Play Me a Memory

I was listening to Pandora this morning, letting it flip through a station I’d created, and while I was in the bathroom, I heard a song come on. Van Halen’s JUMP. Instantly, I was transported back in time to 7th grade, and all sorts of emotions came up. People wonder why I love music so much, and this is why. It’s the memories the songs bring to me. Many people who know me now are surprised to discover I am a musician. I say ‘am’, because I believe that being a musician is something you just ‘are’, like being a writer isn’t something you really do; it’s something you just ‘are’, whether you’re doing it or not. I am a musician, but it’s been years since I’ve played. I was quite good. There was a time I could pick up any instrument–any one of them, even ones I’d never touched before–and I could play it passingly well.

Most prominently, I’m a pianist. I can strum a bit on guitar, though I’m definitely not ‘good’ by musician means. Ryan and Gregg are, though. I often call Gregg my Guitar Man or my Music Man. That boy has some raw, passionate, amazing talent. You have to be careful with a music man, but… well, if you’ve never been in love with a musician, you wouldn’t understand. They can break your heart and sing to you about it in such a way that you’re happy it happened. It’s so hard to explain.

Sing your song, sweet music man
Nobody sings a love song quite like you do
And nobody else can make me sing along…

I gave up the music life, years ago, for reasons I won’t really go into on this blog, but some day,I’ll write about it all, I’m sure. For a long time, the music just wasn’t in me. Today, though, the music resides deep inside me, in everything I do. My writing is nothing more than lyrics in a different form, my books each a song that I sing, with the music inside of me, in longer form, is all, without the instruments others can see, but they are there.

This song, JUMP, took me back in time to the seventh grade. I was always the odd-man-out in my family. My parents were not normal people growing up. They owned fast-food restaurants, and we grew up in the back rooms of those businesses. We didn’t eat dinner around a family dinner table, but on stools using the deep freezer as our table. My rebellion as a child was listening to Ronnie Jame Dio sing EAT YOUR HEART OUT, without letting my parents hear the lyrics.

I had unlimited sodas as a kid, but had very limited access to my parents. When we were older, we stayed at the house, and would go days without spending more than a few minutes of time with my mother and father. I was a fast grower, as a teenager, which made me a little clumsy and awkward at the time, though I later became tall and graceful, but the teasing from my family stayed with me, and thus, I always saw myself as gangly, awkward, clumsy. Even then, I’d sing and dance in my bedroom when no one was there and could watch me, my hairbrush or pencil or marker or anything I could hold as a microphone. I suppose it’s cliche, but I think it’s also typical teenager–only, I’d do it now if I thought no one was watching.

Duran Duran was my band of choice back then, my cousin Frances introducing me to them. Adam Ant, Police and then Casey Kasem and the Weekly Top Forty and Rick Dees, “…hurt me baby, make me write baaaaaaaad checks.”

Does that date me? I would listen to the radio all day long on Sundays so I didn’t miss the top ten songs. I knew every bit of trivial trivia (is that redundantly redundant?) there was to know about music and bands and the radio back then, and yet, I didn’t know that the broadcast frequency of a radio station corresponded to the numbers on the dial that you turned to when you wanted to listen to the station. I was doing research for a school project and had to call a radio station to ask what their broadcast frequency was, and happened to call at the same time they were doing their Smash or Trash phone in. I was so embarassed, ’cause I hadn’t been listening and I ended up on the air asking about broadcast frequencies. Stupid, stupid, stupid. To my distinct pleasure, though, my parents hadn’t known either, ’cause they were the ones who made me call and ask, and I laughed when I realized how dumb they were. Hey, I was a teenager. All teenager’s parents are dumb, whether they are or not.

Not growing up in daycare like a lot of kids, and then being in private school for the majority of my childhood in elementary school, I was a bit socially inept too. Seventh grade was the opening of many avenues for me, in that, I learned that other kids would go to each others’ houses, which surprised me to learn. I mean, we weren’t allowed to have people over. Daddy was a bit of a recluse, so we had to as well, because everybody had to keep daddy happy. I discovered friendships, and I discovered cliques and social etiquette that I was and still am to this day confused by. I had a ‘best friend’ for the first time in my life, and before my mother grounded me for three years, I was able to go to a band party at the bandhall. No, where I’m from, down south here, where football is a big deal, like a religion, being in the band isn’t the geeky thing it is for other places. The band was cool, and the majorettes were hot and the band major was a stone-cold fox. And I was at a band party.

And Van Halen’s JUMP came on, and we all were dancing on the dance floor and we’d get in a circle and we’d all jump up when it said JUMP and slap our hands together in the center of the circle, then gyrate some more to the music, then, “Might as well JUMP! JUMP!” I was laughing and sweating and having a great time. I remember nothing else, try as I might, about this party except this scene from it.

And then someone nudged me with their elbow and I turned, and my heart sank into my stomach and my stomach did flip flops. My mother was standing at the door of the bandhall, having come early to pick me up, and she was laughing at me. She teased me about the dancing on the ride back to the hamburger place, and then when we got there, she laughed about my dancing and jumping around to all the employees and my father and sister, and they all laughed AT me too. I went into the bathroom and cried, but even that made everyone laugh at me, and finally my mother said I was just being melodramatic, that it was all in good fun.

