Sunday, 16 October 2011

Soundtrack stories - pressing play

As I drove to work a few days ago, a song came on the radio. Unbidden and unexpected, it caught me, whirled me up in its notes, and threw me back down in 1994.

It doesn't have any association with a remarkable incident; it doesn't remind me of a long-lost love, or life-changing moment. It's not in my top ten favourite songs and it wouldn't even feature in my Desert Island Discs, but when it came on the radio, it had the power to take me back in an instant, to a particular time and place.

The song was Deacon Blue's 'A Ship called Dignity', it was the opening track on their greatest hits album 'Our Town' and I played it on a plastic radio-cassette player, while I decorated our sons' bedroom. As I slapped on blue paint - dark blue at the bottom, light blue at the top, with the colours separated by a brightly patterned sea-side border, I sang my heart out to the opening song and the following 18 tracks. I played it again and again, moving the player around the room with me as I worked. I listened to one side then downed the paint-brushes to swap the cassette over and play the other. Before long, I knew the order of the songs so well I was singing the next one before the opening bars had even sounded.



I was happy. I was decorating the house we'd worked and saved for. It was the house that the children were meant to grow up in, go off to the rest of their lives from, bring back our grandchildren to. I didn't know then that we'd leave that house the following year, that the room I was decorating would all too soon end up being slept in by someone else's children. I certainly didn't know then how guilty I'd feel in all the years in-between; for not trying hard enough to keep us all together in the house that we all loved.

For that week, while I painted and sang, I was happy. It was a time when I didn't know just how miserable I'd feel for a long time afterwards. When the song came on the radio, it took me straight back to that happiness and I'm so glad it had the power to do that.

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All of which has left me thinking.  I've never tried giving this blog a 'theme' before, and I'm not about to turn it into a music blog now. You would see only too soon, just how mundane and unambitious my musical tastes can be. But I know there are dozens of other songs that have a similar effect on me - bringing me instantly to a moment in my life, pricking at my memories, prompting my reflections. I think I'd like to try and capture some of those memories here, maybe once a week, under the heading Soundtrack Stories.

I've been so delighted by all the new (and continuing) readers who've visited this blog since the Blog-of-Note excitement last week, and it occurred to me that this might also be a way of getting to know you all a bit better. So I'd also love to hear if any of you have your own striking memories associated with songs. If you've written about them, feel free to e-mail me, or please put a link in the Comments box and I'll come and take a look. I may even share the very best of them here if people are ok with that.

Let me know what you think.

Sharon

43 comments:

Philip said...

That was very nicely done. I like the detail that you were painting the room in a similar colour scheme to the album. Good job I don't do things like that or our house would look, ahem, odd.

I might just pick out a song to write about.

Bill Dameron said...

I have enjoyed getting to know you through your stories. I listen to music all the time, earbuds in while walking to the T or on the bus. It is always a part of my life.

I did write a post based on a song. "Shut up and drive" by Rihanna. I hope you enjoy it.

http://living-authentically.blogspot.com/2011/08/shut-up-and-drive.html

Roberta said...

Music is a powerful memory enhancer. This is why I especially hate it when a company takes a meaningful song from my history and sells cars or other products with it. It never again evokes those memories for me. And that is a huge loss.

Dicky said...

Lovely post Sharon. I agree - listening to music from the past is unbelievably powerful. One of the songs that always reminds me of being young is "Boys of summer," which was in the charts in the summer of 85 when I left school. It’s not a very cool song, but whenever I hear it...such very carefree times for me, with the world at my feet. Those first few bars get me going every time.

Shrinky said...

Many congrats on the Blog of Note appearance!

Ah, songs are memory-disc's indeed, aren't they? What a bitter-sweet memory this one time-warped you back to. Every time "Me and Mrs. Jones" ambushes me, I am 14, sitting in a cafe with my friends, sharing a coke and four straws with my mates, flirting with the lads from the boys school. We'd spend our lunch money on sticky buns there (I got banned in the end, for sneaking my cookery tin under the table for us to scoff from). Happy days!

I think a weekly post is an inspired idea.

Shrinky said...

Oops, forgot to mention, the jukebox played that song all the time.

nickmusic78 said...

That is beautifully written. Writing about a song that took you back to a particular place is a great idea. I'll have to give that some thought.

Debbie said...

My job involves driving and I mostly have Radio 2 on the dial. So, everyday's a flashback day for me. Last week they played Pet Shop Boys, 'Left to my own devices.' Love that song. I was a big fan; 16, and a geek. Happy days.

Sandra said...

I have been looking forward to reading your new posts! I actually wrote a blog post about a song recently -- one that takes me back to childhood. It is in a different language, however, but I linked a video and translated the lyrics. I would be honored if you would take a peek at this post: http://letters-of-muse.blogspot.com/2011/09/dear-childhood.html. Cheers!

nickmusic78 said...

After I read your post I thought of this.http://wwwnicholashay-operahistorian.blogspot.com/2011/10/may-road-rise-up-to-meet-you.html

Susan Cooper said...

