thirteen, if memory serves, when my dad bought me a record player, and bought
me some LP’s to go with it. Dave
Brubeck’s Jazz Impressions of Eurasia,
Benny Goodman with the Boston Symphony (Benny playing classical), and Dvorak’s
I wonder about his choices, but the Brubeck’s stayed with me sixty years. I don’t think I would have appreciated Shelly Manne or the other West Coast guys without it, or Henry Mancini. The theme from Peter Gunn got a lot of airplay, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-da-DUM-da-dum, but the score I went nuts for was Mr. Lucky. And that organ, backed up with big-band arrangements, led me straight to Jimmy Smith. Walk on the Wide Side, charts by Oliver Nelson, was huge. I’m guessing the biggest R&B hit on AM radio after What’d I Say?
skipping through some of the personal chart-toppers, of course. Coltrane’s My Favorite Things and Olé, with
McCoy Tyner’s amazing left hand. I spent
a couple of years in
I spent the 1970’s in a haze of Van Morrison, and I don’t regret it. Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, Hard Nose the Highway, Veedon Fleece. (I can listen to “Tupelo Honey” or “Snow in San Anselmo,” and conjure up the very place I was. “Linden Arden,” “Streets of Arklow,” and “You Don’t Pull No Punches,” as a suite; it never gets old.)
I don’t know that I’ve quite embraced the more recent. I love Sarah McLachlan. I wonder how much of that is due to Joni
Mitchell’s Blue, or Hejira.
Bonnie Raitt. Maria Muldaur. It isn’t that the new music isn’t any good,
or it’s derivative, but I think a certain template is set. You listen to Ray LaMontagne, and you hear
Jackson Browne, or even, God help us, Dave Van Ronk. (Boy, that
was an anthem, the summer I was seventeen, driving a load of mattresses from
Probably, a subset of the above. We associate the music very specifically. It’s apparently second only to our sense of smell, as a trigger, of memory, of emotion, and of deeper psychic energies. Is it regret? I can’t listen to James Taylor and “Sweet Baby James” without tearing up. It wrecked me the first time I heard it. So there.
Yes, it’s association. And it conjures up youth. But we suspect something larger. I think the playlist is a lot more than background music. I don’t think it’s accidental, or incidental, however much is left to chance. Something gets our feet tapping. We might not consciously choose the score, but it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.