Twice a week, Chris Hawkins’ early morning show on BBC Radio 6 features a “lost love,” a song that is remembered by a listener but which they have not heard in years. The song generally come from some point deep in the person’s youth and will bring forth memories from other listeners.
Songs that linger are songs that have a power of association; sometimes songs that seemed not so apparent at the time; sometimes songs that you may not have even particularly liked. Thinking about evocative numbers played by disc jockeys in times past, a string of records came to mind. Perhaps I could suggest some of them to Chris Hawkins, for it is years since I last heard most of them.
Of all The Beatles songs that could have stuck in the memory, most of which would have been more appealing to the ear of a child, it is Eleanor Rigby that remains, the sadness of Father McKenzie being poignantly narrated through the radiogram in the living room. The radiogram must have been advanced for its time for it had an FM waveband, not that there was much to listen to on FM apart from the radio conversations of the local police force.
Teenage years were filled with music, BBC Radio 1 was always on. The Radio 1 daytime playlist was hardly very adventurous, during the daytime it didn’t venture much beyond what was in the charts. In the course of a day, it would be possible to hear a song a half a dozen times, yet few of them retained a place in the consciousness. The songs that go with particular places seem odd in retrospect. Carly Simon’s You’re so vain was played at the village youth club. Sylvia’s Mother sung by Doctor Hook conjures pictures of the Devon seaside resort of Westward Ho! On the other side of the county, the town of Teignmouth is tied to Paul McCartney and Wings singing Listen to what the man says. Closer to home, Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing brings memories of Beckett’s pub in Glastonbury.
Student years should have been filled with topographically tied records, but the early 80s seemed filled with instantly forgettable material by bands more concerned with their appearance than their music.
It’s not that the remembered songs seemed particularly appealing at the time, just that they seemed to have become snagged on the briars of memory. In retrospect, perhaps the songs that remain the clearest were songs with a strong narrative element, perhaps it was the story that caught the imagination more than the music.
It’s definitely forty-five years since I last heard Listen to what the man says and fifty since I last heard Eleanor Rigby, perhaps they are times too remote for the “lost love” slot.