Friday afternoon, and I'm listening to an old cassette during the drive home. How old, you ask? I'm not entirely sure: it's a TDK D (Dynamic) tape, the bottom of the line at the time they also sold SD (Super Dynamic) and AD (which somehow mutated into "Audua") in middle-Seventies packaging, but one of the tracks is an actual stereo mix of the Shangri-Las' immortal "Leader of the Pack," which I couldn't have acquired before 1998, on The Very Best of Red Bird/Blue Cat Records, issued by the very-much-missed Taragon Records. A new recording on a twenty-year-old tape? Yeah, I've done that. I've done a lot of that. It still sounds pretty darn good, considering that or maybe because about half of it was dubbed from good old vinyl. (I had good tape gear in those days, and Dolby B tracking is spot-on.)

Anyway, a little farther down Side A was Lou Christie's "Rhapsody in the Rain," a song which for some reason inspired me to sing along. And so I did: "A lovely rhapsody, 'cause on our first date / We were makin' out in the rain / And in this car / Our love went much too far." Something buzzed in the back of my head, and it dawned on me: this wasn't the song I remembered.

Except, of course, that it was. Same instrumental take, and about 85 percent of the vocal lines were the same. But that particular set of words got excised from the version shipped to my local Top 40 station; on that first date, "We fell in love in the rain / And in this car / Love came like a falling star." Which might be a trifle closer to my own romantic fantasies, perhaps, but it bothered me that I'd remembered the unexpurgated version, which I have on CD, and not the sanitized-for-your-protection radio-station copy that I grew up with. (On the other hand, this station played the original version of Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl," and not the edit with "Makin' love in the green grass" replaced, which I never actually heard until I'd snagged a Nineties compilation of Van the Man's singles.)

My first impulse was to blame this all on failing memory; these songs date to nearly half a century ago, and after all, I am old. But if memory were failing, I reasoned, I wouldn't have remembered the rest of the song. And besides, we old-timers supposedly don't actually forget things: it just takes us longer to locate them in the vast archives of the brain. So it must be the replace function: I'm accepting the new version in place of the old one without checking thoroughly beforehand.

And this troubles me a bit, especially considering the unauthorized-autobiography aspect of this site: am I really documenting things, or am I just making them up as I go along? Second sources are few and far between; almost every close family member I have is eight hours away on Interstate 35. This is one really terrible aspect of having lost my brother Paul; he experienced many of the same things I did, and the things he remembered weren't always the things I remembered, meaning that we often served as correction mechanisms for each other. But he's gone on to that Better Place they're always talking about, and my one surviving sibling, brother James, is thirteen years almost a whole generation out of sync with me. (When I went away to college, he was two.) There are things he knows that I don't, and he'll happily tell me when he finds that out, but we have a definite shortage of shared experiences.

I'm not even sure that this site, begun when I was a mere lad of forty-two, is guaranteed 100% accurate; there's no possible way I can remember every single piece I wrote, not least because there are 21,000 of them. I suppose I could handwave away any contradictions, Whitman-like, and note that I contain multitudes, but I don't find that approach satisfactory, either intellectually or emotionally. My best bet may be posthumous in nature: maybe one of the zillions of relatives out there my mother had seven siblings, after all might be able to find something resembling consistency in this mass of memory. It's just a shame I won't be around to see it.

The Vent

  8 February 2014

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