Metatalktail Hour: The Song Remembers When May 6, 2023 5:38 AM   Subscribe

What's a song that reliably conjures up a very specific time/moment/place/person from your past?

Inspired by this FPP from Pachylad over on the blue, which has some songs I haven't thought of in years, with associated memories I haven't dusted off in awhile.

Also, on the topic of music, happy Eurovision week to all who celebrate!

Or just share what you're up to, what's been on your mind or what you're looking forward to. No politics, please and thank you!
posted by the primroses were over to MetaFilter-Related at 5:38 AM (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Two of mine, one surfaced by the FPP and one from writing this prompt:

I'm With You is not the Avril Lavigne song that made the list in that post, but it is the song that was getting massive radio play the last time my whole immediate family (parents and all siblings) made a trip out to Iowa City to visit my dad's parents when they were both alive. It seemed to be on everytime we all piled into the rental car, and it was not a good song, but it was great to all join in on the chorus and crack up and make my dad groan. That transition from "not this song again" to looking forward to it, lemons into lemonade.

The Song Remembers When by Trisha Yearwood, about this phenomenon, transports me right to the high school auditorium we used for dance recitals when I was in jazz dance and gymnastics classes in elementary and middle school, with a weird elasticky, fringed costume on and a very specific shade of mandated coral lipstick and mandated tan pantyhose, watching interpretive dance to this song and waiting for my group's turn on stage.
posted by the primroses were over at 6:03 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]

Three Dog Night's Joy To The World and Tracy Chapman's Fast Car.

I had driven myself to my high school graduation - I had to get there earlier than my family - and I was wearing a specially-purchased white dress and sandals with a slight heel. I wasn't all that used to heeled shoes - I'm still not - and for most of the ceremony I was uncomfortable. After the ceremony, and after turning my graduation robe back in and getting the fawning congratulations from my family and everyone else's parents who knew me, I was itching to get going as well. And when I got back to the car I had for the day, I ditched my shoes as soon as I sat down and felt SO much better. Just before I turned on the car, I flashed back to a moment from our graduation rehearsal - where the principal was talking about what would happen after - we'd have to turn in our robes, sign something, and "then you can go out and on to the whole rest of your lives." I'd marveled at that then, I marveled at it again. ....And then when I turned on the car, the radio had just fired up with Joy To The World - and I happily turned it up, rolled down the window, and peeled out of my high school parking lot, driving in stocking feet and bellowing "JEREMIAH WAS A BULLFROOOOOOOOOG" at the top of my lungs.

....That night, a friend was throwing a huge backyard campout as a graduation party, and I was headed over there. I went home just long enough to change, grab my sleeping bag and change of clothes, get one more bit of fussing from my parents and then head over. It was all the gang from the drama club and band - people I'd grown up with, basically - and also people who all had some serious and intricate interpersonal drama going on, the kind that comes with about 80 pages of complicated backstory and intrigue, and some of those stories added some new chapters that night as So-and-So snuck off into the woods with Such-and-Such even though What's-His-Name was going to make HIS move that night and....drama played out, people teased each other's pajamas, snorers were punished, and we basically were teenagers.

People started to gradually drift home early the next morning; some of us hadn't slept all that great, some of us were processing the latest phase of relationship drama, and...for a lot of us, the whole weight of "oh fuck we're not in high school any more" started to settle in. About eight of us somehow ended up in our host's bedroom, all of us sitting on the floor and her bed just sort of processing what was next for each of us. One of us was about to go off to the Marines in three days, another of us was going on a big family trip in a few weeks and then right to their new campus early, others of us were scattering to different summer jobs and other college prep...and it was sinking in that in some cases, this would be the last time we might see some of these people. We were eager to begin our new lives, but....that was also kind of heavy. Especially when your hormones were going haywire and when you were sleep deprived.

I head out for home shortly after that talk, but my head was still swimming with that stuff. It was a cloudy day, perfect for that weird mood, and I was finding my way home down some winding back roads that were a little unfamiliar. And at some point during that drive, Fast Car came on.

