Music and its associations

Whenever I hear The Cars' "Just What I Needed" I'm immediately transported to those many hot summer afternoons, sitting in our backyard overlooking the American River, hanging with high school friends. We'd put the speakers on the balcony and turn it up, not realizing that we were in essence building a soundtrack to our lives. Ironically, they still associate that song with the same thing I do.

Last night, we attended a benefit dinner for a program that was co-founded by my father, who by profession is an OB/GYN. Around 1996, seeing that many drug-addicted women were losing custody of their children at birth, and receiving no services for their addictions, he and several others started a home for the mothers, with counseling services to help them stay free from drugs, as well as helping them to reunify with their children, get work, and eventually move into their own homes as a family. They have since served over 1000 women, and have been asked to help start similar programs with other hospitals around the country. As they played a slideshow that helped to demonstrate what it is they do, the Pachelbel Canon in D played along. I couldn't help think about hearing that song for the first time in 1980, as the theme to the film "Ordinary People". At the time, I identified with the sad state of the characters and the tragic family in the film. And yet, last night, I realized that the music suddenly carried a new meaning for me, one of revelation and spiritual growth. As my father spoke to 400 attendees as this year's honoree, I kept hearing that song, and trying unsuccessfully to link his childhood as a poor, lonely Jewish kid in Detroit to this successful, revered doctor who has found his calling in working with the Sisters of Mercy to help the underprivileged to clear away the noise of abuse so that they too could live a fulfilling life. I could not put it together in my mind, but I suppose that's exactly how this particular composition has come to represent something entirely different now than it did years ago, in my own childhood. And I guess that's why last night, I came to realize that the depth of a person's life--in this case, my father's--is a process of endless discovery, with unforseeable treasures that emerge along the way.

Thanks for letting me share that thought. I'm curious to hear what pieces of your life are accompanied by these unforgettable musical memories?
I was listening to the radio on Monday and I heard Billy Idols Eyes without a face, and I was transported back to my grandparents farm, I was maybe 11 yrs old and my uncle let me drive the grain truck in the field, and that song was playing...I felt like the coolest kid on earth at that moment driving this huge truck in an empty Wheat field, I know its a goofy memory to post......but thats what first came into my head, nice thread by the way
The scary part about the whole thing is that you can't always choose which songs end up on the soundtrack. I've got some powerful memories associated with songs I'd frankly never listen to but for those memories.

On the other hand, whenever I hear CCR, I'm instantly transported back to the fun feeling of driving fast on summer nights with the windows down and the freedom that used to be summer vacation, but its more a generic feeling than a concrete moment. I've got some pretty specific memories associated with the 2nd side of Kate Bush's The Dreaming, but can't get into that on a "G" rated forum.

In this vein, there was a book titled Songbook a while back by Nick Hornby (who also wrote Hi-Fidelity, made into a movie starring John Cucsac (sp?)) that cataloged the relevance of certain songs in his life. Its not exactly the same thing, because it isn't just this-song-was-playing-when-I-kissed-my-first-girl, but its an interesting and easy read.

The thread also brought to mind a quote by one of The Doors (can't remember which one). I gather JM did something weird in the sense that all members of the band own equally in the song rights (odd in that in most bands the writer gets the sole rights to the song), which means the three remaining members have to sign off on any requests for use of the songs. This particular member was basically saying you will never hear a song by THe Doors in a commercial, because they don't want to dilute people's memories. He was relating how powerful it was to him to have people shake his hand and say "I'll never forget Light My Fire/Strange Days/whatever" because it was the song that way playing when I stepped off the transport plane in Vietnam/kissed my first girl/whatever. I think the dilution concept has some validity, myself.

Oh yeah, and a hearty Bronx cheer goes out to all those women in my prior life who managed to indelibly stamp bad memories on great albums that I can now never listen too again...
Thanks for the responses, guys. I'd love to hear more. There is something about the mating of the soundtrack to a specific experience in our lives that fascinates me. That was a beautiful memory, Chad. Not goofy at all.
This is a most unique and special thread, Howard. Thank you!

I think we all have songs burned into our selves regarding milestone events in our lives. Off the top of my head, my own list...

