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To the Music That Brings Back Memories

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Every now and then, a song will come on the radio that just kind of stirs my soul. That’s happened to you, right? It reminds of the Dierks Bentley song “Every Mile a Memory” — Oh, every mile, a memory; every song another scene/From some old movie going back in time, you and me. Some songs simply trigger nostalgia in a way that feels tangible.

Some of these musical triggers I am very aware of. Every time I hear, “Fade In You” by Mazzy Star, I remember making out with my then-boyfriend-now-husband in the front seat of my bright purple Ford Aspire back in high school (sorry, not sorry). Every time I hear “Three Little Birds,” I think of my daughter — I was listening to it in the delivery room when I gave birth to her. And every year when the holidays roll around, I know I’ll get a pang in my heart and a lump in my throat every time I hear the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra, because it reminds me of my Granddaddy Bob and holidays spent around the dinner table at he and my grandmother’s mountain house.

But today, the song that got me was unexpected. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard the song in years. It was “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins. This song, y’all.

I used to listen to it on repeat in the dark blue bedroom of my childhood home. I lived in a city by the lake, and I always had a tugging in my heart telling me there might be something more… something different… out there that would pull me away from that sleepy little place I loved.

I heard this song today as I was sitting in the car rider line at my daughter’s school, and I had such a strong reaction to it. It was visceral, really. Is there something buried in those lyrics that I need to hear?

Whatever the reason, it made me appreciate music’s ability to affect you. If I’m really being honest, when I look back on that period of time in my life (the early ’90s), I feel as though that Smashing Pumpkins album — Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness — and the Counting Crows album August and Everything After were very formative for me.

It’s interesting as we grow older how something that meant so much to us shifts. It may still mean as much, but the meaning unfolds in an entirely new way with the passage of time. This is one of those songs for me.

Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel
Believe, believe in me, believe
That life can change, that you’re not stuck in vain
We’re not the same, we’re different tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
And you know you’re never sure
But you’re sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born
Believe, believe in me, believe
In the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there’s not a chance tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
We’ll crucify the insincere tonight
We’ll make things right, we’ll feel it all tonight
We’ll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life tonight
The impossible is possible tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight

Tonight, tonight. There’s a lot packed into those two little words.

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