Music

Musical Memories

Submitted by on June 25, 2012 – 7:47 pm 19 Comments

A couple weeks ago, I discovered this cool new iPad and iPhone app called Songza. When you log in, it knows what day and time it is and what you might be doing, and it offers musical options for those activities. For example, if you sign in Monday morning, you can choose a song list for working out, while you make breakfast, or to sing along to in the shower. If you sign in on a Friday evening, it’ll give you music to help you unwind after a long week, or party with your friends. Best part? It’s free.

Anyway, I chose the unwinding-music option one day last week, and it gave me several song lists to choose from. I think I picked ’80s hits or soft rock or something like that, and Air Supply came on with “Lost in Love.” When I heard the opening notes, I thought, “What song is this? It’s so familiar…”

Next thing I knew, I was not only singing along (and knowing all the words), but rushed back into a memory of my teenage self with feathered-back hair listening to this song on a Sunday afternoon as Casey Kasem counted down the week’s top 40. I was in the living room of my parents’ house, a house that no longer exists, and the music was streaming from a stereo system that had a turntable and dual cassette player. Every Sunday afternoon, I’d have my ears glued to that stereo, hoping my favorite songs made it into Casey’s top 10.

The next song that popped up on the list was “Xanadu” by Olivia Newton-John. I was hit by another visceral memory of going to see the movie on opening day for I idolized “Livvie” back then. Well, the movie was seventeen kinds of dreadful (though it made for a hilarious live parody many years later) but I loved the music, bought the soundtrack, danced to it in leg warmers and terry-cloth gym shorts.

As the song list continued, more memories kept waking up. I cannot hear Boz Scaggs’s “Look What You’ve Done to Me” without thinking of the first slow dance I ever had, at music camp with a boy who had tear-inducing body odor. (The first line is “Hope they never end this song” and I was thinking, “Oh, please, I hope it ends before I pass out.”) And Wham!’s “Careless Whisper” made me recall standing in the corner at a dance when a boy I was crushing on walked over and asked…the girl next to me to dance. These are the reasons I love listening to these songs, no matter how cheesy they are. They’re reminders of the person I once was, the moments that might have caused me distress once upon a time but only make me smile now.

What songs from your past bring back strong memories?



  • Eric Beetner says:

    To talk about all the music memories I have would take a volume longer than War & Peace. I love the instant, sometimes heartbreaking nostalgia a certain song can bring. And yes, I am often shocked by the stash of lyrics buried deep in my cerebral cortex just waiting to be released from the cobwebs to sing along to Rock Lobster again.

  • Like Eric, no way could I sum up the songs that have built my life. Personally, I’ve sung in choirs and listened to music every minute that I wasn’t reading. There are whole albums for me that bring me back.

    James Taylor reminds me of every weekend with my parents and their friends. The BeeGees and Eagles remind me of my mom teaching me the dances from when she was in high school. Amy Grant’s The Collection reminds me of Saturday mornings, cleaning the house (my dad doing bills).

    One of my ultimates is Hey Joe by Medeski, Martin & Wood. It’s my heartbreak song. It’s the song that when all else is wrong with the world, I can listen and feel at peace, even if I have tears flowing down my face.

    I definitely need to check out this app. Thanks so much for sharing. (And my awful prom song..can’t remember the title…was 8 minutes long. Torture.)

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      The Bee Gees and Eagles are two of my favorite bands ever! Their music brings back lots of fond memories. (Does this mean I’m old enough to be your mom?) And Mr. PCN is related to James Taylor so we have lots of his music in our home. I love how I can picture the scenes you’re describing.

      Yes, definitely download the app. You will love it. I’ve mentioned it to a couple of people and they’re really enjoying exploring all the song lists. The most common reaction is, “It has songs I haven’t heard in ages!”

  • Farin says:

    Okay, y’all are going to yell at me for being a child, but these are the songs that stand out:

    1) Alanis Morisette, “Head Over Feet.” This will always remind me of riding to school on my first day of junior high.

