When you’re a kid you fall in love with almost everything. The world is full of things you haven’t experienced, and with each new discovery you feel like you are the only person on Earth to truly appreciate its beauty and significance. Or so it was for me – time and time again. Be it The first time I read Zola, or discovered Brett Whiteley, or when I first heard Geoffrey Robertson speak of human rights – each time I felt a connect, as if they were imparting something directly to me that others couldn’t understand. This never happened more frequently for me as it did with music. Call it the arrogance of youth if you will, but I tend to think of it as a kind of romantic naiveté, and a rite of passage.
Of course as you get older, the amount of things you love diminishes as you become more discerning and cynical. Only those things that have left an indelible mark on your nature remain. Life is much more complicated, and of necessity one must be much more frugal with the resources of time and emotion. I’ve lived by the philosophy of falling in love at least once a day, but it gets harder and harder to do as time goes on. Until recently I’d regarded this as an unfortunate reality, and part of the process of learning to shoulder the responsibility that we all have to face. Sometimes, however, it’s the tendrils of our youthful folly that serve to extract us from the mire of adult complacency.
Out of sheer boredom, a couple of nights ago I went rummaging through my dusty CD collection for something to listen to while I went through the nightly routine of preparing for the day to come. I put on the Stones’ Exile on Main St more out of disinterest in the selection process than for any other reason. Within a handful of bars I found myself overwhelmed with memories. As a young and hungry guitarist I consumed the whole album with relish – learned every track on it, and played them all countless times with a wide variety of musicians over the years that followed. Every song had a story of my own attached to it, and as beautiful as each song is in its own right, it was the story – my story – that reanimated them. A conjuration not of times gone by, but of a life in progress enriched by so many gems of experience. Upon reacquainting myself with these songs, I now find they have a new and more immediate relevance. Like catching up with an old friend and discovering you have walked a similar path since you last met, my appreciation has been enhanced by the life I have lived. The songs have more meaning to me now than was possible when I was sixteen.
Far from every experience I associate with this album has been pleasant – some good friends are no longer among us, and some loves either withered on the vine or composted as a result of undue care. All have added colour however, and by allowing them to degenerate into sepia memories I feel I have stripped the vibrancy out of my present. Over the past few days I have been selecting old albums at random and reigniting many old memories, both good and bad. We’re not our past, but to attempt to disengage ourselves from it is to cut ourselves adrift from our nature – that kid who fell in love with everything and shaped who we are now.
I’ve dug out my headphones. My life has been missing a soundtrack for too long.