Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Music Muscle Memory

While randomly tooling through the TV channels while waiting for water to boil, I paused on VH1 Classics, on a show called Classic Albums.  They were talking about Queen.

I went back in time.

It would have been 1977 or possibly 1978.  My mom, stepdad and I had just moved to a newly built house in the wilds of Ocoee, Florida.  I am reasonably sure it was 1977 because I don't think I'd started junior high yet.  I sat on the floor of my new bedroom in front of my Micky Mouse record Player that looked exactly like this one, with my small, precious collection of "non-kid" albums -- ones I'd been carefully building up when I was spending weekends with my dad, who would buy me pretty much anything.

And on that record player, with its nubbly white plastic cover and the big white hand over the stylus, I would play Queen's A Night at the Opera.  I still have the LP, sitting in storage in a crate.  Inside, over the pictures of the band members, I recall I'd made little notes about which one I liked best -- at 12, I was quite fond of Roger Taylor, with John Deacon a close second, although now I rather admire Brian May.  I remember it being summer.  I remember the harvest gold carpet, the hum of my new ceiling fan just installed, my adamant refusal to get an actual stereo (which showed up for Christmas in a year or so and sounded much better), and listening to one particular song over and over again.

When Brian May started talking about the song on the VH1 show, and then played it, I found that I still remembered the words. I stood in my living room and sang along, recalling the harmonies I'd made up so many years ago.  I was just discovering science fiction about then, and the song appealed to me for that as well as the folk music influence, the harmonies, and just the sound itself, although I did not fully understand the lyrics until, really, today when May discussed them.  I could feel the sun through my west facing window, smell the newness of the house, feel the sharp corner of my wooden bedpost in my back where I would lean while listening. 

The show cut to a commercial in the middle of the song and I had to change the channel to stop the flood in my head -- the particular pains and pleasures of that summer, the sheer weight of years between that time and this, were just too much for me.  I rallied eventually, hunted up the song on YouTube -- the concert version was different enough not to hit as hard, and oh my but I love a 12-string. 

Brian May talked about his regrets that the song was never released as a single, because singles had more of a chance to affect someone's life.  No worries, sir.  It did.


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