Two Obscure Songs, Two Mind Movies

Note: Before we begin, I have a weird savant ability to remember things through music. Pop music, and those top 40 AM stations, formed the soundtrack to my youth. It is often that I can hear a song, and remember the year it came out because I remember what grade I was in when I first heard it. My grade years are easy to remember because the school year always ended on the last digit of the year that matched the grade I was in. In other words, 3rd grade: 1963, 7th grade: 1967, 12th grade: 1972. Most who do not have that coincidence would be hard pressed to figure out what year they were in third grade – it would probably take counting backward from high school graduation. Not me. If a song comes on, such as recently when I heard both Carrie-Anne and C’mon Marianne back to back on an oldies station, I remembered both from the summer of 1967 – I had just finished 7th grade and went to boy-girl dance parties that summer with those tunes playing. I then looked them up to see if my memory was correct – it’s easy now with Google, and yes, my memory was correct as it always is with songs. This is good for trivia contests, yet it is a weird trait.

My other savant ability tied to music is my memory for particular moments in time that appears to me as scenes, or almost as if it was a running movie in my brain. I feel fortunate for this gift, except for when it makes me recall sad moments. (Such as the day President Kennedy was killed) Mostly, I remember completely random moments, and a song usually prompts it.

Songs remind us of people in our past too, as I have written about in other blogs. Hearing a Joni Mitchell song always reminds me of my friend Marci for example, and “Joy to the World” reminds me of my friend Joy. Any Cat Stevens song reminds me of my waitressing days in high school, where the jukebox played them often. But those are general memories, not of the kind I am writing about in this blog.

Songs that got played endlessly, such as the aforementioned “Joy to the World” will never bring a specific memory to mind as the song was heard way too many times to recall a specific moment in time.

More obscure songs though can trigger what I call these “mind movies.” These mind movies have me traveling back in time to replay the event, and it comes to me with such clarity, it is as if it is happening all over again. I exercise to an oldies station and every once in a while, a rare song not only triggers a memory, but it puts me into a dream-like fugue state as I travel back in time and find my younger self experiencing something that happened connected to that song. I can feel the feelings I felt then, it is that real.

There were two recent instances of this that I have to share. They both are due to hearing songs by one-hit wonders, and you may not recognize either by the title, as they are not played a lot even on oldies stations and rarely heard. It had been ages since I heard either one of the following songs.

The first one brought me back to a ROLLER RINK of my youth. Due to my family’s finances, my leisure time was spent doing free things like going to the library to read books, playing at the local playground, or seeing $25 cent movies at the Saturday matinees for kids. There wasn’t a lot of going out to eat either – it was a rare, rare treat.

Every once in a blue moon, for an extra special treat, I was allowed to rent roller skates and skate for a few hours at the local roller rink near where I grew up. It was such a freeing feeling and so exhilarating, spinning around and around the rink to music. They always played top 40 hits for us to whirl around to, enjoying the sound and motion. There were lots of tumbles, and lots of laughs especially if you went with friends to that roller rink.

I remember as a gawky kid with a very late puberty, watching couples skate together and fantasizing about the day when I would have a boyfriend to hold hands with while circling the rink.

That day a long time after, in the summer of 1974. I was a college student and a boy that I was dating who liked to think of different and fun adventures, suggested we go to the roller rink. One of the songs we heard that evening seemed like it was meant to be played at a roller or ice rink because it correlates absolutely perfectly to the motion of the spinning around the rink – with an organ background as part of the instrumentation. It’s called “I Can Help.” (It was by Billy Swan and it actually hit number one but you just never hear the song anymore so I will link the YouTube version here so you can remember it along with me. I hadn’t heard this song in eons!) If you follow the link and hear the song, you will agree with me it was meant to be played at a rink. It’s an okay song, but one you never hear. Make sure you play the link so you can agree with me that the tempo corresponds perfectly to a roller rink.

