I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours
It's very simple. As we all know, music has the mysterious ability to call up distinct moods and memories from very specific times, places, and periods in one's life. It's completely beyond our control, and just "happens."
The premise of the contest is simple: "What are the five tracks or albums that, for you, most strongly strike the mystic chords of memory?" Importantly, the competition "is about music that, even if you hardly listen to it any more, most strongly evokes places and times in your past; music with which you have a transrational emotional connection -- not which are the greatest tracks or albums you know, not the tracks or albums you think other people should know, and not a list of your Desert Island records."
So this is not necessarily about quality, but about guilty pleasures and forbidden attractions. It is also about individuality and about the mystery of how we locate things in the environment in order to articulate the self. It's about tracks or albums that have somehow become lodged in your unconscious and woven into your psychic substance, perhaps even in spite of yourself and against your better judgment. You are not proud of these choices, and are probably a little embarrassed to acknowledge them in public.
For me, there are at least a couple of problems with this exercise. First, since there was never a time that I didn't have the transistor radio glued to my ear as a kid, there are just too many choices. Top 30 radio was truly the soundtrack to my childhood.
But countering that fact is that in the interim, even the most obscure music has become so readily available, that I've been able to listen to it enough that those preternaturally "mystic chords" have faded out. I may still enjoy the song, but there have been so many subsequent listenings, that they have superimposed themselves over the old memory swamp.
I think this is a more general problem with instant access to everything, which makes it less special. Really, it wasn't so long ago that if you wanted to see a film, you had to see it in the theatre. Many films would eventually appear on commercial television, but not always, especially not the great ones.
For example, I remember when Gone With the Wind was re-released for a limited run when I was a kid; it must have been 1969, for the thirty year anniversary. My mom insisted on dragging me and my brothers to the theatre, since she remembered it so well from her own childhood. I assumed it was going to be totally lame -- after all, my mother liked it! -- but was very much blown away.
Likewise, with digital downloading, virtually any track you've ever heard is instantly accessible. This can't help but result in a devaluation of the experience. For example, I can remember how difficult it was to track down certain songs before the digital revolution. Back in the late 1970s they used to have a monthly swap meet in the parking lot of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood, where you could find all sorts of rarities, and I would go there from time to time in search of precious booty. The problem was, the oldies stations only played stuff that was popular, not the things that might have only scraped the bottom of the top thirty and then disappeared without a trace.
I still remember the exilaration of locating a copy of Let Her Dance by the Bobby Fuller Four. Everyone's heard his I Fought the Law, but this song was only around for a few weeks, and then got no airplay at all, and I just needed to hear it again. Same with the Buckingham's Don't You Care. Oldies radio mainly played their Kind of a Drag and Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, but not this one, which, at the time, evoked extremely powerful memories of 1967.
So, without further ado, I'm going to now walk over to Bob's Record Collection, and pick out a few songs that still have that strange effect on me. And I will try to overcome embarrassment and be completely candid. Virtually all are from the pre-1973 period of classic top 30 radio. It's quite random and incomplete, -- almost arbitrary, really -- and I'm undoubtedly leaving out many significant ones:
Groovy Situation, Gene Chandler
Tighter and Tighter, Alive and Kicking
Crystal Blue Persuasion, Tommy James
More Today Than Yesterday, Spiral Staircase
My Pledge of Love, The Joe Jeffrey Group (as you can see from the video, this man is holding the actual 45 in his trembling hand; that's what you were looking for at the Capitol Records swap meet)
One Fine Morning, Lighthouse
Ride Captain Ride, Blues Image
Soulful Strut, Young Holt Unlimited
We Gotta Get You a Woman, Todd Rundgren
Lazy Day, Spanky & Our Gang
Sunday Will Never Be the Same, Spanky & Our Gang
Everybody's Talkin', Nilsson
A Girl Like You, Rascals
Cracklin' Rosie, Neil Diamond
Grazing in the Grass, Friends of Distinction
Love or Let Me Be Lonely, Friends of Distinction
Sunshine Girl, The Parade
Live, The Merry-Go-Round
Turn Down Day, the Cyrkle
Ooh Child, Five Stairsteps
Many of these are pretty obscure, so I'll see if I can find links to some of them on You Tube, so you can get an idea of what they sound like, and how strange and unpredictable are the ways of soul imprinting.
I might add that if you will review the last footnote of my book on page 298, there is a more respectable list of songs that I wove into the Cosmobliteration section for their evocative effect on me.
So, what are your five or more quirkily evocative tracks/albums?