The car we drove to and from the coast recently had no satellite radio, and I forgot to bring cd’s or my mp3 player. So, we were stuck with plain old radio. The strongest signal came from our local classic rock station. It came in clearly most of the way, though at one point, we heard a fade in/fade out duo, which made it seem Pat Benatar had joined a mariachi band. You’re a heartbreaker ai yi yi yi ya!
Listening to these oldies revealed that, for me, certain songs evoke clear-cut memories. These may or may not be associated with the first time I heard the song, or even when it was in the Top 40, but the songs have become permanently attached to specific moments in my life.
When I hear Elton John sing “Tiny Dancer” I am lying, exhausted, on my sofa during the first few quiet minutes of the afternoon. My two little ones, plus the three I babysit, have just been put down for their naps, and I’m praying, “Let me make it through this one song before one or more of them pops back up again … and please don’t let them wake the baby.”
When I hear The Doobie Brothers’ slide into “Black Water” it’s a steamy Indiana summer afternoon and I’m driving our dark blue Chevy Impala with the glasspack muffler. With the radio cranked high, my foot heavy on the gas, loose tendrils of hair dancing in the wind, I pretend not to notice the cool guys in the next lane trying to get my attention.
When I hear John Mellencamp—who will always be John Cougar Mellencamp to me—break into “Hurts So Good” I stand thrilled, frightened, awed, and deafened by the roar in the Indianapolis arena as the “hometown” crowd celebrates the success of one of their own.
I could share with you dozens of these evocations, but these suffice to illustrate how opening these crystal-clear sensory time capsules is a way I can enhance my writing. They are inspiration, and research, in its most intuitive form.
Let the music play … let the writing begin.