“‘Remember when?’ is the lowest form of conversation.” – Tony Soprano
In writing about older music here and in the print edition of The Recoup, I’ve purposefully set about trying to avoid being too nostalgic. It’s easy to get caught up in nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, and it doesn’t always make for the most interesting reading. Sure, there’s a place and time for reminiscing, but what I do is not simply reminiscing about the past–nor am I making the claim that older means superior, because good music is being made these days.
Yet there are times when nostalgia is appropriate, and to deny that aspect is to blatantly omit true insight.
Such is the case with Kenny Rogers‘ 1982 hit single, “Love Will Turn You Around.” I have a very specific visual image that pops into my head every time I hear the song, one that cements the song’s importance to me, and one that, perhaps, causes the song to transcend mere artistic value in favor of something deeper, more spiritual.
Whenever I hear the song–which was both the title track to Rogers’ 1982 album, as well as the successful hit theme song to the Kenny Rogers film Six Pack–I am instantly reminded of the summer of 1982. I’m nine years old and I’m in my room. The Texas summers are dreadfully hot, and thus I stay inside to keep cool. I would keep myself entertained by reading, writing, and listening to the radio. My station of choice was legendary country station KWKH AM 1130.
Whenever I hear “Love Will Turn You Around,” I hear something that is not in this–or any–version of the song. I hear the pops and the static of nearby thunderstorms, the signal that electricity is in the air, that a storm is coming. It’s an instant addition to the song that even now, as I write this, brings a warm feeling to my soul, even though that was thirty-one years ago.
The flip side, “I Want a Son,” would prove to be a foretaste of what Rogers’ career would become: sappy, maudlin ballads that mixed the negative aspects of nostalgia that I’ve addressed with a nauseating level of sentiment that is quite far removed from Rogers’ country and psychedelic rock roots, a song that is almost a wet blanket for its superior A-side. This is the Kenny Rogers that would drown out his legacy as a singer/songwriter; it would come back and paint him into a creative box that would ultimately turn Rogers into a parody of himself.
Still, I loved that A-side. It’s such a classic song, especially after seeing the movie Six Pack. I cannot deny the power of the song and the role it plays in my memories; though at the time I was terrified of storms and the sound of static on the radio would set me into a panic, thirty one years later I recall those days with a smile and a warm feeling of love.