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Music & Memory

It’s freaky how music brings you back to certain periods of your life. Movies don’t really do that for me.

I’ve been listening to all unrated songs on my work laptop. It’s a small subset of of full music collection, but it’s got some good stuff in there.

I don’t recall ever getting that weird déjà vu feeling in my early and mid-twenties. That’s probably because that’s when those associations were being developed. Still, I was listening to Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Nirvana in my teens, and when I was in my twenties hearing that music never took me back in time. Now it does.

The weirdest one is The Strokes’ “Room on Fire”. It’s odd because the memories are so recent. Any song I hear from that album puts me in my car driving between Eagan and the Twin Cities in late 2004 / early 2005.

Another big one is Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”. That usually puts me back to 1996-1997. Specifically in Las Cruces, NM, driving in my 1984 Buick Skylark to and from Scott’s house, where we’d often hang out, smoke cigarettes and play Magic.

Finally, the last major one I can think of is Beck’s “Sea Change”. Can you guess what one aspect of the memory associated with this is? Yep, driving in the car. This time to and from El Paso, TX from Las Cruces, NM. This was probably 2002 early 2003, after a particularly rough breakup. I would go to El Paso to buy clove cigarettes (this was me wanting to smoke, but purposely making it inconvenient). Someone had broken into my car and stolen my stereo, so I was listening to my music on a crappy little mp3 player. Listening with earbuds was probably not the safest way to drive.

I only mention all this for a couple reasons. First — WTF? Why is this happening now? Why wasn’t this happening 5 years ago? I think I know the answer to that, but it’s still weird. Second, and more troubling, is that these memories triggered because of specific music that I was listening to in the car. I don’t drive much these days — I live very close to work, and when I do drive, it’s brief. I also tend to listen to the radio. So I’m worried that I won’t have musical anchors to take me back when I’m, say, 40. I have a terrible memory, and music seems to be one of the few things that can jog it.

I take one thing back — Pearl Jam’s “Yield” was triggering that sorta déjà vu feeling as early as 5 years ago, I think. To this day, it reminds me of sometime around 1997-1999, rooming with Chris. We had a dumpy little apartment and my computer was in the kitchen. The specific memory is of modifying (I think) DikuMUD (?) to make a sort of “Poison Elves” MUD (if you know what Poison Elves was, congrats, welcome to the Nerd Club. If you know what both Poison Elves was and what a MUD is, then seek professional help). I remember adding an addiction element to the game — if your character smoked, he’d have to continue to smoke or suffer various physical consequences. I never made it public or did anything with it.

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3 Responses to “Music & Memory”

  1. Chris Czerniak Says:

    Heh, it is funny what music will make you remember. Music is likely to remind me of game I played. For some reason listening to U2’s POP album reminds me of playing Duke Nukem and listening to certain songs on The Cure’s Wish reminds me of playing D&D in highschool. SY Thousand Leaves song (don’t know the name of the song but it has Gordan singing something about a train) reminds me of staying up past 12 while you and J created music.

    Also, just in case you didn’t know Drew Hayes died a few years ago. They released the last issue of Poison Elves toward the beginning of the year which was a tribute to Drew and what he planned on doing with the series.

  2. Joe Says:

    Yeah, you told me about Drew Hayes last time you visited — that sucks. I’ve still got a bunch of PE comics — I don’t know where I dropped off, but I should probably try to finish the collection at some point.

    I don’t recall which SY song in particular you are referring to, but there’s only 3 songs or so from that album that Kim Gordon sings on.

    Speaking of A Thousand Leaves — that album brings back a ton of memories, as well as bringing me back to a particular state of mind. Easily still my favorite SY albums, if not my favorite album period.

  3. Jody Says:

    I TOTALLY had a Buick Skylar. Only mine was custom and from 1988. It was RAD – especially with the Oakley sticker on the back window. 😉

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