I have a longstanding theory that we all become fixated during our personal heydays. The evidence is usually in what music makes the biggest impression and sticks with us the longest. Even after years upon years, these songs, these images, these feelings and smells- they puncture our consciousness at with their every appearance.
The first record I ever purchased cost ninety-nine cents at Goodwill. It has no lyrics, and doesn’t even boast that lovely blue-note sound I’ve come to adore and linger in on long, lonely nights. No, it came at time for me where there was nowhere to go but up and no one to fuss over but myself.
I listened to it once and tucked it away deep in my collection. I can’t bear to part with it and I’ll defend it tooth and nail. I can vividly remember my joy, my feelings of accomplishment the day I bought that record player. Half off. Giant speakers in tow. No idea if it worked, not even a clue how to set it up or use it. Not a single record of my own.
I spent hours toiling away, finding the right set up, scouring the bins at goodwill for something worthy of a listen, and ultimately found myself soothed and relaxed, whiling away my evening discovering every intricate detail of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
For the first time in my life, those songs had meaning. They had an order. Each one belonged on either side A or side B, and they would forever be remembered as the first track of side A, the second scratchy almost unplayable track on side B that my Aunt used to play time and time again in my grandparents basement when I was young., and so on.
Playing records gave my music collection meaning. It gave me the chance to wander aimlessly through bins of well-worn jackets, loose LP’s, and musty books of a single composer’s entire catalogue. To judge an album by its cover and be delightfully surprised, or horribly disappointed (as the first case may be…) And ultimately, it gave me a profound love for an even wider range of artists and movements.
Above all else, it gave me a way to imagine my music. Each album now had a case, a look, a feel, a smell, a typeface, a specific incongruence between the cover and the contents, a poignant harmony between the insert and the storyteller recorded within. They had an order in an ever-expanding row on my floor.
I still remember the five CDs I carried in my first car and listened to incessantly. I still know every single exposure on the first roll of black and white film I ever shot. I can feel the heat from the early Spring day I walked home with the first bicycle I ever bought and fixed up on my own.
Life ebbs and flows. You have times where you feel so supremely connected to your dreams that you can’t imagine life any other way. And then, before you know it, that entire vision is lost, fogged over, distant, and so separate you might question whether you really experienced it. Maybe it was a movie you fell asleep to on a cold winter night in a ramshackle apartment, with a distant heart and a wall between you and the world.
For whatever reason, these influences remain the milestones that you can judge time and relate events to. Such is the power of heyday. That vigor and enthusiasm. You don’t know it’s upon you, until it’s passed.
Don’t mourn a heyday. There will be others. You won’t recognize them, because they don’t dress the part and they certainly don’t announce their presence. Just bask, and feel good when you feel good.