I went for a walk tonight around dusk and watched the sunset from Sugar House Park near our house. It was a pleasant night here in SLC, and I needed a little exercise today and didn't feel like running, so I walked over the the far southwest corner of the park to get a view of the setting sun as it dropped below the horizon.
I've written before on watching summer sunsets. Summer is my favorite time of year, and though I'm not going to pick a specific time of day I prefer every summer, dusk floods back the most memories. Actually, dusk floods back some early memories -- one specifically from 1975, when I was 4 1/2 years old.
On a particular summer night, with the sun setting and the air warm, we as a family went the drive-in to see "Escape From Witch Mountain." I think we might have driven down Milwaukee Avenue and stopped at Superdawg on the way (which makes me think we saw the movie at Pal-Waukee, which would have been a long drive down Milwaukee from the city; I do wonder if I'm confusing another drive-in night with this memory). I remember very little of the movie other than generally parking, the sky getting dark, and the screen lighting up.
What I remember most of that night was the dusk en route to the drive-in, and the songs playing on the radio. My parents must have been listening to WLS or WCFL -- both Top 40 AM stations -- and I'm not even sure what car we were traveling in that night (I think this was before our green Buick Century with the landau top). About six songs from that summer send me back to that night, what little of it I remember, almost every time I hear them. The songs are:
-- "Sister Golden Hair" by America (the opening guitar on this song simply sounds like a sunset, mostly because of connecting it to that night 35 years ago)
-- "Listen to What the Man Said" by Paul McCartney
-- "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc
-- "Only Yesterday" by the Carpenters
-- "One of These Nights" by the Eagles (the memory is so strong here, too, that I bought it for "Guitar Hero")
-- "Killer Queen" by Queen
-- "It's a Miracle" by Barry Manilow
The funny thing is, I didn't realize how powerful these songs sent me back until I was an adult. I had to rediscover them: "Sister Golden Hair" in college; "Listen to What the Man Said" after buying Paul McCartney's greatest hits on CD; "Only Yesterday" after hearing it on Saturday at the '70s on a Madison radio station. It's funny because I was flashing back to the early '80s ... in the mid '80s. The deeper memories, the ones from really younger, didn't start hurtling back until I was further removed from them.
What invariably sends me back, more than anything else, is the music of that time. I don't know if my sons will get to experience that from now until then. When my parents listened to the Top 40 stations, it was almost all they were getting on an AM radio. Today, with so much specialized radio, we're more likely to listen to an oldies station or a classic rock station or an alternative station. In 1975, my parents were still young -- that was their generation of music that continued from the '60s. With specialized radio stations, and with us no longer in my 20s, we don't have quite the patience for whatever is closest to a Top 40 station. And of course, there's always the iPod that we can listen to within the car, too.
Maybe songs will unearth memories from my sons' childhoods someday. Littlest loves music so much right now that I can't imagine he'll suddenly forget "Blitzkrieg Bop." But that won't be a song from 2010, the year he was a 4-year-old. There's nothing wrong with that, but looking back to that night that I amazingly can remember thanks to the pop music of that day, it's a little bittersweet.