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A Song Sings A Thousand Memories


I have a habit (as I’m sure many people do) of periodically flicking through all the music channels on my Sky box. I like to call the process the “music sweep” and more often than not the songs playing are the terrible, manufactured rubbish that seem to fill the charts these days. But occasionally a decent song manages to find its way onto the play list (usually on VH1 I must add). The other day it was “Back for good” by “Take That”.

I’ll say this. I was never a fan of Take That in their prime (the early 1990’s). At the time they were the property of millions of young, screaming, crying girls with posters of Gary, Howard, Jason, Mark and Robbie adorning many teenagers’ bedroom walls. I was too busy trying to be cool (a battle doomed to failure as it turned out) to notice their rise and fall. But when I heard them the other day I immediately decided to get their Greatest Hits album. And very good it is too. So what’s going on?

There are certain songs that bring me right back to another time. An example is the album Bandwagonesque by the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub. If you listen to it, you’ll wonder why all the songs sound the same, why the singer isn’t more musical, and why the hell you’re listening to this mediocre album anyway. But when I listen to it I’m 17 again. I’m a spotty, insecure, arrogant teenager. I’m mean and selfish to my girlfriend and my world revolves around what I want and where I want to go. And it’s great! I find myself right back inside my own head at that age, feeling what it was like to be that hormone-driven again. It’s weird. I’d never want to be a teenager again (I’m quite happy right here thank you very much), but it’s fun remembering what it was like, and that album takes me right there.

Everybody has a holiday song that takes them back to dancing the night away on a beach in Thailand, or lying in a bloody mess outside a Dundee nightclub. I’ve got a song from a trip a few friends and I made about 10 years ago (must have been about 18 then). We drove a Montego from Scotland down to the Chamonix area in the French Alps. We then had trips over to Switzerland and Italy (for all of a day) and even managed to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel (which is still closed after the fire that killed many people a couple of years ago).

The song was “Linger” by The Cranberries. Whenever I hear it I can feel the sense of adventure and wonder of driving into the unknown, never having been so far away from my home before without my parents. Nowadays I’d have no problem going on a road trip like that, but feeling what it was like when I was a youngster is really invigorating and almost makes me want to be a teenager again.

Many argue that the band “Genesis” was never the same once Phil Collins became the singer (I disagree) and many argue that they were rubbish in both forms. But I’ve got the album “Invisible Touch”, not because it’s full of top-notch songs, but because of where it takes me.

My father took my brother and I on a camping trip when we were kids (I’d have been about 12) and it seemed as if we were going onto the other side of the planet (when you’re that age everything seems to take forever). I don’t exactly recall where we went but I remember the afore-mentioned album being played over and over again in the car. Listening to it today (as I am right this minute) I’m quite moved. I was young and innocent. My father was a young, super-fit army officer. Nothing bad had ever happened in my life, and the world was my oyster (strictly speaking it still is). That holiday is one of my most cherished memories and listening to the album makes it real again. (As a matter of fact, I pinched the very tape that we played on that holiday from my father and that’s the one I’m listening to).

I’ve driven along many of the roads we took on that and other holidays as an adult. In fact I’ve been all over Scotland hiking and inadvertently re-living such memories. It strikes me that we weren’t going so far after all. The world gets smaller as you get older and more travelled. But the thing about trips down memory lane is that it’s not the distance you travel that matters, it’s making the journey and remembering who you were when you made it the first time around.

There are many more songs that act as bookmarks in my life, and not always at good times. But I won’t get into them now, this article is too long already. If you’re listening to a song just now, do you think in 10 years time when you hear it again that it’ll trigger a good or a bad memory? I like to believe it’ll be the former.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

4 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Bandwagonesque is poor, Grand Prix is far superior – TFC’s one true decent album. Genesis are APPALLING pre or post Phil Collins. This is a FACT and not a matter of opinion. If you like TFC check out Teenage Symphonies to God by Velvet Crush. Some Big Star (‘September Gurls’ is great) and obviously Neil Young. Also Cosmic Rough Riders are the latest of this strange Scottish breed that pretends to be mid to late 1960’s Californian. Good tunes tho.


  2. Ironically I’ve got the two latest TFC albums and they sound almost exactly the same as Bandwagonesque. And I like them. Maybe my taste in music is just terrible… I like Deacon Blue too!


  3. On the subject of Phil Collins, I can just see you pacing the room describing in detail the rise and fall of Genesis… just like Patrick Bateman! 😉


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