Driving around in the car the other day listening to KXT (like I typically do) I heard a string of tracks I hadn’t heard in years. What struck me first was the fact that I’ve been listening to some pretty damn good music for a very long time (insert self-indulgent pat on the back here) and that my brain is packed chock full of old lyrics.
I know I’m not anymore special than other hardcore music fans, but it was quite striking that I could still sing along with a song I hadn’t heard in a least a decade.
What is it about our brains that allow a person to forget where they put their keys minutes after placing them “someplace safe,” driving away from the house to be stuck with the fear that they didn’t close the garage door, or to even forget a birthday or anniversary; but to remember all the words to a random song?
It’s almost uncanny.
A goodly chunk of us has also experienced the spontaneity of sitting in a bar when an overly familiar song comes on the jukebox just to look around and see other patrons mouthing the words over their beverage. It’s almost a horrible cliche. I am a firm believer that given the right amount of social lubrication, any given dive could burst into a Glee-esque karaoke bar with the right set of tracks. Maybe that’s just a secret wish of mine.
Moreover, what is it about some songs that bring back specific memories? Whenever I hear certain Echo & the Bunnymen or Love and Rockets songs, I am immediately taken back to one particular summer in my youth where I spent my days reading Tom Swift books and eating State Fair Brand Corn Dogs.
In that same regard, I seem to learn the words to songs I hear on the radio or live pretty damn fast. I wonder all the time what “important” information is being pushed out of my head as I learn the words to the newest Iron & Wine or Dawes song I hear on the radio. I know for a fact that records from Catherine Wheel and NOFX are responsible for me losing most of my German grammar and vocabulary. One would think that committing the last couple of KMFDM records to memory would have jogged some of that back into the ol’ gourd, but I think all those oat sodas and brown liquor helped keep that fine learning at bay.
The one terrible thing, though, is that I have a terrible time with song titles and, in some cases, artist.
Recently I was on a cross-country flight where I whiled my time away catching up with season three of Being Human (the UK version, not that wretched version they have tried to put out on SyFy, but that is a topic for another post). In episode six a song was playing that I knew all the words to, but had no idea what the song was or who might have originally done it. I racked my brain for several hours, singing the words to myself over and over, trying to figure out how the hell I knew the song. Almost a day later, in the middle of a meeting when my mind was wandering far and wide, it struck me that what I had heard was an odd cover of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” That’s the kind of crap that occupies my brain when I’m staring off into space and/or sitting in meetings.