Friday, May 3, 2013

Were Those The Days (My Friend)?

Are there really, as Jules Verne would have us believe, eight million stories in the naked city? Many say there are only seven original plots. (Actually, Aristotle minimalistically argued that there were only two: tragedy and comedy.) Read The Bible, read Dickens, read Shakespeare. You'll read the same stories over and over ... and over and over. Boy meets girl. The hero's quest. The mistaken identity. 

In essence, there are only a finite number of tales to tell. The important thing is how they're told.

The same holds even more true for songs. If you had to create a short list of song categories, it would be a short, short list. One theme that many musicians return to is what Bruce Springsteen aptly called, "Glory Days."

Glory days, well they'll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days.

Back in 1967 or so (!), my younger sister and I sang at an assembly at P.S. 199. For some reason, the song we chose (or a grownup chose for us) was "Those Were the Days, My Friend." Sitting on the edge of the auditorium stage, I'm sure we gave it our all. Still, it must have been a bit comical listening to a 5 year-old and a 3 year-old mourn their halcyon past. 

We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose,
For we were young and sure to have our way.

The words mean a bit more when you reach mid-life, don't they?

Whether we can play the guitar or not, we all get sentimental sometimes. I find, as the mother of a teen, that I can't help but remember my own youth. And, even though those days weren't always easy (I still have the overwrought, overwritten diaries to prove it!), they did hold a sense of wonder and promise for the future. Now, some thirty-five years later, I continually conduct mini audits. What happened? Where did all those dreams go?

There's a very real melancholy involved in such reflections. That, and, a whole lot of revisionism. As Paul McCartney sang:

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they're here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Maybe a slow, gentle amnesia is nature's way of keeping us going. Like the way new mothers quickly forget the pains of labor. (Because who, let's face it, would sign on for baby two otherwise?)

One of my favorite songs about the past is by Queen. Freddie Mercury, who was already in the twilight of his short life, making the beautiful lyrics resonate all the more, told us:

Sometimes I get the feelin'
I was back in the old days — long ago
When we were kids, when we were young.
Things seemed so perfect — you know.
The days were endless, we were crazy, we were young.
The sun was always shinin' — we just lived for fun.
Sometimes it seems like lately — I just don't know —
The rest of my life's been just a show.

Those were the days of our lives.
The bad things in life were so few.

Those days are all gone now, but one thing is true
When I look and I find I still love you.

My talented sister and brother sang this at my wedding. And, if there was a dry eye in the house ... well ... suffice it to say, it wasn't mine. The song continues though with a more heartening message, emphasizing some of the sweetness in the bittersweet:

You can't turn back the clock, you can't turn back the tide.
Ain't that a shame.
I'd like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride,
When life was just a game.
No use in sitting and thinkin' on what you did,
When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids,
Sometimes it seems like lately — I just don't know
Better sit back and go with the flow.

Indeed, as much as I'm often too busy, too tired, and too anxious to "sit back" or "go with the flow," I am enjoying everything again through my daughter. (All right, maybe not Freshman Honors English. Or Geometry. Or World Cultures. But, most of it, most of the time.) And, I try not to reminisce too much. There is wisdom in the concept of living in the moment. After all, I now know I didn't know how good I had it then. In the near future, I will look back and see just how precious this time is. 

Because, to quote another singer ...

These are the good old days.

No comments:

Post a Comment