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The Rabbits in Memphis

September 30th, 2018

Memory is a strange thing. The ability of a smell, taste or sound to immediately invoke a specific memory is amazing. There are foods that take me back to Charlottesville or DC or London. But one of the funniest triggers I have a sound association with a book and by extension a movie.

The sound is Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis [wikipedia.org] album and it is forever linked to images of the rabbits in Richard Adams Watership Down [wikipedia.org].

My association is not from the first time I read Watership Down but the second. Sitting in my tiny one room flat in London listening to Dusty in Memphis in early 2002. I bought a copy of Memphis for £5 at a used CD shop in Islington on a whim. I listened to it on my crappy laptop speakers. Reading Watership Down because I had just labored through Ulysses and I needed some lighter fare.

Maybe the link was burned into my mind due to my mental state at that time. Having just gone through a bad breakup and still a bit lost in London. I played Memphis over and over. It wasn’t my “breakup song” I wore out Black by Pearl Jam for that, but that is a different story.

A few bars of Just a Little Loving is all it takes to open the flood gates. I can see Fiver, Hazel and Bigwig. “Seeing” them is another odd feature of memory… I see the animated movie version [wikipedia.org] of them I watched when I was young. A movie that I loved but also scared me a bit as a kid. It was probably more then close to 15 years since I saw the movie when I read Watership Down in London.  But the images from the movie are linked to the songs on Memphis. I remember reading in a psychology text book about the fallibility of memory, an example given about a man who have very vivid memories of when he first heard about the attach on Pearl Harbor — that he was listening to a baseball game when the broadcast was interrupted, he cloud remember the inning and the score.  The only problem is that Baseball has never been played in December.  His vivid memory had become corrupted with some other memory. I guess listening to an album and reading about rabbits is not same league as hearing about an attack like Pearl Harbor but somehow I just remembering the movie from my childhood as I read Watership Down has linked it to Dusty in Memphis.

Dusty in Memphis is still one of my favorite albums and Watership Down is one of my all time favorite books. I’m listening to Memphis as I write this and it still invokes a strange mix of feelings, anthropomorphic rabbits and imagery of London: crying for Hazel and watching the sun set from Finsbury Hall.

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