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Music of my Childhood

Okay, confession time. I’ve been listening to the oldies station lately (although I *really* don’t think Dire Straits should be considered “oldies.” Is that how you know that you’re getting old? When you say “Damn it, [band name here] isn’t oldies!”). I’m bored with country and pop at the moment, so I guess I’m regressing or something, because I’m enjoying the occasional blast from the seventies – i.e. my childhood. This morning I was treated to “(Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B.J. Thomas, which always makes me think of snowstorms.

The year was either 1975 or 1976, and we were driving out to visit my grandparents for either Christmas or Easter. I can’t remember which it was. Hey, I was only six or seven – cut me some slack. For us, going to see the family was fairly involved, as we lived in upstate New York a little east of Syracuse, and they lived in St. Paul Minnesota. This was a twenty-ish hour drive out of NY, across the bottom of Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and Ohio (one year we broke down in Toledo. I don’t recommend it, but that’s another story.), through a bit of Indiana and Illinois across the bottom of Lake Michigan, and then up through Wisconsin and into Minnesota. It’s a lot of driving – remember, the interstate system was there, but it’s not what we’re accustomed to now. We would do it in one shot: mom and dad would drive/sleep in shifts, and my brother and I slept or kept each other amused. I date my inclination to fall asleep in cars that I am not actually driving to these years. It’s not the most scenic route unless you are seriously into alfalfa, and trying to read in a moving vehicle makes me nauseous, so I spent a lot of it napping. Mom would pack a cooler with drinks, snacks, and sandwiches, and Bruce and I would pass things forward as requested. I knew that the car only stopped if it needed gas or if *dad* needed to use the bathroom, so I always went light on the liquids. I remember that the first time I rode to Pennsic with Bob, he was shocked that I never requested a bathroom break. I’m well trained.

That trip we hit weather on the way out, in the form of a blinding snowstorm. In hindsight, that storm must have qualified as a bone fide blizzard. I don’t know what those highways are like now, but back in the seventies, especially at night, they were pretty lonely. As you can intuit from my father’s views vis a vis bathroom breaks, the likelihood of him pulling off the highway and getting a room until the weather blew over (and possibly getting stuck wherever we were) was in the “slim” and “none” categories. *Now* I know what it means that they were “closing the highway behind us,” but at the time I was too young to understand. The weather had gotten severe enough that the highway crews were giving up on keeping ahead of it, and they were closing the highway to traffic until the storm broke and they could clean up. As an adult, I now understand what my parents must have been debating traveling in a killing storm in a Mercury station wagon with two kids: do we pull off the highway and hope that we can find a place to stay (where we might be stuck for days), or do we keep rolling and hope that we can keep ahead of the situation until we can drive out of it? The saving grace I suppose is that we were all familiar with that sort of weather and what it can do – offset of course by my father’s sheer bloody-minded stubbornness.

Because of the storm, dad had the radio on constantly to monitor the weather and highway reports. You know how if you listen to one station long enough you can pick up the loop as they hit the end of the play list and start over? Either they had a very short loop, or they were terribly overplaying a handful of singles. Literally. Five, to be precise. After a while we noticed enough to talk about it. To this day, any of these songs make me remember that trip. I don’t remember the visit at all, and I no longer have any images from the drive, but I clearly recall the gestalt of the trip, the weather, and the radio.

* (Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, B.J. Thomas;
* Rhinestone Cowboy, Glenn Campbell;
* Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon;
* Love Will Keep Us Together, The Captain and Tennille;
* Wildfire, Michael Murphey

Obviously we arrived, visited, and drove home, but I don’t remember any of that. I’m sure I must have talked incessantly about the trip to grandma and grandpa and my cousins, but it’s all lost in time. All that I remember now is the snow and the wind and the music.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
LOL! It's hysterical that all you remember from the trip is those five songs. But music really does kinda get associated with events in our life and sticks to them, doesn't it.

Great story!
Aug. 9th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)

Music is really a huge trigger for the human brain - that was actually the theory behind "Schoolhouse Rock" if you remember those. The guy who dreamed up the idea noticed that while his son couldn't remember his multiplication tables, he knew the lyrics to *every* popular song on the radio. So he decided to set educational themes to music. The rest, as they say, is history. Someone once noted that there is an entire generation who can't recite the Preamble to the Constitution - but they can SING it! Try reciting the alphabet out loud sometime without including any of the inflections from the song - it's harder than it should be.

But yeah - for me personally, music is a huge memory trigger.
Aug. 9th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
I'm totally of that generation. I remember trying so hard when I had to recite the Preamble in high school not to say "...promote the general welfare a-and..." I didn't even look at it because I knew I could sing it.

It's also why I knew my multiplication tables up through 10 perfectly, but I was supposed to know them up to 12. Schoolhouse Rock stopped at 10 so I had to learn the 11s and 12s myself, and I still don't quite know them as well.

Schoolhouse Rock was truly amazing. There are so many things I still remember because of Schoolhouse Rock!
Aug. 9th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
It's on DVD. I bought it before we even talked about having children just because I wanted it for me!
Aug. 9th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
DVD? They still play constantly in my head! LOL!
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Conjunction junction, what's your function...
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
There's a Tricia Yearwood song from way back "The Song Remembers When". I still haven't been able to explain the metaphor to James.
Aug. 9th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
>All that I remember now is the snow and the wind and the music.

What a beautiful image to end with.
There's a song in it I'm sure, if I were inclined to dip back into poetry again.
Aug. 10th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
Despite the fact I was nearly graduating high school, we grew up on a lot of the same music! :) :) :)
Aug. 10th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
I have a *huge* weakness for seventies music. Legacy of a happy childhood, I guess!

You're just about the same age as my brother - not that big a difference.
Aug. 10th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
I have a huge weakness for MUSIC. My library has everything from Lead Belly in the 1910s or so to Lady Gaga and all in between. Music is near and dear to me, right after photography that is. :)

Aug. 10th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
I took Victoria with me to vote in the primary this morning and sang her preamble to the Constitution.
I fear she liked the sticker better....stickers are love.

And at the doctor's office they had Prince "1999" playing on the "Lite rock" station. LITE!? Oh my.
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)
Those five songs definitely got a lot of airplay. I can sing the hook from all of them, and am confident that I could do credible karaoke on all five without warm up. Well, I might sing them in _my_ register, since with the exception of B.J. Thomas, I don't think there's so much as a baritone in that group.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )