I know I'm not alone in this conundrum of life, and I know I'm not alone, even among the most non-plussed, in saying that a song, an album, a piece of music, can define a time in your life. It can define an event, an era, a period, and it will continue to reflect that period, no matter how many times you refresh it, in my case, pretty much for life. The memories it invokes may be the happiest of ones, or they may be the darkest, but nonetheless, as time passes, all these memories of the time the music evokes are bittersweet.
I think back over the years of my life to when I was first aware of music tinting a memory, or being associated with one, was listening to my father on the piano. My lifelong love of the Beatles is because of him--interpreting the songs through the piano keys, the early years of the Beatles, the period my father most associated his music memories (he never loved their later stuff). So it was on a piano bench, not through the radio, that I first heard those simple little songs, played and sang, by my father. Favourite performances of his included "And I Love Her" which he would sing to his three girls, my mom, me, and my little sister. I still can't really hear that song without turning back into that little four-year-old girl, in my parents rec room, all of us around the piano on a Saturday night. The day my parents sold the piano and the new owners came to pick it up was like a family member being carried away. See--all the memories. And that's just one little song. When my little niece was born and my boyfriend and I made her a "welcome" cd, that song was on there. I wanted to pass it along to her for her to grow to love the Beatles, too.
Another Beatles memory exists, with another man at a piano, at a dinner party I attended at the house of the parents of a very good friend who was dating the man whose parents' home it was. That night, at the end of the dinner party, our talented, musical friend G. entertained us with a Beatles song, too, "For No One" and I couldn't believe that despite how far I was from my parent's rec room, I was instantly transported back there. The performance was so special to me, and now even it has a bittersweet flavour, after G.'s premature death late last year.
Despite my absolute love and devotion to my ipod, I still cannot bring myself to get rid of my cd collection. I guess it's because of the artwork on the albums, the lyrics sometimes folded in the
liner notes, the year printed surreptitiously on the label, reminding you exactly when you were listening to that cd, and what you were doing at the time.
I can name my most treasured cd's quickly, off-handedly, because they are so few and far between. I have hundreds of favourite songs, evidenced by previous posts here, and my musical tastes are varied and some would say, bizarre, but I hold certain collections of songs close.
Everyone loves U2, I'm no exception, but for me, their best work (opinion only based on what I was doing--everything--at the time) was Achtung Baby. I remember piercing love, piercing heartbreak, then the breakthrough of 'taking back the album' and claiming it as a piece of MY history, not OURS.
Ditto for Madonna, Ray of Light, from 1998. The title single released from this album remains fairly vanilla to me, and it is the track I skip through most often. But the other songs...Drowned
World, Substitute for Love...I thought my neighbours would form a coalition to stop me from listening to that song, over and over, as I dealt with another heartbreak in my Bathurst St. apartment. Lead on from that song to uptempo Nothing Really Matters, to Sky Fits Heaven, to the slow power of The Power of Goodbye and To Have and Not to Hold. I'm not sure my copy of the cd will still play. I still have it, the broken plastic cover, Madonna on the cover, pale water-blue dress, peeking out from a veil of hair. No matter how many more spectacularly successful albums Madonna comes up with, and I know there will be many (Confessions and Hard Candy are amazing); Ray of Light will always speak to my twenty-something, broken-hearted soul, one who needed to listen to Drowned World a minimum of 6 times a day for about 6 months, just to get through the night.
There will be more music in the future, for sad times, for happier times, and I will cherish every memory they will evoke, now and then.
Never forget who you are...little star....Little Star Madonna Ray of Light