Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a sad song and make it better

The radio station I listen to has been celebrating The Beatles all month, in honor of that remastered collection thing that you probably heard about, unless you've been living under a rock or perhaps don't listen to a station that decided to talk about The Beatles all month. Tonight, the whole thing culminated in a countdown of the top 50 Beatles songs, as ranked by listeners. (Or rather, as ranked by the listeners who actually took the time to vote. I did not, but obviously that won't stop me from complaining about the results.) It was a reasonably solid list... not that I am any sort of expert on Beatles discography and therefore qualified to weigh in on this, and maybe the fact that I am not a Beatles expert accounts for my reaction when they played the number 1 song. Hey Jude? Really?? The song that starts out promising enough but then ends with approximately nine and a half gratingly repetitive minutes of "Na, na, na, na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na! Hey-ay Jude. (JudyJudyJudyJudeJudyJude!)"? That song? Better than all other Beatles songs? OK then.

It occurs to me that my dad once voiced that exact same complaint about Hey Jude, so now of course I am terrified I may be turning into my father. Next thing you know, I'll be driving as if every other car on the road is invisible, bringing my own spoon to restaurants, and spouting off about how that Rush Limbaugh really knows what he's talking about. Yeesh. Perish the thought.

In truth, I don't really have a problem with Hey Jude, but best Beatles song of all? Hardly. Of course, now I have to tell you what IS the best Beatles song, which is bound to be a bad idea, because at least 96% of you will disagree with me, and at least half of that 96% will actually lose respect for me because of my disturbingly bad choice. Or so I've been led to believe the few times this topic has come up in the past. Some people are serious about their Beatles cred. It may be on par with the pop/soda divide.

So I won't tell you what the best Beatles song is. Instead, I will tell you what my favorite Beatles song is. And then I will explain why it is my favorite, in an effort to calm whichever among you will tell me it is not a valid choice.

My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. Not because it is lovely and sad (though it is) and not because I have a scratchy old version of it on a tape that my little sister once dubbed for me--a version that ends with Paul saying, "Thank you, Ringo; that was wonderful," which for some reason makes me smile. My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday because every time I hear it, I remember winding my way up the narrow staircase that circles the interior of Brunelleschi's dome in Il Duomo, the Florence Cathedral. I remember climbing to the top of that dome during the spring break of my semester abroad, with two German boys walking the steps in front of me, singing Yesterday to amuse themselves. Wait. Were they German? They may not have been German. All I remember is that English was not their first language, and as such, one of them mangled the lyrics into something entirely unrecognizable as English words. I know I have mangled some Spanish over the years; I once tried to sing the Tortilla Song that I learned in high school Spanish to a bartender in Cozumel, and though I was confident I was remembering all the words just right, he had no idea whatsoever what I was singing about. Mangled English I'm less familiar with. It's hard to imagine mangled versions of a language you know well. So when I heard the German teenager singing Yesterday and injecting words that were not words, my ears perked up in confusion and surprise. So did the teenager's friend's, because he whirled around immediately to correct him. "Half the man! Half the man!" he sputtered, one hand pounding the other for emphasis. After that chiding, the poor kid looked like half the man he used to be. But still, he kept on singing.

So when I hear Yesterday, I think of Florence. I think of exploring new places and learning new things and realizing the simultaneous fear and exhilaration of being in another country and knowing there is no one on the planet who knew exactly where I was at any given moment. And I think of those two boys in Brunelleschi's dome and I wonder what lyrics they are mangling these days.

Incidentally, Yesterday came in at #11 on the radio listeners' poll, so obviously I am not the only one for whom that song holds a special place. At #12 was In My Life, which is my second-favorite Beatles song (by a very close margin). I don't have a story to go with that one. I've just always liked it is all.

I wasn't actually planning on talking about the Beatles tonight. I certainly wasn't planning on talking about them for seven paragraphs. No, I was going to talk about my second vacation in the course of a month. Remember? I was so overdue for a vacation that I decided to take two? So last weekend was my long weekend in L.A., where it was ridiculously hot and where I saw more of the highways than of anything else (which, as far as I can tell, is about as accurate a picture of L.A. as one can get), but where I had an excellent time with some excellent friends nonetheless. I went to visit Darren and Heather (who some of you may remember from Look at Me... and Nabbalicious fame). I went with my friend Melissa, who lives in Minneapolis but who I had to meet through another blog friend in California (everybody's favorite tech support and car repair guru, Steve, who is the reason Heather and Darren know Melissa as well). See what a small world it is? Look at the Internet, bringing people together even after their blogs are long defunct. It's almost like... REAL LIFE. Crazy thought.