    2) All American Rejects, “Dirty Little Secret.” This was on the radio a lot when I first started driving (I got my license late, so no, I wasn’t 17 or 18 at the time), and I always get that rush of independence when I listen.

    3) Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie.” They played this on the radio every morning at 7 a.m. for about a month, so this will forever remind me of being stuck in traffic on my way to college.

    4) Justin Timberlake, “Sexyback.” This song was really popular during my junior and senior year of college, when I was doing a lot of theatre, so this will always remind me of getting ready for a show.

    5) Taio Cruz, “Dynamite.” Okay, so this is super recent, but three of my very good friends got married over the past two years, and they played this song at all of their weddings. This will always remind me of celebrating with people I love, and being fabulous and in my 20s.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I like that your songs are recent because I can still remember them well! These are really fun memories. I can totally see you backstage getting ready for shows while cranking “Sexyback.” “Dynamite” reminds me of my little nephew singing it in a talent show when he was six, shocking his mom (my sister), who had no idea he knew all the words. He later said he’d been practicing it in secret for weeks so he could surprise his parents.

  • Lauren says:

    You’ve broken the flood gates with this one, E. Like Eric and the rest, music has been such a huge part of my life that narrowing is impossible. So I’ll narrow to my Dad. When I was growing up I my bedroom shared a wall with our living room. The shared wall was where my bed was positioned in my room and where the piano was positioned in the living room. My parents had musical friends, two of whom were concert pianists. Can’t count the nights I fell alseep to the sound and vibration of the piano pounding away and my Dad accompanying on the Gut Bucket (and yes, that’s a bigass metal washtub with a broomstick and laundry line – my Dad was kickass on that thing).

    Those days instilled in me a love for music in general, but also an incurable soft spot for the standards. Give me Mel Torme over Bon Iver, Louis Prima and Keely Smith over Sonny and Cher.

    The downside to music invading our family was what transpired on long car trips. Hell, even short car trips. My father had a habit of singing the most god-awful songs in his most god-awful way. They remain legendary. Two all-time favorites are Coconut (She put the lime in the coconut, she drank ’em both up). Just envision a huge bald man doing the sister, the doctor and the narrator. Needless to say “Are we there yet?” was more than just an annoying kids’ question in our car. But it might have been preferable to his rendition of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”

    These things are precious memories now that my Dad is gone, and I’m thankful that he did have good taste in music as well. Loved Creedence, Clapton, Three Dog Night, could dance like a mofo, and was always the life of the party. So the least we could do was listen to his annoying Coconut song rendition when necessary.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Love these memories of your dad; thank you for sharing them. What a fun environment to grow up in. I like that coconut song, “We Are Family,” CCR, Clapton, and Three Dog Night, so I’d have to say your dad had great taste.

  • EIREGO says:

    Music has always been a integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a huge family and different types of music constantly swirled through our domicile and I was subjected to it all long before I was old enough to have a radio or record player. From my sister (the eldest)secretly playing Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Were Made for Walking / anything that scandalous Elvis Presley put out on vinyl to my parent’s singing various Sinatra tunes full voiced around the kitchen or my radical brothers playing Johnny Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein, I heard it all while I was growing up. These are my favorite memories.

    CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY (Elton John)- As each of my siblings grew up and moved out on their own, less of us had to share a room. When it got down to just 5 of us boys living in the house, it was decided the eldest should no longer have to share a room. The day this honor was bestowed upon my brother, Jon (6 years older than me), he called me into his newly set up man cave for a private consultation. He handed me a twenty and told me to rush down to the drugstore (I GOT TO RIDE HIS BIKE THERE) to buy this album. AND I could keep the change if I got back within the hour! It was the first album I ever bought and I didn’t care that it wasn’t for me. Say what you want about Elton John and any of his other songs, I still know all the words to every song on that record. It still speaks to me about the very first time an older brother trusted me.

