Music As a Soul Refresher
I was a teenager when Paul McCartney released a single called Let ‘Em In. I was a huge Beatles fan, and enjoyed Paul’s solo work, too - but I hated that song. At the risk of sounding like some intellectual snob, the song was just plain dumb. Consider the lyric: “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door, and let ‘em in.”
C’mon, man. I know Macca wrote some silly tunes in his day (the guy actually released a version of Mary Had A Little Lamb, for chrissakes) but my initial reaction was that he was using his superstardom to just put out anything - really, anything - and his name would sell it.
Which likely was true. The record went to number three on the charts, so either my theory was correct or I was the outcast who simply didn’t get it.
As I write this, it’s now been exactly forty years since Let ‘Em In raced up the charts. Shit, forty years! In 1976 I was riding around with a transistor radio (Google it, if necessary) strapped to my bike. My local Top 40 station, KRBC, blasted all the hits, including Paul’s hits and misses, for me and my friends to enjoy as we navigated our early teen years.
I doubt I’ve heard Let ‘Em In five times since those days. But as I sat at a brewpub today, working on web content, the song rolled out of the speakers. I recognized it instantly - those door chimes at the beginning are unique - and stopped what I was doing to take it in.
And - I can’t believe I’m about to type these words - I enjoyed it.
Please explain! A song I detested for so long is, what, suddenly good? No, that can’t be it. The lyrics are still (to me) inane, and the Liverpudlian doesn’t exactly seem to give it his all vocally. So what gives?
I sipped my beer and chewed on that question, and the best answer I could manage wasn’t all that deep. But I think it’s the only one that fits.
Music is an anchor for us, something connecting us to our fondest memories, or even to our lowest lows. We associate music with our most intimate relationships, with landmark memories, with people and faces. Songs transport us back to a moment in time that seems so clear we can almost smell it.
When I heard this ridiculous McCartney song today, I was suddenly cruising around the River Oaks Shopping Center on my bike with my buddy Jeff, probably listening to Casey Kasem counting ‘em down. And that’s such a positive memory for me, the song somehow absorbed the good energy.
And that’s the real beauty of music, especially the old stuff. It acts not so much as a time machine, but rather a soul refresher. Even the songs we associate with sad times have a way of comforting us today; if anything, they remind us of our humanity, of our emotional being. We feel what we felt, and the past no longer seems like just old, faded photographs. The past is suddenly colored with real feelings, and it doesn’t seem so far removed.
Even the bad is good.
Paul has done better. But he couldn’t have done better with me today.
Bicycle photo courtesy of Becky Day