But I never danced in public again like that… ever. For a long time, I might have told you that she took that away from me but the truth is, I gave it away. I used her as an excuse, but I felt embarrassed and ashamed. To this day, I’m not sure why I felt that way, but now, I’m self-conscious about dancing in public, though I have forced myself to do it once in a while. I wish that hadn’t been taken from me. I wish I could be like this woman on my blog about the jazz concert. But I’m not.

Might as well jump… jump!

I do still smile when I think about that dance though. I do. I want so desperately to rewrite the ending.

There’s another song I wrote about, in my blog FROZEN IN TIME, where I talk about how music sways me then too. I can’t be at a carnival or around carnival rides without thinking about the time I was with Robb on the scrambler, my hair flowing behind me in the crisp breeze, my head resting on his shoulders, his eyes sparkling and me laughing, while BORN TO BE MY BABY by Bon Jovi blared on the speakers. It was a new release at the time, and I heard it for the first time just a few days prior, and as we spun around, he and I sang it out loud, screaming the lyrics out into the wind. It is a moment frozen into my memory. I won’t ever forget how I felt that night. There haven’t been many moments in time where I have been so completely happy, with nothing else infringing on it. That moment is one of them.

You were born to be my baby,
and baby, I was made to be your man,
we’ve got something to beleve in,
even if we don’t know where we stand.
Only God will know the reasons,

but I bet He must have had a plan…

Several months later, some things happened in my life that I won’t write on this blog today, but will some day, at some point, but that last line of that verse there became really important to me: “He must have had a plan…” When I couldn’t hold on to anything else, I had to hang on to believing that everything happens for a reason. I had to believe that. I NEEDED to believe that.

There’s a song Trisha Yearwood sings called THE SONG REMEMBERS WHEN. You can watch the video if you want–it’s powerful and I think you’d like it, and if you’re the type who loves music like I do, you’ll understand it too.

But that’s just a lot of water
Underneath a bridge I burned
And there’s no use in backtrackin’
Around corners I have turned
Still I guess some things we bury
Are just bound to rise again
For even if the whole world has forgotten
The song remembers when

Then there was the time I was in the Neon Moon, with my now-ex-boyfriend, whom I had been in an on-again-off-again relationship for about seven years, Mike, whom I loved very much, but who, for reasons he will never admit to himself, was unable to love me the way I needed him to love me. Mike is an alcoholic, and his drinking was an issue between us, for so many reasons, but in large part because I don’t drink at all. I also don’t care for the club scene, and he would spend every night and all weekend long at some dive bar, drinking and shooting pool. It wasn’t the life I wanted, but for a time, I tried to be a part of his world, for him. I did try. So I sat there on my stool and watched him walking back from the bar with our drinks, wishing I were somewhere else, anywhere else, and knowing deep down in my heart that our relationship was over. It would be a few more months until my actions and words caught up with that knowledge, but that night, watching him, I knew. I suppose I’d known it all along, but that night, it truly hit me.

The song playing when that realization hit me sang to me, “Listen to your heart, before you tell him goodbye…”

And then there was the time, back when my daughter was young and I used to work the night shift as an auditor for a local hotel chain. I arrived late to work–something I had never done before–and apologized to the guy I was supposed to relieve. He was a part-time DJ at a local radio station in the mornings, and I said to him, “I’m sorry I’m late. Bohemian Rhapsody was on the radio and I couldn’t come in until it was finished.”

Bohemian Rhapsody is about 7 minutes long. I was five minutes later. He said, “I understand.” And he truly did. Some songs absolutely require you finish them and not turn the car off mid-song, and that song by Queen is one of them.

Around that same time, I was dating a guy named Eric. Oh, how I loved him, as much as I understood love at that time in my life. I definitely was codependent at that point, and like Mike, Eric was an alcoholic–yes, this is a pattern in my life, uh huh, I admit it–and he was completely not capable of love at that point in his life. He would hold me in bed after we’d made love and as we would fall asleep, on a 45, on repeat, he’d play TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD. To this day, I believe it was his attempt at subliminal messaging.

I want you, I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad
I can’t lie, I can’t tell you that I’m something I”m not
No matter how I try, I’ll never be able to give you something
Something that I just haven’t got…

Yep, and it was true, too try, in fact. I can’t hear this song and NOT think about Eric to this day. At least now, when I think about him, I smile wistfully. It took many years to get myself to that point.

I just ran into an old friend on FB the other day, someone I used to spend a lot of time with back when my son was little, but who I haven’t seen in years. She has two kiddos, but they were a bit younger than my kids. Anyway, she had moved to East Texas a few years ago, and she was going to be coming back to the West Texas area, and she had asked me to help her move. Over a three-day period, I drove to the Lufkin area, drove back to Odessa, drove to Lufkin again, and then drove back… the last trip, I was behind a Ryder truck, she and I talking on cell phone headsets the entire way, and blaring Bon Jovi on the portable CD player that ran through my car’s cassette player. Hell of a trip, let me tell you.

