Monday, July 7, 2014

Music: the real way to time travel

Smell, or taste, is supposedly the sense most vividly associated with memory.

(See Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust, who unintentionally immortalized madeleines in his novel.)

But for me, it’s hearing. More specifically, hearing music. The other day, I was listening to the Beach Boys’ Do It Again, and it put me right back in that sweet spot where I always want to be whenever I hear it, a time when everything was about as ecstatic as it could ever be.

People say it’s the music of your era, by which I think they mean your youth. But I’m not sure I buy that. What is my era, anyway? I think this is still my era. I’ve loved that song for many, many years—since it came out, in fact, in 1969. It is ultimate nostalgia but it’s much more than that. It’s a kick-ass jam, one of the greatest ever.

Another tune on the Beach Boys CD (notice old school format) I was digging was Sail On, Sailor, whose lead vocal is by Brian Wilson’s little brother, Carl, who proves on this song once and for all what a talented singer he was. The bridge on this song always kills me:

Always needing, even bleeding
Never feeding all my feelings
Damn the thunder, must I blunder
There's no wonder all I'm under
Stop the crying and the lying
And the sighing and my dying

Sail on, sail on sailor

It’s not the words, though I am a word man, but Brian Wilson’s incredible, amazingly wonderful melody and harmonies and rhythms. He’s got to be right up there with Paul and John as the greatest rock'n'roll song writers of all time (Paul certainly thinks so).

I love so many Beach Boys songs, especially those from their later psychedelic era, but I still love the early tunes, too. California Girls. Fun Fun Fun. Wouldn’t It Be Nice. And of course Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains.  

I consider it tragic, and unimaginable, that after coming out with the fabulous album containing Brian's That’s Why God Made The Radio and other tunes that Mike Love could have the cojones to fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. Man, that’s like firing Beethoven or Mozart. How do you do that?

Anyway, when I read books, or see period films, about my era, I’m  swept up in the stories. But when I want to time travel and make the past live again, I mean really come alive like it still exists, I listen to music. And I’m right there.

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