There’s nothing like the sound of needle on vinyl crackling out your favorite tunes from days gone by. I gave up my record player along with all of the records I had acquired in the early 80’s to make way for my boom box and hoard of cassette tapes that filled a cardboard box on the floor of my blue Chevy Cavalier hatchback. The box of cassette tapes eventually made their way to the basement to be taken over by CDs, the CD’s replaced by my Ipod, and the Ipod by my Iphone. The evolution of how I’ve listened to music has changed a lot in the last thirty years, but my taste really hasn’t. It’s still rather eclectic and ranges from everything from hard and heavy to acoustic, classic rock, country, and even poppy fluff (yes, I’ll admit to it……I do listen to Top 40 on occasion). A good tune can pull me in, but the lyrics keep me there.
The words. It always comes down to the words for me.
They hold you down and force you to listen, to feel, to remember a moment, an era, a time in your life that you truly felt something so big and important that the notes were forever embedded in your memory. I love books, but their words live solely on paper and in my imagination. I will never be one to read off of some electronic device as feeling the book in my hands and turning the pages engages my senses in a way that I can’t even begin to describe.
BUT music….. It goes deeper. It touches yet another sense. One beat of a song can elicit memories and easily take you back to a moment in time. A carousel playing the songs of your past that work like a time machine and take you spinning back to your first love, first heartbreak, friends, fun, laughter, tears, high school dances, parties, weddings, funerals, and almost every moment lived in between. Music is there in each moment, either roaring loud and in your face or as a background soundtrack, branding those minutes, seconds, hours, or days into a little corner of your mind. Your brain treasures these bits and holds them until it hears it again and lets it come flooding back and you are there again…..seeing, smelling, smiling, crying, FEELING everything you had locked away. It only takes a moment, one chorus or verse, to bring back a lifetime of memories.
Several years ago my youngest son Matt asked for and received a record player for Christmas. I spent hours at the used record store picking out classics that I knew he would love. I bought him the perfect 80’s kid starter pack: Van Halen, Nazareth, Aerosmith, J Geils, KISS, Def Leppard, and Billy Squier. Over the years he has continued to collect more on his own. I’ve been impressed that there are even new bands still putting their stuff out on vinyl. He was especially excited about a gift he got me this year for Christmas and as it was placed in front of me there was no denying what it was: a record. As I peeled away the colorful wrap I could see red and white stripes and blue jeans. The kid nailed it.
I quickly remembered that view. From 1985 to 1989 I woke up every morning to the same sight, a full size poster of the album cover on my bedroom wall. Every morning I would give that sexy little toosh a kiss as I left for school and every day I would listen to my Born in the USA cassette tape until it wore thin and broke and a new one was needed.
THIS was the anthem of my teenage years.
How many times had I wished I was Courtney Cox before I even knew who Courtney Cox was, getting pulled up onto the stage during the Dancing in the Dark video? His lyrics didn’t necessarily touch the giggly-girly part of me (wait…..was I EVER really giggly and girly?? Probably not.), but his music had substance. It was life in small-town America and that was where I was and boy did I want to get out as much as he and Wendy did.
The day after Christmas I opened up the record player and put the album on, B-side first, because it was always my favorite.
Well, we busted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record, baby
Than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you’re tired and you just want to close your eyes
And follow your dreams down
One verse into the song tears came. Laughter followed.
This wasn’t one of Bruce’s more popular songs. How many of you even remember it? Over the last thirty years had I even thought that this was one of his best? Nope. Give me Born to Run, Thunder Road or Dancing in the Dark blaring loudly as I’m driving down the road with the windows open every day. But this song playing in this moment instantaneously brought me back……..my bedroom on Park Street…..cream colored wall paper with tiny pink roses…..hiding away from the world and wanting to get out of good Ole Turners Falls. Leading up to senior year I had a few lines picked out from this song as my yearbook quote, which unfortunately was nixed as our class decided to be the first to not allow song lyrics, but it sums up my teenage angst oh, so perfectly.
Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim
The walls of my room are closing in
There’s a war outside still raging
They say it ain’t ours anymore to win
I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover’s bed
With a wide open country in my eyes
And these romantic dreams in my head
It only takes a moment, one chorus or verse, to bring back a lifetime of memories and listening to this song, this whole album, absolutely did. I remembered the girl I was. I cried again for the things she lost. I laughed at the fun she had, camping with friends and dropping flashlights in the unlikeliest of places. Thirty years later she’s a different girl and has lived a life that teenager could have never even imagined back then. We are so similar, she and I, yet so very different. For a moment, I was her again and life, while that record was spinning…..felt easy. I danced, I cleaned, I let the tears and laughter flow.
As the last sounds of I’m on Fire finished the record player arm clicked and the turn table stopped. My son was laying on the couch sleeping. The dog was curled up around the wood stove. I continued picking up from the family get together the night before.
I was back. Here. Me.
It was good to remember what it felt like to be that teenage girl again, to remember those glory days that I didn’t find to be so glorious at the time. All she wanted to do was grow up, be free and on her own. Me, now…..I long for her freedom from responsibility, the possibilities that life held, the open book ready to be written.
All felt because I lifted the needle onto a record…….
We all have that song, that album that does it.
So tell me friends, what is YOURS?