I won’t claim to be a big time Beatles fan. Don’t get me wrong. They’re GREAT! I love a lot of their songs and if I was around during their heyday, I would probably be among the throngs of screaming girls hanging on their every word, buying posters and otherwise going ga-ga for them. So, obviously, I think a lot of the Beatles. Still, I don’t own any of their albums or CDs and I don’t know all the lyrics to any one of their songs. But, there is one ditty that I just adore–Hey Jude!
I probably first heard the song as a kid in passing. I imagine that I came across it in somebody’s parent’s album stash. Still, not much of a blip on my music radar. My next encounter with the Beatles was fleeting. I’m sure I saw someone on campus wearing a t-shirt and thought to myself, “Oh, yeah. I like the Beatles…cool.” I’d hum a few songs here and there. And at one point I thought about buying one of their CD’s at the local music store, but the new SneakerPimps release won out…a consequence of being a broke college kid and having to make tough financial choices. So the Beatles went by the wayside and I moved on with my life, but this was college and some things never die.
The Beatles resurfaced again a little later when I became acquainted with college radio. You know how it goes, one DJ likes 80s Punk, someone else likes Big Band, there’s always a girl whose show revolves around man-hating, angsty girl bands (one of my faves), and the list goes on and on. Basically, anyone can get a show. Thus one mild-manner fellow played the Beatles and I loved it. For the most part it had loads of elements to it—fun and poppy early stuff, catchy numbers that quickly become brainworms, ridiculous karaoke-type songs (Yellow Submarine anyone?), and later more thoughtful ballads. Who couldn’t find something to love in such a varied set!
All of this brings me to Hey Jude.
Senior year in college. Just when you’ve gotten used to the college lifestyle (and all the perks that come with it), you suddenly realize that all good things come to an end. As the cliché goes, “there’s a reason and season for everything under the sun.” It was inevitable. And while most of my crew would extend their college plan an extra semester or go on to work on a master’s degree, I was on course to graduate in the spring. It was all part of my super strict, no room for errors, by the book, four-year college plan. Sure, many tried to get me to stay in our little bubble…”Go an extra semester, minor in Spanish, go to grad school,” they all said. But as much as I loved them and loved that life, I knew my time was done. So in January while celebrating a birthday at our favorite hangout, Louise’s Bar Downtown, I strolled over to the jukebox to pick out the last song of the night. I had stood at this jukebox before. I knew the song choices and for nearly two years I had always picked the same song, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka…well worth the quarters I sunk into the machine. (SIDEBAR: I really do like that song. It reminds me of peanut butter milk shakes, holding hands, and simpler times. However, amongst a college crowd, it always garnered groans and head turns…which made the song extra fun for me!) But this song was going to be THE last song of the night. It had to be special. We were here to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday, the start of my last semester in college and CLOSE DOWN THE BAR. Obviously, the pressure was on! So I dropped two quarters and selected Hey Jude and never looked back.
That semester whenever we all got together, it had to be Louise’s, we had to CLOSE DOWN THE BAR, and we had to listen to Hey Jude. It became for us the exclamation point at the end the evening. It had to be the song we sang or hummed walking out the door. It had to carry us home. And it always did.
On graduation night we ended up at Louise’s–where else, right? My dear friend (and roommate) had a roll of quarters and waltzed me over to the jukebox. She said that tonight we were CLOSING DOWN THE BAR with $10 worth of Hey Jude. I couldn’t think of a better parting gift. We made the selections and walked away. About an hour into the repetitive Hey Jude track, the bartender kicked us out. Apparently, the crowd was a little upset at what they considered our buzz kill music. We were escorted out that night (the first and last time that has ever happened to me), but we had the biggest grins on our faces.
I left town two days later to a new job, a new town and a new state. There I found new friends, my future husband, and a reawakening to faith. Hey Jude and I would occasionally cross paths during the years and my mind would wander back to those days. But recently my ten-year old son came home from school with a project that brought the Beatles back into focus. Together we researched the band, their history, their ride to fame, and their music. Hey Jude walked back into my life. After a particularly long day, with the kids finally in bed and a disastrous kitchen mess waiting for me, I searched YouTube for Hey Jude. I played it over and over! In the quiet of that night, as I was getting ready to CLOSE DOWN my kitchen, I played it just one more time–for me. It is the perfect way to cap off an evening and I finally know why…Hey Jude is soothing enough to change the course of a night, thoughtful enough to make you appreciate everything going on around you, profound enough to wake you up to life’s blessings, and long enough (7 minutes) that when it’s finally done, you’re really ready to say goodnight.
Take a sad song and make it better. –Hey Jude by the Beatles