Musical Erasure of Time

November 21, 2008

My forty-year high school reunion in September didn’t make me feel old. In fact, I felt young again surrounded by my long-lost friends.

It’s always that way when I’m with my two brothers. In a way, we never age no matter how many lies the mirror tells and how far our attitudes diverge. How could it be any other way? We landed in life so close together, a span of twenty-six months to the day, and rooted next to each other in the same ground.

The passage of forty years came to mind tonight when I read of another four-decade anniversary tomorrow: the release of the Beatles’ White Album. (Listen to a fascinating NPR retrospective here.) Countless times my brothers and I listened to every song, cranked up as loud as our parents would tolerate. Whenever I hear “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” I’m transported to David’s room. He had the killer sound system and the most eclectic musical tastes.

News of the anniversary also turned my thoughts to Rubber Soul, the only album that conjures up a more vivid image of our time under one roof. It turns forty-three on December 5. Our parents gave us the album for Christmas. During the next week, we spent hour upon hour sprawled on the floor in an alcove off the living room, playing board games and burning into our memories every lyric. And never fighting — an occurrence akin to jungle animals sharing food.

Thinking about the songs now, I feel the texture of the carpet, smell the old books lining the walls, see the way David and Billy stacked their Monopoly money so differently. We always chose the same game pieces: David the Scottish terrier, Billy the iron, me the race car. “Norwegian Wood” played then, plays now in memory.

Music, the time machine.

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