A Phonographic Memory

What is it about a song that triggers a flood of memories and transports us back decades to a specific moment in time?  Right now, I can pull up specific songs in my mind and I’m instantly reminded of a different place in time.  Some recall past loves – “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner.  One brings to mind a school dance with Stephanie Pirtle in the 7th or 8th grade – “Crazy For You” by Madonna.  Of course, many, many more remind me of times with my wonderful wife – “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds; “Punk Rock Girl” by the Dead Milkmen; “You and Me” by Dave Matthews Band; “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords.  Others remind me of road trips, live concerts, endless summers, broken hearts.

Add to this the fact that I have a phonographic memory.  Not photographic.  Not pornographic.  Phonographic.  While I don’t have perfect pitch, I can usually recall a song in the exact key it was recorded in.  I just can’t tell you what key that is.  This ability often makes it seem as if I am actually “back there” again, listening to the song on the radio, or making a mix tape, or whatever the case may have been.  But it’s not really about what I can remember anyway.  It’s about what the song remembers.

One of the most well-written songs I have ever heard was written by Hugh Prestwood and recorded by Trisha Yearwood (and, I’ve just learned, Kristin Chenoweth in 2005).  It’s called “The Song Remembers When”.  It so accurately captures this phenomenon.  You can listen to it HERE.

The Song Remembers When

I was standing at the counter
I was waiting for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart

After taking every detour
Getting lost and losing track
So that even if I wanted
I could not find my way back
After driving out the memory
Of the way things might have been
After I’d forgotten all about us
The song remembers when

We were rolling through the Rockies
We were up above the clouds
When a station out of Jackson played that song
And it seemed to fit the moment
And the moment seemed to freeze
When we turned the music up and sang along

And there was a God in Heaven
And the world made perfect sense
We were young and were in love
And we were easy to convince
We were headed straight for Eden
It was just around the bend
And though I had forgotten all about it
The song remembers when

I guess something must have happened
And we must have said goodbye
And my heart must have been broken
Though I can’t recall just why
The song remembers when

Well, for all the miles between us
And for all the time that’s passed
You would think I haven’t gotten very far
And I hope my hasty heart
Will forgive me just this once
If I stop to wonder how on Earth you are

But that’s just a lot of water
Underneath a bridge I burned
And there’s no use in backtracking
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
Yeah, and even if the whole world has forgotten
The song remembers when

The Song Remembers When lyrics © Hugh Prestwood Music

So, what song or songs take you back, and where or who do they take you back to?  I would love to hear your stories.  Please share them by leaving a comment below.  Thank you.


~ by suitenectar on July 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “A Phonographic Memory”

  1. You HAD to ask about my #1 thing ever…the memories behind songs. I, too, have a memory re: “The Song Remembers When.” During my freshman year in college, on the very first morning that I woke up after spending the night with new boyfriend, I heard that song. His newly-invented CD/radio alarm was sent to go off and it just happened to play this song. So, waking up next to Shawn H. will always be the one thing I think of when this song comes along. Also, “Flake,” by Jack Johnson will always remind me of trips to Florda with Chuck D. …who I now call D.A., which stands for “dumbass.” In fact, pretty much any song by Journey has a memory tied to D.A., as well as “Dixieland Delight,” by Alabama…since we grew up together in a small Tennessee town…which reminds me of “Ice Ice Baby,” and how D.A. used to dress like Vanilla Ice (literally) and dance like him, too, at our high school dances. Great songs and memories….dumbass guy. But, aside from those, “Morning Train” reminds me of chasing Jeremy F. on the elementary school playground with flowers filled with ants. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” reminds me of hanging out at my friend, Jennifer’s house, and her mom cooking dinner and singing along to the song as it played on MTV…when MTV actually played videos. “Spoon Man,” by Soundgarden, will always remind me of driving my Dad’s truck while home one summer, with another boyfriend in tow, Kenny B., and Kenny B. unexpectedly bursting out in this song, with his feet resting on the dashboard, with the windows down. Oh, I could go on forever with songs that evoke specific memories…but I need to leave room for others to share their stories. This is a great blog idea, Marcus!!

  2. Wild Thing by Tone Loc. SMNW mixer…you,me, Dave, dancing in a throng of students….and you saying, instead of Tone’s original “Hasta la vista, baby”….” I stole a pizza, baby.”

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