History and Memory in the Age of the Search Engine

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

What is memory? I carried with me for more than forty years the distorted and etiolated memory-trace of what I believed was an anti-nuclear protest concert, held around 1979, somewhere in America, featuring James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Peter Frampton, and other stars of that long-forgotten era. Throughout all these decades I was convinced that the concert had been called “Nukes Knocks [sic] Your Socks Off”, or perhaps, alternatively, “Nukes Knocks Yer Sox Off”.

Adjacent to this memory was another one, of my father’s hippie friend’s son, who would later end up in Louisiana’s Angola Prison, I was told, for some crime or other involving heroin. The adolescent, six years or so my elder, entered the living-room where I was patiently waiting as our respective dads fiddled with a vintage printing press in the basement. He pulled a record out of its sleeve, blew on it, and said casually, “You like Sabbath?” I was eight years old. “Yeah,” I said. And his shirt, I recall as clear as day, bore a message: “Nukes Knocks Your Socks Off”.

I have Googled that phrase every six months or so since around 2005, and until recently I continued to turn up nothing. I did turn up records of a concert held in 1979 under the title “No Nukes” —featuring Taylor and Browne, though not Frampton—, as well as of an eponymous concert film from the following year. But that’s not what I was looking for. I was looking, much more precisely, for “Nukes Knocks Your Socks Off”. This phrase had become one of the most vexing items on the list of what I had come to think of, with a hat-tip to Barbara Cassin, as the “Ungoogleables”.

More here.