Last night at work I was listening to the Marc Maron podcast, and he was interviewing a comedian named Mary Mack. I was unfamiliar with her, but she turned out to be quirky and appealing. I liked her; she was a lot of fun.
But her name – Mary Mack – conjured some feelings of queasiness that date all the way back to my time in California.
During my life I’ve twice been so sick I thought I was going to die. Those of you who have experienced REAL health problems can go ahead and roll your eyes at that one, but I’m not kidding. Both times I thought I was moving toward the light.
The first was in Atlanta, when I had the flu. And I’m talking about the real deal, not that catch-all “flu” that people use for any sniffle or fever they encounter. If you’ve ever had the actual flu, you know what I mean. It was one of the worst two weeks of my life.
I felt like absolute hell for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t eat or get the slightest bit comfortable, and it took a monumental effort to get off the couch and drizzle some oddly-colored urine into the toilet every few hours. My ex-girlfriend brought me some food every once in a while, but it went untouched. I had no appetite, and not enough energy to walk into the kitchen, anyway.
I called the doctor, but they told me I had the flu and needed to just ride it out. There was nothing they could do for me, and I was so weak I wondered if I was going to make it. It sucked worse than just about anything I’ve experienced. I wanted to call my parents, but couldn’t muster the energy to do it. It was the worst.
My second death spiral happened in California, when our oldest boy was real young. Maybe one or two, who the hell knows? But I remember he kept watching a VHS tape of that Barney show, featuring the sexually-confused dinosaur. The same tape, over and over, as little kids are wont to do.
It was the height of summer, and probably 100 degrees outside. But I was wrapped up in two or three blankets, shivering. I was in a state of misery, and couldn’t shake it. I missed so much work I was worried they might have replaced me.
I went to a doctor (which tells you how shitty I felt), and he was a total asshole. He bitched the whole time, about me not coming in for checkups, and only showing up when I’m sick. I was at death’s door, and he wanted to give me a lecture. I just sat there, with greenish skin and a frown. Oh, and he also said I had a really bad case of bronchitis. He added that almost as an afterthought.
During the two-week hell, that Barney tape was playing, again and again. In one of the episodes a woman who looked like a New Orleans voodoo queen appeared. I can’t remember all the details but I think she slaughtered a chicken and smeared some of its blood on a wall. It’s a little foggy at this point. She also sang a song with these approximate lyrics:
Miss Mary Mack (Mack Mack)
All dressed in black (black black)
With silver buttons
Stuffed up her crack (crack crack)
I’m pretty sure that’s how it went, and it bugged me. I don’t know why… there was a lot of stupid-ass singing on that show, but the Mary Mack song really bothered me. It never failed to throw me into a full-body clench.
And last night, fifteen years after the fact, I felt a familiar twinge of nausea and darkness, when Marc Maron introduced his guest: Mary Mack. Just those two words was all it took… It’s amazing how a song, or even a suggestion of a song, can transport a person like that. Know what I mean?
And as you might have guessed, I’m going to make that the Question of the Day. In the comments section, please tell us what song or piece of music does the best job of taking you back in time. I have several of them, but won’t muddy the waters with multiple tales.
I’m just going to turn it over to you guys, and let you take it from here. Please tell us your stories below.
And I’ll be back tomorrow.
Have a great day!
Now playing in the bunker
Treat yourself at Amazon: US and Canada
I knew insomnia would have a payback someday.
The Kravitz Next Door says
I’m a rare commenter, but this one grabs me. That Barney voodoo priestess version of “Walking The Dog” is whacked. It was on Aerosmith’s self-titled album, or was the name of that really “featuring Dream On”? I later went to a school where the talent show every single fucking year featured kids doing the pillowcase version of Lidsville (pillowcase face over the head, shoulders and chest like a formless hat and a face drawn on the belly with shorts belted around the knees) and dance to a version of “Walking The Dog” that may have been the Chipmunks or may have been some Dr. Demento act with their nuts and nipples in vises. Perhaps your clenching at the voodoo Barney version is related to Aerosmith or we went to similar schools. Geesh, I hope for your sake it isn’t that last one.
