On a recent evening, exploring the history of rock with the help of YouTube, I came across a video of a favorite Rolling Stones song, “Beast of Burden.” It was a live version from the television show “Saturday Night Live.” A convergence of memories struck hard, because the first time I heard the song (or remembered hearing the song) was that show, 1978. I do not think I have watched the SNL in decades, but back in the day, high school it must have been, I watched it regularly. The convergence brought with it the very certain memory of where I was, who I was with, what we were doing (watching black and white TV in the basement), and, as if in a dream, the emotions, even zeitgeist, reigning then and there. I was living in rural Oregon, my Gothic wellspring of memories (wellspring of Gothic memories?), but visiting a friend, now deceased, who had moved so far away that we, with my brother, would meet sporadically at his father’s near the Portland zoo. I will save Greyhound bus rides to downtown Portland in the seventies for a later post. Of course, staying up late to watch TV after a long, heroic day of making mischief was typical. I never paid much attention to popular music (until encountering the late John Peel’s show on the BBC, see post “Corazón del Loco Jorge” 27 December 2013), possibly resulting from the AM radio overload on the bus ride to school (see post “Cryin’ but My Tears Are Far Away” 11 November 2014), but more probably resulting from other distractions too numerous to enumerate here. So, it seems hard to believe that I had not heard the song before, but perhaps the setting and the seeing displaced the earliers. It is also possible that rural Oregon AM was so saturated with Kansas, Queen, Aerosmith, Boston, Cream, and Kiss, that the Rolling Stones were never modulated with any amplitude. So now, hearing the song, I cannot separate the associations of the memories of that time from those that could have been elicited directly: they converge and convolute, and the result is some complex having shades of melancholy, nostalgia, bereavement, appreciation, wonder, and remoteness.
With apologies to Marcel Proust.