Sgt. Pepper & Other Memories

THIS IS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY of the release of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, the album that made a huge mark on the music and recording industries and provided a sound track of sorts for my first coming-of-age.

Months ago, I read a book by Mary Karr called The Art of the Memoir. While reading, I took her challenge to give it a try—writing a memoir, not for publication or anything like that, in fact, not even for anyone ever to read, but as an exercise in remembering stories. Mary Karr warns in her book that it is not an easy thing to do and in fact can be dangerous.

I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.
— Mary Karr, The Art of the Memoir

Still, I highly recommend you give it a try. Maybe go back in your life, grab an experience and write a few paragraphs. It is eye-opening, soul-searching, and scary.

She also warns that remembering and writing it all down can be hurtful to yourself and others and that being honest is hard to do. She’s right. I do want to be honest in my recollection of the past, but my memories are hazy and sketchy. I’ve apparently edited those memories over the years.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. 
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

As I started on the challenge I knew I didn’t want to write my whole life’s story so I chose to focus on three summers, the first, 1967. Because, in the past few days, my mind has been drawn back to that time with of all the news of the Sgt. Pepper anniversary and re-release of the album, and these lyrics running through my head:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

I’ve decided to share just a snippet of the memoir project here.


THREE SUMMERS; THREE FALLS

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, —Ecclesiastes 3:1

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

—from the lyrics of Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

The First: The Summer of 1967

Coming of age in the 1960s, fascinated by the Hippie lifestyle (or my perception of it), raised in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher, the horizon loomed large, and I didn't realize it.

On January 8, 1967, Elvis turned 32 and I turned 16. Although we shared a birthday, I was never drawn to his music to the point that I would have bought one of his albums. My music budget demanded careful curating of my vinyl library. Early in the Summer of 67, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club was released. I was smitten and ready for stardom on the rock and roll stage. Ringo Starr and I both played Ludwig drums, all I needed now was long hair, despite the edict of The Beatles that "All You Need Is Love". The first fall was into adolescent angst, triggered in part by things like the battle over hair.

The summers of youth make for a good season for ad lib in the sense that they tend to be more unfocused. The rhythm of the school routine pauses, along with a requisite amount of self-discipline. Summers as a teen felt natural to me. I didn't have to ease in. I was ready for the freeform of it all on the first day of the break.

The summer of ’67 though, had a cadence to it; figuratively and literally. I was playing drums in a band that was headed for the World's Fair, "Expo '67", in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. So the days between the end of school and boarding the tour bus, were spent in long rehersals.

I had no idea that “Expo ’67” was such a big deal until we arrived there. I had no idea how big the world outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma really was. I had no idea how much I would be changed after that summer baptism of worldliness.

(to be continued)


So there it is. Probably the only part of the memoir exercise that I will ever share with anyone.

Let’s close with Ringo singing…

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends

 

 

 

 

 

Date Night: Then & Now

I write often here at About POPS about what I call our "second coming-of-age." The first being that arbitrary passage from youth to "maturity" and the second, the passage to some other older version of maturity. As I look forward to a "Date Night" tonight with My Amazing-Missus, I thought about the comparisons between a date night during my first coming-of-age and now.

In both cases, you want a full sensory experience: sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touch.

While we both look a bit different than we did back in the courting day, we've aged together, and as far as I know she's okay with that, but still I'll make the effort: you know, shave, iron my shirt, stuff like that.

One of the things I fear most about becoming a "man of a certain age" is picking up that essence of old guy and not even being aware of it. So, again I'll make the effort. Unlike the good old days, I won't be splashing on the English Leather with an extra spritz behind each ear just in case a slow song comes on and a dance breaks out, but again I'll make a good effort.

The sounds for a perfect date night are still key. Back then I would have been picking her up in my VW Bus (I still can't believe her Dad ever let her go out with me). Having just the right song cued up on the 8-Track player was essential. Something like "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys would be a good choice:

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we've been spending
I wish that every kiss was never-ending
Wouldn't it be nice

Okay, now I've actually embarrassed myself.

Tonight I might Bluetooth® sync my iPhone® and have this oldie-but-goody by The Beatles ready to go:

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

If I'd been out 'til quarter to three, would you lock the door?

Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

Date Night tastes once included stuff like a Shakey's Pizza followed by an ice cream float at Weber's Root Beer Stand. Tonight? Well since I'm less than two weeks out from gall bladder surgery, I'll probably go with a piece of grilled chicken and dry baked potato. Maybe we'll splurge and go for fro-yo after. What a romantic? Right?

Oh, and the Date Night touches? Now, that's really none of your business is it?

Go have your own date night.

Gaps & Glimpses

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

The only hymn-singing tradition that I'm fully aware of is that of Southern Baptist churches and I've experienced it across the full spectrum for over 60 years: from little country churches where a volunteer leads the singing while standing next to an old upright piano, tuned close enough to recognize the song and off just enough to make it somehow genuinely old-fashioned; to the highest of high worship, as defined by baptists.

One of the common traits of this hymn-singing tradition is the skipping of the third verse. "Turn in your hymnals to number 241 and let's sing the first, second and fourth verses."

Why? I have no idea. "That's the way we've always done it."

It seems like for me these days, if I am moving toward what might be called spiritual maturity, I'm kind of like filling in the gaps--gaps left by skipping third verses, or certain hard to grasp passages of scripture, or seeing dinosaurs as something bigger than the plastic toys you buy at Toys R Us. 

