Last weekend, Mrs. Pincus and I took a three-hour drive to Gaithersburg, Maryland, a sleepy burg situated about 50 miles southwest of Baltimore. Our destination was an antique show being held in one of the buildings at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, a facility which, in warmer months, plays host to livestock and farming expositions. We had been to previous shows at this venue in years past, but with the increased popularity of eBay and other online outlets for purchasing collectibles, the recent incarnations have shrunk in size considerably. What was once a sprawling cornucopia of varied objects and curios has been reduced to a smattering of dealers sadly displaying their wares to their equally computer-challenged prospective buyers.
My wife and I started out at 8 AM on Sunday morning and mingled with the few cars that comprised the traffic on southbound I-95. It was early, so we talked to keep my wife from falling asleep at the wheel. Our car was filled with the sounds of WXPN and its regular Sunday morning eclectic mix of quiet songs to ease its listeners into a lazy day of relaxation. This was hardly the soundtrack my wife needed to accompany her navigation through the increasing number of cars that now joined us on the highway. As we left the Philadelphia area and the broadcast realm of its radio stations, we began to scan the dial for the regional offerings of Delaware and Maryland's sonic transmissions. Although our twenty-seven year marriage has sustained on a host of common interests, Mrs. Pincus and I usually divide when it comes to musical preference. For the most part, my tastes run from 30's era swing to current alternative bands and everything in between. With very few exceptions, my wife dislikes any band that isn't The Grateful Dead. I will listen to pretty much anything. My wife is a little more particular. So, settling on a radio station we both can agree upon can be a tall order. As on most lengthy car trips, my wife drove with one hand on the steering wheel while the other hand danced around the radio dial as though the preset buttons were on fire.
As we crossed the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge and my wife negotiated the potentially dangerous crosswinds, her fingers tuned in a local Classic Rock station playing the opening bars of Queen's 1975 stalwart "Bohemian Rhapsody". My wife simultaneously shot me a sidelong glance and a bemused smile. With her affinity for the meandering psychedelic blues-rock of Jerry Garcia and company, Mrs. Pincus is decidedly not a Queen fan. I, however, was an ardent fan of Freddie Mercury and his cohorts in my youth... and Mrs. Pincus knew this all too well. (That story is related HERE on the josh pincus is crying blog.)
With the four-octave range of Mr. Mercury's vocals wailing from the speakers, Mrs. Pincus asked, "When a song like this comes on the radio, is it like an old friend has returned and taken you back to a simpler time — a time of youth and innocence and no responsibility?" She explained that's how she feels when she hears certain songs. I thought for a bit about her question before answering. Finally, I replied, "Not this song. Other Queen songs, sure, but not this one." When the first section of the song ended, Mrs. Pincus hurriedly changed the station before the "dreadful operatic part" (as she put it) began.
Several days later, I found myself placing Queen's 1973 debut album into my CD player and cranking the volume to a window-rattling level. Despite having not listened to these songs for nearly thirty years, I knew the guitar riffs, the drum beats and the words to every tune — and I sang those words out strong and loud (much to the chagrin of my son, the only other person at home at the time). My wife was right. Old songs can be like old friends. And it's the good ones — the ones you miss the most — that bring you the most comfort.