Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ten Songs That Transport Me To Another Time And Place

Are there any songs that when you hear them they inspire memories of events or people in your life? I do. What do these memories say about me? I don't know? What does it say that I thought I had to write them down? I really don't know. But, here they are...

1) Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty): I think I've blogged about this a couple of times, but every time I hear "Baker Street" I am immediately a seven-year old kid at Elkland Pool, all over again. That summer, I'm pretty much sure my mom and I lived at Elkland Pool. I'd get there early for swim practice, and at least two or three days a week, stay until Dad would stop after work for a swim. And during that summer, the life guards at Elkland, who had access to a turntable (this was a pre-CD and cassette tape era) must have played this album, and this song, in particular, about 20 times a day. To do this day when I have dreams that involve the pool and my childhood, this song (or something from the Peter Frampton "Alive" album) is always in the background.

2) No Woman N0 Cry (Bob Marley): As a youth pastor you often find yourself cooped up with young people 24/7 for stretches as long as a week at a time. On one the first mission trip I ever led to South Carolina, I'm pretty sure Ellen Dukeman brought Bob Marley's "Legend" CD, and we listened to it most of the time we were on the road (15 hours, one way). Thus, until this day, I can't hear this song without remembering the old gray church van and the thousands of miles I logged in it. I can still smell the beef jerky the kids bought on the road at a gas station.

3) Hypnotize (The Notorious BIG): The prof who led our Beeson class trip to London thought it would be a good idea, after being awake for 20 some-odd hours traveling from Lexington to Heathrow, to keep us awake during the daylight hours on the first day we arrived in London to get us on local time. To do this, we took a combination bus and walking tour of the city. We spent at least two hours riding around on the bus, and since I hadn't slept well the night before we left, I think I'd had like 4 hours of sleep in two+ days. Really only wanting a bathroom and a bed, as we rode on the bus, I turned on my MP3 player, only to hear this song come blasting out of the headphones. There's nothing quite like riding through Trafalgar Square while listen to rap music by a guy from Brooklyn, on no sleep. I couldn't decide if I was in London, New York, or if I was actually still asleep in Wilmore. Even now the entire experience is still surreal.

4) Doctor, Doctor (The Thompson Twins): For a stretch during my junior year of high school (during basketball season), I spent a great deal of my free time on the weekends hanging out with two friends, Tina Brookman and Todd Bolander, driving around in my car looking for innocent forms of trouble. We moved campaign signs, dragged leaf bags, TP'ed houses, and a bunch of other stupid stuff you do when you are a teenager, have a few bucks, and way too much freedom. The time, really, seems so innocent, that it still makes me smile. Of course, Tina ended up falling for Todd, who strung her along long after the three of us were hanging out, and whole thing ended up turning out badly for the two of them... but those are their memories, not mine. Why "Doctor, Doctor"? I'm sure it was playing on the cassette player in the dash of my car (a "Targa" that I purchased for 50 bucks out at Rex Electronics on layaway.... no other statement could make me feel older). Anyhow, Tina is married and doing well in Columbus (we see her brother and his wife on a regular basis) and I have no idea what happened to Todd (although I hear rumors). Just a really simple, beautiful moment in my life.

5) Electric Kingdom (The Professors of Funk): I grew up in the west end of the city of Lima, and until my Sophomore year of high school played organized team sports for whatever school I was attending at the time. By my Junior year, it was apparent that what little God-given talent wasn't going to take me very far, and quite frankly most of our games at Lima Senior were scheduled in Cincinnati (since during that era schools in the area were too small to schedule) which required extended trips on school buses... which I detested. But in junior high school, I still had aspirations to play basketball long term, so most days you'd find me at someone's house playing a pickup game, or 21, with some friends. Always a boombox would be playing rap music, as most of the guys we played with were black, and in those days Hip Hop largely was never heard on the radio. So, these guys would record songs from 107.7 (WDAO) in Dayton, and we'd listen to them while we played.

This was really the first time in my life that I became aware of how powerfully racism permeates our collective consciousness. You see, it didn't seem all that strange to me that I like rap or that the guys who were my friends were black. That was just my life. But when our team would travel to places like Wapak, Elida (which was much more homogeneous then), Shawnee (same for Shawnee), or even further away from the city in small podunk town, like Delphos, I became powerfully aware that in certain parts of our fair community, certain people were not welcome... and by being associated with those people, that venom ended centered on you also.

