I just came upon my old cd of Carly Simon’s “No Secrets.” Talk about a soundtrack from your past. This one is in the top three. It immediately takes me to New Delhi, India. I’m nine years old. We play this album so often, it’s like the McCloy family album of 1973.
It brings me back to early evenings in the living room, parents sipping cocktails. Then, to my room. Playing our old piano along with one of the songs, “Embrace Me.” Playing the song over and over and over, trying to learn how to play the piano by hitting the keys along in tune, singing the words, “then one night daddy died, and went to Heaven and God came down to Earth and slipped away.” How I would imagine what that would be like. My daddy dying. The emotions. The loss. Little did I know my dad would die when I was still relatively young; 21 years old.
Every song had its own world of meaning. The particular context of the time in our lives when it became imprinted. The correlation of its tone and lyrics to the mood it created. Carly was with us there. Our little bubble of life at 12 Friends Colony West, New Delhi.
My brother and his wife named their daughter Carly. My family fondly thinks it has to do with the influence that Ms. Simon had on us. The love she brought. The family bonds she created. It sounds corny, but we all have music that sticks with us like that. We may not always remember about certain artists or songs, but when we hear an impactful song from the past, boy, do those floodgates of sense memory open up and remind us!
We might have intellectual disconnects in the present and poo-poo an artist that once brought us joy, because they are no longer hip or heard or popular or understood. But you can’t take that memory away or the happiness it brought you. Its impact at a pivotal time in your life will never go away.
KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It)”? For me, that’s Ithaca, New York, 1975; my one year of living in the U.S between birth and college. A band at the Holiday Inn (where we stayed while my parents looked for a rental) played that song every night, and it put a pep in our step.
Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”? That’s Tokyo. 1979. Dancing in the crowded discos of Roppongi on Saturday nights, sipping silly drinks like blue Hawaiians or violet fizzes.
Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”? Durham, North Carolina, 1983. Definitely the soundtrack of the house I lived in off of Duke’s east campus with my sister and our housemates from all over the world. (Our friends say this album was playing every time they came over. I think they were probably right.)
And while I’m on a roll, one more:
Fine Young Cannibals’ “The Raw and the Cooked.” That’s Bequia, West Indies, July, 1989. I was in this oasis of a place with 20 other actors, studying acting with Sandy Meisner for the month. This album played on someone’s boombox whenever we took breaks or danced at night.
My friend Ilse is a musician and she describes her need for music as a drug. I think music can certainly act like a drug. Just because you don’t drink or smoke it, doesn’t mean it isn’t mood altering. We use it to bring us up or to bring us down. We use it to party. We use it to meditate, to exercise, to escape, and to reminisce. When you listen to music, how do you make your song selection? The question often is; how do you want to feel?
Ilse, like many musicians I know, is prone to slipping away mentally whenever music is played. But hey, we all do it. Why I just did it tonight! I got lost in “No Secrets.” I was in New Delhi in Berkeley. In 1973 in 2007.
Music can do that.