Thinking Out Loud

June 6, 2017

One Album: A Half Century Later

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:04 am

…He lost his life out on the street
He hadn’t noticed that the times had changed…

It was a very hastily written update of the song A Day in the Life written to be performed at our church coffee house in the wake of John Lennon’s death. Somehow I often landed the performance slot on the Friday night following some major events. The explosion of the Challenger space shuttle was another. I wish I could go back and redo those nights. I was a musician first and a youth pastor second, and it should have been the other way around. I think our friend Craig actually came up with the lines remembered above.

But all that came later. I’m getting ahead of myself…

Even though many other things that happened at that age are a bit of blur, I remember this one with great clarity. We had been to Sunday School and Church in the morning and drove directly to my Aunt Stella and Uncle Dave’s house for the afternoon. I was still in my little boy suit with the white shirt and clip-on tie. Arriving at their home, my four cousins were all in t-shirts and jeans. I had no clothes to change into.

They were older and had been to the record store to get the album. “We got the album;” people would say the next week, and you knew they meant that album. There was no other album.

When I was older and got my own copy I would listen to it through headphones with the volume turned up high. One time I didn’t realize my parents had gone out, and I sat in the basement in complete darkness and one of my friends dropped in; saw that the house was unlocked but noted the glow of the rather large VU meters on my oversize stereo system. He called my name from the door of the basement, but I didn’t hear. So he put his hands on my shoulder. I screamed like a girl. He said I jumped about a foot in the air.

But all that came later. I’m getting ahead of myself…

So there I was with my cousins, and without the benefit of headphones or anything close to what I would have considered ideal volume, the album was on continuous play all afternoon, with the exception of course of changing it from Side 1 to Side 2.  “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; we hope you will enjoy the show.”

Before I got married, I did a camp show; traveling to Christian summer camps and doing a mix of bad comedy and music.

What would do if your cow would not moo?
And your turkey refuses to gobble?
Where do you go when your rooster won’t crow?
And you can’t get your duck to waddle?

Oh, I get by with a little help from my hens.

Ah, Beatles songs. Parodied endlessly, I’m sure. The highest form of flattery, as they say.

But all that came later, I’m getting ahead of myself…

So I’m at my cousins’ house and I’m just a kid, so I’m not thinking that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is about drugs, but I do have a sense that somebody might have been taking something when they wrote it. I’m Fixing a Hole. When I’m Sixty-Four. Lovely Rita… I had to ask questions about the job of a “meter maid” and what is “a hogshead of real fire” and as a kid try to figure out the logic of, “It really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right.”

Later Joe Cocker would sing A Little Help from my Friends and it would be used as the introduction to The Wonder Years and we’d all be a bit older and look back and realize those really were the wonder years, but not anywhere like we’re looking back now and typing this with a tear in one eye.

But all that came later, I’m getting ahead of myself…

So I sat uncomfortably in my grey wool pants and tweed jacket and white shirt buttoned to the neck with my clip-on tie partially falling off, and the music was a soundtrack to the afternoon, to the snacks, to my Aunt Stella’s glasses of ginger ale, to my Uncle Dave stretched out on the entire sofa watching a football game with the sound turned off, while cats and dogs came and left the room and the album just playing over and over. It was the music of our times, with Wikipedia noting that one critic called She’s Leaving Home “equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote.” 

And my cousins never left the room. Taking turns holding the 12″ record’s jacket and liner and reading every word as though it imparted some supernatural or spiritual message. They passed the album cover to me and I looked at it and though my record collection at that point was more children’s music, novelty albums and hymn collections; I knew I wanted a copy. In my mind I was saying, ‘I will own you someday.’

…Music changed significantly with that album. Pop music’s unit of currency became the album, not the single. Production values increased geometrically. Songwriting for all bands of that era moved from “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” to more complex themes with both historic and pop culture references. It matured and held out the promise of even better music tomorrow.

A splendid time was guaranteed for all.

 

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