Do you have any songs that take you back to a vivid memory whether an event or time period of your life? I've forgotten about many songs that I probably regarded as favorites when I was young, but the following list of songs or albums bring back very distinct memories for me. And while some of them take me back to awful experiences, those songs provided a soothing impact to help me through life's difficulties at the time. They also take me down the rabbit hole of my brain to lead me to happy memories ultimately. And all of them help me appreciate that every day is a gift and music is a wonderful and fulfilling part of this short life we have.
1. Cranberries "Everybody Else Is Doing It so Why Can't We?," Smashing Pumpkins "Siamese Dreams," Janet Jackson "Janet": These are the 3 first CD's I got with my first CD player for Christmas in 1993. My favorite song on the radio was "Linger" by the Cranberries, and well the other 2 albums had great singles playing on the radio that I also loved at the time. My parents got me the CD player and my brother bought me the CDs. They were really my introduction to album ownership of my choosing. From there I went on to love everything the Cranberries and Smashing Pumpkins put out, as well as expand my collection via the endless cycles of joining and cancelling CD club memberships to BMG and Columbia. That was the most cost effective way to purchase music at the time short of recording songs off the radio ruined by DJs talking over the beginning and end of them. I have fond memories of listening to full albums and was thankful for CD technology that allowed me to skip past the bad songs, as I quickly learned most albums were not as good as the 1 or 2 singles released on the radio. However, the great artists could fill an album with great music that never made the airwaves.
2. PM Dawn's "I'd Die Without You" & "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" and Prince's "7": My friend Traci and I loved these songs in high school. She would go on to introduce me to even more music to broaden my scope from the influence of my older brother's terrible taste in music. Winger and Firehouse to name a couple. Though I should probably give him credit for Metallica which I don't hold against him. Thankfully Traci helped me discover the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, and Ozzy to name a few. But it's specifically these 3 songs that really make me think of her and probably because they are from my early days of discovering my taste in music.
3. Sound Garden's "Black Hole Sun" & Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage": It was the summer of 1994. My parents were separated and my mom lived in a city 4 hours away. Her place of employment had a branch office near where I lived that she had transferred from. They offered a summer internship for the kids of employees. I applied and got accepted and was earning cold hard cash 40 hrs a week for 8 weeks or so. My dad dropped me off in the mornings and picked me up in the afternoons since I was a newly licensed driver and the highways of Dallas are nuts during rush hour and take some getting used to even outside of rush hour. I had my Walkman radio listing to music while working on files all day long. These 2 songs were the songs of the summer from my perspective, because they'd both play on the radio several times a day and kept me happy and distracted amongst the boring and mundane work, and during the prime awkwardness and turmoil of being a teenager. The days were long and boring, but I was earning a real paycheck. Minimum wage, but still better than what I had earned babysitting. I remember the OJ Simpson trial being on in the break room, which looking up the timeline, it must have been pre trial proceedings. There was one other girl interning that summer a year older than me, and lunch time was the only time we really interacted. She was nice, but I don't remember her name. After work my dad would pick me up from work and he'd let me switch the radio station to my music, and at least once a week or more we stopped at McDonald's for a shake on the way home. I had to switch to strawberry because chocolate had a bad metallic or chemical taste. I really enjoyed those car rides with my dad and appreciate that time with him. I'm fortunate to still have him around, but we don't connect like we did back then. I guess that's part of growing older (Cue "Landslide"). That summer was about expanding my freedom and independence as I had more spending power and responsibilities, but I was also mobile and did drive around and hang out even more with my friends. I enjoyed it all! There are no other songs that remind me of that summer so vividly, though I'm sure the radio playlist included many of my favorites. These are the two songs that brought me a sense of joy and freedom, and when I hear them to this day, remind me fondly of that summer.
4. Poe's "Hello" album": It was during the year that should have been my Sophomore year in college. I had chosen to take a year off to go be a student missionary in Brazil. I was sick of school and going to class, there was so much drama around me, and I needed a break from it all. But I needed a purpose so that I would return to school as that was the path I was on in life, and could not envision a successful career without it. I went there without knowing anyone, but there were other student missionaries there from the US, Germany, Australia, and Denmark that I periodically met up with to travel around Brazil when we had breaks. Agape was from California. She was too cool for me in real life (at least in my mind at the time), but we had this year in Brazil in common. We all met up to go on a trip to spend a week on a tributary of the Amazon, and she shared this album by Poe with me. I loved every song on it. It spoke to the anger, frustration, and turmoil that I felt I had run away from. Even though they explicitly told us not to sign up to be a missionary to run away from problems. They were wrong and it was a defining year in my young adult life. I grew up. I learned about the world. I learned about my fortune to be born in a first world country. It gave me perspective. It sparked a love of travel for me. I gained confidence navigating the world without my parents. In fact when they visited me on separate occasions, I was their tour guide and translator. It taught me the I can always keep learning whether through study or from those around me. I bought the CD as soon as I returned and I love this album to this day even if I don't listen to it as much.