That was 35 years ago, and to this day, Fast Car reminds me of that drive and that weird joy-and-fear-and-loss-and-hope mood I was in on that early morning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on May 6 [12 favorites]

There'a a few:

Left Side Drive, by Boards of Canada, I indelibly associate with lazy, warm, rural days wandering around Bristol, Somerset and the West Country.

Waiting for a Train, by Flash and the Pan, gets associated with moving house or going on some international adventure. It's because, several times in a row while doing these things, it would be playing on the day e.g. at the airport, on the coach radio, or somewhere else within earshot. So now when I start a travel adventure, I play it myself by default. Odd thing: I don't actually like it; more ritual than anything.

Cloudbusting, by Kate Bush, because a very long term friendship with someone from a long time ago unexpectedly became more than a friendship (but is no more), and I associate that song with her whose name I won't speak as she's a practising witch and will probably hear it.

Some video game music:

On a Pale Horse: Halo Original Soundtrack. Because flying a banshee in this game was, possibly still is, more fun than most things IRL.

The Chicane remix of William Orbit's Purdy, as it reminds of not just the game soundtrack it was on, but all good racing digital games I've played. It's also on my oft-playing morning wake-up music set.

Gerudo Valley: Zelda, Ocarina of Time. It was at roughly this point in the game that I started to realise that being an academic game researcher was something I wanted to do.
posted by Wordshore at 7:21 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]

By the time I was in third grade I was transferred from our local elementary school to a school in a larger city about ten miles away and for the first time I had to take a bus to and from school everyday. I remember that first ride rather vividly. It was raining and I had a book bag and my lunch in its own paper bag, and it was all wet. Then it came on the radio.

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga

Most of the kids on the bus didn’t know each other because we were all part of a new program, an experimental program that put kids who tested high on standardized tests with kids who had learning disabilities. They kept us together for three years hoping for perhaps some osmotic peer learning or somehting , third through sixth not that any of us were aware at the time that they would extend the experiment that long. But somehow, on that first day, when that song came on, we turned into a choir. Every kid on the bus had joined in by the second Ooga-Ooga.

I can't stop this feeling
Deep inside of me
Girl, you just don't realize
What you do to me

In case you were wondering I was included because I tested well, particularly in writing and language skills, a constant reader. But I suspect I was also chosen because I have two brothers with Down Syndrome so I had a lot of experience with kids with learning disabilities. Before the song started I remember being a little miserable. Cold and wet and on a bus by myself. There’s a podcast I listen to where the guy always asks his guests if they have a particular childhood smell that can take them immediately back to that moment. For me it’s the smell of a wet paper lunch bag. Even now, whenever I smell a wet brown paper bag I’m immediately back on that bus. First the bag, and then I could smell the wet bologna and cheese on Wonderbread, that had fallen out of its wax paper wrapping. But when we started to sing, I was no longer alone. And maybe someone on the bus would share their lunch. Turned out it was a moot point because we all qualified for free lunch.

When you hold me
In your arms so tight
You let me know
Everything's alright

Those three years were an amazing time in my life. A couple of those kids did end up being bullies, but most of us bonded over the shared identity of outsiders. I still love to read and have kind of built a career out of it, but that experience also made me learn patience, and kindness, and how to teach. How to care for those around you. I know that’s not at all what the song is about, but that’s what it reminds me whenever I hear it.

I'm hooked on a feeling
I'm high on believing
That you're in love with me

posted by Stanczyk at 7:38 AM on May 6 [10 favorites]

Nightswimming, by REM, has an almost anchoring pull back to an exact moment for me, something I thought would end up having more meaning than it did, and in the end, meant nothing, but I hold that moment of possibility inside, and the who the what, the when, those are things I keep for myself.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:13 AM on May 6 [5 favorites]

When my job at an IT consultancy firm ended and I had to look for another job I had REM's It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine) playing in my head for several weeks on end.
posted by rjs at 9:58 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]

oh my. Space Shanty by Leftfield (on Leftism) brings me right back to my first night of my first year at Burning Man. lol.
posted by supermedusa at 10:06 AM on May 6 [4 favorites]

This is a bit awkward but here goes. Keep in mind I am a 53 year old mostly-classic-and-80s-alternative-rock listening suburban dad. But a long time ago I was a horny 18 year old virgin who was staying at my friend's house in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. New Hampshire is close to Canada, so we thought it would be a fine idea to take a day trip to Montreal. You could drink at age 18 in Montreal. This was back before you needed a passport so three idiot Massholes were able to cross the border without issue.

