A Young Family on a Rainy Day

(Before we begin: Because having one website and contributing to two others doesn’t give me quite enough screen time in an average day, I’m now on Facebook, too. So stop on over, become my friend, and spend a few minutes with what is quite likely the greatest time-waster in human history, albeit one that’s a hell of a lot of fun. In your friend request, please let me know you’re a blog reader, if you think I won’t recognize your name from either the comments or private e-mail. And now, on to today’s high-quality music and commentary feature.)

For the novelist Marcel Proust, all it took was a little cookie called a madeleine to unlock “the vast structure of recollection” that became his seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past. (Full disclosure: I tried reading Remembrance of Things Past when I was in high school, but I failed. Most of what I know about Proust actually comes from Monty Python.) For me, certain instrumentals from the 1960s take me back as far back in memory as I am capable of going.

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, too wet to play outside, so my brother and I have fetched some of our things out of the bedroom we share into what we know as the front room, maybe farm toys, a board game, Lincoln Logs, or some books. We pretend to be farmers or builders, or we play a game, and after a while we might retreat to separate corners to read. All the while, my mother is bustling around in the kitchen a few steps away. On this day, she’s doing laundry and baking, or tending to whatever she’s making for supper, and periodically stopping to referee squabbles between my brother and me. And while she’s doing all this, the radio is on. In years to come, it will be on a country station, but not yet. On this particular day, it’s probably tuned to our hometown station.

Over the course of that long afternoon, the radio plays several songs that, years from now, I will remember as the sound of being a very young child. There’s Arthur Lyman’s “Yellow Bird” and what sounds to me now like its companion piece, “Maria Elena” by Los Indios Tabarajas. There’s Walter Wanderley’s “Summer Samba” and “A Walk in the Black Forest” by Horst Jankowski—when I acquire my fondness for keyboard sounds later in life, it must be due in part to them. Somewhere back there is “Our Winter Love” by Bill Pursell, a song less familiar to me today than any of these others, but one that conjures up the same feelings, and “Tracy’s Theme” by Spencer Ross. I’d like to think that inspires not merely a memory, but my first memory.

My father has been in and out of the house all afternoon, working on the sort of tasks a farmer, or any young man with a young family, might save for a rainy day, so he’s a part of these memories too. The hours pass, the rain continues, the light fades. Perhaps the TV comes on at some point, but the radio stays on. In more ways than one, for longer than we can know.

Coming tomorrow: The people who performed these songs . . . who were they?

“Yellow Bird”/Arthur Lyman (buy it here)
“Summer Samba”/Walter Wanderley (buy it here)
“Tracy’s Theme”/Spencer Ross (out of print)

4 responses

  1. This is great. I look forward to the next installment.

    The earliest song I can clearly remember is “Silly Love Songs” coming out of the AM radio in my family’s big old Plymouth Satellite on long car trips.
    (Yes, I am some years younger than you.)
    Every time I hear it, I still kinda hear it in AM sound.

  2. ’60s instrumentals were a big part of my record collection. “A Swingin’ Safari,” “More,” The Egyptian Combo’s “Gale Winds,” and especially Kai Winding’s “More” were never idle for long.

    A fellow deejay at KOMA once hummed a tune for me that was the first song he’d remembered hearing in his family’s brand-new station wagon, hoping that I could identify it for him. It was “That Happy Feeling” by Bert Kaempfert. He was thrilled to hear it again for the first time in over twenty years.

    Trying to identify the unannounced instrumentals that the 1960s top-40 stations would use to backtime up to the news was always a challenge.

  3. Great memories. My very first 45 hangs in my office at the station… it’s, of all things, “Love is Blue” by Paul Mauriat, which I now play from CD every now and again.

  4. This site’s a real treasure trove, love it.

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