Monday, November 17, 2008

Subconscious Retro Sentimentality Disorder

So I'm driving a friend's car last week, and he has satellite radio. After getting my fill of Sinatra tunes on what must have been called Martini Radio, I switched over to the final preset, which must have been called "Marc Conklin's Formative Teenage Years Radio."

The song: "Shakin'" by Eddie Money. You know the tune...

Shakin' (Whoh-oh-oh-oh-on)
Snappin' her fingers (Whoh-oh-oh-oh-on)
She was movin' up and down
Round and round and round
That girl was shakin'
Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-she was shakin'


In an instant, I was transported back to 1982. South Bend, Indiana. 1235 Longfellow. Basement. Plaid couch. Off-brand Korean TV. Planter's Cheese Balls, bottle of Coke. Eyes full of MTV. Head full of LA Looks hair gel.

The odd thing was, this wasn't a song I particularly liked when I was 13. But now, 26 years later, as I headed toward the traffic light (and approached the halfway point), it struck me as not that bad, really. Quite good, in fact. God-awful lyrics, sure. But hey, Eddie had a fairly unique voice. The guitar riff was first rate. Good beat. Great hook. What's not to like?

So the question is, what has happened in my brain during those intervening years? The song is the same--it's the constant in this experiment. But I'm different. Is it a sudden change triggered by hearing the song again, or has my subconscious been slowly, meticulously making every song from my youth seem better over time?

Either way, the truth of the matter is this: More and more songs that I hated from this period now seem to range from "not that bad after all" to "downright good." Most embarrassingly, this phenomenon even applies to "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls and virtually anything by Duran Duran. Let me be clear: I DESPISED these bands at the time, choosing instead (in part because I was learning to play guitar) an allegiance with what is now called "classic rock," worshiping the virtuoso musicianship of Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, all of the Beatles and two out of three of Rush. Now, it's as if taste has flown out the window.

I've decided to call this disease SRSD, or Subconscious Retro Sentimentality Disorder. SRSD is a nervous condition that causes you to respond to songs not with your head (which still shuns them), but with your heart, which glorifies that fleeting time in life when hours could be devoted to nothing but the art of listening to music. When you could close the door to the room you shared with your brother, reach into the vinyl treasures in the Peach Tree Records crate, pull out The Cars' eponymous first album, slip on those soft, cavernous Pioneer headphones, lie back in the beanbag chair and just close your eyes.

I still love music, and I embrace the iPod age fully. I listen to Pandora on my iPhone at work all the time. I still play a little guitar, and I'm helping my son learn to play piano. Last weekend, I stood for three hours watching The Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers at First Avenue in Minneapolis. But at some point, music ceases to be the soundtrack of your life, and it takes on a smaller, sadder, more auxiliary role.

Eddie Money taught me that.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Great post.

I too have SRSD but have embraced my disability...hooray for all the bands I thought sucked in the 80's !

I am enjoying your blog immensely. Thanks.