Saturday, September 6, 2014

6 September 2014 Try to remember

Or try not to remember

          The formative years of my youth included quite a lot of music.  I listened to the jazz musicians – big bands, small groups, and the random soloist.  The musical theater spun its own list of songs that received popular radio play time and were often covered by various vocalists.  These were often saccharine in nature, mawkish beyond repair.  “Try To Remember” fits that category all too well.  Unfortunately, it is also one of those songs that sticks to your brain like napalm.  Long after it has been heard, the echoes keep rolling around inside your brain like the smell of hellfire on tree lines. 
          That’s sort of a capsule encompassing the music and culture of my younger years.  The later years of the folk revival generated many “folk” groups putting a smooth outer surface on older songs, linking in some nostalgia, and touring from college to university to small club venues, carrying their polished, largely apolitical harmonious offerings to people who still preferred acoustic music powering songs that could be shared among party attendees putting away one last scotch and soda before traveling homeward. 
          The bland nature of those songs was in direct conflict with the political and cultural events of the period.  The folk music stuck around until Dylan introduced his electrified material, The Beatles cut Sergeant Pepper, and the generational demand to be heard shared airtime with the spread of FM stations in the bigger markets. 
          Think of 1965-66, there’s still a lot of folk influence to hear in the antiwar lyrics of the day.  But the touring groups still have their niche available.  By the end of 1976, there’s no folk music to hear beyond the late night public radio shows that are becoming something of “old soldiers’ homes” for a generation’s folk musicians.
          The culture has changed markedly as has the music.  “Sympathy for the Devil?”  Nothing better describes the nature of the VietNam War.  Add in “Fortunate Son” and “Morning Dew,” and the history is easily recounted. 
          But despite the change in my listening habits and the absence of the bland and mawkish from the radio and the streamed networks, every time September rolls around, the smell of distant napalm and the barely audible sound of “Try to remember” crawls into my consciousness.  I can’t predict how long it will stay, repeating, looping, demonstrating the longevity of mediocre music and the pervasiveness of random memories.  I’ll try to suppress the song.  But that’s much more easily said than accomplished. 
          So, it’s early September, the leaves are already beginning to change and to fall.  The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and behind “Try to Remember,” I can already hear some syrupy voice ushering in the next season with “Oh it’s a long long time.” 
          Enjoy it or not, these earworms keep gnawing their way into memory.  What surfaces in your mind that you can’t eject or erase?

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