I have discovered the secret to time travel.
I was in a store the other day when the radio played Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations. I sang along reflexively. I wasn’t alone. I could hear a guy 2 aisles over, faintly but clearly, “da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, WAH do you…”
Build Me Up Buttercup is not an important song, musically. It’s actually pretty lame. Doesn’t matter. When I heard that song, I was 9 years old again. I was up in my bedroom, listening to the top-40 on my sister’s transistor, singing at the top of my lungs.
Music is a time machine.
Certain songs have the power to instantly transport us back to points in our own histories. It is immaterial whether the music is good or bad. What matters are the associations in our memories.
If I hear What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, I have to sing along. Passionately. My middle-aged, white, establishment self may be scrubbing pots at the kitchen sink, but in my heart I am 12, looking for something to protest. Right on, brother!
The most powerful songs are those we learn during puberty. Something about all the growth and hormonal upheaval going on allows the music to become hardwired into our DNA. It is a time for discovering your music, and it is magic.
When I am old and senile, drooling in my chair in the nursing home, unable to even remember my own name, I will still know all the words to Stairway to Heaven. When it plays, I will leave my body. It will be 7th grade again, and I will be playing spin the bottle in Keith O’Brien’s basement. My first kiss.
On my deathbed, moments away from meeting My Maker, if someone plays In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Iron Butterfly, my first album, thanks sis), I will get to my feet.
Then I will stand around, and shuffle awkwardly like we used to do at high school dances. Because you never could dance to that sort of music. And if a really long drum solo came on, like on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, you were stuck. Out on the dance floor without any dance music. After a while you’d give up and walk off the floor.
If the song is Roundabout by Yes, it would tear the veil of death. I do believe it would bring me back. Even after I have passed on, I will rise!
But that would be a limited time thing. Probably wouldn’t work after I’m embalmed. And it would only last for the duration of the song. Then it’s right back to dead.
What is your ticket to ride the time machine?