#3 The Association – Everything That Touches You
If you were a teenager in late 1960s, it’s a good bet that the first time you danced slow and close, your soundtrack was The Association. “Cherish” and “Never My Love” spawned many an infatuation in those days. “Cherish” beat out The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” as the number one song of on WKNR‘s Detroit survey of the “Leading 113 Hits of All Time“. That’s a bit of a stretch. But The Association rightly deserves to be among the top ten most influential groups of the pop era.
The song that brings that period of my life back into sharp relief is “Everything That Touches You“. It was the band’s last Top 10 hit.
Founder Terry Kirkman wrote it, celebrating the authenticity of the woman he loved and how and how he still can’t believe he’s spending his “most secure moments” with her. It was a sentiment that many of us insecure youngsters could relate to as we took our first tentative steps in the direction of affection.
In it’s most successful iteration, there were six members of The Association. Their pedigree was as eclectic as was the layered sound of their voices and the way that producer Bones Howe put all the puzzle pieces together to create hit after hit during their prime. It was a time when Stereo recording was being born and the tracks were assigned fully to the right or left channels, leaving it to the stereo field of your speaker system to leverage the acoustics of the room to complete the mix. To today’s headphone ears, that feels a little uncomfortable. That the content is so powerful to make us quickly overlook this speaks to the power of the elements. One hopes that Bones gets a chance to do a remix, as Brian Wilson has done with much of the Beach Boy’s early stereo cannon.
But back in 1967, some of my most unforgettable memories have an Association tune whispering in the background. Perhaps you can relate.
I was on the young side of the kids in my neighborhood. And it was through the kindness of my friend George Harbison that I got to attend my first private party, in the basement of his parents house on Dartmoor street. It was the first time I had been to a party were there were both boys and girls, where the lights were off, and where the playlist was designed to spark the new emotions our pubescent bodies were beginning to process. Ever the introvert, I wasn’t sure what to do, and was terrified of making some social error in the presence of these older kids I admired.
So I found a corner and watched… until Judy Dean approached me.
During the three years I had known her, we had both transformed from the carefree innocence of elementary school to the tentative mindset that overtakes you when you realize that this person you once chased around the playground had become both physically and spiritually attractive.
“Do you want to dance?”
That’s all it took and I was in her arms. She was a perfect fit. We seemed to melt together into this ball of sensation, creating small circles in the middle of a dozen other couples, all of whom were under The Association’s spell. I’m sure she was way ahead of me and already scoping out her next dance partner. But in that moment, everyone else disappeared. I was in love for three minutes and twenty seven seconds and wished that I could extend that brief encounter into an eternity.
“Everything That Touches You” faded out and I thanked her, returning to my corner. That seemed to break the ice and I must have danced with every other girl in attendance before the proceedings concluded.
Those moments with Judy still endure in my memory today. Nothing more really happened. I went to many more parties and probably danced with her a couple of dozen times. Each experience was special, perhaps because she was my first. Time reveals the broader horizons of the future. Nothing developed out of our brief intimacies.
But I can’t hear an Association tune without thinking about those days, remembering the gentle press of her body against mine and how it began to reveal feelings I never knew I could have.
This is the true magic of great music. It’s a universal language that reaches into the deepest recesses of our souls. It can rip open old scars. And it can uncover the most meaningful memories, replaying every second with all the passion and excitement we felt when we were living them in the present moment.