We get to Montreal, park, and of course ask where St. Catherine's Street is. We somehow know St. Catherine's Street was where all the magic happened. We find the first place that has "LIVE NUDE" on the sign and walk in. I had never been in a bar before much less a French Canadian strip club. We pay the cover charge and the nice man walks us to our seats. We each buy a bottle of Budweiser. I am in awe. There are... naked women dancing on stage. There are... naked women dancing on little tables for seated gentlemen. I had never really seen a naked women in person before.

After about a half hour of looking slack jawed, I finally catch the eye of a dancer as she comes off stage. In broken english we arrange for her to give me a dance. I pay her my $20. This isn't the champagne room or anything, this is right out in the main room of the club, with people all around and my friends at the same table as me. She bums a cigarette off my friend Todd and proceeds to do a half-hearted table dance for me, smoking the entire time while she looks off into the distance. She is completely nude. Over the course of four minutes and eleven seconds I have all kinds of female naughty bits just inches from my dumbass 18 year old eyes.

And that's why Paula Abdul's 1988 dance-pop hit Straight Up will always be a very special song to me.
posted by bondcliff at 10:28 AM on May 6 [13 favorites]

Call Me Maybe brings me right back to a hotel lobby in Chicago just after I got a business card from someone I desperately wanted to impress/be friends with/possibly date. It was just exactly the right song for that sensation. (We did not date but we have been friends for ten+ years, so hey, victory.)
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 12:11 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

I'd cripple my poor arthritic fingers if I tried to list even half of them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:25 PM on May 6 [7 favorites]

There may be more, but 3 immediately come to mind:

Chicago's Questions 67 and 68 always brings back for me not a specific event but my life during the early 70's in general. I was barely into my teens and just starting to pay attention to music on the radio.

Gary Neuman's Cars and Pretenders' Brass in Pocket remind me of the summer of 1980 when I was working in Cocoa Beach at a walk-up snack hut on the edge of the sand on weekends. Those songs (among quite a few others, but they're the ones I still remember) were constantly being played on the radio, through large speakers mounted on top of the building and pointed toward the beach. In between serving soda, candy bars, and burgers I used to watch all the tanned beautiful people playing volleyball on the sand over a permanently-mounted net. Those songs weren't and aren't my favorites by a long shot, but an association is an association.

Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild - I was in San Francisco for MacWorld in January 2007 (when Jobs officially introduced the iPhone). After spending 3 days wandering the convention hall and getting cheap swag from the various booths, I rented a car for the day and went to see the magnificent coastal redwoods at the Muir Woods National Monument about an hour north of the city. It was a very pleasant day, mid-60s and sunny; I had the windows open and the radio was playing classic rock. Just as I was approaching the Golden Gate Bridge the opening guitar riff of that song started; I laughed, cranked the volume up, got my motor runnin' and rocked out across the bridge. That three and a half minutes and the woods themselves were peak experiences for me. Walking through the dappled sunlight under the massive trees, I decided I HAD to move to the west coast (I was living in Asheville NC at the time, it's a beautiful place but IT jobs were thin on the ground). A year later I got laid off, decided it was A Sign, and moved across the country. I've never regretted it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:33 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]

My last visit to the San Diego ComiCon featured a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presentation. The presentation included an animatic of Apples to the Core. It was great fun to be in a big group of pony fans clapping and stomping to the beat.
posted by SPrintF at 5:50 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Oh man, as soon as I read this I remembered that I always associate "Push" by Matchbox 20 with this one trip I took when I was in high school: I was visiting colleges and one of them was close enough to home that I could travel by rail, instead of relying on my parents to drive. Turns out a pretty girl in the same train car was headed there too, she was a freshman so maybe 1.5 years older than me. We spent most of the ride talking, and I guess I naively thought I had some kind of shot with her, but even though I really didn't it was still my first attempt chatting up a girl.

"Let The River Run" takes me back to middle school chorus.

