Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why John Lennon's (Just Like) Starting Over is a Delicious Proustian Donut

(Just Like) Starting Over reminds me so palpably of being a child that it's become one of a handful of my most powerful sonic Madeleines. I love it not just for its slick melodic sheen (hello 80's reverb!) and pop craftsmanship but for how it stirs the Proustian particulars of being young and awakening to the world.

It reminds me most powerfully of the summer of 1981. It stirs up a set of powerful memories associated with the summer my family spent a month vacationing at the Chautauqua Institute in Bemus Point, New York. Bats would occasionally get trapped indoors and have to be chased out with broomsticks. One lazy afternoon I watched Bjorn Borg playing at Wimbledon on a little black and white TV my brothers had wisely seen fit to have accompany us on our travels.

The Institute was and still is, a gated arts-community, a privileged summer resort created over 100 years ago with the purpose of spiritually nurturing and equipping Sunday school teachers before it rapidly expanded to encompass the secular arts and the importance of life-long learning amongst the well-heeled. In the summer of 1981, I had just turned 10 years old. I had a small clock radio I had picked up at a neighborhood garage sale. It looked similar to this.
There was a small single speaker that always crackled on with a second or two of feedback before settling in. And there was this song, an ode to Lennon's fealty to mid-life domesticity (it was released October 9, 1980, Lennon's 40th birthday) and its accompanying commitment to monogamy and child rearing. It went to #1 in both in the US and UK just a couple weeks after Lennon's murder.

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