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False Memory

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
I thought I'd already written this week's blog!  False memory  - only joking. đŸ˜‰

My reading matter at the moment is 'Girl To City: a memoir ' by Amy Rigby. I've loved Amy's music since the mid-1990s, bought all her early records, have caught many of her gigs when she's played in the UK, even interviewed her one time (and my friend Richard Booth, ex-Plummet Airlines, took the photographs). In the early part of her memoir, Amy (then McMahon) writes about going up to art college in New York City (from native Pittsburgh) aged seventeen in the summer of 1976, and getting into the nascent NY punk scene (CBGB, Max's et cetera) via a boy she met and dated named Bob (Gurevics); then how in the summer of 1977: "Bob had passed an audition and was in a band, The Poppees." She goes on to recount how she and her second year roommate Lisa went along in the fall of 1977 to his inaugural gig with the group at Max's: "Bob wanted to do a good job but it was almost too much pressure. To step into a pre-existing band, to fill in for a departed member, must have been a lot tougher than coming up with your own music together with a group of friends... I don't think he enjoyed himself, but in my eyes he was a hero. He'd played Max's. He was in a band."I didn't know much about her involvement with Bob until reading the memoir, but this much I do know about The Poppees - as you can verify from several online sources: Bob Waxman was a founding member (along with Paddy Lorenzo) in 1973. The pair shared a love of  '60s British music and as a quartet (with Arthur Alexander and Arthur Harris) they recorded their first single for Greg Sage's Bomp! label in 1975 after he'd heard a demo they made. Their profile and the gigs they got in NYC increased markedly in the wake of the record and they laid down a second single which showed them taking their love of the first British invasion (Beatles, Kinks, Who) and the second (Buzzcocks, Damned, Sex Pistols) and melding both into the basis of what became known as power-pop. They did play both CBGB and Max's, opening for the likes of Blondie, but they had disbanded by the end of 1976.All of which goes to suggest that there may be a significant quotient of false memory in one or other or - heaven help us - both of those accounts.  For apart from anything else, I can find no evidence that there was ever any other Bob in The Poppees than Waxman (though all things are possible).False memory is an intriguing phenomenon, the seemingly credible recollection of something that either never happened or happened significantly differently from the way it is remembered. It is well documented that for any single event, multiple people may retain different versions of what 'happened'. This is because our senses cannot capture every detail but take impressions of the experience and then our brains 'make sense' of what we've seen, heard et cetera. We will all notice slightly different aspects of the event and our brains will interpret the impressions and fill in the blanks based on our past experiences, prejudices and sensibilities. Only the camera and the microphone never lie.It is also well known from psychological experiments that if the memory, witness statement or the like  is being recalled under interrogation, the content of the questions and the way they are posed (leading, loaded, suggestive in some degree) often bias and condition the details of the recall. Memories are mutable things.

False Memory

Speak, Memory

So what about the recollection of an event that may never have happened at all? 
"Remember that time you fell in the pool with all your clothes on?" "No, I've never done that in my life. You're imagining it, or it was someone else." "It was you, I was there!" There are three possibilities. Either the person denying it has genuinely forgotten and has lost the memory entirely, or the person claiming it happened actually saw someone different fall in and is confused in the recollection, or it never did happen but for some reason (s)he imagines it as potently as if it had. (Actually, there is a fourth possibility, that it's a wind-up by either party, in jest or for some more sinister and destabilising purpose.)
In a week when more poor children and their teachers have been mown down by a gunman in an American school, I was reminded of an incident which I swear I happened to observe on a holiday to the USA twenty years ago, though my family still maintains I imagined it all. We were out walking downtown and I heard an altercation behind us. I turned and saw, a block down at the corner on the other side of the street, a man step backwards out of a shop doorway. He was followed out by another man pointing a handgun at him from a couple of feet away. Suddenly the first man fell violently backwards to the ground. There was a simultaneous dull retort. I sensed he had just been shot. It was broad daylight, and we were walking along a wire-mesh fence outside the car pound of a rental firm. I just urged my wife and daughters to keep on going. I'm not sure they realised why and I didn't say anything else at the time. Later on I told them and they were incredulous. They'd neither seen nor heard anything and thought I must have imagined the whole thing. I know I didn't.

False Memory

Pierre Janet

Some of the earliest research into the mysterious working sof the mind and how we make memories (false or otherwise) was undertaken by the pioneering French physician and psychologist Pierre Janet (1859-1947). He was one of the first to explore and hypothesise about the relationship between past experience and how that shapes present perceptions and memory-making. He it was who coined the terms subconscious and dissociation, and he also formulated an early theory of transference. His work was ground-breaking and there were claims in the early decades of the 20th century that Sigmund Freud had plagiarised Janet when formulating and publishing his own widely-read and accepted treatises. No doubt that is not how Freud would have remembered it!
My latest poem isn't particularly on theme, but thoughts of what continues to unfold in eastern Europe have been pressing for fresh expression, lest we forget. DissociationWhat answer to the riddle of bullet holes in the family samovar? Or solution to thetangled puzzle of muddied human limbs?How to resolve this equation if X is egoand Y is never allowed to be expressed?
What sense to be made of your enormouspixilated image mouthing patriotic hate?More fodder conscripted to serve a Statewith no grain for bread and oh no circuses.I don't remember victory like this before!But what of Amy Rigby? you ask. And life after Bob? In a nutshell, this: she abandoned art for music, was in bands The Stare Kits, Last Roundup and The Shams, got married to Will Rigby (drummer with power-pop band the dBs), had a daughter, separated and went solo in 1993 as a singer-songwriter, recording a series of hugely enjoyable albums. On a musical tour of England she met punk-rock musician Wreckless Eric (Goulden) and the two have been an item ever since. I'll leave you with a musical bonus, a backward-looking reflection from 'Middlescence ', Amy's second album. Click on the song title to activate the YouTube link: The Summer Of My Wasted Youth

Thanks as ever for reading, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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