"Dona Dona" is a Jewish folk song that we used to sing at my sleepaway camp, also around middle school. What ticked me off later in life is that, when I was a kid they told us campers that it was about Jews escaping the Nazis, or failing to, and accepting that their life is fleeting. That turned out to be... an extremely idiosyncratic take on a symbolic song.

In 1996 I got a mixtape (an actual cassette!) from a friend with eclectic tapes, who gave it to me without identifying any of the songs on it. So even though I listened to it repeatedly for a solid year, it took me a long time to piecemeal identify some of them (remember, it wasn't nearly as easy to plug song lyrics into a search engine back then):
Jimmy Buffett - Fruitcakes
Phish - Guelah Papyrus
Butthole Surfers - Pepper
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:09 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

In the summer of 1968 I had emergency surgery in Dallas while my first love was in town from Toronto. After surgery, I slowly woke up in my hospital room. Hey Jude was playing on the radio and Paul was leaning over me holding my hand. I sleepily wondered if I was in heaven; I was with Paul and a Beatle song I'd never heard was playing on and on. Hey Jude always gives a serene floaty feeling that all will be well.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:39 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]

Explode by Frente! brings me back to some very specific, very personal moments in my teens. I wish it wouldn't, because I really like the song and wish to enjoy it without its reminders of the past.

The music from stage 2 of Quartet for the Sega Master System. I remember being in a childhood friend's home, watching her and her older brother play Quartet. The room was wall-to-wall light beige shag carpeting in the basement of a late-80s mcmansion on one of the few finished lots in a recent nearby suburban development. The melody in the B-section blew my mind. I've thought about it for decades.

I recently purchased a Sega Master System from ebay, and Quartet was the first game I bought, just so I could have a physical copy of this song. And every other song. It's got a fantastic OST -- my favorite of the 8-bit generation. Really, it's all fantastic.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:57 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

100% Weezer's Blue Album. I was part of a little set of kids carpooling across the city to go to a private school on the other side, and we must've listened to it a zillion times in the mid-late '90s during the endless hours - and years - of highway commutes. We could have definitely done this - the singing, at least, though maybe not the beatboxing.
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 10:32 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

I have albums about major life events.

1989-1991: mix tapes from older guys in their late 20s and 30s who were wondering if they should date me. Final result: they shouldn’t.

1993-1994: Jagged Little Pill, everything by The Nields and Ani DiFranco

1995: a mixtape I made for the roadtrip I took every weekend for a year while my dad was dying

2000: planning my move cross-country to San Francisco: Kasey Chambers, The Captain

2001: landed in Sacramento for a few months on my way to San Francisco: Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels On a Gravel Road and everything Cake

2011: single after a long relationship and isolated in San Mateo. Walking around a lot late at night: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig

2014: making a miserable 80-mile car commute to an uncomfortable office environment. Every Friday morning when I sat down at my desk I’d blast The Decemberists, The King Is Dead, in my headphones as a TGIF treat to myself.

2018: I can’t remember where I found The Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee - probably here - but I listened to this album every day commuting to and from a cultish corporation in Beaverton, OR.

2019: Nick Cave, The Skeleton Tree. In January 2020 I splashed out on a front row ticket for his local show in October. It didn’t happen.
posted by bendy at 11:38 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

I finally watched Back to the Future for the first time last week, and now the song Lorraine by Ozma makes a hell of a lot more sense, and instantly transports me back to my mid teens.

Play Crack the Sky by Brand New takes me back to a canvas tent in my friend's front yard by the sea at a similar age, when I still had access to huge depths of feeling and a deep sense of mystery.

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey takes me back to the Crowne Plaza Rome St Peter's which had a faded glamour vibe at the time that matches the song's langour perfectly.

We managed to exhaust the entirety of Dreamboat Annie by Heart on a drive to and from the Norfolk coast in early 2014; I don't think either of us have listened to it all the way through since.

