Time Travel Triggered by Old Songs

I know there are people that exist, such as Marilu Henner, who have complete photographic memories for the past (see this about her savant talent) and I do not claim to be one of those kind of people, but I do freak lots of people out with my razor sharp long term memory.

It seems as if my mind will not let even the smallest detail of a time and place escape from it, and it stays locked up tight. The unfortunate part is that my internal RAM is all used up and there is no room for short term memory. New people and things, watch out, I will forget about you in the same space of time that Dory the fish does – and that is a fact!

At any rate, I listen to a lot of oldies, as I found some great iHeart radio stations that play the greats of my youth. This is the music I go to for exercising, for cooking with, and for driving as well. It’s a good thing these fugue states are temporary while I am driving because it could be dangerous!

The weird thing is that certain songs will trigger a memory that is so exact and complete, it plays like a mini-movie in my mind. It only is triggered by my HEARING the song. Thinking of a song title doesn’t do it for me.

Most of us can picture ourselves the day the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan. Many I have spoken to have described their TV, who was there with them, and the reactions to this new kind of rock group. I have that memory as well, but I have it for dozens and dozens of other songs too.

Some are completely random memories, others are filled with emotion. It’s almost like a gift of time travel as I can see everything in the scenes.

For example, when I heard “Jimmy Mack” the other day, I instantly went back to the halls of my junior high where there was a cute guy everyone was crushing on named Jimmy – and this was while the song was out. Lots of girls sang it out loud with that particular Jimmy in mind.

“Light My Fire” by the Doors always brings me back to the wood floor of my bunk in camp during the summer of 1967, where we would write our letters home during break time and our transistor radio would be blaring all the top Forty hits of the day.

Similarly “For What it’s Worth” always brings me to being around the campfire, singing songs about peace and loving fellow man. Good times.

I heard “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”  a few days ago, and immediately thought back to Atlantic City in the summertime walking the famous boardwalk, looking up at the famous Coppertone billboards and hearing that very song coming from one of the arcades. I could smell the smells, feel the essence, remember all those details. That’s how specific my memories are with certain songs. (I looked it up after all that came to me and it was a summer of 1965 Lesley Gore hit.)

I also heard a very rarely heard (almost NEVER) song, “Oh Babe, What Would You Say” – a cheesy retro number from the early seventies by Hurricane Smith, and immediately remembered being on my boyfriend Danny’s lap coming home from a concert in a crowded car of friends, singing it at the top of our lungs together. What a joyful night after a great concert with friends.

Another song, “Sooner or Later,” a Grass Roots hit, triggers the vivid memory of filling out 3×5 cards (and trying to mimeo them with an old machine) with a friend named Deba (Pronounced DEEBA) fast and furiously in his basement, to try to win a free Grass Roots concert at my school.

Whenever I hear one of the older Moody Blues song, I think about Art, a college boyfriend who introduced me to all of the albums and the wonderful music of that group. I distinctly picture us in his rec room playing records, with his face full of delight as I began to share his intense enthusiasm for that brilliant group. This picture is so clear it could have happened yesterday. I can even picture what his mom looked like as she brought us snacks.

Not all songs, but certain ones, trigger me going back to a time and place that are so distinct and crystal clear, that it is almost like it has been preserved on videotape in my brain.

Just about every song and every music-derived video in my mind are positive ones. I have a way of disregarding or being forgetful about the bad times, and I certainly don’t get reminded of them in songs, except for “Abraham, Martin, and John,” which brings me back to 1968 when my hero Bobby Kennedy was murdered.

At any rate, this is the photographic part of my memory. Not only do I remember an event, but I can replay the exact time and place in my mind as if it just happened.

I think that’s why I love playing oldies stations — it is unlimited opportunity for me to exercise that weird part of my brain. (And just so you don’t think every song does that to me, I could go on an entire hour-long bike ride and only hear one that triggers one of these movie memories.)

Some other people I have spoken to also get very vivid memories triggered by certain songs, so I am thinking it is pretty common. In fact one recently discussed this after a song we heard while together triggered a memory for both of us. She suggested that I write a blog about it.

So let’s hear from you – name just one song, and the memory it brings up. GO!


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