Memory through Music

22 Nov

I was inspired to write this post by Jules Jackson who wrote a brilliant post called The Soundtrack to Your Life, which I’d recommend that you read…

Despite a total lack of any musical talent (anyone who has heard me singing in the shower can attest to my total inability to carry any form of tune) music has always played a huge part in my life and I find it one of the greatest evocations of memory.

Here are ten memories and the associated soundtrack:

I’m 8 and we are going away to Cornwall in the caravan; it’s the first time I can remember my Dad treating us to his tastes in music. He sings along, capable of carrying a tune and sometimes Mum chips in too; she sings a line here, a chorus there. We listen to the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, Cat Stevens, The Carpenters…I remember Follow the Sun by The Beatles most of all: hopeful but sad and a taste like Werther’s Original.

I’m a little older, maybe 10; we’re going away in the caravan again and I’m allowed to sit in the front seat next to my Dad, who is driving. Mum and little brother, Rob, sit in the back. Roy Orbison is Mum’s choice, one of her favourites. There is the repeated refrain ‘Mercy’ at the end of verses and, each time, Mum tickles my ears, which makes me giggle…we all laugh.

It’s 1996 and I’m 14; this is my favourite track from the first music album that I ever buy, the debut, self-titled, album from Savage Garden. I listen to it constantly for months, it’s exciting and it’s mine. Years later I will still remember this feeling each time I buy a new album.

It is 1999 and I’m 17; I’m in the Gatecrasher Superclub in Sheffield. My hair is long, but gelled into hugely improbable spikes and I have swirling patterns made from dots of UV paint all over my face. People have travelled from all around the country (and some much further) to be here on a Saturday night. It feels like being a part of something amazing, a huge mass of people intent on nothing more than dancing and having a good time. This track is playing and a man I’ve never met before tells me he loves my hair, we exchange a sweaty hug and he dances off into the near-dark, grinning broadly. I grin too.

It’s 2001 and I’m 19; I’m at the University of Warwick studying for my degree, the serendipity of chance leads me to meet a fellow student who plays me this track, I’m enthralled, want to hear more and so begins a love of Trip-hop and especially Tricky. The student’s name is William Snow, we spend hours-on-end chatting and laughing together. Neither of us know it, but the future will see us become the dearest of friends; he is Best Man at my wedding, my thousandth man, as Solomon says.

It’s 2002, I’m 20 and the time is 5am; Will and I are walking back to our summer home, across the exposed Gannel Estuary after a night in Newquay’s clubs and beach parties. We are both intoxicated, giggling, silly as we stumble across stones and wet sand sharing stories and secrets like gold and jewels. We start singing this track by Roots Manuva, alternating a line each, until we have finished when we begin again. Before turning in we agree it’s some of our best work, we laugh; we both have work in 3 hours, but it does not matter.

It’s 2004 and I am 23; I’m at a bar with friends when I first see her. It is like I have never seen another human before, I stare, I can’t look away. My friends are talking to me, but I don’t hear, they have faded away and it is just me and her. She comes over to speak to me and it’s exciting but familiar. One day this vision of beauty, spotted in a bar, will be my wife. From the beginning she is the reason I wake up happy, she is my friend and companion, lover and confidant, she is the radiant light melting the frosty dawn and I love her eternally.

It’s 2005 and I’m 24; we are in the church in the village of Wales where I grew up and we are surrounded by all our friends and family. Everyone is sorry, everyone is tearful, we are all gathered there to say goodbye to my Mum, Jaki, who has lost her short battle with Pancreatic cancer. I am touched by the sea of faces that occupy every single pew, that lined the side of the church when the seats ran out. Eva Cassidy sings Fields of Gold and I finally crumple, cry against my family. I am afraid that the tears won’t stop, I come to learn that they don’t, they only slow as the happy memories return. I miss my Mum.

It’s 2006 and I’m 25; we are surrounded by our friends and family again, this time the circumstances are much happier. It is our wedding day, it is the happiest day of my life so far, we are dancing our first dance to James Blunt’s Your Beautiful and I am carefully avoiding treading on Lara’s feet. At the end of the dance, she smiles at me and it’s amazing; I know I will carry that smile down the ages, that it will light my darknesses and warm my nights. I am content.

It’s 2011 and I’m 3 days away from my 30th Birthday; Mos Def’s Umi Says is playing on my laptop as I write this blog. I have never grown tired of this song since it was first played to me and it never ceases to make me smile. I’m smiling now, remembering and smiling.

So, now to finish, just like Jules:

So what I would like to know is:  What is the soundtrack to your life or your life?

We all have them so share…


One Response to “Memory through Music”


  1. Music to F**k to (Or Paul’s Rough Guide to Tricky) « Paul Coxon's moments - July 26, 2012

    […] Listen to some more of my thoughts on music and the evocation of memory. […]


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