“One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain” - Bob Marley
Like most people I’ve always had a strong affection for music. My grandmother was a ballerina and a record was almost always playing in our house. Music was such an integral part of my life and as a child I found solace in it. Most of us have experienced that sense of nostalgia when an old song comes on from your childhood. Music makes us feel alive and it speaks to the parts of our soul that words can not reach. Like smells, it triggers parts of the brain that recall memories and studies are now showing us that music has the power to stimulate cognitive function and memories in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I often imagine our favorite songs like a soundtrack, playing in the background of certain chapters of our lives. Every time we hear them, we’re transported back into time. Back to where we once were.
Before I begin my story, let me just note that I personally I believe in life after death. I’m not religious but I often find myself attuned to the spiritual side of life. I also don’t put too much weight into dogmatic beliefs.
With that being said, a couple years ago I was invited to attend a Moody Blues' concert. Now, at this point I had never heard of the Moody Blues and wasn’t really sure what to expect as I didn’t research the band prior to going. I love music though so I figured whatever it was I would enjoy it. I was invited by my sister’s father (different dads, don't ask, long story) and uncle and she and I joined them. On the ride over to the concert her father explained who the band was and how much he loved them. Apparently they toured with the Beatles in the 60’s and were a crucial part of the pioneering of concept albums and progressive rock. "Cool," I thought... I dig it.
I decided to eat an edible (weed cookie) and shuffled into the theatre and got seated. They started their set and everyone in the theatre went nuts. It was really, really incredible to watch them on stage, they flowed so naturally with each other and their instruments. Although they are now in their 70’s, when they played, there was no time lost between them. My weed cookie had kicked in and I was thoroughly enjoying the show. They performed track after track and when they got to “Tuesday Afternoon” I wondered to myself how I had never heard it before, it was so beautiful and so eerily familiar to me. After a few more it was about time to go and they decided to play one last song. The first few chords began to play and I felt my breathing begin to slow. Something inside me felt frozen, my body felt as if it couldn’t move. The notes were speaking to me. As I listened I felt my heart longing for something, the way it does when you’re lovesick. The words were all brand new yet I knew them, somewhere inside myself I knew them. I can not describe the feeling I had. A sense of nostalgia washed over me and I felt myself suddenly yearning for a time and place that was not my own. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably as I let the music merge with my soul. The sounds rang loud through the theater and I was consumed by what was happening to me. Devoured by music from the past. I didn’t want it to end. I felt in that moment that I belonged there, not because I was invited, but because in a room full of senior citizens I truly felt like I was one of them.
And then just like that it was over. The audience gave an incredible standing ovation, the band thanked us, and we were gone. I was silent the entire car ride home. I was still in disbelief and felt like no one would understand what had happened to me inside the theatre. Everyone else chatted about how great the concert was but for me — it was life altering. They had no idea.
“Hey Mark, what was the name of that last song?” I asked quietly from the back seat.
“Nights In White Satin” he replied. I was shook. Something had happened to me while I was in that theatre, and I knew it wasn’t the weed. I couldn’t wait to get in my car so I could be alone and when I finally was I played that song four more times before I arrived at my house. I was fixated. I had always had a love for classic rock, particularly circa ‘65 and on but after that night at the Moody Blues’ concert it was as if a floodgate had opened. I was suddenly enthralled with the soul of another generation’s music. Psychedelic rock. Rhythmic blues. British pop. The rifts from Brian Jones’ sitar in “Paint it Black” or Jim Morrison’s signature dark, ethereal tone in “The End” moves me in ways I still can’t truly describe. A young generation was revolting against the Vietnam war and their music was infused with exotic, worldly sounds from instruments virtually unheard of by most Americans at that time. This is one of my favorite aspects of the decade. These melodic sounds influenced by Asian/Indian music would later be coined as "Raga Rock" and was most heavily found in 60's pop/rock. In addition to the new instrumentals, the frighteningly unapologetic lyricists of the time were vanguards for the rebellious rock n' roll culture that would flourish in the years to follow.
I just love it. It gives me such nostalgic feelings — the kind that make me wish I was alive during the height of the era. If you believe in reincarnation, then perhaps maybe I was.
Since then my affection for classics has taken on a whole new role in my life. It’s incredibly hard for me to listen to the radio and so instead I’ll throw on some ‘Stones or Blue Oyster Cult and just vibe. I feel better, like I’m listening to something I understand… an era I feel like I belong to. Do I know for certain that I’m a reincarnated member of the 60’s youth rebellion? No. But do I believe that my soul has transcended the sands of time more than once? Honestly, when I listen to “Nights In White Satin” I most certainly do.
Here's the original music video for "Nights In White Satin".— enjoy.