You can also view this here: http://web.archive.org/web/20070630032027/www.agouti.com/feature.aspx?id=78 and you used to be able to view it here: http://www.agouti.com/feature.aspx?id=78.
A recent deodorant commercial points out to us that the sense of smell is the sense most tied to memory. I certainly won’t dispute that. Deodorant commercials are quite informative, and why would one ever lie? As an aside, why do they never show people putting it on in the commercial? Do other people actually put deodorant on their forearms on a daily basis? Maybe that’s why no one will shake my hand.
So yes. Smell is important. The ads never say what is second-most important, and why should they? They’ve got the lead, baby. Microsoft doesn’t give a shit about Apple, and deodorant doesn’t care about No. 2 (well, maybe that No. 2…).
I’m here to save the day, and not in a crappy band way. The second-most-important sense tied to memory is hearing. There’s an easy way to point this out. If you hear certain songs for the first time in a long time, you’re bound to simultaneously dredge up some memory while you’re at it.
We don’t intentionally do it. Maybe we were a temp somewhere that played really bad rap music, so when that formerly famous song is used in a deodorant commercial (and we come full circle), the first thing you think of is some guy telling everyone the taco truck is here but don’t forget to punch out before you go out there because you aren’t getting paid for lunch.
It’s not always bad. The most obvious examples for me are Grab Bag and Tricia Concepcion. When I had a tape deck in my car, I would listen to Grab Bag’s demo every day when I drove home from work. It was a 10-minute demo, and it was a 10-minute drive. You can’t top that. I could use the tape to pace myself. Those fancy downhill skiing Olympians have the numbers at the bottom of the screen to let the viewer know how they’re doing so far. Well, I don’t have that. But I do know that when “I Want to Be Your Girlfriend” ends, I better be at least at Highway 50 and Pioneer Trail or I am not going to make it in time. The degree of difficulty was pretty high once you fell behind, too, because those damn lights were not very helpful. And despite the skiing comparison, all bets were off if the road had snow on it. I was just lucky to get home, then.
Then one day I upgraded to a CD player in my car, and that was right around the time when I got the then-new CD from Tricia Concepcion. This CD is still in my car today. And when I play it, I can close my eyes and picture myself driving to Reno or driving down Highway 50 in my big ol’ Saturn car. I try not to do this too often though, because it is hard to drive with my eyes closed.
Other ways to remember songs depend on other types of rote memory. When I was in high school, a friend of mine took R.E.M.’s “Belong” and spoke over it, telling a story about a time he went to a drug store. He needed to buy some chips because he was going to a party, and as he said, it’s not nice to go to a party and not bring anything. Incidentally, these words have stuck with me for 12 years, and I still hold them true to my heart. And when I go somewhere, I usually bring something.
He also bought a pack of condoms, and then he went to the party. I am sad to say that I don’t remember the whole story anymore. He has long since forgotten all of it, the joys of marijuana in action, but I used to be able to recite the entire thing, in step with the song. To this day, I can still hear the backing vocals of the track, and if I see the album Out of Time on a jukebox, this is one of the few songs I will pay to listen to.
I remember now jokes about how a lot of the diseases had initials for their names, but I can’t remember how it goes. Maybe I have to listen to the song again. “Let me tell you a story… about the time I went to the drugstore. Let me tell you, let me tell you, let me tell you….”