Anyway, we had a hilarious time. Seriously, I do not remember the last time I laughed so much in a 72-hour span. We went to the observatory in Rebel without a Cause. I saw the beach club that served as 90210's Beverly Hill's Beach Club. (Or was it the beach club that everyone worked at on Saved by the Bell? Were they actually the same beach club? My memory of them is the same.) I had my first In-n-Out burger. I celebrated Guinness's 250th birthday. I lost a bar fight because I had only one arm. We had Darren's famous Cincinnati chili and Roscoe's famous chicken & waffles. We took pictures of creepy statues. And we made more terrible "That's what she said" jokes than Michael Scott has made on all five seasons of The Office thus far. Also, we learned all sorts of interesting things about each other. I learned that Melissa is an exhibitionist and that Heather hates Colonial Williamsburg. (She has a point: Why do Americans need their history safe and spoonfed, like Applebee's and network sitcoms?) In turn, they learned that I spent $18 on a bottle of deodorant, because the Internet told me to.

In short, I had so much fun that I don't even mind coming home with a cold that's left me feeling weak and stuffy for days. I probably picked it up on the plane, but since Heather was sick when we got there and Melissa was sick by the time we left, we've decided we must be passing it along to one another in batches, like Amish Friendship Bread. It is the Amish Friendship Cold. Who wants it next, folks? I've got plenty of germs to share, and plenty of Internet friends I'd love to see. Come on over!


steve said...

It was good to see you again, Stef - and I'm glad I was able to be a conduit for good friendships. You might consider coming back for another visit 'round about February or so - I can almost promise that it won't be hot. Sadly, the freeways will probably still be here.

(I hope this comment doesn't end up sounding as creepy as my last one about your neighbor. I really screwed that one up.)

travelingsuep said...

Hi Stefanie
Whilst I have no complaint about your fav Beatle's song (and I'm a Brit), I do wish complain about your blog title. I saw it about 2 hours ago, just as I was going to log off & didn't have time to read your blog. AND I've still got the song in my head. Aarrggh

flurrious said...

I had heard that Roscoe's L.A. does not put the chicken and waffles on the same plate as the now defunct and lamented Roscoe's Oakland did, which, to my mind, made Roscoe's L.A. a completely fraudulent entry in the chicken and waffles game. I am glad to see the rumors are unfounded.

And you're not kidding about people and their Beatles cred. I mostly don't care about the Beatles, but if I say that around certain people, I have to be harangued for an hour.

Anonymous said...

You were in my dreams last night and when I saw you pop up in my reader I winced in embarrassment, then remembered- ah, those events really did not happen. Also- please give us more info on dad and the spoon.

My favorite Beatles song: "Across the Universe." "In My Life" always make me tear up when I hear it.

As a Midwesterner, I am dying to hear more about In 'n Out- is it all they say it is? And more info on your chicken and waffle dinner, please.

Hope you are on the mend soon.

-R- said...

We are definitely due to hang out, but I don't really want the Amish Friendship Cold. So maybe in a few weeks.

Why does your dad bring his own spoon to restaurants?

I feel like the Saved By the Bell beach club and 90210 beach club are the same too.

Jess said...

I am not your father but I have the same issue with Hey Jude. Does that make you feel better? Maybe you're turning into me instead of him!

NGS said...

Yesterday, I had a completely inappropriate, outraged, seeing red overreaction to a situation. I immediately turned into my father who would have had the exact same reaction. I forced myself to calm down and began laughing because, damn it, I am my father. I am a Timbit. So, yeah. We're all going to turn into our parents someday. It's fate.

I know you didn't ask for input, but my favorite Beatles song? I Want to Hold Your Hand. Because I am 10 and want love to be simple and sweet.

Darren (McLikeshimself) said...

As someone who has been devotedly listening to The Beatles since he was eleven; took a Beatles course in college (it was one of the few As I received); and traveled to both Liverpool and London after graduation to visit various Beatles’ homes, studios, roundabouts, and pubs; I feel that I can authoritatively tell you that there is no way to answer the "What is the best Beatles' song?" question. The Beatles are a gift from above, one of the few lights granted to illuminate our path as we make our way through this godforsaken world. It is not our place to question them or rank their catalog in any ascending or descending order. Such an exercise would be as meaningless and shallow as assigning numerical values to the moments of joy or love we’ve experienced in our lives. While it is true that we may like some Beatles’ songs better than others, we keep these wicked thoughts buried deep within ourselves lest we expose our ingratitude and, thus, our own failure.

Now, to the important stuff!

Thank you, Stefanie, for visiting us! We had such a good time, and we too are sore from laughing so much. You and Melissa are the perfect guests (don’t make messes, ask for virtually nothing, and refill the Brita pitcher), and you are welcome back any time. Honestly! Please come back! We miss you guys, and there’s still so much more to do out here.

