Sunday, August 17, 2008
I haven't read the literature but I'm generally aware that the relationship between the olfactory sense and memory/nostalgia has been established as a phenomenon though whether or not its neurological basis is known, I've no idea. It's uncanny enough how a whiff of something can instantly transport oneself back decades to a specific place and time. I'm wondering if the locales thus visited tend to cluster around one's adolescence; I'm guessing that's the case. With myself, aside from smelleportation, I also experience a somewhat more specific occurrence when listening to the pop or rock that transfixed me as an early teen.
A few years ago, I was up in Poughkeepsie and my Dad mentioned that, while cleaning in the basement, he'd found some old vinyl of mine. I was a little surprised as I thought it'd all been traded in but I guess my brother Glen took a bunch before they disappeared and saved them. There were only a handful, including my Doors collection, which I couldn't quite work up the interest to give a re-listen so declined to take them. But also on hand was Cream's 'Wheels of Fire'. "Hmmm", muses I, "Wonder how this would sound to me today?" I had a soft place for it in my heart as it was the first Double-LP I ever owned, plus I'd liked enough of Bruce's and Baker's subsequent work (hated most of Clapton's) to pique my curiosity.
On the strictly musical front, my relative likes had flip-flopped since first hearing this at about 14. Now, the long, bluesy things sounded half-decent (not compared to their sources, of course, but in and of themselves) whereas much of the shorter, song-oriented material struck me as dated; not all, but most. Overall, it's still rather fun to hear.
However, those shorter songs, "As You Said", "Deserted Cities of the Heart", "White Room", plunged me right back to 1968 to a specific scene: lying on my bed, listening to Cream while immersed in Marvel comics. This is a really common reaction I get with music from this period: Rock music and Marvel. I can't imagine the number of hours I spent in that situation, reading and listening. Not very different from what I do now, to be sure so I'm guessing it has something to do with acquiring certain kinds of knowledge at a certain point in one's development, things that will turn out to be crucial building blocks for future areas of fascination. Comics (we're talking the classic Marvels, Steranko's Nick Fury, Adams' X-Men, Buscema's Avengers and Inhumans, Kirby's Silver Surfer, Barry Smith's Conan, etc.) were my intro to visual art, for better or worse. Things like Cream led to Crimson, Beefheart and on out. My future aesthetic life was in kernel form right then and there, waiting for some heat to pop. Not too surprising that simply hearing some of the same music resonates so much though each time it happens, I get giddy.
PS. Just put on Curlew's 'Live in Berlin' and really can't tolerate it.