Usually and unsuspectingly the melody of an old favorite can trigger that certain flashback to another lifetime; a day, an hour or just an instant to which only you can relate. A special moment, jarring somewhere in the beyond of your own individual history that just you can memorialize; a clear-cut reminiscence that can’t be shared with anyone because it’s solitarily exclusive to you. Be it the ambient, ear-candy rumble of the drag strip or the smile on your face as you listen to the engine you tuned; the knowledge of experiencing a noteworthy event - noteworthy because it was so private and remarkable at the time.
Saturday night, sometime after ten, Let the Good Times Roll, blares over the vacuum tube radio in the garage as I struggle to figure out how to finish my hot rod. I wash my hands with gasoline, sit against the rear tire and wish the good times would roll for me – roll with any of the dream girls in my high school class as we rip down the drag strip. I visualized the pert brunette with the high pony tail wrapped in my arms or the blonde next door snuggling up close, the hot rod smoking its tires. The good times, I fail to realize, were happening right then – I was 15, building a car of my own, a member of the rock & roll generation and dreaming dreams. For sure, I later had girlfriends and raced my car, but that twinkling of fantasies still stands alone. There are very few who can realize and recognize they are living in the good-old-days as they materialize.
Looking back 60-50-40-30 . . . years, the audio trip-wires deep in the mind’s back-gears are comprised of friends - even enemies - or just-by-yourself sunrises, sunsets and yesterday’s lifetimes. No one has yet captured these inside-the-head musings on film, paper or even modern electronic media – these feelings that cut to the soul. They’re so distinctive and exclusive we can’t share them with others because words fail to translate sensitivities of spirits.
Paul Anka’s, Put Your Head On My Shoulder, is playing on one of those fifties radio programs, only I hear it whispering from the AM of my almost new ‘57 Ford V8. We’re on a narrow two-lane state road, dash lights dimmed, high beams on, cozy-wings cracked; speed about 70. She scoots across the wide bench seat . . . and puts her head on my shoulder. Approaching an older and slower car, I flash my lights, he moves over; and just for fun, I kick it down and top out a bit over 90. Hearing the song in my mind’s ear 50 some years later – ah Sharon, our teenage love was so sweet. Except that Sharon, like so many others from that past lifetime, has passed on. Could life, could this slice of time that I’ve never forgotten, have been any better?
Some nostalgic flashbacks are so specific they are non-emulative. I’m alone in an Ermine-white Corvette on a moonlit night, rolling down a twisting mountain road – headlights out, engine off. Superimposed over the wind and whine of the tires the beat of Chuck Berry’s, Maybelline, surges from the custom installed RCA record player. It’s just me, the machine, the High Sierras and exhilarations that live only inside my head. How many lifetimes ago was that? I’ve lost count, but whenever I hear that piece of ear-candy . . . .
Engelbert Humperdinck, long sideburns, Go-Go boots, big-block Chevys and just married – times we thought belonged only to us. There was no realization, just like my teenage years, that I was establishing memories of a honeymoon-like eon. A warm late spring afternoon we pack a picnic basket and head to the woods. Between nips of wine and slivers of cheese we make love to the echo of a warbler and the pecking of a woodpecker. That was two or three lifetimes ago; nonetheless my mind’s ear still hears the trill and the tap, tap, tap. Nothing lasts forever and being able to move on – to have the ability to adapt to change is a learned secret.
The second-time-around, after a short span of middle age singing and dancing with a variety of petite, tall, buxom, hot . . . you get the picture; I found a soul mate. To a Johnny Mathis song, we promised, accepted and committed to the Twelfth of Never. Now, almost 20 years into this marriage, we share memories of the lifetime when our combined children were birthing their children and we lived downtown in that portion of the city still being gentrified. We enjoyed Saturday night always-armed walks to Music Hall to hear a world class symphony followed by a cup of herbal tea and a scone at a 19th Century bar turned bistro where sounds of a three-piece combo characterized charming.
During the magical span of our youth we were privileged to such musical lollipops as Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, The Beatles, The Greatful Dead . . . and many others; some of which insightfully touched on society ills. Like kids in a world-sized candy store we were historically oblivious. The genius of the music and lyrics of our era created an unparalleled period that now spans generations.
Talented poets, song writers and novelist are masters of describing extraordinary moments. However, their soul-exposing feelings belong to them, not you and me. What we experience from their performances are prompts to our own recollections that are forever melded to our soul. And if their recital becomes a magic moment in our mind’s ear in years hence, it won’t be the performance, but the private feelings generated by the physical presence of being there. At a traffic light, a car with a blown muffler transports my mind to the drag strip, where amid unaccustomed, thunderous, throbbing, ear-splitting and wonderful sounds that are never to be forgotten in my innermost remembrances – suddenly, and just for an instant, I’m back at the starting line.
Whether you’re 17 or 70 we do not know what memories await us, but the sounds will surely be stored away for recall at some later date. On the rare occasion when Johnny’s Twelfth comes over the radio of the modern audio system in my restored ’71 El Camino, it creates pure ear-candy of another lifetime.