It’s 2001. I am nine years old and sitting in the car with my father. It’s summer, and we’re in the parking lot across from Congress Park. The windows are down and the interior of the car exhales a hot, stale breath. The radio is on.
A song starts playing that I’ve heard on the station before—I recognize the fuzzy guitar and the singer’s distinct voice. I like it, especially the rubbery, echo-y parts after the singer is done with each line. So I decide to ask a question.
“Dad, who sings this song?” I ask.
“That’s the Rolling Stones.”
For the first time, I try hard to remember the answer.
Five years later, I am standing in the middle school library in front of a quarter of the eighth grade. Beside me are four friends, equipped with guitar, drums, bass, and microphones. I am trying very, very hard to look cool. We have never ever played in front of people before. The drummer counts us in as we touch pick to string and hit that riff.
“Satisfaction” is no longer my favorite Rolling Stones song, but it is an aural Madeline, one of my first, and one of my most important. The song means something to me beyond the lyrics and beyond the riff—it’s a song of beginnings, of milestones, of childhood and middle school and my old guitar amp and the brown carpet in the library and my dad’s 1998 Volkswagen Jetta. It belongs to the Rolling Stones, and it belongs to the 1960s, but it also belongs to me. It is embedded in my very being.
So please, just listen to it. One time. For me.
A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Vintage Voltage.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**