With a Little Help From My Friends

If it was twenty years ago today, that late May in 1967, then the Sgt. has been playing now for quite a while. And when he arrived, my roommate and I skipped class to listen–all the way through, over and over, carried someplace we had never been before. We tried to play along, pick out the chords, the beat with our guitars–so easy to follow and find with Love Me Do or If I Fell. But we quickly gave it up to simply let ourselves become immersed in a new and more complex kind of music, a Magical Mystery

It was “the act you’ve known for all these years”, but nothing we’d ever experienced before.

Hearing it replayed this week at the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I almost had to pull off the road, disoriented to time and place. Could I have been 19? Could I now be so close to the impossibly old “64”?

Will you still need me, will you still feed me?

How can something like this be so very comforting and so disturbing at once? On the one hand, those unforgettable events in the history of our lives represent stable, fixed landmarks from which we measure the reach of our lives. And on the other, we see them receding farther and farther back toward the earlier horizon, more difficult to make out, the one ahead much easier.

And since Mr. Kite flew through the ring, she’s left home after living alone for so many years. Life flows on within us and without us. And Sgt. Peppers in and out of key runs through four decades I could not have imagined, even if I had been able to find the chords.

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong
I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I remember those days very well, and I still have my much loved album of Magical Mystery Tour (I had to steal it back from my daughter, sho stole it from me when she moved to her first apartment). I was 2 years older than you (still am…LOL) and that music sticks in my heart and mind like none other!

  2. I remember when much was made of the 20th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s…could that have been twenty years ago? Of course it could: this summer my 20-year high reunion is happening. Where did all those years go?