Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Memories by Music...

So, last night, I was watching the new episode of Glee that aired on Fox. I don't watch it live anymore because it's on at the same time as Lost and given that Lost is in its last season and on the last few episodes, there's no way I can not watch it live.

Anyway, for those that don't watch it, Glee is a somewhat dark comedy mixed with an alarming degree of perkiness. It features people breaking out into song but usually it's songs that are contemporary, that you hear on the radio. Well, in my case, I haven't heard most of the songs because, well, I'm a rock music/punk music fan and they tend to skew a little pop/hip-hoppy for my tastes. However, I still enjoy the show because it caters to my dark sense of humour and my odd love of musical theatre.

Last night, the entire episode was devoted to the music of Madonna. I wasn't sure if it was going to work or not because it seemed a bit gimmicky. However, it actually did work quite well. One of the songs they did was a combination of Madonna's "Borderline" and "Open Your Heart." If you're familiar at all with Madonna, you'll know those were from the 1980's. They were some of her earlier hits before her constant reinventions.

For me, it was almost like a time-travel experience. The minute I heard "Open Your Heart" being sung, I was immediately thrust back into my childhood. That song was popular when I was around 11 years old and still lived in England. My good friend and neighbour- Sarah- had purchased Madonna's "True Blue" and Wham's! "Make it Big," albums. We spend countless hours rotating the vinyl 33" lp's on her turntable. We used to pay board games as we listened to the music or we'd try to find ways to stop Sarah's little sister from trying to interrupt us. We tried to play Barbie's but, well, neither of us were really Barbie girls and we always ended up giving up on that in favour of board games. She had this peculiar game called Yeti that I'd never seen before or have seen since. We never did know the rules because they were extraordinarily hard to decipher so we made up our own rules. It had a plastic yeti that you would load up with plastic disks that had footprints printed on them. Every now and again there'd be a different disk with some other symbol on it.

We'd listen to Madonna a lot. Sarah also had the "Like a Virgin" album so we'd sing along to that too.

For a moment, last night, while watching Glee it occured to me how music really is like a time-machine. It thrusts you back into your past as if you're really living it. For me, for a few moments, I was back in Sarah's bedroom, playing Yeti and singing along to Madonna.

It's not just Madonna who has that power. Every stage of my life can be documented with the music I listened to at the time. Wham! was a huge part of my childhood. Convinced that I was going to marry George Michael (go ahead, mock all you want), my friend Sonya and I would obsessively watch the "Careless Whisper" and "Wake Me Up Before You G0-Go" videos every lunchtime before we'd go back to school for the afternoon session. Madonna followed soon after. Then, when I moved to the U.S., a friend introduced me to Richard Marx and I still can't hear "Right Here Waiting," or "Endless Summer Nights," without remembering the months of culture shock I experienced after we moved to Indiana.

The same friend discovered heavy metal or, as we now call them, hair bands. She was obsessively into Poison. I still can't hear "Talk Dirty to Me" without thinking of her. She soon became obsessed with Guns and Roses and fell in love with Axl Rose. I still can't hear "Welcome to the Jungle," without thinking of her caterwauling along in her absolutely awful singing voice. We parted friends soon after as she went a little crazy and, as far as I know, still is but the memories invoked by the music we listened to remain.

Then came my own foray into 'hair bands' or 'heavy metal.' My new group of friends were into bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Skid Row...all of the bands which are now featured on compilation albums from the 'hair band era'. To this day, I can't hear "Love Bites" by Def Leppard without thinking of that group of friends and how we'd hang out playing Uno, trying to stay up all night to watch terrible horror movies that used to scare me and eating junk food.

I know I've said some of this before so I apologize for re-blogging.

