I LOVE music. It is a HUGE part of my life.
I don’t know about you, but often when I hear a song that I know, I immediately think of a particular place, experience or moment in time. Often a song will trigger a strong emotion as well as a memory. I don’t think I’m alone in this, because researchers have studied the relationship between music, emotion, and memory by studying something called “music-evoked autobiographical memories”. They found that music does have a powerful influence on our memory.
Here it is, in neuroscience speak (they are totally speaking my language): “The region in the front of the brain where we mapped musical activity is important for a number of functions, like assimilating information that is important to one’s self, or mediating interactions between emotional and non-emotional information. Our results provide a stronger foundation for explaining the link between music, emotion and the brain.”
I decided to go through a few random songs on my iPod, to see what memories would come to my mind for each one. This was a fun little exercise to do, so join in if you want to!
(click on the titles for You Tube video links to each song)
“Forget You” by Cee Lo Green
This song will always remind me of running. Obviously I had heard the song many times before I added it to my running playlist, but once I made it into the track which signified “start running NOW!” after my warm-up walk, it became firmly attached to the running memory. There are a lot of other songs that immediately remind me of running, simply because I used the same running playlists for a LONG time after I graduated from C25K. Songs like “Man in the Mirror” and “Moves Like Jagger”. But this one tops the list. It’s just so much fun to run to!
“Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor
Despite the presence of this song on several of my running playlists, it doesn’t immediately evoke memories of running. The first thing I think of when I hear this song is my friend Sandra’s 35th birthday party. She had Singstar set up in one of the rooms for all the kids, and they just played in there ALL night. I can’t even guess how many times they sang “Eye of the Tiger”, but it was a LOT. Everytime we walked past the room, or stopped to watch, somebody would be singing that song. It was actually really hilarious. That was 5 years ago, but even my boys still associate that song (or just the catchy intro riff) with playing Singstar that night. Even though we have that Singstar game here at home as well!
“Fireflies” by Owl City
A song that was played everywhere so often that most people were thoroughly sick of it after just a few weeks on the charts. But for me, I will always think of the Book Week parade at the boys’ primary school when Tyler was in Year 1. One of the classes used this song as the soundtrack to their item, and the noise of all 700+ students singing along was almost deafening! It made me smile at the time, and just thinking about it now brings another smile to my face.
“November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses
This song was released in 1992, when I was 14 years old and in Form 4 (Year 10). Huge memories associated with this song. Back in my day, we did not have iPods or cellphones at school, so we weren’t able to listen to music 24/7. Some lucky people had walkmans (for cassette tapes!) and some brave people risked bringing them to school (despite there being a rule prohibiting it). There were also some cool teachers who had stereos in their classroom and let us listen to the radio during class. This song will always remind me of high school, of parties in my friend’s basement, and of a particular boy.
“Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones
I’ve been to a Norah Jones concert, but listening to this song doesn’t remind of that. It will always remind me of those first few months after Ethan was born. I was on maternity leave, and when he napped I would always try to get lots of housework done. I used to have 3 CDs on repeat during naptime, and this was one of them. Ethan slept in a hammock in our living room during the day, so he was used to hearing regular household noise. I played music because it really did relax him and help him to settle (he had bad reflux so settling was often an issue).
“Yellow” by Coldplay
Again, this song will always remind me of Ethan as a baby. The “Parachutes” album was one of the 3 CDs that I used to play during his naptime, but I remember that even when he was awake, he would always be so calm when this song was playing. I never knew babies could have preferences for particular music from such a young age, but he proved me wrong. He really did LOVE this song, which made me love it even more.
“Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” by Blu Cantrell
I always think of Karaoke nights with my girls Leah, Heidi and Tara whenever I hear this song. It’s one song that Heidi often chooses to sing, and in my opinion, she does it better than Ms Cantrell herself! Listening to it always makes me giggle. A song encouraging women to steal all their man’s stuff because he was a cheater. How can you not giggle? All the more so when you’re listening to one of your best friends sing the sh!t out of the song in a Korean karaoke room on Queen St. Complete with cheesy tambourines and music videos of Asian tourists feeding the ducks on Auckland’s waterfront. LOVE IT.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by The Babysitters Circus
I always think of one moment in time when I hear this song: NZ winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Not surprising really, since it was the TV3 Rugby World Cup theme song, written by the Babysitters Circus specifically for the event. I thought the lyrics were clever, as when it was written they obviously didn’t know if the country would be celebrating a victory or mourning a loss: “So ya say everything’s gonna be alright now /But how do you really know /And I know everything’s gonna be alright now /Cause that’s the seed I sow.” Yep, it would have worked either way. But I love that the song evokes such a positive memory – we WON! The fact that they released it using a flash mob just makes it even better.