Any time I heard “Judy Blue Eyes Suite” by CSN, I’m a teenager trapped in a car with only WVHS (later V100) and no real option for another station that stood a slut’s chance in the men’s prison of have a decent thing come across it. Instead, it was ride with no radio or wait that for that damned song to finally give birth to an end 9 months later.
My brain, which barely manages to recall the two items I went to the store for, the eighties, the names of all my nieces and nephews, the sixties, any pin numbers at all, or the seventies, somehow jukeboxes about 90% of all the songs I’ve liked, and many I haven’t, since about 1961.
My first girlfriend gave me a 45 of Johnny Angel in 1962, and I recall vividly making out in the closet in her room while the song played over and over.
Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” will always take me to a tree-lined, sun-drenched street in Corvalis, Oregon in 1969, walking hand-in-hand with my high school sweetheart while I visited her at her college.
The list is long and some of it is lusty, although I’m surprised how much of the surroundings are sexually non-graphical.
There must be something over a thousand songs in my head that take me to someplace specific, and maybe another ten thousand that give me a general feeling (smoking dope, walking the beach, driving on the open road, etc.).
I’m happy to have these soundtrack pointers; given how worn out my synapses are, I’d likely never find many pleasant memories without them.
Re: the coup de gras unleashed on your ass yesterday…just keep writing fine postings like this and I’ll continue searching for your passion on Craig’s List. I’ll be sure to let you know if I find it, or if I’m garroted like the other Craig’s List responders.
There are many, but one that’s tickling the brain is ‘Cecila’ by Simon and Garfunkel. I’m old enough to have been alive and sentient when it first came out, and even to have memorized the words. There was a girl named Cecila in my 3rd-grade (or was it fourth?) and she’d never heard it so I sang it to her. I’m sure it lost something in the translation, but she was happy with the rendition. I can still see that classroom, smell the chalk, but I can’t remember what she looked like. That’s the selfishness of memory, I”m guessing. 🙂
The Police “Every Breath you take’ is another one. It, of course, involved a boy. That memory is associated with beer, video games, and the smell of french fries. Also a nervous stomach. Ah, young love.
I thought “Cecelia” was one of the coolest songs I ever heard so when it came time for my Confirmation, I was bound and determined to choose it for my Confirmation name. But then the nun threw a curveball and asked “Who is St. Cecelia and why did you choose that name?” What the hell was I going to say? Patron Saint of Garfunkle? So I choked and went with Elizabeth.
Saint Cecilia (Latin: Sancta Caecilia) is the patroness of musicians and Church music because, as she was dying, she sang to God. Nuns were a bitch.
WOW…sing to God is like the ultimite “American Idol” gig. Fuck Steve Tyler!
Ahh, Tiff! Every Breath You Take brings me back to the summer I was planning my wedding. It was apparently on repeat on all the radio stations that year, so it always takes me back. Funny thing? That’s the only Police song I can stomach. The rest of their stuff is like nails on a chalkboard to me.
Miss Q says
Oh, “Every Breath You Take”. My memory of that also involves a boy. *sigh*. It’s been almost 30 years, but still, every time it comes on the radio, I’m in his car, riding home from school with the windows down. Wow. I’ve waxed nostalgic!
‘Cecilia’ was on my very first LP (BOTW by S+G). Only years later did I get what they meant by “I get up to wash my face”.
I’m pretty sure I told this tale, but when my father was in the hospital, we all took turns visiting and bringing my mother. He was in Metropolitan Hospital in NYC and I live in the suburbs. Every – and I swear to God I mean EVERY bitching time I would drive home, almost always at the SAME EXACT SPOT on the highway, I’d first hear that fucking sax then Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page.” Pop died in 2004 and that song STILL haunts me.
