The Musical Time Machine

The power of music is incredible. One song can change a bad moment into a good one. One song can speak for a generation. And, for me at least, a song can be a time machine, bringing me back to a particular moment in the past.

Currently I’m listening to Tori Amos’ breakthrough album, Under the Pink. It’s filled with awesome songs, like “Cornflake Girl”, “God”, and “Pretty Good Year”.

When I hear it, I’m transported back to the mid 1990s, splitting wood in the basement of my first house.

My first wife and I purchased a 65-year old house in Kingsclear, New Brunswick in 1993. It was heated by a combination oil and wood furnace. We liked the feel of the wood heat so we would often use the wood furnace on the weekends. That meant that wood needed to be split to feed the fire.

Splitting wood is pretty mindless work. Position, swing, knock it over, curse, repeat until you actually split the piece. To occupy my mind, I would bring a portable tape player with me to fill the void, and Under the Pink was a favourite album to play while splitting wood.

There are many other songs that transport me back in time.

“Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg transports me to the parking lot at the No Frills grocery store near the Imperial Oil refinery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the early 1980s. I don’t know why, exactly. The song talks about an encounter between the singer and an old flame in a grocery store, and outside in the parking lot, and my mind connected the song with that place. I still get chills listening to that song.

Whenever I hear Trooper’s ”Here For a Good Time”, I’m back in the basement of our PMQ in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, singing this song with my best friend, another Steve. We hung out together for a year or two and he introduced me to some really good music. We’d go to his place and he’d put an album like Billy Joel’s Glass Houses on and we’d just hang out. Steve was indeed a very good friend of mine.

“Similar Features” by Melissa Etheridge takes me back to Saint John, New Brunswick, down at Market Square. 1989 or 1990. Sitting in the food court, listening to this album on my portable tape player. She was one of the first female solo singers I really got into. That first album of hers was so… raw. So much emotion.

Here’s to music, and the power it has over us.

The lead photo of the fish-themed “bandolin” was taken at the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, Belgium. The caption for this instrument was “Bandolin. Augusto M. da Costa, Madeire, Portugal, before 1898.” The MIM is well worth a visit.

1 thought on “The Musical Time Machine”

  1. Some songs are indeed influential in our life journeys. For me there’s a trio of songs that I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard them. In another case, one song proved how powerful a 1970’s Pioneer tape deck and Jensen Triaxial speakers were as it literally shook my head for me.

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