If I wrote out all the other anchors between music and time in my life I'd be here all day, so those will have to do for now.
posted by terretu at 1:35 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Non, je ne regrette rien by Edit Piaf was one of my mother's favourite songs, and we played it at her funeral. I can't listen to it. I can't think about it without crying.
posted by Zumbador at 6:52 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]

Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone playing in the Annex, a bar on Avenue B between 10th and 11th, Lower East Side of NYC, in 1966. I was 16, had run away from fucked up abusive parents and was living on the streets, on rooftops, and wherever else I could find. Drinking age was 18 back then and I could pass for that.
posted by mareli at 11:25 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]

Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild

I'll have more when I dwell on this a bit but this one triggers my memory of a bar somewhere in Bavaria in early 1977, where a group of drunken youth were playing pool and playing this single, repeatedly, on the jukebox, and singing along with the chorus.

What was I doing there? What I usually did in bars back then: smoke cigarettes while waiting for the rest of my party to get tired of the scene, so we could leave.
posted by Rash at 12:03 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Okay, one more: Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album, playing on the cassette deck in my friend's '65 beetle as we drove west out of Nebraska, gaining altitude as we approached the mountains of Wyoming on I-80 in October 1975.
posted by Rash at 12:08 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Also from 1975, when I worked that summer at an Outer Banks burger stand, the AM radio was always playing John Denver's 'Thank God I'm a Country Boy', Michael Murphey's Wildfire (without the bracketing piano, which I didn't hear until decades later) and 'How Long (Has This Been Going On)' by Ace.
posted by Rash at 12:15 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

I listened to David Gray a lot during a very dark period in my life. I just tried to listen to the song Slow Motion to see if I had detached it from that time, but I couldn't get through it. I think I might have triggered a major depressive episode, which I really can't afford right now.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 6:23 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]

This comes to mind.
posted by y2karl at 7:11 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album always reminds me of the time period when my wife and I first met. A friend sent me a home dubbed cassette copy and I used to borrow my Dad's Mazda Millenia (with a cassette deck) to listen to it.
The song Under Pressure reminds me of my late employer and friend who died at 60. (He always used to make fun of the "scatting" portions of the song.)
Medication by Primal Scream takes me back to returning via train from visiting my first serious (and long distance) girlfriend and realizing that she was probably going to kick me to the curb. I was looking very sad, there may have been some light weeping and no one wanted to sit near the sad bearded dude on the train!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:51 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

On a Tuesday afternoon, I skipped school and drove down to Salt Lake City. Sitting in Memory Grove alone, I smoked a coupla puffs of some very good weed, and Tuesday Afternoon, came on the radio. It was such a beautiful spring with trees in bloom, fragrant, and I was seventeen, alone and sensing the glory of being. I am always happy to hear this piece. "The trees are calling me near, I've got to find out why..."
posted by Oyéah at 7:52 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

Gary Neuman's Cars and Pretenders' Brass in Pocket remind me of the summer of 1980 when I was working in Cocoa Beach at a walk-up snack hut on the edge of the sand on weekends.

Oh God....

A couple summers I worked in our local movie theater. They had our local radio station on in the lobby in lieu of Muzak (this was before the days when TVs in the lobby showed trailers on a loop), and when there was a lull between screenings and the ushers and concession folks had tidied up we'd all just sort of hang out there, idly talking and listening to the radio.

One summer there was this completely inane song called Mercedes Boy by someone named "Pebbles" and it came on like every 45 minutes or so and by the end of that summer I wanted to track Pebbles down and run her over with a Mercedes. ...that lobby is blessedly the only place I seemed to hear that song.

....Another random association:

When I was in grade school, every time we had a "dress up and sit at the dinner table for a change" family dinner, Mom would ask Dad to pick out the dinner music; and for some reason, he would invariably choose Abbey Road. So I am probably the only person alive who associates the song Come Together with steak and potatoes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on May 8

When I was a surly and uncool teenager, I went on a family camping trip to Baja California. We were camped at El Coyote beach one afternoon when three bohemians rolled up at the campsite next to us. They were young and beautiful, and obviously on some kind of spontaneous "let's go to Mexico because why not?" kind of trip. They didn't have any camping gear, or much in the way of changes of clothes, and when the night came they all piled into the back of their boxy early 80s station wagon and slept there. I don't know what they ate, but I do know they had a cassette tape of The Velvet Underground and Nico (or maybe The Very Best of the Velvet Underground) because they played it several times on the car radio, and the sounds drifted over to where desperately uncool me could hear them.