    AJA (Steely Dan) – My brother Jon again. He had moved out and was married by the time I first heard this album. Jon and his wife lived in a 5 bedroom house, smoked some great stuff and allowed me to babysit their 2 kids from time to time. I couldn’t drive, but I did lure many a girl who could into coming to visit me while the kids were asleep. Jon had this really cool turntable suspended from the ceiling on bungee cords to keep the needle from every skipping. (don’t laugh, it worked) I lost my virginity to that album. It takes me back to that night every time I hear one of the songs from it.

    ON BROADWAY (George Benson – live acoustic version) – Fresh out of college, living in NYC and barely scratching out a living. I had just dropped off my best friend from college at Port Authority. We had blown whatever money we had on yet another pot fueled, outrageously fun weekend in the city. It was a late Sunday afternoon and I didn’t even have the change for a subway ride home. There wasn’t any food left in my place and I was not looking forward to the very tough 5 days til my next paycheck. I was feeling really alone and scared and wondering why the hell I ever thought my small town self could live and succeed in the big bad city while I strolled the 20 blocks up Broadway to my apartment. All those little shops along the ‘way were in sell! Sell, SELL! mode. They are all in competition, but they share an allegiance to the same radio station and they all turn up to 11. ON BROADWAY came on and that mutually shared agreement allowed me to listen to the whole song while I traversed 5 of those blocks. It gave me the inspiration to face the coming week. Still think of that moment whenever I’m feeling down.

    WHAT WOULD YOU SAY (Hurricane Smith) – Another oldie from my very young days. Don’t know why, but I was singing it in the shower (yeah, like you don’t?) one day. My then girlfriend at the time came home, rushed into the bathroom to pull back the shower door. “How do you know that song?!?” I told her and she told me of learning it when her dad brought home an old record player he bought at a yard sale. The seller had thrown in a few 45s and this song had been one of them. We had a nice moment while soap dripped into my eyes. I used it years later when I proposed to her.

    I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point and now I’m all introspective and it’s getting weird. I’ll check out Songza.

  • Christine says:

    Just this last week while working in the barn, a Beach Boys song came over the speakers. Immediately, I thought of their Endless Summer album and my time on the swim team at Travis AFB. We played the tapes of this album over and over again. That’s really the first base and my life at that time that I can recall almost completely. I was in 5th and 6th grade. I had a wonderful group of friends. Our time out of school, especially the summer, revolved greatly around swim team. The pool used some old broiler or something from a ship and barely heated the outdoor pool enough. And in the summer, after the pool closed to the public, having our eyeballs chemically fried from the chlorine and suntan oils, etc. If you didn’t have goggles before, you definitely invested in a pair after a few post-practice eye washes. 😉

    If I hear Jim Croce, James Taylor, Carole King and the like, I picture my parents’ big reel to reel tape player.

    Songza is new to both of us. We’ll have to check it out!

  • Great post, PCN. Music touches a chord (pardon the pun) in all of us.

    AMERICAN PIE – The winter of my sophomore year in high school, riding to school on dark mornings with John T, who lived down the street from me. John and I went to school together from grade 4 to graduation. He was killed in a hit-and-run about ten years ago, but when I hear this song, I see us in that car, trying to figure out the lyrics.

    HEY NINETEEN (Steely Dan) I knew I was getting older when I heard this song. But I loved it anyway. I played it over and over on a cassette player while I worked in the basement, filing bills of lading, at a big pharma company. Someone stole that cassette player. I’m still pissed about that.

    THE RIVER (Garth Brooks) That song seemed to be everywhere during the last two weeks of my father’s life. I can hardly bear to hear it even now.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I got a little emotional reading this, Naomi. “American Pie” is already a poignant song. Being tied to that memory must make it much more so for you.

      Some of my best musical memories involve cassette players and even 8-tracks. The only stereo in our home back in the mid-’70s was in my parents’ bedroom. On hot summer nights, all my siblings and I would pile onto the bed around Mom (Dad worked swing shifts) and listen to music (Johnny Mathis, Sam Cooke, Elvis) and talk and laugh.

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