I’m playing Daydream Believer by The Monkees on computer as I write my July post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog. I’m not a big Monkees fan, but a few days ago I listened to a few songs on my HP computer as I worked on my WIP novel. A funny thing happened when I first played Daydream Believer. The song took me back to 1967.
I’m fourteen years old and I’m sitting on the couch in the living room watching The Monkees on the 25-inch color television. My sister Jody, 10 years old, and my mom sit on the couch while dad sits in the chair. We’re watching Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith do their madcap antics on the screen. I’m thinking it’s all very silly, but I like seeing the girls in their miniskirts.
Now I’m back in July 2014 and I decide to try another song – Petula Clark’s Don’t Sleep in the Subway. I listen and again I’m transported back to January 1967. Again, I’m in our Wadsworth, Ohio, house, sitting in the living room listening to the somber funeral of one of the Apollo 1 astronauts, killed in a launchpad fire on January 27, 1967. I’m tape-recording the funeral with my new tape recorder I received as a Christmas gift just a month earlier. Later, in my upstairs bedroom, I listen to the funeral and at the end the song Don’t Sleep in the Subway begins playing. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now, but forty-seven years ago it seemed to dovetail perfectly.
Now I’m playing Lulu’s To Sir With Love, and I’m in the downtown Strand Theater in Wadsworth watching the movie of the same name. It’s again 1967 and I’m watching the flick with a neighborhood friend, Glen Bowers. I shouldn’t even remember the boy’s name – I haven’t thought of him in decades – yet I recall it.
Time for another song … Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Who’ll Stop the Rain. “Long as I remember the rain been coming down, clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground” … the words whirl me back to the fall of 1970. I’m in my dorm room in Ohio University’s Lincoln Hall listening to my roommate Steve’s stereo … Who’ll Stop the Rain is playing. The smell of pot hangs in the air as a bong is passed from person to person. Soon we’ll head up to downtown Athens and bar-hop until 2 a.m. and then wobble to the Borden Burger Restaurant or BBR.
At first I was going to write about how old photos can summon memories – and they do – but I have to conclude that songs make for a better time machine. The memories are fresher, as if they just happened and not something plucked out of the dusty recesses of our minds. I have a priceless collection of family photos that go back to the early 20th century. I love them because many are of people I only knew when they were old. But I can look at photos of Grandma Mid, Grandpa Frog, Grandma Nan, Aunts Ethel, Hazel and Nellie and see them when they were teenagers. I can even look at photos of relatives who died long before I was born. But they can’t resurrect memories that seem so crisp they could have occurred yesterday, not fifty-six years ago.
I just looked at a photo taken at my Grandpa Frog’s Rittman, Ohio, house in 1958. I know it’s 1958 because we went to Ohio every other year. We moved to San Bernardino, California, in 1957 and returned to Ohio in December 1958 to celebrate Christmas with the grandparents. In the photo, Jody and I sit on the living-room couch with Grandma Mid and Uncle Denny. I’m holding my record player while Jody holds a stuffed animal. What photos do that a song can’t is show us the people we love as they looked half a century ago. They reinforce the memories the songs summon so that the emotions engendered by the music come accompanied with photographic images of the people. Many of the people in the photos are in Heaven, so the photos will always be portals to our hearts.
Book 1 is my trilogy is The Emperor’s Mistress; book 2, Thief’s Coin. The first two links are Amazon; the next two links, Barnes and Noble; the final link, my publisher, Wings ePress.