Music and Memory

With a title like that this could be one hell of a dissertation!  It’s not going to be, but if someone wants to take it on then go for it!

Why is it that some songs stay in the mind for longer periods of time than others, occasionally for an annoyingly long time, while other songs barely register?  Quite often this effect is a perfectly adequate sub-conscious self-selecting mechanism, at other times it can be quite annoying – the irritating jingle that wont go away, for instance.

Occasionally there are songs or collections of songs (in my case usually in the form of albums) that have such a profound effect that they simply keep resurfacing; sometimes with months or even years of absence.  For me the album ‘Forever Changes‘, by the 60’s West Coast psychedelic band ‘Love‘, is such a collection of songs – I can go for a significantly long period of time without listening to it, but then the urge takes hold of me again and I find I have to play it obsessively over and over before I am fully sated.

There is another type of song, or more accurately ‘song experience’, and it came upon me just the other week.  Completely out of the blue my head was fully of the melody and words to a song I had completely forgotten about and I hadn’t heard for more years than I can remember – in fact I don’t believe I’d thought of this song since I was a pupil at my old school about twenty-five years ago!

The song was a one hit wonder in 1982 called ‘I Won’t Let You Down‘ by a group called ‘Ph.D‘ (apparently it reached No. 3 in the UK charts).  I absolutely love the melody of this song, it’s simplicity and melancholy.  It really reminded me of the early 80’s when I obviously first heard it.I Won't Let You Down - Ph.DI know that I have a love of old analogue synthesizers (Tony Hymas plays the distinctive synth sound on this track), and songs with a strong melody and powerful or unusual vocals (Jim Diamond is the vocalist), so how this song escaped my memory for as long as it did is a bit of a mystery.

Why it suddenly came to mind, I have no idea!  Was I reminiscing, thinking back to a simpler time (well I was only about seven years old when it was released)?  Was it a mood I was in that somehow connected with the mood of the song?  Had I recently heard something that reminded me of the era which in some way accessed this long forgotten memory – who knows!

It would be interesting to hear if anybody else has had this type of ‘song experience’ – surely I cannot be alone in this phenomenon?

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