Thursday, December 08, 2005

Words of Wisdom

I first discovered The Beatles in the late 1980s. We sublet a house in Berkeley, California for a summer while my stepfather participated in an advanced program for professional chemists at the University. It was a happy time for us; my stepfather was having a great time, and my mother, who had grown up in San Rafael, was happy to be back in the beautiful bay area. She had worked at the University for a time in the 60s, when she was first married to my dad, who was a student there.

The house was a wide, shallow multi-story cedar affair built into a steep slope way atop the Berkeley Hills, just one block below Grizzly Peak, a little to the south of Marin Avenue. I forget exactly what year it was, but I think I was about 12. At that age, I was pretty much a loner. When I wasn't out exploring the neighborhood, or surreptitiously taking the bus down to the BART station and sneaking into downtown San Francisco, I really didn't have anything to do.

The family that owned the house had a large record collection. I had heard of The Beatles, of course, but didn't know any of their music. (Despite having gone to Berkeley in the 60s, my dad was more of a Beethoven and Marty Robbins guy.) Who knows what possessed me, but I put on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Little Madonna fan that I was, my first thought was that the music was corny and dated, but I kept listening. By the time the needle got to "Lucy," I was hooked. I listened to their whole collection.

I never bought any Beatles recordings for myself until many years later, when I was living in Zurich. Horribly depressed and miserably broke, I splurged on the anthology 1, which cost me more than an entire day's budget. While the tunes were all familiar, I'd never really listened to, or perhaps, connected with, the words before.

There was so much on my mind that year. I was poor, bored, lonely and angry. I felt betrayed by my circumstances there, which were so far short of what I'd hoped for that some days I contemplated just going to the airport and never looking back. My moods swung between barely contained rage and moments of such sadness that tears would spontaneously appear in my eyes. Most of the time I was just sullen. When I'd pray, I'd ask God, "Why?" over and over and over.

And then I'd listen to "Let it Be." To this day, I can't help but tear up when I hear this song, and remember the incredible comfort I took from it in desperate hours. No question, this song saved my life.

There will be an answer. Let it be, let it be.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I'm very glad you've got past that unhappy time, Andy. Come to think of it, it's probably just as well we didn't know each other (let alone meet) when we were both in Switzerland, as I wasn't particularly happy either.

Eleanor Rigby is, to my mind, one of the saddest songs ever written. Very bleak, not something I'd listen to if I were feeling lonely or vulnerable.