Thursday, May 30, 2013

Music and Memories

Just like stones in a farmers field things in my house work their way to the ground every now and then. An old CD that I hadn't played for while surfaced recently. At the time that I bought it I played it over and over again, but it has been seven years, so when I popped it into the CD player in my car, it came back as fresh and beautiful as when I first heard it. 

It was Rob who asked me if I had heard the song Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua. I hadn't, but I bought the CD, Piece by Piece, after he described her voice, just to hear it.

Playing the CD, I was struck again by how tied in certain memories are to music. I listen to that CD and I am in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The music takes me back to 2006. I have taken time out from a visit to Mum and Rob in Alvechurch, to spend a week in Holland with Dutch cousins whom I have not seen for forty years. After flying to Amsterdam from Birmingham, I am waiting for my cousin Deborah who is flying in from Geneva to meet me there. Then together we would be taking a train to Rotterdam, to stay with her brother Hans and his partner, Walter. While I waited for her, I listened to the CD on my Sony Walkman CD player--I was not cool enough to own an ipod. I have one now, but still have and use that old portable CD player.

What I notice is that not only does the music transport me to the place I listened to it, but everything else that surrounds that memory comes to life again as though I have opened a time capsule. I am in the airport, but back in Alvechurch Mum is alive and safe with Rob. I know that she will be there waiting for me when I get back to spend my last week of vacation with them. She is there again. I can feel it. It all comes to life against the backdrop of Katie Melua's voice.

I thought about the other music that is tied to memories. I are a few:

The songs from the Beatles' 1965 album, Help, will forever be associated with a party in Rotterdam. I was 15, and had been invited by some neighbours of my Tante Lijda to a birthday party for their daughter, Eskaline, who was my age. By the end of the evening I had lost my 15 year old heart for the first time, really seriously. He and I never saw each other beyond that evening and the next day day in 1965, but wrote for a whole year after that. It was a practice run at love!

Real love came in 1967 when I fell hard for a boy who had asked me out after a Sunday School Christmas party. I had turned him down because I was dating someone already. The person I was dating turned out to be going in a different direction in his life than I was and I realized, that I was in love with Paul, the guy whom I had said no to. Eventually we got together, but it took a whole heartsick year before he asked again. During this time I borrowed a Cliff Richard album with Spanish songs, from him and I remember in the summer of 1967, when he was in Spain on vacation with his family and friends, playing the album--mooning around the house, and dreaming. This is one of the songs I loved, Amor, Amor. Amor

Fast forward to 1977. We had been in Canada for 8 years but I still missed England and my family deeply. Mum had bought a tape recorder and made a few tapes that were of conversation at home--she would just turn it on and record what was happening. That Christmas my Dutch Oma was living with Mum and Dad in Alvechurch and Mum recorded their voices while they were watching TV. Oma chatted away in Dutch, laughing often as she always did, and Dad's deep voice was there too. In the background I could hear the British commentator on TV introducing Paul McCartney's song, Mull of Kintyre  and then the song began to play while the conversation went on around it. I still have that tape and to me it captures "home" in a very special way.

I would love to hear your musical memory associations. Leave them in the comment section!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. So many memories are tied to tunes. Music, like smell, can evoke deep feelings. Christmas, summer, friends - and dating. My first serious love was so proud of his new cassette player installed in his old car. It was grand, although he could not afford to purchase cassettes. A friend lent him one. We listened to it over, and over, and over - it became entwined in our courtship. We spent a lot of time in the car - to and from church, young people gatherings, driving people home, music practices, etc. and the one and only tape played on. Ok - we even kissed to the tunes...Imagine my surprised when the next man I dated, who is now my husband, my true love, picked me up in his new car with a returned cassette from his friend. You guessed it - the same cassette. My new beau was the friend that had lent the cassette to my past beau. Funny world. He too played it over, and over and over. It is all so confusing. :-) Yes - a few kisses and such were experienced. Ha ha...So you can imagine the memories and feelings that set of tunes digs up. Oh - we have it on CD now. I have to gird my loins to listen to it. At least it all was about love.

Belinda said...

Oh, what a funny and wonderful story Anonymous. Thank you SO much for sharing it. I am so curious as to the songs on the tape--or the artist! :)

Susan said...

