It’s commonly acknowledged that aromas are very powerfully linked to memory. Most of us would have memories that are linked to smells, especially those from our childhood and youth. For example, the smell of fennel is a distinct and vivid reminder of my youth in Adelaide where the plant grew wild in the edges of the creeks around where I lived. Long before multiculturalism had been invented, we practised it in Adelaide where the suburb in which I lived was strewn with market gardens mostly operated by migrants of Italian descent. I went to school with their children and was amazed that the weed that we called “Stinking Roger” was prized by the Italians as a valuable ingredient in their cooking. To this day, the smell of fennel takes me back to those halcyon days in Payneham, South Australia.
But it is probably not so well acknowledged the role that music plays in the scenario. This powerful link between music and memory was strongly brought back to me last Saturday when I travelled to Canberra to do some work on the bike. As I drove along, the Simon and Garfunkel album, “Sounds of Silence” cued up on the mp3 DVD that I play in the car on trips. Instantly I was transported back to another trip down the Hume that was accompanied by this very soundtrack.
It was the October long weekend, 1970. Our church youth group had organised a day trip to Canberra to do some sightseeing. I travelled down in my good mate, Les Randle’s BMW 1600 sedan like the one shown below. Les has since passed away but I don’t see a classic Bimmer without thinking of him.
Travelling with us and, on reflection, terrified a lot of the time, was my long-suffering girlfriend. We’d been going out since July and she hid her terror long enough to say “I do.” 3 years later and is still my wife some 38 years later. That’s her in the leading photo.
Les’s car was fitted with an 8 track stereo player, really high-tech in 1970. He had just three cartridges. A Janis Joplin one, a recording of the Broadway cast production of “Hair” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” Despite his best entreaties (and despite the fact that the screaming harradin had saved us all further vocal villainy by committing suicide that very weekend) I refused to let Les play the Janis Joplin at all so we made do with the other two.
And so it was that the classic S&G LP became the soundtrack of that memorable day. And, some 42 years later, it became the soundtrack again. I turned the volume up, sang along and relived that wonderful day when I was first introduced to this classic album.
Musical memories? They sure work for me.