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Darren Parry | The Music That We Love During That Decade Seems To Get Wired Into Our Lobes For Good

Darren Parry

Music Memories - The Soundtrack To My Life (by Darren Parry)

I'm standing at a bus stop with my mother. It's a warm summers evening and it's becoming quite dark as we bask in the glow of the orange street light. It's 1985 and I'm 10 yrs old. We've been to visit my grandmother and we're waiting for the bus to town to go home. Music is playing in my headphones from my little Hitachi Walkman, I'm playing a mixtape on cassette that me and my friend Lee have made!

A bus arrives on the opposite side of the road, going the other way, it stops momentarily for someone to get off. On the back of the bus is Lisa! I've had a huge crush on Lisa for months now! At the very moment the bus with Lisa on stops... "Crazy For You" by Madonna comes crashing through my headphones, like a soundtrack to a love scene in a film. I can feel my naive, romanticised emotions for Lisa welling up inside me, as if I've just taken some kind of drug... the love drug! I'm hooked! Lisa was slightly older than me with long blonde hair and tanned skin. She was tall for her age with a slight bohemian air about her, that I really liked. I was in love, big time, for probably the first time, thanks to Madonna, that song and the bus! I'm infatuated with Lisa for at least another few weeks!

This was one of my earliest memories, certainly the most powerful yet where it seemed I'd linked music and a situation. These days I can't listen to "Crazy For You" without being transported back to '85 and immediately feeling the feelings, seeing the sights and smelling the smells of that fateful evening and thinking of Lisa! Nothing ever became of me and Lisa, apart from me embarrassing myself a few times by being goofy and silly around her; wearing werewolf masks to try and frighten her or playing Madonna songs near her house on a Ghetto Blaster (how 80's), to get her attention!

It's now '86, a year or so later and I'm at my school youth club where a few of us friends would go to play table tennis, play on the space invaders and eat 'pop n crisps', and for me... generally flirt with the girls! I'm sitting there drinking my lemonade and stuffing myself with crisps when on the big projector screen above me I see a man in Spandex and long, big hair swinging across the stage with a mic stand in hand. For a young boy in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, this is mesmerising (it was the time when it was becoming cool to play music videos from MTV etc. on a big screen for people to dance/sing to)! The rock stars band are playing in the background and I'm hooked. I think to myself "what is this song"? and "who is this guy"? It of course was Jon Bon Jovi with "Livin' On A Prayer". The song punched me right between the eyes...I had to find out more about this song!

That weekend I went to Woolworths and bought the 7 inch vinyl single of "Livin' On A Prayer". I would read every single credit on that single (as you could then with a physical product in your hand). I saw the names, Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. I had, by this time become a little more familiar with the Bon Jovi band members (from music mags) but had not heard much about Desmond Child. Even at this age of 11, I was very interested in who made and wrote the songs, as well as who performed them. I became a big fan of Desmond Child that moment.

Desmond, I realised, had been and would be responsible for hits like "How Can We Be Lovers" (Michael Bolton), "Poison" (Alice Cooper) and "Livin' La Vida Loca" (Ricky Martin) to name but a few! These days, being a songwriter myself I do have the odd Tweet and Instagram message with Desmond, he's a cool dude! Again, I can't hear "Livin' On A Prayer" without being transported, Doctor Who style back to that youth club in '86. I never, ever tire of hearing that song. One of the clasic rock hits ...EVER! Thank you Desmond and co. for helping make a memory for me!

Quantum leap in time to circa 2008. My ex girlfriend and I have not seen each other for 5 years! I was devastated it ended (mostly my fault), all sudden and abruptly with no real conversation about why; it was almost like coping with a death, but even worse in a way, as I knew she was still out there... living her life. A chance meeting in the city however in 2008 got us back in communication after a 5 year hiatus. I was of course, still in love with her, so started asking her out! She would usually say no or make a polite excuse, but after this one day, she text me back and said she would come to a concert with me. I remember stopping my car to read the text and at that very moment "Waiting For A Star To Fall" by Boy Meets Girl came on the radio. I realised I had been waiting for a star to fall, waiting for a minor miracle. I remember the feeling of elation listening to the song, I thought that this must be a sign from 'up high', my chance to make a second attempt at love. Sadly... our relationship never materialised but now I can't hear that song without feeling positive and uplifted. That song has emotionally embeded itself into my memory and is now inextricably linked to that situation that day, 10 years ago.

Today, I'm a musician myself who writes his own songs but I also have a BSc and Post Grad in Biology/Science. I know a little bit about the brain! I've looked into the connection between music and our memory. Research suggests that between the ages of 12 and 22 (I obviously was an early bloomer) our brains undergo fast neurological development. Mark Joseph Stern ("Neural Nostalgia", states, "the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good". I suppose during those times our hormones are raging and we are becoming ourselves, becoming us. Mark also states... "when we make neural connections to a song, we also create a strong memory trace that becomes laden with heightened emotion".

Research also suggests that when our favourite song is played it stimulates the release of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other chemicals. For me however, even having a big interest in Science... knowing about the chemistry of it somehow takes away the magic of it all. I don't really want to understand it! Just like I don't really want to understand how I write songs. The more I try and analyse how I write songs, the more I can't do it. I just need to let it happen and not question it. The same goes for 'neural nostalgia'... knowing about how the prefrontal cortex of the brain works doesn't add one bit to the romance or mystery of it all. I don't really want to know how it works, I just want to feel the feelings and enjoy the memories.

Of course there are many more examples I could give you of songs that take me back to a particular situation, like "My Way" by Frank Sinantra playing at my Grandfathers funeral, "The Long Goodbye" by Paul Brady playing on the radio while just having split up with yet another lady in my life! The three short stories above are just examples of songs that mean something to me. I'm sure you have your own too!

As someone once said..."music is what feelings sound like". Let's raise a glass to music making more memories for us all!

About Darren: Darren is a multi-award winning singer/songwriter from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, UK. Darren was the 2004 UK Songwriting Champion, 2014/2016 USA Song Of The Year contest runner up and has awards from Billboard and Unisong, to name but a few. He's performed with household names, toured the world singing and his songs have appeared on BBC Radio, The Fox Network, Nation Radio and on hundreds of Rock, Pop, Country, Soul and R&B stations around the world.


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