Tag Archives: music

(I’m not your) Stepping Stone

I mentioned in my last post, I recently got a satellite radio.  Let me tell you, this radio is my new favorite thing.

You see music has this way a triggering memories.  Although science tells us that smell is more closely linked with your memory due to its connection to the amygdala and hippocampus (Mercola, 2015).   Music has a similar ability. That is because “listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity” (Bergland, 2013). The connection between music and memories is even being studied in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia.   A good source for more information about this link between music, memory and the treatment of Alzheimer’s is the Music & Memory website: musicandmemory.org .

For me, one example about the link between smell, music and memory starts off with the smell of freshly baked bread on a fall day.   This smell brings up some really positive emotions for me.  However, part of that memory is associated with music. Specifically, these memories are associated with John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High album.   The interesting thing for me is that the music brings back more of those positive memories than the smell of fresh bread. So, I think the power of music wins out over smell in my world.

Anyways, this post revolves around that radio and music.  However, this post is about a music genre on the other side of the spectrum for John Denver.

Here is the scene:

It is a little after 9:00 pm and I am driving home.  I am traveling that same two lane highway through the rural countryside that I always travel. It was warm for a late February evening and there was fog rolling across the roads.  I had just left my second job and after a 14 hour day I was tired.

20 minutes into my travels, I finally decompressed enough to begin to notice the radio.  It is a little scary that you actually drive that far and be stuck in your head enough that you don’t recognize what music is playing in the car.  I wasn’t into the evening’s NPR selection and I resorted to my normal routine of flipping channels.  After a few minutes I landed on the Punk Rock channel called “Faction”.  I often listen to this station in the morning but had rarely listened at this time of day.  It turned out to be good timing because the station had Marky Ramone (drummer from the Ramones) sitting in as the DJ for a weekly show called Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.  Amazing!

I was digging the stream of new and older punk rock tunes that Marky was playing, but my favorite song of the night was the Sex Pistols doing a cover of the classic song “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”.

“(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”, which was originally recorded in 1966 by Paul Revere and the Raiders, has quite the history over covers.  Several bands including The Monkees, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Minor Threat have all recorded their own versions of this song.

The Sex Pistols’ cover of “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone” is not the most melodious version of the song, but it is as good as any punk rock version.

YouTube has recording of the song with a still montage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXd8qnONDIk)

And here is a version from a 2016 a reunion show. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMpbEp71nC8).

The Sex Pistol’s version was released in 1979 on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle album.  The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle album also included some other covers including: “Johnny B Goode” originally by Chuck Berry, “Substitute” by Pete Townsend (The Who), and “My Way” by Paul Anka, Claude François, Jacques Revaux.  (Frank Sinatra’s 1969 version of “My Way” is probably best known rendition of this song.)

An interesting side note is that The Sex Pistols also released a movie in 1979-1980 also called The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.  The movie is a:

a stylized fictional account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of their then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the music business, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words: “Cash for chaos”), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history – EMI, A&M, Virgin, and Warner Bros. Records. (Wikipedia, 2017, The_Great_Rock ‘N’ Roll_Swindle)

I remember watching this movie at my parent’s house when I was about 15 or so.  Not sure how I got my hands on a copy of this video because it sure wasn’t at the local video store.

In 2006 The Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  However, they did not attend the ceremony.  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) instead wrote this note and posted it on thefilthandthefury.co.uk,

Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We’re not coming. We’re not your monkeys. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges but your still music industry people. We’re not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stream is a real Sex Pistol. (Quoted in Sprague, 2006)

Really, the point of this whole thing is nostalgia.  For some reason, the Sex Pistols and The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle bring up positive memories for me.  The Sex Pistols were probably one of the first bands that really got me into music and got me into researching the story behind the music.  The Sex Pistols were also one of those bands that helped me forge my own identity and made music relevant.  Kind of funny thinking about this in now.  A band that came from a completely different world than my suburban New England upbringing would have such an impact on my adolescents.   But they did and those were some good times indeed.

the_great_rock_n_roll_swindle

Works Cited:

Bergland, C. (2013). Why Do the Songs from Your Past Evoke Such Vivid Memories? Psychology Today. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-do-the-songs-your-past-evoke-such-vivid-memories.

