Many of us who write for tnocs.com began sharing stories connected to songs covered over in Tom Breihan’s “The Number Ones” column. Often, we shared deep personal memories about the song Tom wrote about. For many people, a particular song might bring back a moment in one’s life that they could never forget, or even place them in that time, location, and even what they were wearing when that song played.
For me, there’s a few songs like that. Sister Golden Hair will always be a 10/10 as a result…
…while Abracadabra turns me into 13 year old The Gue, listening to my dad lamenting that there’s “no good music since 1964.”
An interesting take since The Beatles were just arriving in America that year.
But can the memory of a moment in time, connected to a song, be replaced by a newer memory?
For the first time in my life, I believe I can answer: yes.
I’ve mentioned my middle school music teacher in the past, the one who made us listen to Styx for nine straight weeks while we learned guitar, over and over and over. Two years earlier, my sixth grade class had weekly lessons with her, and on this particular day, we were learning how to keep a beat, and the song she used was the instrumental version of Seventy-Six Trombones by Meredith Wilson. He also wrote It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.
I was given a woodblock and a mallet.
I was an immature eleven, and I tried to goof off like I did in the regular classroom, but the music teacher wasn’t having it.
And I was able to keep the beat. She cited me as the best in class, and told our teacher she was keeping me out of class the rest of the day to perform for the other sixth graders.
Well, that was a problem. Because I had a crush on a girl in another class. Denise was cute, funny and engaging, but all from afar. You see, in my wild sixth grade class I was a class clown, but outside of it I was incredibly shy…and never interacted with Denise. Ever. I began to sweat.
Would she notice me?
Would she be impressed by my woodblock playing? Could ANYONE be impressed by smacking a piece of wood?
Why hadn’t I paid more attention when taking guitar lessons??!!
I stood in front of class, as Denise’s class shuffled in. She was wearing a bright red sweater, designer jeans, her hair feathered just right, laughing with a few of her friends. The class sat down, and the music teacher introduced me, standing in front of them in my pair of Toughskins, hair matted down, parted in the middle. Time stood still…and for a brief moment, Denise looked directly at me. I turned beet red, and focused on my instrument.
For the next thirty minutes, I played the best damn woodblock I could.
I never did ask Denise on a date, or a slow dance, or…well, anything…and that has been my memory for the last forty years. But this past Saturday that may have changed.
My daughter loves ice skating, and she’s good at it. Every Saturday for the last month she practiced for an ice skating performance, and the show was last weekend.
The song used? Seventy-Six Trombones.
She was incredible.
Now, when I think about this song, I’m not carried away to an awkward moment in my prepubescent life. I simply… smile.
Will the memory of my daughter skating overtake and replace the previous one? I can only hope, but early results say “yes.”
Now, if I could only do something about “Renegade”…
“For the next thirty minutes, I played the best damn woodblock I could.”
Maybe a David Van Tiegham stan would be “impressed by somebody smacking a piece of wood’ like a champ.
I had a friend in high school who played the sousaphone in band. If you switch out “woodblock” with “sousaphone”, you almost get the same comic effect.
Awww, that’s adorable! No better way to override on old awkward memory. 🙂
That’s an interesting notion: the remapping of associations with a song. Off the top of my head, the only thing that comes to mind for me are a few key songs that I made sure to play at my wedding. That must be true for most people: what was once a formative memory then takes on a new resonance at an adult rite of passage. I’ve seen a few brides dance with their fathers to “Daddy’s Little Girl,” and clearly that experience will be burned into their memories.
For me, the songs that took on new meaning were Animal Collective’s “Winter’s Love” (played during our walk) and….yes, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” played right after we kissed. It was a joke, but now the world’s most memefied song has an indelible sweetness for me (which ironically imbues the song with the unironic romanticism that was originally intended).
Quentin Tarantino would love this post. He talks about not loving anything ironically. His ethos works. Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got a Name” works beautifully in Djanjo Unchained.
Is your daughter the girl on the far left at the beginning? If so, she inherited your excellent rhythm. She’s really good, and I say that because it’s true and not just because I myself can barely balance on a normal pair of roller skates.
That is her!
She’s a natural in ice skating, while I’ve tried it once (failed miserably) and in roller skating I always left during the “Backwards skating, backwards skating” and “Couples skate ONLY” portions of the evening.
My omission from the latter had more to do with my story than skating ability.
That video is completely charming, and I am glad that you have a new and wonderful memory to replace an old and awkward one.
Great tale, thegue. And, hey, if you had to be terrorized by Styx, at least it was late-70s Styx and not, say, Kilroy Was Here.