I am so glad I have found your blog. I am truly enjoying your writing.

I had written a piece on memories and what triggers them. I believe memories are our most valuable gifts. If you are interested to reading my blog post the tag is below. I would love to hear what you think and any feedback you may have. The post is called "Treasure Box" posted in August.

Susan Cooper

Robbie Grey said...

Stories based on songs are tricky, I think, and I give you props for doing it well. The closest I came to doing a musical post was during my Joshua Storm story arc when I wrote about him driving into his hometown, though I've always wanted to do a more personal soundtrack story...I always have music playing within the walls of my skull.

Live Score Soccer Football said...

I Like that post ...Great Great

Joe Pereira said...

Good idea Sharon, music has the power to evoke all sorts of feelings and we must all have some fovourite songs in common.

Danielle said...

I enjoy reading your blog and from the picture at the top I can only assume we share a similar taste in books. I sometimes write stories based on songs. Take a look if you like on http://wordsbydanielle.blogspot.com

Pat said...

What a lovely idea Sharon. This week is busy - pre our autumn break, but if I can I'll give it a go.
Time to give up any stray guilt feelings - they are non productive.

himalay137 said...

I've enjoyed your post. gr8 idea.thanks a lot
http://smaart-trader.blogspot.com/

bookworm said...

I understand your experience. There is a song I hear very seldom in the States. I don't know the title or the group, but every time I hear it I think of ice skating in Germany. It seemed that that song was always playing one winter when our school would go ice skating on Thursdays. When I hear it, I always smile and wish - just for a moment - that I was 10 again.

Bobby Stevenson said...

Lovely, lovely - in the early days of the cabaret in Shoreham I played 'Dignity' - it was one of the three songs I always played (limited repertiore) but it never took me back to any place - that was the job of Hazel O'Conner - 'Will You' - the saxophone break instantly transports me to smoking French cigarettes and discussing the meaning of life at 5am after a great party. We were all going to change the world back then - I wonder what happened? Thanks for the thoughts Sharon.

Sasha_Mart2011 said...

>70 000 are reported dead (bombed and killed by abroad gangs), >100 000 injured (and could not get enough care through infrastructure is also bombed out), 2 000 000 are refugees. in Libiya. thanks to nato help. achieved in 8 months. Sirt (150 000 citizens) and Ben-Valid are being bombed out to the ground right now.

how could you care about just a song???

Susan said...

Philadelphia Freedom (Elton John)is a song that I will always cherish. It just takes me back to grade school before knowing there was any bad in the world. Priceless feeling nowadays.

Love your take on life : )

Philip said...

sasha mart 2011 - much as i might agree with you about western governments foolish interventions in other countries, it would seem a little harsh to criticise another ordinary person for it. I'm also sure that, like sharon, you too find strength through music. I hope you and your family are ok and that all this senseless violence stops soon.

Sharon Longworth said...

Thanks Philip. I shall look forward to reading your song-story. I have absolutely no idea which it will be of the 15 million songs you possess, but I'll wait with baited breath...

Bill - thank you. I popped over to your blog, and I think I'll enjoy getting to know you too. As for husbands and comments on driving - I've found it really helps if your husband simply cannot drive!

Roberta - goodness yes - it's horrid if someone appropriates your song and then sticks a whole heap of unwanted associations on it!

Dicky - that's a great song. And how fantastic to have a few bars of music that can take you instantly back to carefree days!

Shrinky - Ah 'Me and Mrs Jones' - there was a time when that was always the last song of the night, and I remember wishing so much that I had someone to dance with while it played!

nickmusic - thank you - I'll wait to read the outcomes of your thought processes!

Sharon Longworth said...

Debbie - Radio 2 is my station of choice on the way into work every day - so I'm with you there, though I've never quite properly appreciated the Pet Shop Boys.

Sandra - thank you! I liked how you explored the difference between the song you loved and the songs your own daughter will remember. I've managed to persuade my youngest daughter to love musical theatre - that makes us both happy!

Sharon Longworth said...

nickmusic78 - well thank you for thinking about it, writing about it and coming all the way back again! I really love your phrase 'wishing each other a safe and prosperous year with the power of song' what a marvellous thing to be able to do - thank you for sharing this with me, and other readers of the this blog.

bzirkone said...

Great post. I'd like to hear the rest of the story as well.

bzirkone said...

About the house, I mean.

Mukesh said...

Hi! I think Deacon Blue have that kind of effect with their songs. I am not a huge fan of them but they do have some great songs Cool post. If I started writing about music and songs that triggered memories, i would be writing everyday forever til I was 45634 years old.

Sharon Longworth said...

Susan - thank you for telling me about the memory post on your blog - a lovely set of reflections. I wish I was always as wise as your parents! I'm glad you got to find out that Kerry had noticed and appreciated you. I started off feeling sorry that you didn't find your memory box, but then I realised you didn't need to! Lovely writing.

Sharon Longworth said...