Mercola. (2015). Why Smells Can Trigger Strong Memories. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/08/06/smells-trigger-memories.aspx

Sprague, D. (2006) “Sex Pistols Flip Off Hall of Fame”. Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20080217032318/http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9385165/sex_pistols_flip_off_hall_of_fame

Wikipedia (2017) “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Rock_%27n%27_Roll_Swindle

Wikipedia (2016). “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(I’m_Not_Your)_Steppin’_Stone

Wikipedia (2017). “Sex Pistols”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Pistols


Pictures of You – The Cure

I almost cried today and it is Robert Smith’s fault.

Let me set the scene for you.  I was driving about 60 mph down the two lane highway that connects my home to my work.  The monotony of the drive sometimes gets the better of me.  The droning of public radio and the sprawling farmland can almost lull me back to sleep.  This was the case this morning so I resorted to scrolling through the radio to keep me awake.

I recently picked up a satellite radio and I will say that I love the variety of music that is available. But on a day like today my tolerance and attention are at a low point. I need to find that perfect song to get through what is left of my commute.

Credence Clearwater Revival , Nope.

Grateful Dead, Nope.

Bruno Mars, Nope.

Zac Brown Band, Not today.

That is where I finally come across the 80s alternative rock station. Often times I can pick up a song on this station that stimulates something within me, and that was definitely the case this morning.  The band was The Cure and the song playing was “Pictures of You”. This 1989 release is perhaps one of the most depressing songs I have ever heard.

Back in the late 80s I didn’t really like The Cure. I guess I thought their music was too emotional and too soft for me.  I was a punk rock fan. My bands were Minor Threat, Sex Pistols, Gang Green, and most other garage bands that were popular in the northeast.

Move forward 30 years and I have softened a little.  Although, I will still rock out to The Misfits version of “Where Eagles Dare”on the way to work, I often land on classic or alternative rock stations.  This morning, however, was a little different than most. I didn’t just find I song that I was able to connect to for a few minutes.  This song, “Pictures of You”, captured my full attention and began to stir emotions I didn’t even know existed.

Now have you ever listened to this song? The lyrics are truly poetic and scream of loss and depression.  Here is a quick sample

If only I’d thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I’d thought of the rights words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart
My pictures of you

I don’t know what triggered me.  Was it the lyrics, or was it the way in which Robert Smith sings as if he just had his heart ripped out of his chest.  Maybe it was my ongoing self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the right combination of events that tapped into some unresolved PTSD, or just overly sensitive nerves due to lack of sleep.  But as I listened to this song, I felt truly sad.

Back in the 1989 I was just 15 years old.  I remember that back then everything was alive.  Every day was a true adventure. Every experience was new, and the world was just starting to unfold.  To say I lived in angst would be an understatement.  Angst was the undercurrent of my life.  At times it was painful.  At other times it couldn’t get any better.  Life was electric and I was just playing in the current.  The Cure wasn’t the soundtrack to my life back then. In fact, The Cure didn’t even get a place in the intermissions of my personal movie.   But now The Cure provided the background music to my personal flashback scene.

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

These lyrics triggered memories of all those friends I have lost.  Those that have died from accidents, drug overdoses, or natural causes, their images come rushing to mind.  Those friends that I have never said good-bye to because I didn’t have to strength to stand in front of their graves.

The lyrics made me think of old girlfriends. Memories of promises that I never kept crept back to me.  We were going to be so strong and stay together for ever.  That all changed when I was easily swayed by the opinions of others, or when my own neurosis convinced me that what we had was built on lies and that it could never work.   These thoughts hurt the most.

I am almost a weeping mess as I approach the edge of town.  Merging into traffic it takes everything I have to stay focused on traffic signals.  The red light at the McDonald’s allows the song to come to its end.  I now have 5 more minutes to pull myself together.  Switching the radio back to pop radio station, I listen to a little John Mayer and pull into the parking lot behind work.   I turn the car off, step out into the parking lot, and let the memories of years past get taken away with a brisk morning breeze.

Damn You Robert Smith!  Or maybe I should say Thank You.