More than a feeling: How certain music can instantly transport us to a time and place.
October 1, 2010
Once again, this morning I had the privilege of riding my bike to work along Chicago’s glorious lakefront. Temperature in the high 60’s, not a cloud in the sky, and the wind at my back, I could not have asked for a better day -not just to ride in but to be alive. The moment was especially poignant given how few such days likely remain for us in the Windy City. Winter looms with its sub-zero temps and interminable gray skies.
But not today! This morning rocked.
Speaking of rock, I want to write about another key ingredient embellishing my morning commute: music. This morning a pod of classic Yes songs enhanced my ride on the sparkling lakefront. For those unawares, Yes was (and still kind of is) a signature prog-rock band from the 70’s. You would know them from their signature hits, “I’ve seen all Good People” and “Roundabout.” But if you were a pot smoking, nerdy white kid you knew their catalogue far more intimately.
While listening to Yes’s \"Siberian Khatru\" I had a vivid recollection of a moment in time: a Saturday morning at my best friend’s college apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. I see the sun streaming in through dusty windows. I feel the scintillating buzz from Cooper’s ubiquitous stash of Hawaiian Sinsemilla. I hear the crackling pops of a diamond needle on vinyl registering over Coop’s exquisite Pioneer stereo…The memory in indelible; I have it every time I listen to Yes.
That got me thinking about other such music-induced memories and how vivid they can be. For instance, I cannot listen to U2’s popular 2004 release, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” without thinking of the week I spent in Helsinki pitching the Nokia business. We were staying at a small hotel and, as I am a runner, the concierge directed me to a public gymnasium nearby. (That far north the nights lasted forever and so it was too dark to run outside.) Thus I remember jogging on a treadmill in an empty and darkened gym in Helsinki and listening to U2’s new album. I do not fully understand the correlation between that record and that location but I do know I cannot separate the two.
Likewise, whenever I hear Boston’s symphonic “More than a Feeling” I am immediately transported back in time to the now-defunct Rainbo ice-skating arena in Chicago. It was there I kissed my first girl, a curly-haired blond named Kathy. Saturday night comprised skating around in circles, more or less to the din of top 40 over the arena’s faulty sound system. Occasionally, they’d dim the lights for a ‘couples skate’…I close my eyes and I slipped away… Can’t you hear it? I can.
Author’s note: “Crazy on You” by Heart also takes me here…and to second base!
Advertisers have long known music’s magical power, which is why music is such a critical part of so many campaigns. For better or worse, if a tune transports someone to a brand and makes an indelible connection that’s kismet: whenever we hear the music we feel the brand. I’ve written about music and marketing before, in particular the love/hate relationship we have with jingles..
Let’s have some fun. Is there a piece of music that takes you to a specific time and place? I told you three of mine. Can you share some of yours?