Oh, how I envied them. I can't listen to the Velvet Underground without thinking of them getting out of the car, absolutely delighted with the beach. I hope they had romance, and love triangles, and broken hearts, and delicious tacos, and a fantastic adventure, and everything else good that young, hot, cool people might get up to on an underfunded road trip to Mexico. What a perfect soundtrack.
posted by surlyben at 7:59 AM on May 8 [4 favorites]

MetaFilter taught me about Frank Turner -- for which I am eternally grateful.

Most of ten years ago my wife got treated for breast cancer. Totally successful, great recovery, everything we could hope for. During the whole process of diagnosis and research and surgery and recovery, my job was super flexible and good people rallied around us. I am mindful of and thankful for all our good fortune.

And yet it was hard to work full-time and parent and cook and shop and support her and go to doctors' appointments and communicate with family, et-damn-cetera.

One afternoon as I was driving home from work, one of the first times I listened to Frank, the song "I Am Disappeared" came on as I drove north on Route 146 just by the Wanscuck Boys & Girls Club. And at the lyric, "When it feels like life weighs ten thousand tonnes," I just started crying because it's exactly how I felt....until about where I passed Lincoln Woods State Park, and then like a squall it blew out, and I have loved Frank ever since.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:33 PM on May 8 [3 favorites]

Plus a handful of teenage make-out songs I will never discuss because.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:36 PM on May 8 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter taught me about Frank Turner

frank turner?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:01 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

So I am probably the only person alive who associates the song Come Together with steak and potatoes.

Oh no, you're not. That is so steak and potatoes. I happen to have Mr. Marshall McLuhan behind this theater lobby card.
He'll tell you what, young lady.
posted by y2karl at 4:41 PM on May 8

My dearest friend and I traded homemade CDs maybe fifteen years ago: each one had maybe fifteen curated songs that formed the particular soundtracks of each of our lives with an accompanying paragraph or two as to what the rationale was for each song’s presence and what it evoked. A lot of it would be meaningless to list to MeFi at large (she and I know each other’s lives fairly well) but I do have one I cut for time:

In 1981 I was just hitting my teen years and I spent two weeks that summer bedridden with a mysterious virus. For a fortnight I was writhing in sweat-soaked (albeit changed once or twice daily) sheets, with a fever and headaches and vertigo and moderate delirium. My family doctor actually made a house call.

Finally after a couple of weeks of utter misery, I awoke one morning in the cool pre-dawn air: the illness gone, a weird, spent feeling left behind, with a degree of serenity like that you have after a massive weeping fit as a child, when catharsis has drained you of your emotions. (Incidentally, I have a faint impression it was the day our now newly-crowned king married Diana, but I might be off by a day or two.)

In the predawn light, I turned on the clock radio by my bed and heard this totally unfamiliar guitar track: Sausalito Summernights* [sic], by Dutch band Diesel. I was coming to it after weeks of fever dreams and nightmares, and I was not 100% sure I was not dreaming it. To this day, it feels like I nearly drowned at sea and this odd song was the rock on shore I finally managed to cling to and pull myself to safety.

*I had never seen the video until just now when I went searching for it. The video, it seems, is as idiosyncratic as everything else about the experience. Somehow it looks like they only had the budget for 40% as many lights as they needed, and the performance is thus lit like the identities of the band are none of our damned business. I do like that the lead guitarist and the singer/rhythm player each get a solo: I am puzzled why they each think there is a single dedicated spot on the set where one must stand for a guitar solo.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:01 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

I basically spent a lot of time on a schoolbus in jr high and high school, and somebody would always bring a jambox. That drives a lot of this list:

1) MC Hammer - all my classmates going crazy and learning the lyrics and would endless repeat them all. 6th grade maybe. We all wanted to join MC Hammer and be MC Hammer - and Nails!

2) Wilson Phillips - we went to a basketball tournament like 3 hours away from home on a bus, and the ladies' team found out their coach was quitting and moving on to a different job, and they cried and wailed to Wilson Philips "Hold On" on repeat for 3 solid hours on the bus ride home. I know it's rude, but I truly believe in mass hysteria due to that event. I was never so happy to get home.

3) The Hotstepper - this one, like the MC Hammer track, was also endlessly repeated on a bus trip for a marching band contest. Only for like 30 minutes though, not 3 hours.

