I Remember (Memories Can’t Wait)

So Harry Matthews (b.1930) told Georges Perec (1936-1982) about Joe Brainard’s  (1941-1984) book I Remember (1970) in which he listed a series of memories of everyday occurrences distilled down to one or two sentences. Perec wrote his own version – Je me Souviens (published 1978) with 480 entries and an index. Gilbert Adair (1944-2011) in his book on British life Myths & Memories (1986) engineered a collision between Roland Barthes (1915-1980) and Perec referring to both Barthes’ Mythologies (1957) and Perec’s Je me Souviens. Adair thought it inappropriate to translate Perec’s memories immersed in French culture as they were and so he produced his own, peculiarly British, version of 400 entries. (‘270. I remember the bandleader Joe Loss and his vocalists Dennis Lotis and Lita Roza.’) Maybe there are thousands of other versions of this project (and maybe it is what the net is for) but I will refer to just one as it intersects slightly with my own history:   http://fifepsychogeography.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/i-remember-after-brainard-and-perec-nos-8-14-11th-february-2012-ce/

That one only goes up to 14 entries so far.

And here is the first half (1-29) of my I Remember edited down for this blog from an unknown number of entries to a total of 58. All these memories concern sound or music in one way or another.

  1. I remember my friend Matthew singing Return to Sender every time he batted back the tennis ball against the garage door around 1962 in Kirkintilloch.
  2. I remember my father buying me my first 7” single. Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band.
  3. I remember the sound of ‘whisper jets’ passing over our house as they took off from Dorval Airport in Montreal in 1965.
  4. I remember opening the door of my room in the Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas to the cacophony of a multitude of slot machines from the casino floor.
  5. I remember my parents telling me about the ships sounding their horns at midnight to welcome in the New Year on the Clyde.
  6. I remember the very loud booming sound of the ice cracking on the St John River as it melted at the end of winter.
  7. I remember going into Bruce’s Record Shop in Kirkcaldy late one Saturday afternoon in 1972 and listening to Hunky Dory by David Bowie and having to work out if I had enough money to buy it and pay for my bus fare home.
  8. I remember going to Ronnie Scott’s Club on a Sunday night in the early 1980s to hear R. D. Laing playing piano. I can remember that Lol Coxhill played too but can’t remember anyone else who was on the bill.
  9. I remember seeing Billy Mackenzie of The Associates with his whippets in the Nethergate Centre in Dundee in 1979.
  10. I remember the tape recorder that my family bought in the early 60s. It was a Grundig reel-to-reel. We used it to record the radio and family singing. My brother and I duetted on ‘Till there was you’ and my grandmother sang ‘There was an old man who came over the hill’. The radio signal was seldom stable and other stations would creep into the ones we were trying to record. One of these phantom stations that we accidentally recorded was playing an Indian classical singer. This recording came to be known by us as ‘Darjeeling’ for some reason.
  11. I remember when we lived in Pont Clare, Montreal that we had a visit from a relative from Scotland. (I think he was my mother’s cousin). He played the bagpipes in our small living room one evening. This was a very intense experience.
  12. I remember going to see an opera by Donizetti in St John, New Brunswick with my school and thinking that I should be open-minded. The opera was Don Pasquale. Afterwards I couldn’t think of a single moment of the opera that I enjoyed.
  13. I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the sound of Thelonious Monk’s Solo Monk in Westfield, New Brunswick. This was my Mother’s choice of listening.
  14. I remember seeing John Martyn play at the Dundee University Student Union with Danny Thompson on bass. It was only recently that I realized that John Stevens was playing drums that night.
  15. I remember hearing Massive Attack and Portishead for the first time on the BBC World Service in the early hours of the morning when our daughter woke up. I guess this was 1991 when she was not even 1.
  16. I remember the first time we connected to the internet at home. We searched ‘Marcel Duchamp’. Minutes later the ghost voice of Duchamp came out of the computer’s speakers, speaking as if just to us across time and space.
  17. I remember one of the first friends I made at college, Brad, loved Spirit. Especially, I think, The Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus.
  18. I remember that last week the busker who plays on the ramp between the car park and Sainsbury’s was singing Little Feat’s Willin’.
  19. I remember the sound of the freight trains rumbling endlessly past the side of the second house we lived in in Westfield, New Brunswick.
  20. I remember sitting at a round table in the flat where I lived in Holland Park, London and hearing Fear of Music by Talking Heads for the first time.
  21. I remember that the first time I saw Roxy Music at the Edinburgh Odeon (?) my ears rang for a day afterward.
  22. I remember that, around the same time, my brother’s girlfriend introduced me to the music of Smokey Robinson. Previously I had thought that anyone who wore a suit and sang was misguided.
  23. I remember that in my last year at school I made a sculpture of welded steel. The sound of the rod when it fused to the metal was terrifying and it gave me nightmares. I heard a similar sound made by Thurston Moore and Mats Gustaffson a few nights ago at Café Oto but that was ok. I guess I have got over it.
  24. I remember seeing Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers twice in one week in London in the 1980s.
  25. I remember when I stood next to Robert Plant at a gig in a small pub in Camden in the early 80s and it never crossing my mind to speak to him.
  26. I remember the Theme to Route 66 by Nelson Riddle but nothing about the TV series. Maybe it wasn’t shown in Britain.
  27. I remember my copy of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band disappearing from the studio at college. Later I found an identical copy at the house of a fellow student but didn’t mention it.
  28. I remember that I bought a copy of Loaded by the Velvet Underground for 89p from Boots. (The price is still on the record sleeve – otherwise I might not have remembered it exactly.) I was on my way home from the dentist after getting a filling. I also bought a copy of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess that day and I began to read it while the record played and my jaw thawed.
  29. I remember the music we played at my Father’s funeral:                                                                          On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Frederick Delius,                                                              Janet Baker singing Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n from Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler, The Sherriff by The Modern Jazz Quartet and                                                                               Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.

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