“All You Need is Love,” The Beatles, 1967.
So we begin this 30-day, 26-song collection with what might seem a fairly obvious choice; indeed, an immensely popular, zeitgeist-entrenched piece of music that means pretty much the same thing to millions of people all over the world. But rather than attempt some lurching, musical-snob faux-hipster, high-falutin’ rationale of why “All You Need is Love” is more significant to me than it is to the rest of you posers who only got into the Beatles after they became popular, I can merely set the scene and leave the judgment to my dear readers.
What is the meaning of “All You Need Is Love”? Is it a tremendous oversimplification, cynical pablum for the forlorn masses, or is it a justifiable mantra, a truth keyed into by four Scouse musicians and shared, prophet-like, in the Our World broadcast of 1967 – in a performance where author John Lennon can be seen nonchalantly chewing gum, conveying perhaps his true opinion of its significance (or maybe just trying to soothe a dry mouth)? No matter; once the sound flies from the amplifiers it no longer belongs to its creators, but to the world. We puzzle over the strains of “La Marseillaise” leading into that undanceable 7/4 time introduction, and Lennon’s litany of pronouncements. “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.” Reminds us a little of the opening of Waiting for Godot: “Nothing to be done.” But what’s he really saying? That there are no horizons left to conquer, or that there is nothing beyond accomplishment? Does it matter? It’s still a killer tune no matter how you interpret it.
But there’s one line that gets me. “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” It’s not the easiest of ideas to hear, let alone believe, particularly in the moments when the excrement is weighing us down to the point we can barely lift our legs to take the next step. You have to come to accept the notion that the worst of experiences are essentially mid-terms for the soul. However, the news isn’t all bad, because where you’re meant to be applies equally to the best of times. On a warm summer day, roundabouts five in the afternoon, sandwiched between a bocce tournament and a family picnic, beneath blue sky and upon green grass I looked out over the faces of sixty-four treasured family and friends, clutched the gentle hand of the woman I’d just pledged myself to and heard this song play. The first song I heard as a married man. The first song for the next step.
And it was exactly where I was meant to be.