Transported by Music
“I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, looking for something, what can it be?” The words, the intimate beauty of Joni’s voice, as though she were sharing a secret with the story in her song. The suppressed joy of her music envelopes me, transports me magically to Vermont, 1970. (1)
I am in the Vermont woods on a toboggan, racing over dry autumn leaves, piles of them we screamed through. The leaves created an avalanche around us, a windstorm of joy. My lover’s arms were around me. I am warmed by his loving, protective arms. I smell the crushed autumn leaves, windstruck into my face. I hear the voices intermingled, loud, terrified, thrilled. We were singing our screams into the universe. That is the moment in time for me which Joni Mitchell transports me to 51 years and 1200 miles ago. A spot of time.
Music has always seduced me. As a child I hid in my room when my mother played her classical ballet music. The notes of violins, piano, the melding of sound brought me to tears. I hid, fearing tears shared or witnessed would lead to ridicule, a shy child’s ultimate shame. It was easier to hide my feelings than express them.
I knew my mother cried when she listened to “Oh Mein Papa...to me you are the only one…” I was confused by the sorrow etched into teary trails on her cheeks. Her father was still alive, as was my Daddy. I wonder where my mother went when she heard those words, “Oh Mein Papa.” I wish I had asked, but she never would have told me. One of my father’s talents was playing the violin. There was always music in our home. It took years for my mother to play music again after the death of my father, her Freddy.
I have always been struck by Wordsworth’s “Spots of Time''. My interpretation is one of indelible moments deeply etched into our brains, hearts and souls. A voice, a sound or a stray scent or taste returns us to a magical spot in our lives. Wordsworth’s Spots of Time is much more pedantic and literary but I believe our meanings are the same. (2)
I wondered if others had special songs. I conducted a survey, asking friends to: “Send me a song that transports you immediately into a memory. From any event or era in your life, good or bad.” The responses made me laugh, cry and connected me to more memories, a never ending circle if storytelling.
Rosie’s choice was Imagine, by John Lennon. She didn’t share her transported space other than the song. I examined what Imagine means to me: hope. I wondered if that was Rosie’s special spot of time kept secret and quiet in her heart.
Another friend confessed she had been dropping acid, having sex and hearing anything from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. The whole album? Wow, I thought, that was more than just a spot of time, those were many spots of time. I was transported to her moment. This was fun!
My Vermont sister’s song is Piano Man by Billie Joel. “It reminds me of driving to the church on my wedding day. We were in the backseat of our friends Steve and Nancy’s Ford Capri, taking the short ride to the church in South Reading. That song played on the radio. I was a nervous wreck thinking what the **** am I doing getting married? No one in my family had a good record in regards to marriage. My parents and both my brothers had already been divorced. I was thinking what are my chances of success here? Well I guess time has proved 44 years later that I was the lucky one to make it.” Sherrie’s memory opened another little door into her heart and mine. A special moment shared, one in which I can picture her so clearly, made up of countless moments through the years from 1964 to today.
“E” had been on a Catholic Youth Hayride when he complained, “the make out session was interrupted by the bumps and ruts on the trail. “Satisfaction” came on the radio while all of us couldn’t “get no, no, no, no…”
Another dear guy friend related his memory to Pearl Jam, a band he once thought was great, then okay, then infuriating with their downfall in the rendition of Last Kiss, which apparently developed into “a ten second obscenity laced tirade and almost throwing a can at the speaker, not the action of a mature adult in his forties.” Wow. What a great view!! I could just see my friend doing this, what a thrill, as I’d never seen him angry. Ever. How illuminating. Another spot of time. Again, what fun!
Tim’s transport was to 1967 when he was 18. He and a bunch of his buddies were driving to pick up a girl in their group, Lemonade Lucy (her nickname at the time.) “We were all going to a teen club to dance so gave a ride to whoever wanted to tag along. When we arrived at Lemonade Lucy’s house she dragged all five of us inside, past her parents sitting in the living room watching TV and into her little bedroom. She said ‘I just got this new album in the mail today and you’ve got to hear it.’ (Note from Tim: “Remember the one cent for fourteen albums by mail scam?)
The album was Jimi Hendrix. Five guys were crammed around Lemonade Lucy’s little record player listening to Jimi Hendricks playing Are you Experienced in her bedroom with her parent’s nearby. We got to the dance late because we had to listen to the entire album one more time.”
One of the constants in my life with Tim is music, especially during Covid Quarantine times. We have an extensive Vinyl collection which maestro DJ Tim provides music for any mood, party or just plain listening pleasure.
Every morning we both wake up singing a different random melody. The chosen songs are completely by accident, laced with dreams, or an ear worm from the night before. Today I heard Tim singing Imagine Me and You; then Blackbird. Next Ninety Six Tears was belted out while I hummed Just A Little Green in the background. It’s the sound, not only of our favorite music, but the art of storytelling, memories converging and shared. These Spots of Time have become our home movies, spinning past experiences down the memory lanes of our lives.
This is a plus of quarantining. We have been stuck inside for the past nine months and have found new ways of entertainment, story telling, and revisiting favorite LPs. People say they have become more creative. Our own movies and stories play in our minds, tickling our senses.
Music has once again succeeded in taking me to another spot of time. During these troubled days there is nothing more I could ask for: to be removed to a different spot of time, many years prior or weeks into the future. Another time to be magically transported by to, just as Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell sang about in the 60’s.
All I Want by Joni Mitchell, Blue Album, 1967.
Wordsworth's Spots of Time: "There are in our existence spots of time which with distinct preeminence retain a fructifying virtue, whence, depressed by trivial occupations and the round of ordinary intercourse, our minds, especially the imaginative power, are nourished, and invisibly repaired."