Oh there will always be gaps and I'm good with that. In fact, I love the mystery and wonder of a divine plan than passes our understanding. These days I'm grateful for the glimpses we get of how things might be designed, what the creativity of a loving God might be like, what's in the gaps. So that's pretty much my spiritual journey these days: gaps and glimpses.

Oh, that bit of poetry I started this post with--that's the third verse of John Lennon's "Across The Universe." See what we miss when we skip the third verse? Note: For my younger readers, John Lennon was in band called The Beatles. ;-)

In case you're interested, I've included the complete lyrics of this song at the bottom of this post along with an explanation of that weird language John used at the end of each verse.

Maybe one day I'll publish a book of skipped third hymn verses. Then someday those amazing poets of old, like Isaac Watts, will come up to me in heaven and say, "Thanks for the book Pops. By the way why did you people skip those verses?" And I'll say, "I'm not sure Mr. Watts, but it may have been for expedience sake. You see it was important that we got out of church by noon so we could beat the Methodists to the cafeteria."

So you'll know; here's the third verse of one of Isaac Watts amazing lyrics:

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, 
    sorrow and love flow mingled down. 
    Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, 
    or thorns compose so rich a crown.  

We shouldn't have skipped that part.

One more example of the treasures we miss when skip third verses (From The Sound of Silence. Simon & Garfunkel):

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared disturb the sound of silence.


Here are the lyrics I promised. Third verse included.

"Across The Universe"

By John Lennon

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world


The Sanskrit phrase Jai Guru Deva, is a sentence fragment whose words could have many meanings. Literally it approximates as "glory to the shining remover of darkness," and can be paraphrased as "Victory to God divine". --Wikipedia

The Soundtrack of Life

Some sage said: Every life needs a soundtrack.

mixtape.jpg

Who doesn't remember the songs that defined their First Coming of Age? I do: the songs of the summers spent swimming at the pool at Dutch's Park, like: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". Hey it was summer, no grammar teachers were around to shake their heads over a poetic double negative. I can still feel the angst that came from those "Couples Only" songs at the roller rink in Brookside. Did I really want to hold the cold clammy hand of some girl while the Everly Brothers sang, "All I Have To Do Is Dre-e-e-e-eam"?

But what about the soundtrack of our Second Coming of Age? I've given it some thought and would like to recommend a few songs. I've included the lyrics here, but you need to hear the tunes. You can download them from iTunes for about seven bucks.

This first one makes the list because it's a guy in his First Coming of Age trying to imagine the next. It's the Beach Boys' When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)

When I grow up to be a man
Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?
Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn't done what I did?
Will I joke around and still dig those sounds
When I grow up to be a man?

Will I look for the same things in a woman that I dig in a girl?
(fourteen fifteen)
Will I settle down fast or will I first wanna travel the world?
(sixteen seventeen)
Now I'm young and free, but how will it be
When I grow up to be a man?

Will my kids be proud or think their old man is really a square?
(eighteen nineteen)
When they're out having fun yeah, will I still wanna have my share?
(twenty twenty-one)
Will I love my wife for the rest of my life
When I grow up to be a man?

What will I be when I grow up to be a man?
(twenty-two twenty-three)
Won't last forever
(twenty-four twenty-five)
It's kind of sad
(twenty-six twenty-seven)
Won't last forever
(twenty-eight twenty-nine)
It's kind of sad
(thirty thirty-one)
Won't last forever
(thirty-two . . .)

The Beatles took a similar approach to imagining the future in their classic When I'm Sixty Four.

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck & Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

The next few songs are more like Circle of Life kinds of songs. Each of them talk about a certain inevitability that all of us Men Of A Certain Age can relate to.

The first is Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds. The lyrics of this song are ripped right from the pages of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

It seems like the band Kansas, may have also borrowed from Ecclesiastes for their song, Dust In The Wind, where the writer makes numerous references to the meaninglessness of life--like chasing the wind.

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

This next song is Stop This Train by John Mayer. It's the only one on the playlist so far that isn't from the 60s. It too is a looking at the inevitable progression of life. His metaphor is a moving train. Be sure to listen to the song and you will hear a rhythm reminiscent of a chugging train headed with certainty to its destination.

No I'm not color blind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind but...
I just can't sleep on this tonight
Stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But honestly won't someone stop this train

Don't know how else to say it, don't want to see my parents go
One generation's length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't but honestly won't someone stop this train

So scared of getting older
I'm only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find away to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said help me understand
He said turn 68, you'll renegotiate
Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute change the place you're in
Don't think I couldn't ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we'll never stop this train

See once in a while when it's good
It'll feel like it should
And they're all still around
And you're still safe and sound
And you don't miss a thing
'til you cry when you're driving away in the dark.

Singing stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can't take this speed it's moving in
I know I can't
Cause now I see I'll never stop this train

I've included Bob Dylan's Forever Young to brighten the mood a bit. I really do believe that while life does move relentlessly forward, we can always capture a bit of the best of youth. Forever.

May God bless and keep you always 
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others 
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars 
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young 
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous 
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth 
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous 
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young 
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy 
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation 
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful 
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young 
May you stay forever young.

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge Beatles fan. So it's no surprise that I've included one more Beatles song. But it is totally justified. "In My Life" is sort of the antithesis of the first two songs on the playlist in that it is a look back--in remembrance. I've saved it for the last and would like to dedicate it to my Amazing-Missus.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more


Have a suggestion for the Second Coming of Age soundtrack?