Wednesday, July 25, 2012

MUSIC IS A PHOTO ALBUM OF THE MIND

There are many forms of art.  There is sculpture, painting, writing, fashion.  They all have their special qualities.  You can read a book and the story may or may not stick with you.  A book may effect your life in some way as it can change the way you look at things and the way you think.  A painting or sculpture can either overwhelm you with it's beauty or simplicity.  Film can live in your mind for years and if it is a good enough film, may even stay with you the rest of your life.  But one form of art is like a time machine taking you back in time to certain moments in your life.  That art form is music.

Music is magical.  Music marks special events in our lives that stay in our memories forever.  A special moment occurs in life and chances are there was a song playing in the background.  After that moment in time, every time you hear that song, chances are you will be taken back to that special time. More than any other form of art,  music lives within each of us.

I have told some stories on this blog about music and the events surrounding when I heard that song.  Sometimes it is an event that is occurring the very first time you hear a song.  Other times you could hear a song many times but at some point something special was happening when that old song was being played.

I can look back on so many times that a song came along and is forever branded in my mind with an event.

One of Harry Chapin's last albums was entitled "Dance Band On The Titanic".  Whenever I hear that song I get a picture of Ronnie and myself sitting on the floor of his bedroom shortly before he left to join the US Army.  Ronnie had picked up about three albums that night and songs from all of those albums bring that special night when we sat and listened to new music without much talking.  It was a special evening for us.  We had spent most of our teen years listening to music together either at his house or mine.  We had discovered a lot of music together, but this night was different.

I hear Chapin songs off of that album or Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty" Album and I am immediately in Ronnie's room.  Shag carpet on the floor.  The music not to loud.  Reading the liner notes of these albums only talking between songs debating on which song was best so far.  We spent half the night listening to those albums.

When I hear the classic IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA I am taken to an earlier time with Ronnie in a different house.  At that time, he had a big console stereo in his room that really brought out the bass as the song was played.  It was seventeen minutes of hard rock and roll that made no sense what so ever, but we loved it and when I hear that song, again I am back with Ronnie playing air guitars and keyboards as the Iron Butterfly go through the excersize of stretching a rather monotonous rift out to those seventeen minutes.

One Saturday afternoon I went to visit Larry.  As I walked into the house, I heard Johnny Cash for the first time that I remember.  "I hear the train a comin', It's coming round the bend....." went the song and Larry's dad was sitting in his chair tapping his foot and ignoring me as I entered his home.

The first time I heard Led Zeppelin's fourth album was at a party of one of Barb's friends.  We were early to the party and I had just bought the album that day.  I put it on the stereo and as the girls prepared for the party,  Larry and I sat and listened to one of the all time greatest rock albums ever produced.  Then suddenly in the middle of the second song on the first side, I heard a sound that every audiophile hates to hear.  "Rrrrrriiiiiiippppp" as the tone arm was removed from my brand new album and then I heard "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters start to play.  I get a picture of Larry's face as he looked at me in shock probably mirroring the same expression I was giving him.  Whenever I hear those two songs, that picture pops into my head.

I wrote earlier in the blog about going to see the Allman Brothers Band and walking around the concourse as a the song "Midnight Rider" was being played.  The picture I get in my mind is Larry and myself looking at each other with that same shocked expression that we had the night of the Led Zeppelin incident.

I get a picture of seeing my dad sitting and listening to Jimmy Dean sing on our old mono record player.  Whenever I hear Jimmy Dean or Jim Nabors I get that same picture in my mind of dad sitting there enjoying the music.  He didn't sit and listen to music that often because he was always too busy, but when he did sit and listen, he would sit still with a hint of a smile on his face as he enjoyed the music.

There was an old old song called "Barney Google" that I had learned to play on the piano.  My Grandma Clark was over at mom and dad's one Christmas in which I had gotten Brett some of those glasses with eyeballs attached to coils so the eyes would swing around while he wore them.  I called them his Barney Google glasses and told my Grandma this.  Before I knew it, my grandmother was singing along, not missing a word and tapping her hands on her thighs while tapping her feet.  She had a HUGE smile on her face as she belted out the song,  She was almost to the point of laughing as she sang that old song.

One year, somebody gave my grandfather a music box that played "Somewhere My Love".  I have a very clear picture of him sitting in his chair listening to the music box puffing on his pipe with a far away look in his eye.  He loved that song among many others.  I have lots of snapshots in my mind of grandpa listening to music.

Another very clear picture was when my aunt Sue and myself were about seven years old.  My great aunt Margaret was chasing us around the house with her arms out stretched singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" over and over again.

When I hear "The Missouri Waltz" I see my sister sitting at the piano playing it flawlessly and making it sound so beautiful.  It doesn't matter if it is Marching Mizzou playing the waltz, when I hear that song a picture of Elaine sitting in the living room playing it pops into my head.

When I hear Bread's "Baby I'm A Want you"album I find myself upstairs at grandma and grandpa's sitting with my aunt Sue playing a game of cards.

When the song "Then Came You" enters into my head, I remember one evening when Barb looked at me while it was playing and telling me that it was our song.  I am not sure WHY it was our song, but to her it was, and that was important.  Over the years it has indeed became our song and a picture of her looking at me when we were so young and the look in her eyes as she told me.

I could go on and on with examples.  Some more recent than others.  Springteen's "Human Touch", McClean's "Crossroads",  oh and of course Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World".  That song has over the years became a sort of secret joke between my mom and me.  I use to play it on the piano or play the record constantly and she swore she couldn't stand it.  Personally, even though she still swears she can't deal with the song, I think she has come to like it because of the picture that is in her mind when she hears it.

Music effects us all differently.  Most songs we hear are forgotten, but those special songs that serve as bookmarks in our lives, stay with us forever.  I believe everyone has a musical photo album in our minds.  Enjoy that photo album.  It brings more of your life back to you than anything else.

I know I enjoy my musical photo album and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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