Friday, March 28, 2008

Nostalgia for Beginners: Raintown

There is no one more switched on to music than my friend Rich Robinson. Rich is the Senior Manager for Music and Brands at EMI, and I have asked him to be a regular contributor to KR Connect. Here is the first of his posts in the series Nostalgia for Beginners, a perfect mix of emotional response and great insights. KR

Today I heard Raintown by Deacon Blue for the first time in about 20 years. It’s by no means the most fashionable record from that era, to say the least. It’s no Queen Is Dead and it’s not going to appear on any of my ‘Best Of’ lists. I don’t even remember getting particularly excited about it with my friends at the time I first heard it. You’ll certainly never see it on any of those Top 100 lists that magazines roll out every couple of months. Yet, somehow, it managed to do something that practically nothing else in the world ever could. It transported me back to a specific moment in time. Suddenly, I was 12 years old. I was in the bath, after being dropped off at home from football by my brother, listening to it on a tape recorder with the cable stretched out from my bedroom. He’d gone to the pub with his mates, and being 7 years younger, I was left home alone, wishing I were grown up. There I was, feeling the frustration and hopelessness of youthful entrapment, contemplating my own mortality and the world around me.

It’s not a particularly significant moment in my life. Far from it. I would have never normally recalled it at all. Why would you? But for the 45mins of that record, I could feel the same exact feelings as I felt that day in 1987. Every track reminded me of my life at that point in time. I could feel it in the nerve endings of my skin. I suddenly remembered friends I’d forgotten all about, girls I had crushes on, hopes and dreams of my younger self, and all things that had been locked up in my brain somewhere for the last 21 years. It was amazing.

What else could possibly do that to you in an instant? So vividly that you’re not remembering, but feeling it. It reminded me of the power we possess in communicating through music; an ability to be able to harness emotion and document the minutiae of moments in time without needing pictures, explanations or slogans.

Of course, not every song will do that. It’s about relevancy. Right time, right person, right place and right song. But get that combination right and you can have people feeling something emotional and deep forever, whenever they hear it.

Can anything other than music generate retrospective emotion so powerful that you can feel it again and again?

Mankind has tried every scientific and technological advance imaginable to make us travel through time. Turns out, all you need is an average 80s band from Glasgow.