How can I ever thank you? You have been there from the beginning, in the soaring chorus of “Good Day Sunshine” through the car’s tinny radio so many summers ago, and even now you are here, the infectious — in the best way — “Home Tonight.” I thought of you on Egypt Lane yesterday, biking to the beach and considering those lines, “We’re like a train that’s left the tracks / The world is falling apart.”
And last night I remembered hearing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” for the first time — not the recording that had reinvented popular music a few years prior, rather a live rendition from my late friend Milo, then a 6-year-old drummer-to-be who added hysterically perfect sound effects to the chorus as he marched through our house in Hither Hills. Introspective in the time of Covid-19, I stopped at Milo’s resting place in Springs a month or two ago, and lay down between his and his father, Gary’s, who in his own too-brief incarnation crafted swingin’, Sixties-groovy covers of “Get Back” and “Because” and probably more.
Even then, in those quaint days of the nation’s bicentennial, when John stepped out of a limousine and onto the sidewalk outside Pospisil Real Estate on the Circle in Montauk and gave two starstruck boys a drawing and his signature, the mania lingered on and on, and all of us who missed it the first time dreamt that it might happen again. We were amazed, and I don’t mean maybe.
Even now, “Wings Over America” pumping through the headphones, I marvel at the force of nature belting “I thought the major was a lady suffragette,” Denny and Jimmy and Linda and Joe and Howie and Thaddeus and Tony and Steve, surely the most cooking rock ’n’ roll outfit of 1976. I mean, “Call Me Back Again”? All I want to know is, how? A bandleader without peer — okay maybe James Brown, but . . . okay maybe Little Richard, but that’s where I draw the line! And — whoa! “Bluebird” from the once-obscure “One Hand Clapping” just came on the Apple Music playlist. Blackbird, bluebird, I saw two magpies. Each one beautiful, there in the sky.
Even then, a hot and languid summer night in 1979, listening to the chirp and buzz of insects as “You Never Give Me Your Money” turns into “Sun King,” and those . . . beetles joined the crickets through the wide-open windows of the house on Hudson Road, a spontaneous, hybrid live/prerecorded insect orchestra, the most avant of performances this side of “Carnival of Light.” Crickets, who sing with their wings, in an everlasting homage to Buddy and Jerry and Joe, and a beat group that named itself in their honor — it’s all too much.
Way back in the early ’80s, uprooted and wandering Boston, discovering the secondhand record shop called Nuggets (“It’s only a nugget if you dug it”), I’d linger for hours before selecting the essential addition among those my 4 or 5 dollars would secure. Once it was “Ram,” which I always knew was much better than its critics’ po-faced testimony. Another time, a surprise find, the 12-inch “Goodnight Tonight” / “Daytime Nighttime Suffering” single, each unfailingly delivering me right back to that golden summer of 1979. We laughed a lot that summer.
And then came “Tug of War,” holding back the tears no more in that new world without love, that world without Lennon, instead five stars in Rolling Stone, a masterpiece that brought such sweet joy. “In years to come, they may discover what the air we breathe and the life we lead are all about.” Not soon enough for me, either.
It’s like he said, near the end of that manifestation, “ ‘Hey Jude’ is a damn good set of lyrics.” Just this afternoon I got emotional listening to you talk about getting emotional — voice beaming down from the cosmos, the satellite hookup to the convertible gliding along Stephen Hand’s Path —whenever you come to that line. Now it can be told.
“Dragonfly, the years ahead will show / How little we really know.” And yet, you and yours brought us so much farther, so much closer. It’s in every word and glorious, harmonious vibration disseminated throughout this terrible, beautiful, falling-apart world, and for that I bow and clasp hands and offer a wholehearted “Hare Krishna!”
Here today, I’m glad it’s your birthday. How can I ever thank you?
Christopher Walsh is a senior writer at The Star.