Getting back to my mind movie, there I was in the rink with a handsome boy to hold my hand as we skated around and around, just like I had fantasized so many years earlier. Suddenly, another boy skating by super fast barreled into me, and I went sprawling not so gracefully down to the ground, very embarrassed in front of my date. The song, “I Can Help” was still playing, and this sweet guy, ever the gallant boyfriend, reached his arm and hand out to me to hoist me up without losing a beat while singing loudly, “I’ve Got Two Strong Arms, I CAN HELP,” perfectly in sync with the song playing those same words at the same time. We had such a fit of giggles over that afterward, that’s why it was memorable. I still giggle just thinking about it. I don’t want to name him here because he is a regular reader and still a friend, and I want to see if he remembers this minuscule moment in time that I so vividly recalled after hearing that song. If I hear from him, I will let you know.

At any rate, after hearing that song, and going back in time to the roller rink, I wanted to download that song and get right to a roller rink to skate to it again. It was a great memory to revisit.

The second mind movie, of course also involved a boy. (My War Stories, I mean my dating and love stories always hit high numbers in readership, so of course I am going to keep doing that as it seems to be enjoyed.)

This one was brought about by another song that you rarely ever hear, and this is a good thing, considering the over-the-top schmaltz factor of this song. It was by another one-hit wonder, and it was a goofy vaudeville or Broadway type of song sung in a weird voice. The year was 1972, and I was dating the super personality, funny, gorgeous Danny who I have written about in the Fourth of July fireworks blog (a good read, linked here) and the song was “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnxoTCvklKQ by Hurricane Smith, linked here so you recognize it.)

SECOND NOTE for those wondering and writing to me (many did this after reading the Fireworks story about Danny- read that one linked above if you have not)– why I did not get serious with a guy I obviously adored, the answer is that we were both dating others (several others) and we were early in our college life and not in a phase in life to get serious. At 17 and 18, (I graduated HS just after turning 17 so I was a very young college student) that is exactly what both of us SHOULD have been doing in that time and age and era, casually dating around. Although he was terrific fun to date and dreamy to look at, I never once thought about getting serious with him – my huge crush on him never turned to love. He had other girls, and I had other guys, but we always had a lot of fun together. See, I answer your questions before you can even ask!

Getting back to the awful Hurricane Smith song, way back in 1972, it was a retro sounding song, not a rock sounding song. One of the unique elements of dating Danny is that we both loved music and we used to sing together at the top of our lungs if something we liked or were amused by came on the car radio. The goofier the song, the louder we would sing. We would sing and laugh, sing and laugh. (And of course KISS – this was his absolute specialty.)

Our singing together included an unlikely radio novelty hit of the time, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” by Loudon Wainwright III, which we were always amused by, and we created a joyous chorus by singing it together each time we heard it.(I NEVER hear that song even on my oldies station but I will link it here in case you want to hear that fun song again. As you know, I am here for your entertainment!)

Other songs Danny favored singing that were NOT on the radio, were old show tunes, such as “Birds Do It, Bees Do It, Even Educated Fleas Do It, Let’s Fall in Love, and some Frank Sinatra. (Especially “That’s Life.”) He would sing those to me at random.

Getting back to the mind movie the Hurricane Smith song brought up, a big group of us college kids were returning from a concert, piled into a car, and still on a bit of a natural high from the great concert we saw. Since there was not enough room for all of us, and seatbelts were not yet mandatory, the girls were all on the boys’ laps and there must have been at least 10 or 12 of us in that car- we were packed in. We were all in a giddy mood, and when this very goofy Hurricane Smith song came on the car radio, Danny started to sing it loudly and with great flourish in a nasal voice in this very crowded car, until everyone else was forced to join in, vaudeville pinched nose accent and all. I will never forget being 17 years old, and on his lap with my arms wrapped around his shoulders and neck, and just laughing and singing and enjoying his personality – loving my existence at that moment in time. (Try pinching your nose and trying to achieve this sound in the song – it is still funny or at least I think so. Hmm, maybe you had to be there! Yet, that’s why I write, to put you right there!)

I have heard from Danny a few times and even fairly recently, though I am not sure he is a regular reader, but he probably would remember this because he also has a great long-term memory for details. I just love reminiscing with people who remember details.

And to think, just hearing these very rarely heard songs on my favored radio station, brought me right back there to these terrific times of my youth. This is one of the reasons I love to hear old music. When I emerged from my daydream, the song was well over, but the smile stayed on my face for quite a while afterward.

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