Sunday, June 4, 2017
Remembrance of Things Past, part deux
An email blast from Amazon Prime this morning announced that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the original Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album release. Fifty Years!
Our upstairs neighbors in the Victorian 4-plex on Octavia Street in San Francisco got the album first. They ran downstairs excitedly, announcing "Come on, man, you've got to hear this!" We went up and they sat me down in a chair and put stereo earphones on me, started the phonograph and my life was changed forever. It utterly blew me away. The three-dimensional sound, the complex harmonies, the stories the songs told, I was transfixed. We bought the album. Twenty-five years later, I bought the 25th anniversary remaster. Now, this one. I didn't buy it -- times have changed. I streamed the whole thing start to finish on Amazon Prime Music on my iPhone. No earphones. Not quite the same sound quality or surprise, but a beloved old friend touching my heart and soul, none the less. It conjured up a lot of past experiences, psychedelic and otherwise, and took me immediately back to being in my 20s again and experiencing life with new eyes.
Lucy in the Sky conjured up my experiences on acid and how the world looked to me back then. It was an experience of the holy. Simple things made beautiful. I remembered the flowers "that grew so incredibly high" in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as the street lights that I saw as gigantic kaleidoscopic flowers on tall stalks. I knew they were just street lights, but my transformed acid vision of them was spectacular. I told Laura (who has never tried any drugs) it was like seeing life through a beautiful prism. Then I thought about it some more and it seemed more like seeing through the prism of God's eyes, everything brand new and holy and blessed and beautiful. Too bad we can't always see that way, without chemical intervention. Well, we can see that way on some level, if we choose to. I can still throw my vision slightly out of focus and see those street light flowers. Maybe that's a good thing to do from time to time -- throw our vision out of focus for a minute and get a new perspective on the world around us.
I remember Leonard Bernstein did a TV show on the Beatles, examining how they had adapted ancient sound patterns, modal music, to get particular effects. I had not thought about the composition of those songs before that and ever since I have had a lot of respect for what they accomplished, beyond just the pleasure of hearing the music. They represent something very rare -- they are originals. They composed and performed music like no other rock band had done before, and they were unique, original people as well. They truly were originals. Most artists and musicians are vaguely derivative of other artists and musicians, but the Beatles brought us something entirely new.
They gave us fun. We did enjoy the show. And in the process, they taught us compassion, spirituality, love. They did it with guitars and sitars and tablas and drums, with lyrics and poetry and stories to catch our imagination. We saw the celebrated Mr. Kite tumbling in the air on his trampoline, leaping though a barrel of fire. We felt for the family and the girl herself who was leaving home. We saw the news today -- oh, boy! And those stories and songs are still good, and still going, fifty years later. Good Morning! Good Morning! Good Morning!