Friday, April 01, 2011

Song of the Week: Beatles, "Golden Slumbers"

Throughout this series, I've varied my reasons for each Song of the Week choice.  Some songs I picked because of their influence on today's pop charts.  Some were just fun to hear and enjoy musically.  Some I've chosen for more academic reasons.  And some songs I chose because...well, you chose them for me. 

But for Abbey Road, I wanted to make it more personal.  As much as I love this album musically, I love it even more autobiographically; I've lived with it.  I wanted this week's song to be my strongest memory off an album full of them:

Song of the Week, The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" (Abbey Road)

I've always been an insomniac.  Maybe it's different for others, but my bouts of insomnia come in waves.  In fourth and fifth grade, I had a very hard time sleeping.  One day, the problem disappeared.  It resurfaced sporadically throughout high school.  But it wasn't until college that I really made insomnia part of my lifestyle, a fact of life I worked around rather than tried to fix.

Picture me, first few months of college: a little dorm room all to myself, a schedule all to myself and, for the first time, my own computer with high-speed internet.  So, I did what all the guys on my hall did: downloaded a TON of music. 

(Wait--what were you thinking I'd say?)

I tried everything.  Hear about an artist but didn't want to buy a full album?  Download a song.  Those classic cult bands I'd always been curious about?  Download a song.  All the rarities and b-sides of my favorite artists?  Download a song.  For the first few months, it was a feeding frenzy.  I couldn't get enough.  In this span, I first heard (and fell in love with) everyone from The Smiths to Fugazi, from Phantom Planet to Whiskeytown.

Plus, I finally transferred all my old favorites onto my computer.  I consolidated my rapidly growing musical library.  I finally had all my Beatles and Motown and Pearl Jam and Dylan in one spot, right next to all my new favorites.

It was heaven.

Sometime during this musical maelstrom I found time to date a girl.  I liked her for many reasons, but one of them was this: she was a great sleeper.  She never had any problem sleeping, and she never had any problem staying asleep (by-product of a clear conscience, I suppose).  And--I've never seen anything quite like it--she smiled when she was asleep.  Her natural resting expression was a grin.  I always wondered what she was dreaming of.

So, I admired her gift for sleep.  She slept for the both of us.  And I'd stay up with headphones on and (kind of) do homework and (really) to the Smiths' "Shoplifters Of the World Unite."  Or, depending on how much coffee I'd had, Fugazi's "Epic Problem."  Or Temple of the Dog's "All Night Thing."  But at some point in every all-nighter, I listened to "Golden Slumbers."  It became a tradition: every late night, Paul sang a wasted lullaby into my headphones, making me wish I was sleepy, making me nostalgic for something I never really had.

Not long after, "Golden Slumbers" became the first lullaby I learned to play and sing myself.  It was the catalyst for what became an endless string of lullabies I'd attempt when I began writing my own songs.  To this day, it's my creative starting point, a home base I always return to.  Writers-blocked?  Up late?  Stressed about something?  Take a breath, listen to "Golden Slumbers" and write a lullaby.

And the magic isn't just that the song's as beautiful and impacting now as it was back then.  It's that every time I hear it, I can smell that dorm room.  I can smell the exact Glade Plug-In scent ("Rainshower").  I can see the soft light from my desk lamp.  I hear steady breath and remember that sleeping grin and wonder where those dreams took her.

Meanwhile, I'm wide awake.  I'm writing this post at 2AM and I'm listening to Abbey Road.  I don't want to go back to college.  I've never been one to look back.  But the right song means I don't have to: I can see it all from here.

1 comment:

ross k. said...

CHRIS! I listened to this song OVER AND OVER this weekend, along with much of the rest of Abbey Road! We were on the same wavelength, brother!

Post a Comment