Beatles nostalgic evokes childhood memories

Last night I went to hear Israeli singer/songwriter Danny Robas singing Beatles. He is a good singer, and a brilliant guitarist. In between songs, he told stories. For example, did you know that Eric Clapton ran off with George Harrison’s wife?  Robas talked about Lennon vs. McCartney, about Liverpool and becoming orphans. Mostly, he sang a lot. It was lovely.

It may not be so original, but I love the Beatles. Most of the crowd at the Danny Robas gig were much younger than me. The younger people knew how to sing along with the refrain. I, forgetful as I am in my current life, know all the words to all the songs. The lyrics are all there, somewhere in my dinosaur brain, which is a little known part of the brain that is attached to the reptile brain and is in charge of remembering lyrics of songs that were played on vinyl. I remember myself, age five, sitting on the roof of a play-house that stood in the lobby of the jewish kindergarten in Stockholm between the rooms that housed three groups of kids, the Bumble Bee (Humlan), the Ant (Myran) and the Ladybug (Nyckelpigan).  I’m not saying that it was the best group, but personally, I went to Humlan.

As I perched on the roof, in 1966, I sang “We-o-li-in a-Yello-Summaree” with all my might and didn’t notice that my new lace tights (kalasbyxor) had snagged on a nail. When told to be quiet and get down, the tights tore. I don’t remember if there were consequenses, but I remember how great it was to sing Beatles. We were itsy bitsy kids, and we all sang Yellow Submarine, or Shelovesyou yä, yä, yä, all the time. Beatles IS my childhood and youth.

Ten years later, I was in high-school on Östermalm. Every lunch-break, I walked from my school to the Jewish school where I had gone to elementary school, to eat. The Jewish school serves Kosher food. And in addition, it was a great reason to leave school, maybe buy some candy (smågodis( on the way, maybe cut class. I was the kind of kid who got away with cutting class a lot.

The Jewish school was housed in the same building as the Jewsih Center, where many of the Jewish organizations had their base. The youth had their own organizations and I had they key to two youth-movements. Sometimes there was stuff that had to be done in preparation for our various activities. That was mostly in one room. The other room, on the same floor, was where we hung out.

The room with the brown corderoy couches that smelled like smoke. Actually, everything smelled like smoke. None of us were serious smokers, but we did try our best to be at least a little cool. Unlike now, when I’m rather un-cool, I was extremely un-cool in my youth. And I never figured out that smoking doesn’t make an un-cool person cool, it makes an un-cool person stinky – and un-cool. So we sat, or rather sprawled, on the brown couches, the construction of which was such that one was unable to ever sit up straight. The pieces of the couch were what was probably called modular, also known as loose, in other words, perfect for a youth-club. In high-school, only a few students who had previously attended the Jewish elementary were left, and even fewer who cared to walk back and forth every day. But a few of us did, and some of our non-Jewish classmates would come along. At some point, the aforementioned youth-club had a cassetteplayer and a bunch of real cassettes. Little by little, the cassettes disappeared but the cassetteplayer miracuslously survived. And in the end, we were left with only one cassette. Abbey Road. We must have heard it hundreds of times. We would argue over which side to put on. We were profoundly sick of Abbey Road, but nevertheless, it was, and is, a fantastic record. Yes, record, deal with it.

So, here I am on a perfect late summer-evening in Jerusalem 2013, listening to Beatles nostalgia. And…. Here comes the Sun. And it teleports me to my smoky past, Stockholm circa 1977, acne, synthetic orange sweaters, a crush on anything with a pulse, more interest in school than I wanted to let on, trying too hard to fit in, trying too hard to explain my causes. It was a good time, it was a hard time, no different than the inner turmoil of any maturing organism. It feels distant, but as it turns out, all you need in order to go back there is a Beatles song, and love.


Noomi Stahl