Never do I remember this demonstrated more powerfully than during a game we played when I was in the eighth grade at Delphos St. Johns. Delphos, for those who don't live in this area, is a little town just west of Lima that is a model for most of the little towns in the Northwest part of the state. It's working class, lilly white, and almost entirely made up of Roman Catholics who are probably all related back a few generations. I remember the unease in that gym that day when Gary Copeland set up his boombox before the game, and out came "Electric Kingdom" while we did our warmups. What followed was the most poorly called game I've ever played in, which involved four guys on our team fouling out by the start of the fourth quarter... all of us white. The highlight of the game for me was getting called for a foul on the other side of gym from where I standing. Until then, I never understood the hostility and uncertainty my friends lived with daily... and even now, I'm sure I still don't.

6) Piano Man (Billy Joel): Thursday nights, at Saloon, in Oxford, Ohio, I must have sung this song and "Wheel In the Sky" by Journey about a thousand times with a number of good friends. Just remember... I wasn't always a pastor.

7) Lo How A Rose Ere' Blooming (any version): Even though Aimee and I chose Louis Armstrong's "It's A Wonderful World" as our wedding song, truly this tune is OUR song. Why? Well, way back in high school, during my senior year, I was the student director of the choir. At that time in my life, I loved music, and was even considering a career as a music teacher. The director, Mr. Charles Brown (still the coolest guy in education), picked this song as one of the ones I would direct during the "Holiday in Harmony" concert. Aimee, a sophomore at the time, was the accompanist to the choir, and we had to work on the song together to make sure we had the timing and dynamics right. That's pretty much the point we started becoming interested in one another... and now seventeen years of marriage and three (almost four) kids later, I still have this song to thank for helping turn me into a happily married man.

8) Fool For The City (Foghat): The father of my childhood best friend, Jason Reeves, owned a killer stereo system which he kept in the rec room they added onto their house when we were wee tykes. He also loved music, and bought all the best stuff the 70's had to offer, so as a five, six year old kid, I used to play with my friend listening to Fleetwood Mac, Boston, The Doobie Brothers, Blue Oyster Cult, and Foghat. Jason and I liked the album because the cover had a guy fishing in a manhole in the middle of the city on it. Whaddya want... I was five. Anyhow, I can still see us wrestling, throwing a football ball, or some such other something we weren't allowed to do inside while this song blared out of that awesome stereo. Once again, a beautiful memory of a much more innocent time.

9) Burning for You (Blue Oyster Cult): Spent my 21st birthday at Bogarts in Cincinnati seeing some awful band called Circus of Power open for the legendary Blue Oyster Cult. I think most of my college friends thought I latched on to BOC largely because our friend, Steve Wheeler, was really into the band. But if you read number 8 on this list, you'll know that not only did I grow up listening to BOC in Jason's rec room, but also owned the Mirrors 8-track tape. In any event, these guys looked old back in 1990, so its hard to believe there are still original members of the band that are still touring (and if their website is correct, will be into 2008). I think we were not just the only college students there that night, but I'm pretty sure we were the only people who didn't show up to the show on a motorcycle (and it was in February... that BOC crowd is hardcore). Great show. Maybe I'll have to ride down on 1200cc's of pure power to Cincinnati and catch them in August in full leather regalia. I'll be a poseur no more.

10) Bananaphone (Raffi): When we lived in Goshen I found this Volkswagen Eurovan that I fell immediately in love with. I bought it as a vehicle for myself to drive, but after swearing she'd never drive a minivan, Aimee drove the Eurovan once and was hooked. Someone gave us, or maybe we bought, a Raffi cassette tape for Max, which we kept out in the van. I just remember everytime we got into it, my little baby boy would start saying, "Song? Song?", and we'd have to put in Bananaphone to keep him happy. So this can work two ways... I can hear the song, or see a Eurovan, and remember little Max in his car seat saying "Song? Song?". I suppose that memory will grow sweeter as he gets older, and starts listening to the crap they now call popular music....

oh, did I just write that down? Guess I'm showing my age.


The Thief said...

Loved the post; I'm going to come up with my 10. But probably that won't happen for a few days.

ElleBee said...

Oh.My.Word. When I was single and teaching (music, of all things!), a friend introduced me to her children's favorite song, "Bananaphone". I have to say that it drove me crazy then, but since I've had children, my musical tastes have "expanded" to include "Hot Potato" by The Wiggles (SS#1's fave as a toddler), and any number of Veggie Tales songs.

Anonymous said...

obviously off topic but you need to make and "elf yourself" of your kids for your blog. Check out ours, it cracked me up!



Anonymous said...

You know, you're story about growing up on the west side of Lima listening to hip hop....WOW. I too, grew up on the West side of Lima, about ten years later, and played basketball and baseball and listened to hip hop. Bryan, I don't think it was until I was in college that I truly saw this stuff going on....even in high school, I think I must have seen it not for what it was. When I moved to Columbus, and saw that there were bars and restaurants where everyone inside was white....kinda bugged me out after growing up in what is probably one of the most racially blind cities in the country.

ummmm....that's all. Be well...

peace and luv,

Joshua Cunningham