Phil Jett says
Joe Walsh, LIfe’s Been Good was playing when I walked into my first bar when I turned eighteen and bought my first beer. 50 cent draft 3.2% PBR in a plastic cup. When I hear the song now I immediately think of the smell stale beer and new naugahyde.
new naugahyde…. man, you’re OLD!
Years ago, I partied a little too hard at a friend’s house and crashed on one of his downstairs couches. I woke up around 6 AM and had to run to the toilet to exorcise some demons. The only bathroom in the place was upstairs, right next to my friend’s bedroom, so the sounds of my heaving woke him up, and he helped me back downstairs and brought me a trashcan to keep beside the couch.
Long story short, I woke up and vomited four more times between then and 10:30 AM, but when I woke up the last time, right around 11:15, it was to the opening riff from The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For the Man.” As I opened my eyes and heard that sweet guitar jangle, I knew I was gonna be okay. I didn’t throw up again that day, and I went on to have one of the most productive and relaxing hangover days of my life. Ever since that morning, every time I hear that wonderful song about scoring heroin, it makes me feel like everything is gonna be okay.
I feel your pain. I had double pneumonia once and was was stuck lying on the couch for weeks. My wife would not let me sleep in the bad as I kept her awake all night long.
She would turn on the TV for me when she left for work in the morning. This was back in the days before I could afford a TV with a remote and MTV still played music videos. Actually, they only played one music video…. George Michael’s Father Figure… over, and over, and over, and over, and over…..
I tried for days to find something in or around the couch to kill myself with.
I lost my virginity to “Rhinestone Cowboy”….
Tipsey McChugney says
Every time I hear ‘Eleanor Rigby’ I feel as though killing myself would be a viable option. Has there ever been a more depressing pop song? I wonder how many people have been literally pushed over the edge by this little ditty. I am convinced that this song has actually played a deciding role on more than one occasion. WTF Paul?!? Do you really hate people that much?
I remember in 8th grade English (and I just switched from Catholic to Public school) we had to analyze “She’s Leaving Home” and “Eleanor Rigby”. As a former parochial student, I can attest, these 2 were as depressing as the hymns we sang! (But it was cool to be sitting in class listening to The Beatles!) .
The 4th Stooge says
Man, several Zombie tunes come to mind (they appeared to have a niche on crazy for a while in the 60s): Leave Me Be; I Want You Back Again; and Gotta Get A Hold of Myself (weird shit about hearing voices and seeing his past loves…or something). Great band, still around (but now they seem to sound like Steely Dan and/or Hall & Oates–at least to the critics!)
The Qweezy Mark says
Most Doobie Brothers stuff from ’76-’77ish (driver’s license time!). Can barely listen to it now.
Like the majority of folks here, my life literally has a soundtrack, and it’s almost impossible to narrow it down. However, “Daniel,” by Elton John, will always remind me of pepperoni pizza from my family’s restaurant days (and the always-playing jukebox). Journey’s “Lovin, Touchin’, Squeezin'” brings back a memory that I’ll never forget yet never discuss. And Tipsey — I can’t listen to that song. Damned Father McKenzie writing that sermon? Breaks my heart every time.
Let’s see….. ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” takes me back to the summer between my junior and senior year of high school when my parents allowed my best friend and I drive to Avalon, NJ for a week by ourselves. We met two guys from Ohio there the year before . They were going to be there the same week. Can’t imagine this would be allowed today. We had the best time.
Exile’s “I Want To Kiss You All Over” reminds me of a guy I was head over heels with in high school. An unrequited love.
A few country songs remind me of my dance competition days. And songs the were popular when my late husband and my mom died.
Tobt Keith’s “Gonna Get My Drink On” and Conwat Twitty’s “Lay You Down” are great memories of the beginning of my relationship with my boyfriend now.