4) Hanging Tough by the New Kids on the Block - every had to buy this tape, and I thought it was terrible. That was when I bailed on popular music, and charted my own musical path, regardless of the chart success of the band.

5) Loveless by My Bloody Valentine- I generally think it's extremely overrated, but we listened to it on a car trip in August between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and the relentless heat and the music was a non-drug induced trip. We also listened to Redd Kross and probably Oasis's good albums, and some other stuff, and it didn't hit the same way, even though I generally like them better. Those were records, Loveless was an experience.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:24 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]

Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts.

When I was a kid, my parents had one of those old VW vans. We loved that thing. My mom drove the stick shift that looked five miles long to an eight year old. I remember mom driving around a curve and my four year old brother opened the sliding door WHILE SHE WAS DOING 35 MPH. I had to get up (no seatbelts in those days!) and close the door..I can still see the road swooshing by...

Anyway, this song.. it was night. A summer night. We were driving home from a town that was a great boardwalk destination in those days. I was lying in the back, above the engine compartment, looking up at the stars. Summer Breeze was playing on the radio. Every time this song comes on, I remember a wonderful childhood experience.

A year or so later, the van was repossessed, the family fell apart, life changed. But this memory remains precious to me.
posted by annieb at 12:43 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]

I have no idea why, but Sir Duke evokes my family's late '70s and early '80s house in all its green, brown and orange interior design glory (especially the kitchen, where there was an AM radio that was on all the time in the mornings and after school/before dinner). As Stevie Wonder songs go it's not even close to being a favourite of mine, and my folks weren't huge fans of his or anything, so it must have just been played a lot on the local oldies AM station.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:38 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]

I had a music class my first semester in college, and we had to listen to a bunch of atonal and other unpalatable crap. The only actual song was Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets," so I listened to that dozens of times.

College was halfway across the country, and too far from home, so I moved back home after that semester. I got a ride with someone from Missouri to the DC area. We were college kids with no money, so we drove straight through, on Jolt and NoDoz . His car was stick shift, which I didn't know how to drive at the time, but I stayed awake to keep him company. I remember hallucinations and Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (which was a hit at the time).

John Hiatt's "Child of the Wild Blue Yonder" reminds me dating of The One That Got Away, Van Morrison's "Queen of the Slipstream" of when I'd think about her, and The Connell's "I Suppose," which mentions the Boylan Heights neighborhood where I broke up with her. (I'm happy where I am. People are a land of contrasts.)

Billy Bragg's "Tank Park Salute" was exactly what it was like to lose my dad. "You were so tall/how could you fall?"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:49 AM on May 15

That is so steak and potatoes. I happen to have Mr. Marshall McLuhan behind this theater lobby card.

Was I meant to understand this reference, or were you just trying to show off cleverness?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on May 15

In 1996 I was working at a drop-in centre for homeless people. The place would be quiet when I came in at 10am, then start to fill up around 12 and by lunchtime it would be crowded. People were generally well-behaved, but there was always a jittery feeling in the air and arguments could suddenly blow up out of nowhere, so you always had to be alert for signs of trouble.

The radio was always on, and the songs of that summer have etched themselves into my brain because I heard them so many times. Whenever I hear the Beautiful South Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) or Deep Blue Something Breakfast at Tiffany's it instantly takes me back to that shabby room with the smell of cooking and the weird mixture of boredom and hypervigilance.
posted by verstegan at 6:35 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

When I first moved to LA in January 1987 it seems I could pretty reliably push my car's KROQ button to produce Suburbia by the Pet Shop Boys, so that song always prompts memories of my early days there.
posted by Rash at 9:43 AM on May 16

Weird Al (probably) saved my life late one night (or way early the following morning) when I was driving a van with a couple of friends who were fast asleep. I heard a familiar song, as if through a haze, then something about the lyrics jolted me awake.
If I'd have heard what I was expecting, I might have dropped asleep at the wheel.

On a different trip, different van, several years later, I drove for thousands of miles and could not escape hearing "Broken Wings" and "Party all the time" on the FM radio. (cassette player was broken, else I'd have been wearing a mix tape.)
posted by coppertop at 7:30 PM on May 26

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