“‘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 tried to avoid being too nostalgic. I work to avoid nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Plus, 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.
Kenny Rogers‘ 1982 hit single, “Love Will Turn You Around” comes to mind. A very specific visual image comes to mind every time I hear the song. That vision 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, it instantly reminds of the summer of 1982. I’m nine years old and I’m in my room. The Texas summers are dreadfully hot, soI stay inside to keep cool. I entertained myself by reading, writing, and listening to the radio. My station of choice was legendary country station KWKH AM 1130. Although the station is now long gone, at the time it was my go-to for contemporary and classic country.
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. My mind adds them instantly, and the song brings a warm feeling to my soul. Furthermore, Rogers’ voice is warm and inviting, a comforting, relaxing balm.
The flip side, “I Want a Son,” proved 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, especially after seeing Six Pack. The power of the song and its role in my memories cannot be denied. Though storms and the sound of static on the radio caused me great fear, decades later I recall those days with a smile and a warm feeling of love.