I changed direction after my heavy metal days. I switched to Broadway and had a new set of friends, very theatrically inclined. My best friend and I eschewed the rock concerts I'd previously attended- my first one, for the record, was Motley Crue during the Dr. Feelgood tour- and started to seek out performances of Cats. We were fans of the tours of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and I remember one concert in which we were running late after being at a band function (I wasn't in the band but, if I recall correctly, was there to cover the performance for the school newspaper). We drove to Indianapolis at the speed of light, well, over the speed limit by a long-shot, anyway, to try to make the show that featured Sarah Brightman. I think we made it, only a little late. I can't hear Sarah Brightman without thinking of our harried drive to try to make that show.

After that, I have memories of college. My roommate was rotatingly obsessed with Bob Marley and Tori Amos. I used to blast my Andrew Lloyd Webber. I'm now embarrassed but at the time, I didn't realize how much she hated it. Of course, after so many listens to "Buffalo Soldiers" by Mr. Marley and "Crucify" by Tori Amos, I, too, hated her music.

Since then, I've had other music obsessions, thankfully, not so much with Andrew Lloyd Webber of late though I had a heavy period where all I could listen to was the "Rent" soundtrack. Green Day, still a current obsession of mine, ranks high on the list.

Although, on a side note, I can't bring myself to listen to or buy the new Broadway version of American Idiot. I watched a YouTube video of the workshop version and, well, lets just say that it sort of made me cringe. I love Broadway and I love Green Day but the two together...feels unnatural. I don't like the idea of Green Day, former punks, going corporate and producing theatre. It just doesn't feel right.

Regardless, I wager that every single stage of my life can be brought back into the forefront of memories if I hear the right song. It's not even just my music tastes. If I hear Genesis singing, "Invisible Touch," I think of my dad's fondness for the album and how he'd play it every time the whole family would go out on a Sunday, often to a DIY warehouse. Simon and Garfunkel reminds me of my parents when it was just them and my older brother and I, before my younger brother and sister were born. The Rolling Stones will always remind me of my mother, Marilyn sister.

The list goes on. I think for me, as it is with so many people, music reaches deep. Some people document their lives with photos. I've never been a very photo-oriented Monkeypants. I'm not a visual person. I've tried but I tend to always forget my camera or do something stupid to ruin the pictures I do take. I do tend to observe, finding a way to capture memories in my head so I can turn them into words in a story or a narrative piece.

Yet there's also music. I don't know if that makes me an audio-person but it's one of the strongest ways , for me, of evoking memories, of revisiting moments in my life that I associate with the music. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad. Yet until I hear a certain song or piece of music, they often remain locked down inside me until the music coaxes them out. I love the surprise memory, the thrusting back in time that occurs, just as it did last night with Glee that happens when a song takes me by surprise.

The power of music amazes me. In a way, for me, its the strongest evidence that time travel is possible. It might not occur physically but, emotionally, it feels as though you're right there, in the moment that passed even years ago. The power of music over memories is strong.

I'd love to know if I'm alone in this or if you all have similar experiences. Feel free to comment. I promise not to mock. After all, I've openly admitted a couple of times now that I once believed George Michael and I were destined to be together and that I thought Andrew Lloyd Webber was the coolest person on the planet. It can't be worse than that...right?

Happy Thursday!


Ladyaero said...

I like to listen to my iPod on shuffle and when a song from my youth comes on, it's like a "hello" message from my old friends...sometimes I'll call Frida's phone and just leave the song on there, to make her smile, cringe, whatever. Sometimes just a chorus can bring back the memories better than a "Remember when...?" story.

Buffalo Soldier 9 said...

Keep telling that history:

Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, "RaPR", where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history...the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers.

How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry.

Read the novel, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, 5 stars Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the youtube trailer commercial...and visit the website

I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote it from my mini-series movie of the same title, “RaPR” to keep my story alive. Hollywood has had a lot of strikes and doesn't like telling our stories...its been “his-story” of history all along…until now. The movie so far has attached, Bill Duke directing, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with…see at;

When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for Wells Fargo in Montana, in the 1890's, “spread the word”.