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Musical time machine

February 7, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
Memory is a fickle thing. The way each individual's brain recalls events, and which events stick with us, boggles me.

A scent, a photograph, a movie scene, a name — all can transport us instantly back in time.

My personal time machine seems fueled most efficiently by music.

When I started my car this morning, it took only two notes from the radio and I was back in seventh grade, listening to "If You Leave" by OMD at my best friend Annette's house, wishing we were as cool as Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink."

Ask me to name this week's top 10 singles and I'd be hard-pressed to give you one, but I'm a whiz at music trivia from the 1980s and early '90s.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Madonna's "Into the Groove." As soon as I heard it I predicted it would be a No. 1 hit, which it was for four weeks in 1985.

When I hear Michael Jackson's "Thriller," I am transported back to a childhood friend's basement rec room, where several of us acted out the songs from that album over and over as the .33 spun on the record player. The Grammy Awards commercial I saw last night reminded me that was 25 short years ago.

Other music memories have little to do with the release date and more to do with the circumstance. "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder was released in 1976 when I was 3. But in my memory it is attached to the birth of my daughter in 2006 because it is on a compilation CD of songs I burned to commemorate her birth.

My college soundtrack is all over the place. I attended 1991-95, but the songs I associate with those years are by Supertramp, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin (my freshman roommate was a fanatic), Indigo Girls, Simon & Garfunkel. ... Every Wednesday was '80s night at a local 18-and-up bar and we danced our booties off to "Tide Is High," "Personal Jesus" and "Footloose." As college co-eds, we didn't want to be "old" and we loved reveling in the songs of our youth.

I actually remember some songs from my toddlerhood and preschool years. I grew up with a brother nine years older than me, and a sister six years older, so the radio was always on. My earliest popular music memories are of songs like "That's the Way I Like It" by KC and the Sunshine Band (1975) and "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees (1977). I can hear my brother singing them in falsetto.

I wonder what songs will trigger Emma's memories? The closest things to popular music we listen to on a regular basis are CDs of artists like Mindy Smith, Sting and Colbie Caillat. Otherwise it's kid music and more kid music. Maybe she'll wax nostalgic over Barney's "I Love You, You Love Me" and "Elmo's World," or perhaps she'll remember the little ditties I have made up for her.

For all you 30-somethings, here's a 1980s music quiz. Let me know how you rate (and no Googling allowed!):

1. What year did Starship have a hit with "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us"?

2. What does OMD stand for?

3. What year did The Police release their final album, "Synchronicity"?

4. What was the name of Blondie's 1981 hit featuring a Martian that eats Cadillacs and Subarus?

5. What hair band sang "When the Children Cry"?

I'm out of time or I would make up some more. If you know of any great links to 80s music quizzes online, feel free to post them!

Answers: 1. 1987, 2. Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, 3. 1983, 4. Rapture, 5. White Lion

 
 

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