Today I sat at work listening to a 90’s Pandora station when I heard the song Time Ago by Black Lab. There’s a chance you’ve never heard this song. When I saw the band name, however, I practically channeled Old Ben Kenobi as I thought, “Black Lab… now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time”.
People sometimes wonder why I love the 90’s so much. The answer is obviously nostalgia but it goes deeper than that. Nostalgia is definitely fun. It’s fun to reflect back on the past; but there’s a deeper level of nostalgia that I believe genuinely makes time travel possible… for just a millisecond.
Have you ever had that Time Travel moment? When you hear a song, smell a smell or have a thought and for a very brief second you are living in your memory. You can vividly see and feel it and just as quickly you’re back. Music always has the power for me.
As I sat at my desk with this obscure 90’s song playing through my headphones I was suddenly 12 in a bathing suit standing by my cousin’s pool ready to jump in. The song was playing on the stereo behind me and then as quickly as it happened I was back at my desk at work.
It’s what makes me love music so much. To paraphrase Empire Records, music is the glue to this world. Is there anything that holds a time-stamp in our minds better than a song at a crucial moment? Songs can be forever associated with a break-up, a death, a new relationship, a friendship or a road.
When I was in college I had a MP3 player that had very little space on it. I believe I could only fit an hour of music on it. I would listen to it driving to class and home. For whatever reason no matter what this song Les Wirth by the band TwoThirtyEight would come on just as I turned onto some back roads home. I’d go down a hill, over train tracks and then immediately needed to cut right for a sharp turn.
Almost a decade later, when I hear this song, I still can vividly remember that road, that hill, those train tracks and the sharp turn. That shouldn’t be too shocking though, I remember music queues in movies better than movie quotes sometimes.
I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. I had an even harder time maintaining long lasting relationships with the friends I did have back then. While some kids would hang out with friends after school, I’d be watching movies or listening to music in my basement.
There was a time when I would listen to the Wedding Singer every day. I love that soundtrack still to this day. I didn’t have any specific crush at the time, but ever the hopeless romantic I would listen to songs like Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (the Police), Love My Way (Psychedelic Furs) or Hold Me Now (Thompson Twins) and fantasize about feeling that way towards someone.
In college I was in love with my friend Stacie. It was my freshmen year and the summer prior I had seen Garden State and like most 18 years olds in 2004 it had changed my life. I excitedly pre-ordered the DVD at Suncoast which arrived the day before winter break.
I had plans to hang out with Stacie during that first winter break. I was going to finally tell her how I felt about her. That’s when I found out she had a new boyfriend. I was crushed. I put Garden State into the DVD player and for two weeks it never left the player. It would just loop over and over and over. When I hear those songs (specifically Colin Hay’s I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You) I think of her and that terrible winter.
It’s not all bad memories though. There is still one song that can transport me back to a beautiful and peaceful memory as a child. Like most of the songs I mention here, it’s a bit obscure.
In 1986 The Care Bears II: The Next Generation was released. When it first aired on TV my aunt taped it for me and over the years it was one of my favorite VHS tapes. I recall many sleepovers at my Grandmother’s house watching that and Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. There was a bunny rabbit sleeping bag that I would bury myself in on the couch and watch those tapes.
Care Bears II ends with a song called Forever Young which is probably cheesy by literally every standard, but the song still has an effect on me. I was flying home after an unsuccessful stint living in L.A. with my iPod on shuffle. I was trapped in Chicago at the time due to snow-storms delaying my flights and it was looking like there was a chance I would miss Christmas with my family.
I sat on the floor, completely alone and scared. Forever Young came on and I felt warm suddenly. I felt myself wrapped in that bunny rabbit sleeping bag. I felt like everything would be okay. I closed my eyes and felt that warmth take over my body. The song ended. I opened my eyes. They were letting us board the plane. Everything was going to be okay.
That’s the magic of music. Beyond being a time-stamp for period in your life, it has the power to make you feel comfort when you feel your most alone. You may not ever be able to relive moments, but musics ability to unlock those memories is pretty damn close.