The world I returned to had moved on, but those problems I ran from also moved on from me, and the next 3 years of college came with many wonderful and tragic experiences. But this was the defining year that helped prepare me for life. I highly recommend a year abroad for young adults before you settle down. For me it led to another summer in Brazil right after I graduated and then a year abroad in Italy a couple years after college to obtain a graduate degree. Don't rush into marriage and parenthood before you've given yourself time to discover who you are and how you want to life your life. That is what this album reminds me of. And if there's one song from it that I take away from it as the 'one song,' it's "Beautiful Girl." The whole album reminds me of that year, but that song is the culmination of the person I like to think I became.
5. White Lion "When the Children Cry": This is about my friend Kandy. She was one of my very best friends. We met in high school and became fast friends and hung out with everyone that was too cool to fit in with the 'popular' kids. We had many adventures together throughout high school and into college specifically around this song. It was her favorite song. I'm don't remember why, but think it had something to do with either her mom or dad. She was raised by her grandparents and that is who's house I spent many hours and nights at. Anyways on any occasion we were at the mall and or near a store that sold music, we would look for the CD that contained this song. We always went in with low expectations, because we'd become accustomed to striking out. This was obviously before the days of getting on Amazon or Ebay to buy whatever the hell you want. One Saturday night we were in a book store, and decided to go back and check out their music section since we'd not been to that one yet. She hit the jackpot that night as there was one copy and she instantly snatched it up. Perseverance had finally won out!
She was tragically killed in a car accident at the end of my junior year in college. She was much too young. Her younger sisters were in town with her mom making arrangements with her grandparents, and they asked me about music to play. I told them the story of looking for this album and that this was the song she wanted played. Ironically we'd gone though a discussion of planning our funerals, and she had a much more extravagant one planned that included limo hummers and I believe shooting her ashes off in fireworks. When this song played at her funeral, I didn't realize just how fitting it would be. But I have such vivid memories of her and our many adventures in addition to looking for this album that come to mind when I hear this song.
6. Neil Young "Cortez the Killer": This song also take's be back to Kandy's death. I was numb. I was sad. I didn't want to be alone. Thankfully I had some wonderful and concerned people that did reach out to call and talk with me and keep me surrounded during that time leading up to her funeral. I didn't know what to do but go to classes and work, but I was literally non-functional and put professors through some serious bear trap moments including one professor who sarcastically walked by and said 'oh get a room' while a male friend of mine was hugging me while I was balling my eyes out. But he missed that part. One of my other really good friends actually worked for him, and I went into his office after class to talk with my friend who had explained why I was actually hugging someone for longer than a second. I'm not and haven't ever been a huge hugger, but am emotionally intelligent enough that I can do so when appropriate. My professor profusely apologized to me for his callous comment to me, which I didn't hold against him. It was one of many teaching moments for me that remind me that I need to always consider that I might not know what someone I interact with is dealing with that day, week, or month, and that they could maybe use a little grace from me.
My friend Traci was my rock that week. We are thankfully still friends to this day. She kept me distracted at work, and talked me into taking some time off work and hanging out at her aunt and uncle's pool. She also invited me to stay at her apartment with her so I didn't have to be alone at night. One night we drank a bottle of wine and watched the movie "With Honors" I believe and balled our eyes out. In the morning she would put music on, and one morning she put on a Neil Young CD and this song came on. It played while I layed in bed waking up not wanting to get up because I didn't know what and how to do that day. It was a beautiful and moving song to me and for some reason brought me a sense of peace in spite of the topic of the lyrics. But I have always been attracted to music first and lyrics sometimes. This is the song I would listen to on the anniversary of her death for many years to come and reminds me of all the people that loved me through that tragic experience.
7. Garbage's "I Think I'm Paranoid": Kandy introduced me to the Version 2.0 album and I love every song on it. "Special" was my favorite song for the longest time as it described many dating interactions I had in college. However, "I Think I'm Paranoid" takes me back to a night in college that I was going out with Traci and some other friends. I do believe it was my senior year. I don't remember if we went to a concert or if we went dancing or what. But I was at her apartment and she put this album while she was getting ready. This song came on and I felt inspired to pick up her bass guitar, turned on her amp, and starting figuring out the bass line of the song because it was so perfectly pronounced for me to pick it up. I didn't and still don't play the bass, but when I starting playing the piano when I was young, I had a knack for playing by ear after the teacher played through new songs for me. So much so, that she stopped playing them for me to force me to learn to read the music. I'm convinced to this day that ruined my musical desire and potential because it became a chore to practice. Anyways back to Paranoid, I did a good enough job playing along that Traci even commented on it and for a brief moment in time I felt like a cool musician!
There is my list and associated memories. What's yours?