(I decided it was time for a new look around here. Your comments are welcome, because I’m never convinced a new look is the right one.)
There are memories we recall in vivid detail—where they happened, who was there, exactly what went down, the time of day, everything. Other memories are hazier—a look or a sentence or a touch, still vivid in that moment, but without the context. And some memories are just bits of time we chase without catching—an angle of the light or a flash of emotion, just out of reach, out of the corner of the mind’s eye, or somewhere we can’t hold them long enough to see them clearly or decide what they mean.
I was doing some research the other day with the Billboard chart from this week in 1973—the week I turned 13. I found myself besieged by little fragments of memory, buzzing around my head like a cloud of gnats on a summer night: a light here, a room there, a face here, a sound there. Days later, they’re still buzzing, but they don’t add up to anything but a fog that obscures what I really want to see in that week.
Now maybe that’s what it’s like to be 13, as you feel your way into adolescence, besieged by new experiences—new school, new teachers, new friends, new physical and emotional stirrings inside of you—perhaps it has you groping through a fog that obscures what you really want to see: the truth of your life and the way to get through it every day.
I am so goddamn old I can’t remember anymore.
It hasn’t been long since I wrote about the winter of 1973, so I’ll keep it brief this time. Here are five songs on the radio 39 years ago this week that are rich with angles and flashes and fog, with what I may have been thinking in those moments, hearing those songs.
“Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend”/Lobo. I feel sorry for the singer of this song: “I love you too much to ever start liking you.” I already know how it feels to think it.
“Love Train”/O’Jays. This is something. This I need to hear more of.
“Oh Babe What Would You Say”/Hurricane Smith. “Have I a hope or half a chance to even ask if I could dance with you.” No, I do not.
“Dancing in the Moonlight”/King Harvest. The radio makes this sound incredibly cool. How do they do that? I think it’s something I could do.
“Why Can’t We Live Together”/Timmy Thomas. Here in 2012, this is what I mean about fragments of memory we chase without catching: “Why Can’t We Live Together” is the sound of looking out a frosty window. I feel the edge of the cold—perhaps the draft from the frosty window—and I feel the light outside more than I can see it. Precisely where I am, and what’s outside, is lost.
Here in 2012, I adore this video for “Love Train,” shot at a moment when a lot of people honestly believed if we could get children to play nice with one another, it would lead to peace in the world for all time. Thirty-nine years later, we know they were wrong, which makes this both hard to watch, and hard to stop watching.