I remember the summer of 1981, and the song "All Those Years Ago," which was very frequently on the radio during that time. The song was by former Beatle George Harrison, and although it had originally been written prior to John Lennon's passing, Harrison re-wrote the lyrics as a tribute to his friend and former colleague.
During that year, as a rather nerdy and insular 11 year old, I was not very familiar with popular music, including that of the Beatles. I was not even very knowledgeable with the artists most associated with the early '80s, although being anywhere near a radio ensured that I was at least familiar with some of the songs then playing. "All Those Years Ago" remains in my mind as a familiar memory because my family took a road trip to Washington D.C. that summer, and Harrison's song was frequently on the radio.
My closest association of that song, therefore, involved hearing it often as we rode down highways in a 1976 Ford Granada, a cooler of ice water in the car with us, stopping at Days Inns and Shoney's restaurants along the way, the '70s era vinyl of the Granada becoming hot in the sun as we got back in after each stop.
And on the radio, over and over. . . the catchy, wistful song with the lyrics . . .
all those years ago...
I did not know what the song was about, but the tune and the words stayed in my memory. And so did the trip.
I remember when we got to Washington, D.C., my parents made it a point to make sure we saw all the major sights: the Capitol (we took the tour), the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument (we went to the top), and Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot).
One of my fondest memories was visiting the air and space museum of the Smithsonian, which fed my strong interest in the space program, an interest which is still strong in me today.
And it was wonderful just seeing Washington, D.C. itself, this unique city with all the monuments, all of which greatly impressed the 11 year old I was at the time. (We rode the Washington D.C. subway... woohoo!!)
As I grow older, I can't express how much I cherish these memories of being together with my family. Just the happiness of being on a trip, in the heat of summer, with my family. . . literally all those years ago.
As I grew older, my interest in music grew very strong indeed. I'm not sure how I could have gotten through my teen years without it. This included not only music from my own teen era, the '80s, but also from other eras, especially the '60s. I grew to appreciate just how special was this group from the '60s, The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo. The Fab Four. Rubber Soul. Sgt. Pepper. Abbey Road. Let it Be.
And I came to know what "All Those Years Ago" was all about. A tribute to a fallen musical great, and to an idealist who inspired so many: John Lennon.
What is often not known, is that it represented a rare reunion of the three remaining Beatles. The song was ostensibly that of George Harrison, and it featured his lyrics and his vocals. But they also featured the vocals of fellow Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, and Paul's fellow Wings musician Denny Laine. Ringo Starr played on drums, and Al Kooper was on keyboards. A rather unique song.
And a unique example of how songs can have so many meanings for us. There are the meanings which a song was originally crafted for, and for which so many may give it. And there are also the personal meanings which attach to a song, and which derive from personal memories, memories of things that happened all those years ago . . .