Songs that saved your life

I’m not on a Smith’s retrospective, but the line did occur to me this afternoon after walking back from coffee with the biggest Smith’s fan I know. I was actually humming “Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps”, mainly because I’ve got “The Beatles” (or “The White Album” as it’s more commonly known) going round my head on permanent loop at the moment because it’s become the album I’ve associated with this moment.

Warning, this may not make sense.

I’m a visual person (hence my job), but I pretty much associate everything with a piece of music. Music is wonderful in that it doesn’t draw the eye away from what I’m concentrating on but allows me to function. I couldn’t do the number of miles I do without a constant supply of music in the car, nor would I have got through university without a raft of albums that still make me nostalgic to listen to them. More than anything I associate a piece of music or an album with a time. Often it ends up by design in that what I am doing will remind me of something I’ve heard and I’ll go and seek it out. Sometimes it’s just what I’d heard at the time and it becomes associated.

There are albums that I couldn’t listen to for years after the event that I associate, but have gradually come to appreciate again. I never fell out of love with them, but they meant something more that was just a tiny bit painful. “Seven” by James is the first that springs to mind, it’s still an awkward bugger for me to listen to because of what it means. One track in particular is one that I will either continually hit repeat on or skip depending on my mood. Similarly “Ok Computer” by Radiohead is so stuck in a period of my life that I rarely listen to it without remembering that period and everything that happened. I can still listen to it but it makes me very emotional.

Which makes the fact that I’m now stuck with the album that inspired Charles Manson even stranger (to me at least). I knew that it was bleak (Helter Skelter deserves to have inspired a mass murderer) but it’s timing feels particularly poor. Work is stressing me out more than ever and I don’t even want to begin discussing other aspects of my life yet, suffice to say I’m not particularly a happy bunny at the moment. It’s either an inspired piece of fate or poor timing on the part of my iPod, either way it’s an album that now has associations.

This isn’t to say that I associate all music with times of stress / problems / sadness. Which brings me on to the songs that saved your life. “Girls & Boys” still makes it feel like a Friday afternoon no matter when I hear it, in fact I still put it on for the drive home from anywhere if I need a pick-me up. “Something Changed” by Pulp is the same. The fact that both of these albums hark back to my first year at university is no coincidence, I was finally doing the thing that I’ve grown to love – no doubt a psychologist could have a field day pointing out the associations. There are even songs that I associate with events that haven’t occured yet, but they remain for the most part private.

To me this is the essence of good music, something that integrates its way into your life. I’m not complaining about it, but this time the choice of what it is just strikes me as odd. I don’t particularly believe in random chance – far too much of a control freak to let things get out of hand like that – but this feels as good an argument for it as anything I’ve heard.

And now I’ll stop, as I’m starting to ramble.

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