Thinking about all the tunes that put me in places with faces, events and feelings…it’s amazing how the brain latches on to such a brief moment (comparitivly) in our life to stamp it to memory for ever. I was seventeen and I remember exactly the night and my heart pounding when Chris Allen moved to hold my hand during the third (or was it fourth) movement of fourteen, of Hermoine Gingold’s , “Concerto for Violin and Dermis Flute”.
LMAO! Dermis Flute.
Swami Bologna says
Swami Bologna says
Whenever someone tells me they’re sick with “the flu,” I always ask, “You mean the actual Influenza?” They almost always admit that they don’t REALLY have the flu. I wish people would stop calling their minor ailments “the flu.” ‘Cause the actual flu is a life-threatening illness, not to be trifled with.
I lost a pair of grandparents to the 1968-69 flu pandemic. My mother’s parents–they died 2 months apart. Of course, the second might have had broken heart complications as well.
I now take that shit very seriously, to the point of attending the Kaiser drive-thru flu shot clinic every year. Roll down your window (passenger too), flash your card, roll up your sleeve, and they stick a needle in you. Good stuff.
The 4th Stooge says
To take us away from pop/rock/non-nerdy music: whenever I hear Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, I am transported to the first time I ever had to turn pages for a professional pianist (a lazy professional, but professional nonetheless). When the orchestra started, then the pianist comes in with those A octaves, you’d better have your shit together (and not have post-it notes telling you when to turn that first page!) It brings back both fear and a feeling of “Oh, shit! I’m a part of this!!!”
The non-nerdy answer is “Tell Her No” by the Zombies. The opening a minor chords, the sound of the acoustic guitar/electric piano take me back to when I was learning to drive–I was a major nerd and listened to the oldies stations all the time. Hey, it was either that or hear Toad the Wet Sprocket, Boyz II Men, or whatever shit Madonna was squeezing out that year. I took my chances with the oldies.
I used to take a CD from girls when we were dating. Then when we stopped dating I would have one of their CDs. Now I can’t listen to any of them, lest I long for times gone by.
I can’t eat goat meat anymore. I’ve said this hear before. When i was in Afghanistan we would eat local food every Friday. Well I took a big bite of roasted goat, it was fatty and greasy (not a good bite). Just then a prisoner of the highest order of stench walked by and made me wretch. Now I can’t eat goat meat, goat cheese, and some roasted beef without smelling that Afghan dude and wanting to go cross eyed and vomit.
Bev was really, really sick once with flu like symptoms but much worse. I’m sure she picked it up at work from mucking out a bathtub her fellow workers (construction) shit in. Yeah…no kidding. She was working at the Miarge when they were building it doing final detail on the suites. Lowlife fuckers would get off on leaving their mark. She was crawling, just to get to our crapper to puke. Weak as all get ot for about 4 days. Airborne Cholera or disintery was my guess. I remember on about the third day of this I asked her if she prefered cremation
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio” puts me on the verge of tears every time I hear it.
“What if you knew her, and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?”
Yeah, I’ve probably heard the song a couple of hundred times, and I still get choked up. Neil Young wrote the lyrics a few days after the shootings, and CSNY recorded it in one session and published it within a few weeks of the killings.
So with Kent State and Jackson State still fresh in everyone’s mind, Ohio was playing from every radio and stereo my generation owned. I was 20, and, days after the record came out, I could walk across a pretty large campus and never stop hearing the song.
My high school Political Science teacher made us study the lyrics of that song, and justify why we thought life was so ‘tough’ in the 80’s. He made us cross reference it with old microfiche articles and old news reels.
We shut up pretty fast.
Whenever I hear “Whipping Post” I swear I smell weed !!!
And every time I hear Clapton’s “Cocaine”…I’m 25 again. And 26, 27, 28, 29…..and 30…and…….
Da Da Da Dut… Da Daaaaaaa.
Da Da Da Dut,…Da Daaaaaaa
When I hear “Cocaine”, it’s 1986 again and I’m walking down Shockoe Slip in Richmond. It’s a warm spring night and I’m standing outside on the sidewalk breathing in the night air and jamming along with a really good cover band as they bang that song out.
