Blast from the past

I’m sitting here at my desk after doing some maintenance on a portable music device that has been bouncing around my home for the better part of  a decade.  Before taking up residence in a niche between the printer paper tray and the mouse pad, it used to hang out on an exercise bike and entertain me while I pedaled away .

The bike is long gone, donated to a seniors’ centre that could put it to better use, but this little electronic device has survived innumerable uncluttering purges.  It hits a sweet spot for me:  Not too big, not too fancy, and a useful thing to have (even if it does disappear for a year at a time and is rediscovered when I sweep under the desk and find it hanging out with the dust bunnies).

One of the things I like about this music player is that it likes to surprise me.  I can control it if desired, by skipping to the next song, but most of the time I just let it play.  Since I finished reformatting and reloading it from my music library, this is what it’s played:

  • 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago)
  • 300 Boys (The Good Rats)
  • All Right Now (Free)
  • Back To My Music (The Good Rats again)
  • Ball of Confusion (The Temptations)
  • Broken (The Guess Who)
  • Changes (David Bowie)

Although my first love was the Beatles, circa 1963/64, musically I’m a child of the 1970s.  Tasty, the Good Rats album that features two of the above songs is another piece of nostalgia:  I bought it on vinyl in a New York City record store in October 1974.

Listening to these old songs anew, there’s an interesting dialogue going on between my memories and the music currently playing.  There are lyrics I had previously mentally smeared over, hearing syllables but not really catching the words.  There are often notes that are completely new to me, perhaps a bass line that my record player couldn’t reproduce, or that I couldn’t hear because I was singing along too loud.

Sometimes when I do mental time travel, it’s to ask “What if…?”  What if I had taken auto shop in grade nine?  What if I had stayed in Montreal instead of moving to Winnipeg?  Taken this job instead of that one?  It’s not a healthy habit, because no amount of fantasizing can reverse the past.  All I can do is work with the memories and the chain of causes and effects that brought me to where I am now.

But sometimes I get lucky and am reminded  that the past had its own immediacy and intensity, not just the amorphous regrets of hindsight.  When I listen to music from my childhood I’m back there again, cradling a new album or single in my hands as I position it on the turntable and drop the needle for the first time.  In that, there is nothing to regret and nothing I would change.

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