In the last few weeks, I have been asked two questions that have stuck with me. Two seemingly easy to answer questions, but they are still churning in my mind even now. It’s the pressure, the digging deep for answers, the utter inability to make up my mind, that keeps me unable to come up with definitive answers.
Question 1: If you could go see any concert you wanted, artist living or dead, what would it be?
Question 2: What does music smell like to you?
Don’t laugh! These are excellent questions for a person like me. I am and always have been a lover of music. I will listen to almost anything from country to Bluegrass to Rachmaninoff. But no matter what else I listen to, I always, always go back to classic rock. It’s my all-time favorite for now and forever, amen. I say this as REO Speedwagon thumps through my kitchen radio speakers. What people call classic rock is my childhood, it’s my adolescence. It’s in almost every memory I have.
That’s what makes question 1 so hard. How could I ever pick just one? When my friend asked me the question, I immediately started stuttering and said something like this, “I…uh…I don’t know. Just one? It would have to be Journey, Loverboy and Pat Benatar. They just finished a tour together. No! Not them…living or dead? Then no, it would have to be Led Zeppelin. Yeah, Led Zeppelin!”
My friend began to laugh hysterically. In my face, mind you. I asked, “What? What is it?” She said, “That’s what I told the ladies in the (school) office…you’d want to see somebody like that, and they didn’t believe me. They thought you’d want to see George Strait or Kenny G.” As my mouth fell to the floor, she added, “I told them my friend was a rocker and they just wouldn’t believe me.”
Okay, I said I liked almost all kinds of music. Maybe not all kinds. I’m not a saxophone kind of girl.
Statements like that make you question yourself! They make you wonder, exactly, what kind of vibe you’re giving off to the world. Apparently, I’m giving off a Kenny G vibe. Hmm. I’ll admit that I’m usually ‘professional’ at work. No dirty jokes, no silliness, but Kenny G?
Anyway…by lunch that day, I had also added the Fleetwood Mac 1977 Rumours tour and Def Leopard to my dream concert list. There’s no way I could ever narrow it down to one.
This past weekend, I got to visit with another friend. This guy is so much like me that at times I wonder if we’re genetically linked somewhere. Our families came from the same small community so I guess it’s possible. My friend asked question number 2. What does music smell like to you?
We both love music. He probably loves it more than I do, but I’m a close second. And he’s a thinker like me. We watch people, we soak in surroundings. We very easily lose ourselves in songs and then link the song to a memory. It’s those memories that helped me answer his question.
At first, I couldn’t. I thought and thought and never could place a smell with music. And then it hit me…it’s not a sharp odor or a warm aroma. It’s a memory.
I have a very clear memory of Lynyrd Skynyrd playing at my grandfather’s house. My rebellious aunt played the album over and over. At the time, I hated it. I hated hearing her play it. I hated how angry grandpa seemed to be all the time. My mind recorded smells with ‘Free Bird’. There’s not a time I hear it that I don’t smell the stale cigarette smoke and lingering stench of alcohol that never left their little house.
I hear ‘Turn Me Loose’ by Loverboy and I’m instantly back in the gym of our local recreation center. I was 14 and at my first high school dance. The lights were low, the music was loud, and we danced as if we had no cares in the world. And there’s a smell. It’s moldy, a little sweaty. The faint odor of rubber soles and basketballs linger in the air. It all mixes together with an overly stressed air-conditioning system that blows out musty, cool air. All of it blends together to form a sweet memory in my mind.
Still, for me, there aren’t smells with every song. Only a few. Only the ones with poignant memories wrapped in them. What does music smell like to you? Have you ever thought of it before? And if you’re going to answer that question, then you also have to answer the first question. Churn back through your memories, think of your favorite songs, your favorite music. What do you smell, and if you could see anybody in concert , who would it be?