Certain songs have certain meaning to all of us. That’s just what music does, man.
The songs are like bookmarks for our memories.
When I hear “God Am” by Alice in Chains, I’m suddenly 17 again, driving around with my buddy in his Pontiac 6000, smoking American Spirits. I can even smell the scent from the vanilla air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror.
It’s a glorious memory; one that’s even easier to pull from my memory bank when I hear that song. It speaks to not having a care in the world and a giddy anticipation of what was to come.
Last Sunday night, a local radio station here in Detroit played a block of songs as part of a 90′s Throwback Block Party (or something). On my way back from the grocery store, I listened during the 12-minute drive back to my house.
I wished my drive home was longer (and that I didn’t have ice cream in the trunk) because I could have driven around for hours listening to that music.
Every song played reminded me of something. Whether it was a feeling as complex as a break-up, or something as simple as the joy of driving to the mall in the summer with the windows rolled down, those songs conjured up many memories from my formative years.
But they also stand to remind us that time is fleeting.
Green Day’s first popular album “Dookie” was released 20 years ago. It still honest-to-God feels like I bought that CD five years ago. Whenever I listen to it, it still feels fresh. New. Like something I can listen to over and over. But it came out two decades ago.
Imagine how much has happened during that time.
(The gray hairs are popping as I type.)
For as much as we love music, it is the one aspect of our culture that allows us to quickly mark the passage of time. And it usually catches us by surprise.
When’s the last time you heard an old song you love on the radio and remarked just how old it sounds?
Although Mitch Albom knew full well what he was doing when he wrote his recent piece about The Beatles (he basically said music should have stopped when The Beatles broke up) I bet even he sat up and took stock in his life when he did the math and realized 50 years had flown by.
We all know that time flies. And music stands to remind us how much we’ve moved ahead, while the notes and melodies stay the same.
Time travel might not exist. But maybe music is the closest thing we have to revisiting our old selves.
Picture of Layne borrowed from alternativenation.net.