'i know i'll often stop and think about them'
Posted 2013.02.01
Featured song: "In My Life" by The Beatles


Up next on this tour of my life with Beatles music are Abbey Road and Rubber Soul. Oddly (and perhaps heretically for the former), these are two albums I didn't hold in very high regard when I first listened to them. I thought they were good, but they didn't shake me to my core as much as Sgt. Pepper did, and they didn't work their way into my childhood memories in the manner of Revolver and "I Am The Walrus." About the only thing that made Rubber Soul special was the title's similarity to, "Plastic soul, man, plastic soul," which Paul said after recording the "I'm Down" take in Anthology 2.

Abbey Road grew on me quickly, though, especially "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and the medley at "The End." (I also carried over from Anthology 3 some fondness for Ringo's "Octopus's Garden.") Eventually, my brother and I would grow quite fond of "Here Comes The Sun," and we'd sing it every time it came up on CD or the radio during drives to and from high school. We still do, when we get the chance.

Rubber Soul had a longer journey to fondness. I thought "Drive My Car" was a good rocker, and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" appealed to my sense of snark, and I liked, though I only understood it incompletely, the social commentary of "Nowhere Man." I wasn't quite tuned into the language of relationships yet, though, so the appeal of "Wait," "If I Needed Someone," "What Goes On," and "Michelle" blew over my head. (I knew, however, how jarringly bad of an idea were the lyrics of the otherwise-pleasant "Run For Your Life." John was a jerk!) Largely, it was the appeal of hearing the finished versions of Anthology 2 works like "I'm Looking Through You" and "Norwegian Wood" that kept me listening to the album.

Then came London.

I've discussed the Abbey Road Album Walk, the oddly transformative pilgrimage I took during two months of study abroad in London, on that summer's travel blog. The second part of this post should tell you all about it. Reading it three and a half years later, it's still hard to describe how excited I was about it and how much I allowed the experience to affect me. I suppose the best way to express it is the six exclamation marks in a row, not attached to any sentence, near the end of the entry.

The new story here is my growing attachment to Rubber Soul. Later, after more reading of Mark Lewisohn and The Beatles Bible, I would understand how much of progression the album was from The Beatles' previous work, an indication of just how much they were willing to play with the rules and mores of popular music. There was also another appreciation brewing: visceral love of the music. Rubber Soul benefited from observation #6 in the eighth post on my travel blog: Beatles songs just sound better in London. But it was more than that.

There is a reason my joke name in the editor box of the final fall 2010 issue of the IDS was Alex "I love London" Farris. I really did. I would learn to love Madrid even more, but for the six months between the end of my UK adventure and the start of my Spain adventure, London was my favorite city in all the world, and I dearly wanted to go back with all the Ernie Pyle Scholars and other IU journalism students (some of whom deserved the "I love London" tag more than me!). The one song that could express that love was "In My Life." I, as well as another London student and IDS colleague/Beatles fan, would often bring up the song, not only in those first months back, but also at the end of our editor stints in fall 2011 and in the month before our graduation. Even now, separated from those experiences by two years, those first guitar notes call to mind places I remember and people & things that went before. I can't help but stop and think about them, in large part because my mind goes right back to those places. It's a thrilling, yet very gentle, form of time travel.

I stop everything I'm doing for "A Day In The Life" because of its unparalleled use of instruments, lyrics, and climax. I stop everything I'm doing for "In My Life" because of its unparalleled use of my memory. I stop everything because, otherwise, the song would stop everything for me.

Next week, we'll go back to the UK for yet another pilgrimage, this time to Liverpool.

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