Oh, my goodness there are SO MANY musical memories... I remember being on a Grade 8 trip with my school class. We took the train to Toronto for the day from Windsor - left at 6:00 a.m. and returned to the train station in Windsor after 11:00 p.m. We spent the day at Queen's Park, the ROM, City Hall, and even went up to the top floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre, which was the tallest building in Toronto at the time. It was a whirlwind tour and a pretty big deal for me who at 14, had never been to Toronto before... and had only dreamed of doing such things. I distinctly remember hearing on someone's little tiny, tinny red plastic transistor radio (probably mine), The Turtles singing, "Imagine me and you, I do - I think about you day and night - it's only right - to think about the girl you love, and hold her tight, so happy together..." We were walking across Nathan Phillips Square when I first heard it, and I spent the rest of the day tuning from radio station to radio station trying to hear it over and over. And I can still remember standing at the drinking fountain (with the paper cone cups)on the way home, while the train jiggle-joggled, jiggle joggled, and being so proud of myself because I had succeeded in memorizing the entire song that day from beginning to end even with all of the other activities going on. I can still sing it to this day!

There are a thousand other songs that take me "there" - Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary (going down the aisle in an ivory dress, and on my father's arm, to my waiting groom), Praise My Soul the King of Heaven (going back down the aisle half an hour later, a married woman and with the biggest smile on my face I've ever had before or since).

Rock of Ages and What a Friend We Have in Jesus, takes me back to our living room on Sierra Dr in Windsor and my mom is playing those two hymns on the piano in her own very distinct and reverent style.

There's a thousand more - seriously, I could keep writing on this subject with example after example for two weeks straight, I think. Just a few more, though...

"Tuesday Afternoon" by The Moody Blues - sitting in front of our stereo cabinet, on the avocado green shag rug in my parent's living room after school one afternoon with Cathy Austin very near the end of Grade 12.

"In the Early Morning Rain" by Gordon Lightfoot - lying on the floor of my Uncle Lawrie's and Aunt Kathy's living room floor (it was blonde oak hardwood) in their townhouse in Ottawa, just after I bought this album with my own hard earned baby-sitting money on their recommendation. I'd never heard of Gordon Lightfoot, but I was instantly hooked. I bought and committed to memory every single song on every single one of his subsequent five albums - just in case you were wondering where almost ALL of my babysitting money went to back then... :) )

"God Save the Queen" - standing in assembly at John O'Cahill Public School in Sandwich West, Ontario, my first year of school. ( I can still "see" the "Elmer the Safety Elephant flag, as well as the Red Ensign and the Union Jack hanging side by side (before Canada had our own red maple leaf flag) under the cold and icy stare of Mrs. Brown - the crabbiest teacher in the WORLD.

"Bad Moon Risin'" by Creedence Clearwater Revival - sneaking into my brother's basement bedroom when he wasn't home to listen to HIS records on HIS record player (which was MUCH better than mine!)

"Woodstock" by Crosby Stills Nash and Young (written by Joni Mitchell, I think) - in Mr. Munk's Grade 11 Visual Arts class - working on a chess set I was fashioning from terra cotta clay..."

That's enough before I bore everyone to tears... :)

Belinda said...

That did NOT bore me to tears Susan, in fact I would love to post the comment with links to the songs, with your permission. I loved going back to moments in your life. This is such a powerful way to share who we are and where we've been and a way to "be" in a moment you weren't there for with a friend! :)

Cindy said...

Carole King (Tapestry) and Carley Simon take me back to being a camp counsellor at Camp Amy Molson in Grenville, Ontario.

"If you want it, here is it" makes me laugh because a friend of mine talks about the (Girl Guide) Rangers singing that out loud to the (Boy Scout) Rovers.

David Cassidy's "I think I love you" also makes me laugh because the same friend was staying at my house for a sleep over and when he sang "and I spring up from my bed...", she tried to spring up from the bed and hit the book cases that were mounted on the wall over the bed.

Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte is a piece of music that makes me sad and exhilarated until I picture myself in Grade 10 band trying very unsuccessfully to play it on the flute but I still love that piece.

Oh Come oh Come Emmanuel is one that my oldest son did when he was part of the Calgary Boys Choir. Picture an older church (Knox United in Calgary), lights off in December, street lights through the stained glass windows and 100 young boys entering from the back of the church all singing this - sends shivers up my back every time I hear it.

I had never heard of Katie Melua until yesterday but I followed your Youtube link and I really enjoyed her - might have to add her to my ipod.

Belinda said...

Cindy, THANK you for sharing your wonderful memories. I can't explain why, but it is wonderful to share those funny, poignant, emotional moments in people's lives, and to know the soundtrack that they played against. I smiled widely at the images of the Girl Guides singing to the Rovers--and your friend hitting her head on your bookshelf. I could hear the explosive giggles!