I laughed when I heard about the new supergroup Chickenfoot.
Serious. Are-You-Kidding-Me (say that last part like Tony Soprano) laughing. Because, really. Sammy Hagar. In a Supergroup. With Joe Satriani? What, did Sammy and Joe find themselves in line together at Whole Foods. Correct that. Whole Paycheck. In Mill Valley? And when they struck up a confab about the cost of groceries in this day and age of lost rock, they vowed to make an album because they both needed more butt loads of cash? Or maybe, Sammy dared Michael Anthony to call up Eddie and Alex to get the band back together. But Eddie refused to do a reunion for no less than a billion dollars. And Alex couldn't commit. Again. So Chickenfoot was born.
Okay, so fast forward to the present. After I laughed, I became curious. So I logged into Amazon and snuck a listen to the tracks off the Chckenfoot album. Lo and behold. The following day plus a Super Saver Shipping week later, I had the Chickenfoot CD in my hot little hands. Because O. M.G. Chickenfoot is not just Another SuperGroup . It's the Super Friends of Supergroups. As in the Wonder Twins secret knuckle whack that electrified when Zan and Jayna exclaimed "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" The album may be by Chickenfoot. But the sound screams Van Halen.
When the Chickenfoot songs danced into my ears, I flashed back to the Van Hagar concert at the Cow Palace on Halloween, 1986. Yep, that's right. The Crap Palace, 1986, when VH's album 5150 was all the rage despite the absence of Diamond Dave. Which explains my previous crack about Tony Soprano. You do realize DLR was one of Tony's poker buddies on The Sopranos, right?
Back to my 1986 flashback. My girlfriend and I were Very Excited about scoring tickets to such an anticipated event. Until our dates showed up. Dates who were. Ahem. Face painters. As in their faces were painted black and orange. But, to Steve and Ernie's credit, they did manage to slip a disposable camera past security. Probably because the gate goons were too embarrassed to pat down grown men with their faces painted like a Halloween Hallmark card.
So, dear diners. This post is your reminder to use flashbacks. It doesn't matter how blocked or stuffed away your character's memories might be. Create the perfect storm of a situation where your MC is faced with a place, feeling, smell. Something teeth sinking worthy that will pry open your protag's most secret memories. Because when that memory floodgate opens, we, the reader will understand your character better. We'll know how and why the character acts the way they do. What makes them really tick.
For instance, another flashback I had while listening to Chickenfoot was the US festival. A huge, 4-day music fest that occurred Memorial Day Weekend 1983 in the heat of San Bernardino. Each day featured a different category of music - "new wave," "heavy metal," "hard rock" and "country." But the Big Day was Heavy Metal Sunday featuring Van Halen back when David Lee Roth fronted the band. Well, not only did I tape the "heavy metal" and "hard rock" days of the US Festival on a gazllion 120 minute cassette tapes because the entire festival was broadcasted live on the radio. But I captured bits of music history. Like Ozzy's set featuring this new guitarist named Jake E Lee. Or when Bono from that one Irish band announced "Music can change the world, because it can change people." But see. I forgot those tapes existed. But now I'm hell bent on digging them out of the boxes in my garage for a little spin in my ancient cassette player. So I can remember that Memorial Day weekend. Me, curled up next to my stereo, waiting for Van Halen to hit the stage Sunday night. Silently wishing I was there. Live and in person. Instead of being me. Fourteen and well. Boring. At least that was my self-image at the time. Most other people thought I was obnoxious.
No avoiding it. Flashbacks are cool if not downright annoying embarrassments. In fact, I think I'll go change into the VH baseball jersey from the US Festival I stole from my brother thirty years ago. And then give Chickenfoot another listen.