Also, the greatest Beatles’ song is “A Day in the Life.”

Heather (Nabbalicious) said...

Yes! Thank you for visiting! We had the best time! I concur that you need to come back without haste. You and Melissa are excellent guests, and it was great having Steve around, too. He's an excellent person and an excellent person to meet people through.

As for the Beatles, I love "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," myself.

Heather, again (Nabbalicious) said...

Also! I'm so sorry about the cold. I do hope you're feeling better by now.

And Colonial Williamsburg totally sucks! It does!

lizgwiz said...

Well, as much as I would love to come to Minneapolis and sit in a tiki bar with you, I'm going to have to pass on your generous offer to share your GERMS. But thanks. ;)

Hey Jude is not my favorite, either. Though I'm not sure I could say exactly what IS my favorite, but at least I've narrowed it down by one. Heh.

MplsMel said...

I think I got Sepulveda on my Cauhuenga. Maybe it had something to do with that friendship cold.

I also had the best time and loved the company. You all are among some of my favorite people ever.

My vote goes to "While my Guitar Gently Weeps"

courtney said...

Glad you had fun in LA! Sounds like a good trip.

I like "Hey Jude," but picking your favorite Beatles song is like picking your favorite Hawaiian island. Some are better than others, but none are really bad. Except for "Wild Honey Pie," which I hate.

Your reasons for loving "Yesterday" are just about the best reasons I've ever heard for loving a song.

My favorite: "Penny Lane." It just makes me smile.

Shelly said...

I agree with Heather that Colonial Williamsburg sucks, but I think that because it was my mother's favorite vacation spot and I got drug there ten million times as a kid.

I don't like Hey Jude either and totally agree about the lame singalong that devolves into a screamfest at the end.

Stefanie said...

Steve--I thought February was the rainy season! Well, I'll be back SOMETIME. Just not sure when. :-)

Sue--I'm sorry. I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems. Did it on Facebook the other day, too, and had people complaining I got "Grease" songs in their head all day. Whoops.

Flurrious--That was actually at Roscoe's in Long Beach, so I can't confirm or deny what the one in LA proper does. I am amused that you feel more strongly about the number of plates a restaurant uses than about The Beatles, though. We all have to care about something, right? :-)

Monkey--OK, now I want to know what I did in your dream that made you embarrassed or uncomfortable. Whatever it was, I'm sure I wouldn't do it in real life. Or, I probably wouldn't. Maybe. And In-n-Out was good, but I think you have to go more than once to understand its phenomenal reputation. I wouldn't mind having another Double Double to find out.

R--We ARE due to hang out. I was just thinking about that last week. Yes, after I stop coughing. I'd hate to get anyone in your house sick. Also, they ARE the same beach club! I don't know why I didn't ask the Internet before I posted that, but I asked it later.

Jess--Hmm... I HAVE been liking purple more lately! (Just kidding.) :-)

NGS--I didn't specifically ask for input, but you were right to assume the question was implied. And I love your answer. That one isn't necessarily one of my favorites, but I love the reason that it's yours.

Darren--Ahem. As I said in my email earlier, you really must start writing again. Why waste brilliance like that in my humble comment box? :-) Hop to it, sir.

Heather--Thank you for having me! Will Darren let me come back if I admit that I don't think I've ever heard "Happiness is a Warm Gun"??

Liz--How do you feel about "Michelle"? I've never liked that one much, either. Maybe that'll help you narrow it down by two?

Mel--Ha! I almost forgot about that. We'll have to have Steve teach us how to pronounce that one. :-)

Courtney--I don't think I know "Wild Honey Pie," but I trust your opinion on it. And excellent comparison there. Pizza would also work (even when pizza isn't the best pizza, it's still pretty good). But given that it's currently 62 degrees in my house, I'd rather think about Hawaiian islands!

Shelly--It's not even that I don't like Hey Jude; I just think they totally ruined it by wasting the last three quarters of it on the screaming and the na-na-na-nas. As a wise woman who chooses to remain anonymous said in an email today, "Know when to stick a fork in it, dude!" Word.

Aaron said...

Sorry, I don't think "Hey Jude" could be long enough. I'm not being obstinate or contrarian, I just love it; the whole "na-na-na" thing is like the emotional payoff to the slow buildup. And I love it when Paul screams.

It's not even my favorite Beatles song, although picking a fave is crazy. "Norwegian Wood"? The whole second side of Abbey Road? Too hard.

Hey this entire comment was about me. Sorry. Glad to hear you had a fun trip! ;)