While visiting her there, we left the kids with a babysitter and made our way to an ice house type bar, where I was bored out of my mind. I didn’t drink (as I mentioned, really don’t drink), and everyone else was getting toasty, and I was ready to just go back to her house and veg out. Then the song by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow came on, PICTURE. She started singing to me, extremely drunk. Now, I can’t hear that song without thinking about that night. Eventually, she hooked up with some cowboy, left me to get a ride home from some guy I had just met that night (a friend of hers) and I slept on the couch while she and the cowboy finally stumbled in and locked me out of the bedroom.

That entire evening can kinda sum up the meta message of the majority of my friendship in my younger days.

The next day, while packing and getting ready to go back home, I was playing Bon Jovi’s BLAZE OF GLORY in the stereo, over and over and over again. Not sure why… something about that song.

To this day, I can’t listen to the song LOVE IN THE FIRST DEGREE, because, when I was about 10 years old or so, we had gone to see the movie TAPS. Now, if you’ve never seen this movie, all I can tell you is, it’s the wrong movie to take a young girl child to see. It’s not a great movie to take any child to, really, but for some reason, this show really, really got to me. Military cadets take over their military school, for some reason I can’t remember, and a bunch of them get killed–and I can still see the broken glass and the blood splatter when one of them does get killed, and…well, it stayed stuck in my head for a long, long time. And when we left the theatre, this was the song that was playing. And while the song has nothing to do with the movie, it uses words: guilty, prison, mercy, begging, throw the book, crime… it is supposed to be a cute play on words, I know, but the movie ruined the song for me and the song now is indelibly linked to the movie.

Now, the theme from Flashdance, WHAT A FEELING, is linked in my memory to ski weekends I took with my family to New Mexico when I was a kid. We’d have to go up the mountain to the resort with snow chains and the traffic was always one way up, tight road, steep and slick, and it was bumper to bumper. Scared the hell out of me then and probably would now too. You could see the guardrails where some cars went over the edge. It might not be your fault either, no matter how good you drive, if the cars in front of you can’t handle themselves. Scary stuff. And that was the cassette my father played over and over while we inched our way up that mountain. So now, I think about that when I hear the song.

You know what’s so funny to me about memories like this though–they are linked at some subconscious level. I can’t make one happen and I can’t make one not happen either. I don’t CHOOSE to link the music and the memory. I’ve tried, even, to play songs at certain times and make them become memories, but it doesn’t work that way. I don’t know what strange force of nature that conspires together to link the song and the memory, but something does. Sometimes, I’m glad. Sometimes, I wish I could erase it in my head.

There are others, some I only think about when I hear the song, and some I think about from time to time and that prompts me to go get the song and play it…

I’m sure if you think about it, you have songs that are linked too…That’s today’s blogging prompt. Write about the songs that are linked to memories for you and why and how they got linked. You can write about just one song or about several, but share with us the way the song linked itself and what that means to you. You can share in the blog comments below or share on your own blog and link to it in the comments below.

Love and singing stuff,




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8 comments to Play Me a Memory

  • chris stevenson  says:

    Wow, what a post. You took me back to the music days. I played bass guitar for years–weddings, bars, parties and a few large gigs. I miss it.

    chris–remembering “Jump” with fondness

  • Buffy  says:

    “We Got the Beat!” – Go Go’s I can remember dancing to that one in the Beta Theta Pi frat house on campus during E-day weekend after eating fire-pit roasted pork (whole pig) and drinking copious amounts of everclear punch. We’d brought in enough sand to completely cover the floor of the common room (which also served as the dining area and party area) and the guys bought plastic leis… assuring that everyone who attended would get lei’d… wow… long ago and far away!

    Or there was the time at the same frat house where one of the guys, who might have been a little too inebriated, insisted on trying to “dip” me… I think he dropped me four times before someone more sober ‘cut in’ and saved me! Wish I could remember the song that time… but all I remember is laughing so hard every time he dropped me!

    Music was always on somewhere in the dorms during study hours. I remember waking to “Time” by Pink Floyd nearly every morning in the dorms… generally played full volume one floor down, blaring into the atrium, loud enough to wake us through closed windows and doors!

    Thanks for the memories… (oh wait, that was Lawrence Welk and Bob Hope!)

  • Anonymous  says:

    I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, thank you for all the great articles.

  • Don Champ  says:

    Utterly indited subject material, Really enjoyed reading.

  • Derek Odom  says:

    I can’t do almost anything without it reminding me of a song, and vice versa. I’m a music soul, right to the core. If someone made me choose between music and reading/writing, I’d probably just put a .45 in my mouth. Great post.

    • Michy  says:

      Derek, to show you how my mind works… I was wondering (since it’s related to music) why and in fact how you would fit a 45-record in your mouth… they are kinda big for putting in your mouth. Too me a minute to realign perception there.

      • Derek Odom  says:

        LOL! I’m a talker, it might not actually be that difficult…

  • Derek Odom  says:

    Also, damn you. You have me playing Trisha Yearwood roulette on YouTube. Grrr…

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