October 15, 2007 [Across the Universe]

Sometime in the early '90s I stopped listening to the Beatles. Not a rejection, just a drifting away. I didn't look for their songs, and didn't miss them. And then, about ten years ago, a co-worker said with ironclad finality, "I don't need to listen to another Beatles song. Ever." And contrary me, I returned to them, bought some of the albums on CD I hadn't yet, loaded cassettes into the car, sought out lesser songs and alternate takes—I heard a Hey Jude filled with jokey Lennon yelps and nah-nah-nah-nahs and kept up all the way.

Most of all, I gave myself the chance to listen more carefully. And while I mostly heard the inevitable echoes of three decades of those tunes playing over and over again somewhere or other, I also found new life and new reasons to keep them playing. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is perfect throughout, yearning and insistent, arranged like a symphony without any faking. I've Just Seen a Face jumps like bluegrass and runs like a river. I Feel Fine uses "she said so" like a challenge to fall in love while dancing—you can do it, she said so.

And Across the Universe flows like endless rain into a paper cup, spilling into the open mind of Julie Taymor's movie. And man she tells the truth: Beatles songs want everyone to sing them, to let them force themselves into the parts of your bones where the joints stay oiled—so that they can move, and sway, and keep their orbit. Nothing's gonna change that world, not even Eddie Izzard.

Something more happened for me: The movie echoed my own renewed voice over the past decade, my own efforts to hit those high notes and scream along with Paul straight through to the other side of helterskelter where it's all in endless good fun, as scary as it can be—the movie's war-terrors and loves tossed and efforts thwarted. Because it wasn't just a movie with music but a musical—everyone a trooper flinging themselves around to get the number out there and sold, baby, with lights and running color and big big sound.  And in the end—just like the love you make and take—Across the Universe and the Beatles travel with me, even when I'd turned away and thought I knew better—but lucky me: they kept right up and knew my name and looked up the number.


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