To me, anyway. It reminds me of a specific night when I was 10 years old and doing some late-night wonderings about the hopes and dreams and plans I had envisioned for the future.
A Friday night in winter of 1962. I was spending the night with my twin-friends, Sharon and Susan. They had a great set-up - the top floor of their house belonged to them. Huge bedroom with a walk-in closet, their very own bathroom (sigh), a study/sewing area. Our job that night was to go upstairs and keep the noise-level down since the twins' parents were having friends over. One of those mystical (to a 10-year-old) adult Friday night gatherings.
Anyway, we did our job - the keeping quiet part - and called it a night after watching The Flintstones and 77 Sunset Strip, gorging on Fritos and Cokes, and talking ourselves silly. I'd brought my new Santa-delivered transistor radio for its entertainment value, of course. (iPod excitement can't even begin to compare to a turn-of-the-60's transistor radio! Woo-ee!)
Once the lights were out, we kept the radio on - very softly - while the get-together continued downstairs. I heard lots of songs on the radio that night, but for some reason "Stranger On The Shore" stuck in my brain, attaching itself to our musings on what adults did at parties and what it would be like when we grew up. We had all sorts of plans and ideas. And all of that talk was infused with the Acker Bilk music on the transistor radio.
How does so much stuff get wrapped up in an old song? Well, it does. I'm sure there's some kind of psychological, sound-memory thing firing off between my dendrites, but I can't help but think there's more to it than just some scientific explanation.
I've had the best of all possible lives (well, except for the money part). I've done things that I could've never imagined at 10 years old while listening to a scratchy-sounding transistor radio on a Friday night in the winter of 1962. I've gone way beyond the wife and school teacher I thought I was destined to be.
Still, I keenly remember the visions of what adult life would be like. And reality is so, so different. Not many Holly Golightly-black cocktail dresses and witty, intelligent adult conversations at city-fied parties. But it's more than that. There was something bigger. Some big adult secret world that I imagined as a child, only to grow up to find that world doesn't exist the way I'd dreamed it would be. I don't dwell on this stuff, believe me. Just when I hear that song.
So much stuff bundled up for me in Acker Bilk's "Stranger On The Shore." A lost, enticing, oh-so-cool adult world dreamed up by a 10-year-old girl listening to a song on a transistor radio in the lavender bedroom of her best friends in the winter of 1962. That loss is why the song is so sad to me.
For those of you who don't know or remember the song, here's a 1988 version of Bilk playing his tune:
What's your saddest song?