Sunday, December 4, 2011

Songs Like Old Friends

Today - 12/03/2011 (which will actually be yesterday, or some other day in the past, by the time you read this) - is the greatest day I've ever known.  Ok, maybe not the greatest, but it is the day that I finally came to own the Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream.  This record has a song on it, "Today" that I have literally wanted to own for 18 years.  And I never have.  Can you believe that?  For some completely unknown reason, I've never even bought the individual song off iTunes.  I think mostly because I always wanted the whole record, not just the one song, but when I've taken the notion to buy some music, there has always been something higher on the list.

So today we were doing a little Christmas shopping (for ourselves...of course) at Half Price Books and I came across a used copy of Siamese Dream for $5.99.  I also found Violent Femmes' Add It Up (1981 - 1993).  Obviously, they both came home with me (along with a magnet for my car that says "My Zombie Child Ate Your Honor Student's Brain"...but that's not music related).  So I was super excited that I would finally get to listen to "Today" with the freedom to skip back to the beginning and listen to it again - over and over - if I so chose. 

But, the surprise of the day was when "Disarm" came on.  I had forgotten that song was even on this record.  I cannot possibly express how much I love that fucking song.  It is far and away my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song ever.  And it's another one I've inexplicably never owned.  Hearing this song again (it has been years since I've heard it) was like showing up at an old friend's house and hanging out like no time has passed.  I was 15 again.  I had that warm, fuzzy, magical feeling that I had the first time I heard that song.  The bells, the bass, the big swelling sound of it.  I love it.  And it got me to thinking about the importance of the songs like this in my life.

There are just some songs that are like that, no matter how long I'm away from them, when I hear them again I still know all the words.   I know the timing, the pauses, the drums, the guitar, the feeling.  It's all familiar and even if it was never my favorite song, it is still nice to visit with it again and reminisce. This is what music does for me, it links me to a moment in time.  I have a terrible memory - regardless of the fact that I know every single word to well over 1200 songs.  I eat practically the same thing for lunch every day because that's the only way I can remember what I had (and that way when my husband says, "Oh yeah, well what did you have for lunch yesterday?" I can answer him!).  I never remember the end of a movie, or a book.  I can't remember what station my favorite TV shows are on or what time or what day.  I never remember to have my oil changed.  I can't remember birthdays or phone numbers or addresses.

But somehow, when my memory fails me completely, a song will take me back.  It will transport me back to the time and place of the first (or sometimes, the last) time I heard it.  I will remember what was going on around me in eerie detail.  A song will zip me back through time like a wormhole and put me right where I was when that song was important to me.  If I've seen it live, I will be right back at that concert, in the crowd, throat raw from screaming, wrapped in the bliss of a live show.  If it was a favorite driving song, I'll remember my destination (or what I was driving away from).  For me, songs are more powerful memory triggers than smells.  Like friends from the past, music connects me to my own life.

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