Sunday, November 22, 2009


So, I take spinning classes twice a week, and both classes are taught by my personal trainer, who I love. She is my favorite instructor, and therefore it is my favorite class. I think the thing that I enjoy about her classes, more than anything, is the music she uses. She manages to incorporate songs into our class that it would never occur to ME to use in a workout.

Take, for example, the song we finish almost every spin with. For our final song, she wants us to end with a bang and, as she puts it, "empty the tank." We hear the quick "Rat tat tat" of the drum in the intro, and know we're in for three minutes of hell. FUN hell, but hell. The song is "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by The Charlie Daniels Band.

Anyways, my point is not to write about spinning class, but about music. As we were speeding along today, it occurred to me that I will never, ever be able to hear this song again without immediately flashing back to that moment, riding my bike in the dark room, sweat pouring down the side of my face, legs feeling like jello. It was a good reminder about the power of music.

Some songs mean nothing to me, at all. I hear them once, or a dozen times, and they mean little more to me than the sound of traffic on the highway. But then there are songs that grab me, for a multitude of reasons. I cannot fully explain it, but some songs are associated with personal memories, and no matter how much time passes all it takes is for me to hear the first few notes of a certain song and I am right back at that moment. It is eerie.

I wanted to share a few of them, and when I am done I would love it if you would share some of your music memories.

For the most part, I am only going to share some stories of positive memories. Sadly, there are some songs out there (absolutely WONDERFUL songs) that I cannot listen to. The associations that I make with those songs are so incredibly sad and painful, it is like reliving the horrible event just to listen. One song in particular, whenever I hear the first few notes on the radio, I immediately have to change the channel or, better yet, turn the radio off. (I know, I'm a mess!)

One of my earliest song-association memories also happens to be a negative one, but not one that makes it impossible for me to hear the song. This goes back to I think 1976, when I was taking swimming lessons at a lake somewhere in the Foxboro / Mansfield area. I nearly drowned that morning - for real. I was pulled from the bottom of the lake, by my mother (why the lifeguards were not paying attention is beyond my understanding, to this day). I was only five years old, but still vividly remember coming to with my mother giving me mouth-to-mouth and half a dozen people standing over me. I remember rolling onto my side and spitting up what felt like a gallon of water. And I can even remember the moments before, when I was completely under the water, and even at that young age being keenly aware that I was going to drown and that I was about to die. What is even stranger is that I can remember the moment that I stopped panicking. I knew there was nothing more that I could do, and made peace with what was happening to me, just as my mother's arms scooped me up out of the water and carried me to the sand.

Anyways, I remember being chilled to the bone and being bundled from head to toe in beach towels. I told my mother that I didn't want to take swim lessons anymore and she told me that was perfectly okay. We got into the car and started to drive to my Nana's house, with my baby sister Eileen strapped into her carseat in the back. (Five years old, and I am sitting in the front seat with my mom, no car seat - gotta love the seventies!) We didn't talk much on the drive to my grandmother's house, but I remember there was a song playing on the radio that my mother was singing to me. It was during that song that I realized that my mother had saved my life that day. It wasn't the first time that my mother would, LITERALLY, save my life, and it certainly wasn't the last. My mom is my hero, but that is a post for another day.

Oh...the song was "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. Now, I didn't realize until recently what that song was about, which is kind of hilarious; all I know is that every single time I hear that song, it actually makes me smile. I am right back in the front seat of our blue chevy, wrapped in beach towels, contemplating the fact that I almost drowned but, thanks to mom, am instead sitting in the car listening to a cheesy tune.

Not all of my musical associations are quite so heavy. For example, the song "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by Cake takes me back to my honeymoon, when Anthony and I were cruising down the Ala Moana Boulevard in our pumpkin-colored convertible rental car. I had never heard the song before, but the second it came on the radio I instantly loved it. I even vaguely remember driving "to" the music, carelessly weaving in and out of traffic, passing the strip malls on the right and Waikiki Beach on the left, inhaling the sugary Hawaiian air. The song always makes me smile, a memory as simple and honest as driving with the top down, with the radio cranked. The music, and I am there again, without a care in the world.

"Woman In Chains" by Tears for Fears still ties my stomach in knots and brings tears of pride to my eyes. I remember sitting in the arena in Dayton, OH, waiting for the Dedham High Winter Color Guard to perform this song for finals. A lot of my girlfriends were in the show, but the reason I was in Ohio to simply be a spectator was because my sister Eileen was performing, as a freshman, for her very first finals show. And I saw her beforehand, white as a ghost. She was as nervous as I had ever seen her, and I couldn't blame her. The crowd was big, the arena was bigger, and the stakes were high. Before the music began, the girls walked barefoot out onto the white performance floor, and I saw my dear friend Kellie (a senior, and the captain) give my sister an encouraging nod. Kellie was letting Eileen know that everything would be fine, and I instantly knew that she would be fine. The music began, and the performance that we witnessed that day from that group was nothing short of magical. If there is such a thing as perfection, I think I had the privelege of seeing it that day. Tears streamed down my cheeks, tears of pride at watching my sister go from a little girl to a young woman right before my eyes. To this day, whenever this song comes on (usually, via ipod), I get covered with goosebumps over my entire body and can feel the lump in my throat. By the end of the song, I am singing along, loudly, with my eyes closed, remembering what a beautiful visual work of art I witnessed that day.

I could go on and on, and probably will post some other music associations at another time, but I think three are good for now.

What songs do you listen to that immediately take you back to another time and place in your life? Would love to hear other people's stories!