Monday, July 13, 2009

Forty-nine reasons, all in a line, all of them good ones

1 The Beatles ‘Don’t Let Me Down’.

I read Nick Hornby's 31 Songs book from time to time. It may be the book I've read most often actually - next contenders would be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig and Giles Smith’s Lost in Music. Mostly I dip into all three from time to time and I've read them completely 3 or 4 times each. So I thought - why not - if it's good enough for Nick, it's good enough for me. The Steve Stills lyric flashed into my head next (I've left out the third line 'all of them lies' for obvious reasons) so, instead of 31 I'll try for 49!

Nick starts his journey with the song he's heard the most often in his life - Springsteen's Thunder Road. I'm not sure how he came to that conclusion though. Trying to quantify the number of times you've heard a single song is pretty tough isn't it? Well actually, no, it's not. This is what makes someone a music lover: an answer to the question – what’s the song you’ve heard most often? Non music lovers (who wouldn’t be reading this blog anyway) would shrug and go, ‘I dunno – why do you even care?’

For me the answer is The Beatles’ relatively obscure b-side to the Get Back single – Don’t Let Me Down. Nothing else comes close? The rest of the Beatles catalogue is up there fersure but Don’t Let Me Down has entered my DNA.

My first hearing was in 1970, on the Hey Jude compilation. I was way too young to understand, at that time, the intensity of feeling that love has, I was 13, and it wouldn’t be for another 13 years that I would fall in love for the first time. But I could connect with the intensity and passion of the repeated don’t let me downs that Lennon sings with such singular warning. It’s an extraordinary statement really – on one hand he is firm that ‘dontcha know it’s gonna last’ and then the hedged bet plea to Yoko – not to let him down. In the years since I’ve always come back to this song – easily my favourite Beatle/Lennon song – and thrilled to George’s recurring guitar riff, Billy’s electric piano, Macca’s fluid bass, Ringo’s inventive drumming and Lennon’s unique vocal. As I’ve alluded to, in 1983 I met Jacky and the song made a whole new sense to me. I got the insecurity and dread that the lyric holds in a real way at that time. The way Lennon repeats each lyric by heaping on the expression and volume is really real, basic and primal, and true!

I never get bored with this song – it has enough twists and turns in it to always hold my interest and it’s simple enough and raw enough to never lose its novelty. Somehow (somehow) it always sounds new – I’m in love for the first time! Such a simple statement, such a complex statement – I’m sure he did actually love his Aunt Mimi, his mother Julia and the other sisters, I’m sure he loved Cynthia – the letters he wrote to her bare all. But his love for Yoko was another girl, another planet. It was a new and first time.

I love Lennon’s music, I love The Beatles, but I love this one, and I’ve listened to this one, the most!

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