“My Mammy” really takes me back. Jolson’s version, of course.
And also “(You’ve Got It) The Right Stuff” by New Kids on the Block. That’s the real funk.
Oh, and “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”
I think of my mum every time I hear “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night – or pretty much any song by Rod McKuen. They were my lullabies.
I’m pretty sure that I was the only second grader that knew all of the words to “I’ll Catch the Sun” and “The Mud Kids”. I own McKuen’s books of poetry now, and have started reading them again.
My first thought, about 3 pages in, was “Geez! McKuen was [is] a freaking PERVERT!”
“Joy to the World”- by Three Dog Night – uh, whatever summer it was that came out, there was somebody across the back yard from us who apparently had only that one record, and they played it – loudly – about every five minutes from sunrise to sunset.
There are several songs that set me off like that. One is “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac. Not that I liked it all that much, but it brings me back to Prom Night 1976. “Beat Box” by Art of Noise takes me to Tampa (well, New Port Richey to be precise) in the sweltering summer of 1984, where I spent some time with my bride-to-be in her stepmother’s trailer. Wicked classy, I know. Many “pop” but not popular songs take me back to college radio days. “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits is the late winter of 1979, when I had a co-op job at DEC (RIP) in the Large Computer Group, working on the hot new KS-10.
I spent a couple of years in the 70s writing assembler code for a DEC PDP 11/40 for a county/city law enforcement dispatch management system. It was laid on top of an early, crude geobase so the system could tell the dispatcher which cars were closest and most available for an incident or for backup. I think the only weekend I had off in two years was when I got married. Neither system is still operational.
Oh yeah, Mary Mack. I remember something like that from elementary school in the late 1960s. There was a group of black girls in my class who would sing a song like that, but I can’t for the life of me remember the lyrics. I figured it was one of the class of Grade School Songs, like “Miss Lucy had a tugboat”, “I went downtown to get a stickabutta”, “Cindefella” and many more.
When I hear the Drive-By Truckers “The Living Bubba” it takes me back to A. The first night I heard it (Red something bar, or lounge or cafe in Atlanta, near where a clown would dance advertising a shoe place?) and to better times with my Godfather.
There are many others, but that one stands out.
I think the lady in the bunker just shat herself.
We used to sing this as a hand clapping game song in the 70’s. Here are the words if anyine is interested:
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
He [or she or it] jumped so high, high, high
He reached the sky, sky, sky
He never came back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ly, ly!
The One I Love by REM transports me back to the spring of my high school senior year. Almost anything by REM makes me feel like a high schooler again.
I listened to an MP3 player for most of my 12 hours of natural labor. I tried to listen to it several weeks after my child’s birth, and I was instantly transported back to those hellish hours, and I had to turn it off and put it away. I wasn’t able to listen to my music again until he was 2 years old.
When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Oh, won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?
Phil Jett says
One thing still taking me back is songs with skips on the Lps I owned. I was washing the car yesterday with the mp3 player cranked through some portable speakers. Twice songs came on that always skipped on the LP and my mind was scrambled for a second when it didn’t happen on the mp3 version.
Matt K says
The blackfly song by. Wade hemsworth. Look it up on youtube
It reminds me of my youth in temagami, northern ontario
The cbc used to show it in between shows with that goofy little cartoon. And it was fitting, if you lived in the north, you understand
There are a lot of songs from the late seventies that take me back. I couldn’t listen to “Patches” for the longest time because it hit it’s popularity peak about the time my mom and dad divorced, and everyone would always jokingly tell me about how I was the man of the family now, like Patches. KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go” is still a favorite and takes me back to summer nights on the porch, listening to the radio. The Eagles “Take It Easy” is my good luck song, it’s played on the radio right before some of the best moments in my life (wedding, opening that college acceptance letter).