Song of the Day #3: ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ – Talking Heads

It’s said that the sense of smell is tied directly to the brain’s memory center, that an odor can place you right back in a certain time or place. In my experience, it’s the sense of hearing that works that way β€” specifically the sense of hearing songs.

Today’s song is the sixth track on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music, a bizarre transitional album that bridged their early art-pop records with the electrified African rhythms of their later work. I like this album but don’t love it… it’s trippy and weird and not very melodic, designed to put you on edge.

But ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ has always been a huge favorite of mine. It’s three and a half minutes of dizzying uncertainty, David Byrne’s vocals echoing back at him in the verses and the music nearly falling out from under him in the choruses. His oddball, chirping cadence works wonders here, putting the ‘alien’ into alienation.

Then, at the 2:30 mark (in the clip below), the schizoid music coalesces into a pounding grunge symphony and Byrne delivers the final lines with increasing confidence:

Everything is very quiet
Everyone has gone to sleep
I’m wide awake on memories
These memories can’t wait

And he dives off a cliff while singing that last word, and repeats the last line as he falls… only he never hits bottom, just keeps on wailing into the void. The song ends, because it has to, but the feeling never does.

Now you probably think I’ve forgotten my opening paragraph, and you’re wondering why the hell I brought up that “song memory” concept. Well, when I was attending the University of Florida, I lived in an apartment down a pretty large hill from the campus. I would ride my bike to class sometimes and listen to tapes on a Walkman (how lucky are today’s college kids to have iPods?).

And once, I was listening to ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ on the bike ride home and I timed it just right so Byrne hit that last line (“these memories can’t waiiiiiittttt”) right as I hit the hill and started speeding downward. It was the coolest feeling ever, like I was inside the music, like if I just let go of the handlebars and closed my eyes I would simply float away.

So that’s where this song returns me to this day, and that’s a very powerful thing for a song to do.

Note: The clip below is some sort of anime experiment set to ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ β€” the song hasn’t been altered at all, so it’ll do just fine.

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3: ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ – Talking Heads

  1. Amy says:

    Words can sometimes trigger memories just fine, as yours remind me of your penchant for wanting to drive back to the apt. complex in Gainesville without having to stop for any traffic lights, stop signs, etc. Dana would partake in this experiment as well, though my memory blames you for its creation πŸ™‚ As for the music, while I appreciate David Byrne and the Talking Heads, I’ve never been much of a fan of their music in that I rarely (ever?) reach for one of their albums or search out one of their songs on my iPod. There are a couple of exceptions. I love “Burning Down the House,” though I seldom seek it out either. This one definitely puts me on edge. It should have appeared in The Dark Knight πŸ™‚

  2. Dana says:

    I, of course, am a bigger fan of Heads and Byrne than my wife. The Stop Making Sense CD was one of my early acquisitions and remains a favorite. Also love Little Creatures, and much of Byrne’s solo work. This song is a bit too chaotic for my personal taste, but I still like it.

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