“Ribbon In The Sky” by Stevie Wonder
The first dance at our wedding reception. This song is very special. When Rob & I were dating, we used to listen to my Dad’s Stevie Wonder records. Musiquarium was one of them, and a couple of songs from that album became ‘our songs’. This one, and “Sunshine Of My Life” (which also featured at our wedding). Every time I hear this song I am reminded of how lucky I am to be married to the man of my dreams. When we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary earlier this month, we played this song and danced around the living room.
“Piano Man” by Billy Joel
Well, actually every song on his Greatest Hits album. It was the very first album I ever bought – on cassette tape! I was maybe 11 years old, and I remember being in D.E.K.A. with my Mum and seeing it in a big ‘bargain bin’ of cassette tapes. I begged her to buy it for me. She seemed a little surprised and confused, but eventually gave in. Turns out I thought it was a Billy IDOL album. I’d heard of him, and knew that the cool kids at school liked his music. I consider this little misunderstanding of mine to be one of the best mistakes I ever made in my life, because it introduced me to the most incredible music. Billy Joel quickly became one of my musical heroes. I loved every single song. Not only that, but he played the piano (I was having lessons at the time). I used to listen to that tape for hours in my bedroom, while practising elastics. One really funny thing that I remember about this song is that I always imagined “9 o’clock on a Saturday” to be in the morning. LOL! What a naive little girl I was. Nobody would ever be at a bar at 9PM, would they?!
“Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas
Rob Thomas wrote this song for his wife, who suffers from an autoimmune disease. I can relate to this song personally because I have experienced a couple of ‘silent illnesses’ in my life, the biggest one being postnatal depression (twice). I always think back to those dark days whenever I hear this song, but it doesn’t make me sad. I love how the song talks about the way he wants to help his wife, but doesn’t know how. His love for her is so evident in the lyrics. My husband was my rock when I was sick, and I know that he would have done anything to take my pain away. I now consider myself a survivor of mental illness, so this song reminds me that I can beat it again if I have to.
“To Be With You” by Mr Big
Was there any teenage girl in the 90′s who didn’t love this song? I mean, seriously. Being 14 years old when the song was released, I had obviously been through soooo many heartbreaks and could relate to the lyrics soooo well. Haha! Ridiculous, but I definitely thought I’d had my heart broken. And when the 15-year-old boy you have a huge crush on sings this song to you over the phone while playing it on his guitar … well, it becomes a pretty special song.
“Proud” by Heather Small
I have this song on my running playlist, but it always reminds me of two particular TV shows. The Biggest Loser (US version) and Miranda. Enough said!
“California Dreaming” by The Mamas & The Papas
My friends and I started up a vocal group in high school. There were 5 girls, and one token boy (a very pretty boy, with hair longer and shinier than all of ours). We loved singing harmonies together, and our music teacher encouraged us to form a group that was separate to the school choir, which we were also in. We performed several times at school assemblies and prizegivings, and even got to wear the fancy college blazers! “California Dreaming” was one of two songs that we loved singing (“Amazing Grace” was the other one). Those were some awesome memories. I loved that group so much!
“Island In The Sun” by Weezer
This song will always remind me of our first trip to Fiji, for our 10th wedding anniversary. Neither of us had ever been to a tropical ‘island in the sun’ and I made a special playlist on my iPod for the holiday. This song was on it, and now I can’t hear it without thinking of that vacation. I mean, how can you resist lyrics like, “It makes me feel so fine, I can’t control my brain … We’ll never feel bad anymore”. GOLD. Haha!
“Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton
I love love love Eric Clapton, I always have. From his old stuff (with Cream and the Yardbirds) to his solo stuff, I love it all. This particular song struck a chord with everybody, because of the tragic circumstances surrounding his 4-year-old son’s death (he fell from the window of an apartment building in NY). I don’t think anyone with a heart could have listened to this song without welling up. When I was in Form 6, one of my subjects was Performance Music. As part of the course, we had to give several concerts throughout the year. I sang this song with my then boyfriend, Ben, and my good friend Regan. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with emotion. At 16 years of age, I wasn’t used to those really strong feelings. Now that I’m a mother, I definitely can’t hear this song without shedding a few tears – and I don’t know if I could sing it.
“Feels Like” by Lydia Cole
Funnily enough, this song actually reminds me of the Brooke Fraser concert I went to with my sister. But that’s because Lydia Cole was the opening act, and that was the first time I ever heard this song. I had already fallen in love with her unique voice – she is one of the only NZ artists I know who actually sings with a Kiwi accent, and I LOVE that. The song “Feels Like” is beautiful, catchy and to this day remains one of my all-time favourites. If I could play more than 3 chords on the guitar, I would so want to learn this one.
So. That’s the end of my random list of songs. I had fun recording the memories that I associate with each one. I bet you all have different memories that go with these songs. Isn’t it amazing? In case you can’t tell, this subject really does fascinate me.