Miscellaneous Oldies. Age: 6. In 1975, South Philadelphia was still stuck in the 50s. Except, I didn't know it was the 70s - until it was too late. Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

Kraftwerk - Numbers. Age: 12. Damn, even the brothers' heads exploded over these nerdy German guys

Modern English - I Melt With You. Age: 15. Ah, TRELJA's amazingly parallel story to Valley Girl. Stacey was waaaaaaaayyyy hotter and more wild than what Nicholas Cage was chasing

Golden Earring - Radar Love. Age: 19. Brings me back to the days when we used to drive at 140 mph. It all felt like a video game, with cars and scenery just absolutely blowing by (Steve! Look out for that boat!!!)

Mariah Carey - Someday. Age: 22. Had to sing this out loud a hundred thousand times to try to get myself through a breakup with someone I loved more than I could imagine. 10 years later, I don't get much satisfaction in knowing that it did come true, but I can point others to it in times like this

Thomas Dolby - I Love You, Goodbye. Age: 23. Finding new romance and getting over a broken heart in a wicked, more than fun woman

Miles Davis - So What. Age: 26. The soundtrack of one man's transition from adolescence to adulthood, or whatever you call it, in his mid - 20s.

Vanessa Carlson - A Thousand Miles. Age: 33. Had to drive two hours each way to be with my love was locked in a cage. And, yes, I would walk a thousand miles if I could just see you

There's a ton more, but I don't want to publish a treatise here
Great thread.

Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra playing "Love's Theme" - I am 5 years old, riding in the front seat of my dad's 1971 Caprice Classic through the streets of Dorchester, Massachusetts on a sunny day.

"Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer - driving around with my sister in a Mercury Tracer during the summer that I moved home to be with my dad after my mom had died. We called it "the happy song", always rolled the windows down, and were able to remember our mom with laughs and smiles instead of silence and tears for the first time in months.

Cheesy tunes, no doubt, but we don't always get to pick the soundtrack. The opening line in "Lover's Rock" by Sade goes "I am in the wilderness, you are in the music in the man's car next to me." That's the way it is - as often as we try to choose music to make the moment, it is just often the moment that makes the music.
Wow, Joe. You swallowed an iPod!

I've got a few more myself:

Soundgarden - "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" - Returning at dusk from the 2001 Tour de France, where we had just seen Lance win on the Alpe d'Huez. We were driving back over the mountains into Italy. Can't hear that song without feeling the serenity of dusk, winding up the roads out of the town of Briancon.

Police - "Roxanne" - Two of my friends and I played that song at my high school graduation party. I was on drums.
Let me tell you, my grandparents loved it...not!

Lyle Lovett - "She's My Wife" - I always remember watching my wife groom a horse on a cold night in Arlington, Washington. My wife was singing along to the radio. We were alone in the barn, except for a lone cat who sat about ten feet away and observed.

The Eagles - "One of These Nights" - Going to sleep to this song at a cabin in Lake Tahoe, thinking about skiing the next morning. I was ten.

The Waterboys - "Don't Bang the Drum" - As a young student in Paris, I would sometimes walk around the city wearing a Walkman, playing this song over and over. Every time I hear the song, I am absorbed by the feel of that city, and the taste of flan, which I ate almost every day when I was there.

Rolling Stones - "Angie" - My parents' best friends gave me three Stones LP's for my 14th birthday. I closed and locked the door in my room, thinking that as a seasoned Neil Sedaka/Bee Gees fan, I might be committing a crime by listening to the Stones. I listened all the way through the three albums, and knew that my life would never be the same.

Stevie Wonder - "Knocks Me Off My Feet" - I taught myself to play the drums to this song, as well as "Hotel California". A couple years later, I moved up to Rush's "Tom Sawyer".

Keep 'em coming...
"I am a Rock", Simon & Garfunkle equals High School / teen angst for me.

"Born to Be Wild", Steppenwolf, was playing on the radio durring my first big car wreck. I still have the urge to punch it when I hear that tune.

"Imagine", John Lennon, saved my sanity in Viet Nam. I would play it over and over in my head while climbing the mountains of Quan Tri Provence with a heavy pack and a lot of ammo. We would get to the top, and I would not have even felt the pain. Kind of a Zen thing.

"The Boys are Back In Town" BTO?, getting back to college in the fall and looking forward to Bellingham WA pub crawls.

It seems strange to me, but I can't think of a tune that I associate with anything, for the last 30 years.