Saturday, April 6, 2013

No. 425 – Strawberry Fields Forever

Performer: The Beatles
Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Original Release: Penny Lane single, Magical Mystery Tour
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: none

As I mentioned, after opening my eyes to Yellow Submarine, my aunt Nan gave me all of her scratchy Beatles 45s (although, truth be told, they might have not been hers, just ones that she me on my own). I was quite familiar with Penny Lane and its far-more-psychedelic B side.

When my baby-blue Decca Phone suitcase record player was in its glory, we lived in Columbus a short walk from the Upper Arlington suburb where Dad had grown up and obviously aspired to return as soon as he had the wherewithal to do so.

Our house on Norway Drive was small but cool. We had a huge yard, front and back, that had a small stream—Cranbrook—dividing the front. It was a three-bedroom ranch house, and my bedroom was on the far left front of the building. I had a window to the front yard and one to the side, and a closet with sliding doors in the back.

Dad, who was (and is) and excellent carpenter, built the desk, dresser drawers (bright red, blue and gray on white-painted wood) and toy box that lined two of the walls. My single bed was in the corner. It was a pretty cool room, and that’s where I’d play my records from the record player that was next to the closet along the wall opposite of my bed and a bit behind the door to the hallway.

I had a pretty good collection of 45s for a kid in kindergarten who didn’t have older siblings. I suppose my aunt Nan was helpful in that regard, but it wasn’t just from her. Dad had played guitar in a college rock band, and even though he wasn’t exactly into cutting-edge stuff—Pinball Wizard aside—he at least gave me a few things that went beyond Disney movie soundtrack albums.

Aside from the aforementioned Beatles 45s, I had The Monkees’ Pleasant Valley Sunday and Last Train to Clarksville, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron by The Royal Guardsmen and The Tra La La Song by The Banana Splits, which was my favorite TV show back then. That might seem normal for a kid in the late Sixties, early Seventies, but I also had Amos Moses by Jerry Reed and Roger Miller’s Dang Me, dang me, they oughta take a rope an’ hang me, high from the highest treeeeee-yee, woman would you weep for me? Classify those under WTH.

I spun those 45s—most of which I still have—to death during the day, while I played with my Hot Wheels or my plastic dinosaurs, which came later, or my baseball cards, which came later still, on my woven choo-choo train rug.

I always liked this song, at least the first 90 percent of it, anyway. It wasn’t featured in Yellow Submarine, of course, but it certainly fit in with other music that was.

But the backward-masking stuff at the end flipped me out. (And this was before I knew the whole Paul-Is-Dead story, where John in disembodied voice supposedly says “I buried Paul” but really says “cranberry sauce.”) To this little boy, it sounded like a group of Arabian bandits charging through the desert. (Listen to it now and tell me you can’t hear that.)

At night, when it was time for bed, Mom or Dad would put on what I called My Pretty Music to lull me to sleep. It was like a cross between Montavanni and the Ray Coniff Singers. I created images in my head based on each tune, and each tune corresponded with a color in the rainbow. I almost never made it to the blue or purple song before falling asleep.

When Mom died two years ago, I went through almost every one of her records, desperate to try and find My Pretty Music, but I had no success. I seemed to recall trying the same thing years before only to find the album had been lost. To this day, I couldn’t tell you the name of the album, but I still can hear almost every tune in my head. No Arabian bandit music there.

Because I don’t know who did it, it’s music I almost certainly never will hear again in my life, and a part of me weeps for that.

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