Blink-182 and the deceptions of memory

This is well-known pop-punk combo Blink-182 (2015 edition; they’ve had line-up changes):-

09-blink-182_w529_h529

It’s fair to say that they’re looking a bit the worse for wear after nearly 25 years of rock and roll, but then who isn’t? Anyway, whilst I wouldn’t claim to have ever been a fan, their commercial peak in the late 90s did coincide with my peak of buying CDs and reading music magazines (both of which really do date me). I couldn’t help but be aware of them, if only because Q magazine used to interview them so much.

So it was kind of lodged in some part of my brain that Blink-182 did an album called Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. At any rate, it must have been, because recently I noticed that whenever the self-service check-out at Waitrose told me to “Please take your receipt and pick up your shopping” (or something like that) I would always mentally convert it to “Please take off your pants and jacket.”

After that, two things happened –

  1. The penny finally dropped about Take Off Your Pants and Jacket being  a masturbation reference. That must make me sound unbelievably dim, but “jacking off” isn’t a normal slang term for masturbation in the UK, so the joke wasn’t so obvious.
  2.  Perhaps feeling mildly embarrassed about not having noticed this before, I thought to myself – “Wasn’t that album the one with the sexy nurse putting on a rubber glove on the cover? Well, that explains it; they probably did that to sneak the joke past the censors by pretending it was actually a joke about embarrassing medical examinations, those wily pop-punk scamps!”

Well, that excuse lasted until this evening, when I Googled it. Because the album cover for TOYPAJ looks like this:-

blink-182-take-off-your-pants-and-jacket

Not a sexy nurse or a rubber glove in sight. They are to be found on the cover of the album before that, Enema of the People (Blink-182 are not fey intellectuals). And, of course, that picture actually makes a lot more sense with that title. Also, it turns out TOYPAJ actually came out in 2001, when I had it mentally filed in my “late 90s” folder, a bit like remembering having watched Sabrina The Teenage Witch on TV a few years before I actually did, as mentioned in a previous post.

So what does this prove? Well, I clearly have a terrible memory; but I don’t think it’s just me. In their book The Invisible Gorilla, psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons talk about “the illusion of memory” – our memory doesn’t work in nearly as detailed or reliable a way as we think it does, and we “construct” memories to a much greater extent than we realise. “What we retrieve often is filled in based on gist, inference and other influences; it is more like an improvised riff on a familiar melody than a digital recording of an original performance.”

In my case, I constructed an inaccurate memory based on what I thought made sense at the time. And I suppose the moral of the tale is, never rely too much on your memory. You’d be amazed how fallible it is.

Well, that and “when in a supermarket, never take off your pants and jacket.”

 

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