Random Access Memory

I have a song stuck in my head! And I can’t get it out! The song is “Roundabout” by the band Yes. I know, totally random, right? This is my own doing—there was a conversation, I went to the iTunes store, searched on “Yes,” clicked to hear a sample, and BLAM, it’s stuck. As if that weren’t enough, every time it plays back in my head, memories of middle school come whooshing back. That part I can block out reasonably well, but the music? Still there!

“Roundabout” is one of those songs from my past that I automatically know very well. I know most of the words, the entire melody, almost the complete deal, and there is absolutely no reason why this should be the case! Although I enjoyed the music well enough as a kid, I never owned a Yes album, went to a Yes concert, or actively sought out their music. The only thing I did at that age to cause this was listen to the radio, and as a result, I have an entire semi-subconscious playlist of rock and pop songs from the 80’s that entered my internal musical landscape through simple osmosis. Those songs we know, and we don’t know why we know them! And, as is the case with many things from the 80’s, some of the songs hiding in there are embarrassing.

But now I hear things in the music that I wouldn’t have noticed then, such as the insanely virtuosic bass line in “Roundabout.” This awareness can add a sense of newness and interest even to songs that I would rather no one know that I know!

It would be so lovely if I could remember other, more crucial things this easily! Rather than being able to pull up songs by Bryan Adams or REO Speedwagon, or the phone number of my best friend from third grade at the drop of a hat, it would be so much more useful to recall the address of next week’s meeting in Baltimore, the name of the wine from dinner last night, or that amazing chord progression that popped into my head while driving. It would have really helped out during the “drop the needle” tests in music history class, which were never quite that effortless. It is so interesting—and occasionally perplexing—what ends up sticking with us and making its way into the “stacks” of long-term memory.

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