Memory and the Screaming Trees.
January 26, 2015 § 4 Comments
Memory works in odd ways. So this course on space, place, landscape & memory. Last Thursday, in addition to that article on Western Mass, we read Doreen Massey’s article “Places and Their Pasts,” from way ‘back in 1995. And, this got me thinking. About music. I’m currently in a hard rock phase, where everything I’m listening to has loud, very loud guitars. And inevitably, when I am in one of these phases, I come back to the Screaming Trees’ 1992 album, “Sweet Oblivion.” My favourite Trees’ song, “Nearly Lost You” is on this album. But, the album as a whole is one of my favourites of all-time. I first bought it on cassette tape, back when it came out in the fall of 1992. I bought it at the Record Runner, a legendary record store on Rideau Street in Ottawa, that closed in January 2006, after 31 years in business due to gentrification and condofication. When I moved back to Vancouver the following spring, 1993, my best friend, Mike, had the album on CD.
We spent a lot of time driving around the Vancouver region that summer and fall, in his 1982 Mercury Lynx, which I had dubbed the Mikemobile. Mike had a Sony Discman, which he plugged into the cassette player of his car to listen to CDs. It was incredibly moody and jumped when the car hit bumps. Nonetheless, “Sweet Oblivion” was in constant rotation that year. There is, however, a difference between the cassette and CD (and now, digital) versions of the album, however. Track 6, “For Celebrations Past” was not on the cassette version. I listened to the cassette version of the album a lot, but I’ve listened to the CD and digital versions of the album even more. I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times, and I’d estimate at least 80% of those plays are either the CD or digital version. And yet, every time I hear “For Celebrations Past,” it feels like a rude interlude into a classic album of my youth, even though I like this song, too.
I find it interesting that my initial memories of this album trump the memories of the version of the album I’ve heard many more times over the years. I’m not sure what to make of this, really. My memories of Ottawa in 1992-3 are not all that happy, though there was the diversion of Montreal and the Habs’ last Stanley Cup victory, but by the time Guy Carbonneau lifted Lord Stanley’s mug that spring, I was back in Vancouver. So it is bizarre, I think that, my initial memories of the album trump the happier ones, back in Vancouver. And yet, listening to the album, as I did last night, doesn’t transport me back the sub-Arctic cold of Ottawa anymore than it puts me back in the passenger seat of the Mikemobile. Unlike a lot of the music of the early 90s, it’s not evocative of that time and place. Maybe because I’ve continued to listen to the album in the years since. Yet, for me, the proper version of the album lacks “For Celebrations Past” and goes straight from the organs and guitars of “Butterfly” into the vicious punk-inflected “The Secret Kind.”