Robbie - it can be tricky - especially if the song in your head is associated with a particular person - there will be a few of those I probably won't write!

Live Score Soccer Football - I don't know whether to be more pleased with your comment or with the fact that I've had a visit from a football blog! Either way - thank you.

Joe - the songs that provoke shared memories are so great - I'm hoping to write about one or two of our 'family songs' soon. I'd love to read more about yours too.

Sharon Longworth said...

Danielle - what an absolutely lovely idea - I've just read the story of Sam and I did enjoy it! Hope you write another song story soon.

Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - thank you. No rush on the writing front - I'll be happy to read about your memories whenever you feel like writing them!

Bobby - I'm glad you put the Hazel O'Connor song on facebook - it was good to hear it.

And as I didn't get to see or hear you singing Dignity at the early Cabarets I'm planning on asking for a special request next time you perform. Are you involved in this year's? We'll be there on the 11th.

Sharon Longworth said...

himalay137 - thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed this.

bookworm - that's such a lovely snippet of a memory - I was caught up in it. Thank you.

sasha mart 2011 - there is so much unnecessary suffering and pain across the world, but loving a song doesn't stop me caring about all that. I believe, and always will, in the power of music and words to make the world a better place.

Susan - thank you! My Elton John memory song would be Crocodile Rock - we used to have lunchtime school discos to raise money for charity and that was always played!

Philip - thank you x

Silentwhisper1 said...

Hi, Sharon, nice to meet you, and nice post and blog-I enjoyed reading it.Thank you for sharing it.

I'm an eighties girl/early nineties..lets say and, ahem, I can't tell you how much I forget my true age (44) when I hear such music as in those days.Sometimes even? my mind reverts to my roller skating days at Star Dust when I hear,Stix, Queen, and Areosmith:)Fun times!

Dee~
Take care.

Nari said...

What a wonderful idea. I look forward to reading about those musical moments. I tend not to remember any specifics through music but rather just emotions or states of mind.

I might find myself drifting back to the late eighties, during my high school years. That sense of possibilities, freedom, and fearlessness. I might post about those feelings some day or maybe just a quick fictional tale.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Griffin Jackson said...

I absolutely love it when one of those old classics come on unexpectedly. So much good music out there. So much nostalgia. Want to share your A&E tastes or check out what others think, try it at: http://wwwtahome.blogspot.com/

Happy Frog and I said...

I really enjoyed your post Sharon. I was tasked ages ago by one of my readers to come up with a soundtrack of my life and am still working on it. It will be a few months more I'm sure. 1994 was a very important year for me and one I've written about often though not publicly. The song you chose also has a lot of nostalgia for me too.

I look forward to more of you posts on this theme.

Nicole said...

I love this idea! I have so many memories tied up in songs---we all do. But it's funny, isn't it, how much those me ory carriers feel so much like they belong only to us?

I feel that way about, of all songs, Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. I will write about that sometime and drop you a note when I do.

Can't wait to see where this project leads.

Sharon Longworth said...

bzirkone - thank you. I'm sure I'll get round to writing more about the house one day.

Mukesh - I like the idea of you living to 45634 years old. So if writing about musical memories will keep you going that long, all I can say is - best get started... Oh and let me know, so I can come and read them.

Silentwhisper1 - hello and welcome to the blog. I've never really tried roller skating - my early teenage years were full of ice-skating and I've got some wonderful (ahem...) song memories from that time - which may well surface here at some point.

Nari - thank you. It seems a lot of people have found this making them think about high school - and I think you're right, there is something so beguiling, when we look back, at all the possibilities we had then. Although I'm not sure I knew it at the time. I look forward to reading whatever it turns out to be!

Sharon Longworth said...

Griffin - thank you. I went over and had a look at WWWTA - interesting idea - hope you get some great debates going.

Abbey - thank you, as ever! It's funny, I think lots of us have a particular year that stands out. For me, it's 1976 - the year I was sixteen - which makes me ancient, but it was a good year!

Nicole - I wonder what it would be like if we lined up people's memories of the same song - how different would they be? Anyway - please do let me know when you write something about Alice's Restaurant - I'll look forward to reading it.

debra kay said...

I enjoy that you combine all your senses into a simple endeavor, it enlightens one to think the depth of my enjoyment comes from my own initiative to interact and sit in every moment we are in... painting your son's room is significant. I, especially, enjoyed the sentences that referenced you were making beautiful something you had dreamed on, worked for-nice,subtle connections. ty for sharing this

basic444 said...

Great Post Sharon, thx. I don't usually read music blogs and I prefer yours as it is, but well, music is a way of reflection as well.

Hillary said...

Sharon, I like this one so very much. I really connect with it as a mother. I can see you painting your son's room, happy, and I completely understand your feelings after leaving the house. As a mom, I major in guilt, but I do my best.

You gave your sons a great room hand-painted by their mother. I wish I were more ambitious for projects like that.

PS I agree with Philip - very cool that the hues for the room complimented those on the album cover.