My musical highway moment

Gary
Gary MacDougall
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Bob Dylan

It was a Saturday, about 40 years ago, and I was on the bum — again.

But on a stretch of highway just west of Crapaud a magical musical moment was about to be seared into my memory, one that remains vivid to this day.

With no car, or at least not one capable of reliably carrying me from Charlottetown to Tyne Valley, I turned to my thumb and the generosity of strangers. That was a common practice in those days, and on the outskirts of Charlottetown I hitched a promising ride in a car heading in my direction.

As we drove down one of the gentle hills and into Crapaud, a Bob Dylan song, Like A Rolling Stone, beamed out from the radio. I loved that song back then; I still do today. I think it’s Dylan’s greatest.

The song lasts well over six minutes, which was unusual for that day and age when the duration of songs was quite formulated.

And on that long ago Saturday the song provided a pleasant distraction from the forced conversation between me and my kindly, but unknown, benefactors. But two or three minutes into the song I noticed the left-turning signal flick on, a sure sign my ride was ending.

As much as I was sorry I would soon be putting my thumb back to work, I was more disappointed when my car door slammed shut and Dylan’s voice and the classic song disappeared.

The old memory, which often comes to mind when passing that stretch of highway, popped into my head a few days ago when I appeared on the local CBC Radio program Spin Time. Last week’s host, Kerry Campbell, wanted me to come on the program and wax about newspapers and music. I was told to pick three songs to play and discuss.

It goes without saying that all of us have more than three favourite songs, so the task of picking just three is a challenge. The exercise forced me to think of all the great music that has surrounded and helped shape me through the years. While doing so, I quickly noticed I was smiling a lot, if not externally, then internally where we store our memories.

I remembered the time I cranked up the kitchen radio and made on I was Neil Sedaka singing Calendar Girl. Of course before I did that I checked to see no one could see or hear me.

Another night, a crystal clear one when the AM radio signals were coming in loud and clear from Eastern Canada and the United States, I counted up to eight Beatle songs playing at the same time on different channels.

I recall my girlfriend — now wife — loaning me her humble little record player, which I would use to entertain the boys in the rooming house by playing The Stampeders song Carry Me over and over again.

Or the time I laid on my living room floor, with two old speakers inches from my ears, listening to Santana’s Caravan.

I don’t have enough space to list off my “best of.”

In the end, I didn’t necessarily pick my three favourite songs, but rather three that I am fond of and stand the test of time.

Lennie Gallant’s Peter’s Dream is a stirring tribute to the passion fishermen have for their industry. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here is just one of many songs the groundbreaking British rock group has produced.

And finally, Newfoundland singer Ron Hynes’ My Old Man reminds me that like most people, I am imperfect but I do the best I can with what I have.

The music in my life, the music in all our lives, is to be celebrated and cherished. Go find a comfy chair and close your eyes.

Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at gmacdougall@theguardian.pe.ca; or on Twitter.com/GaryGuardian.

Organizations: CBC Radio, Pink Floyd, The Guardian

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Tyne Valley, Canada United States Newfoundland

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