I really enjoy taking the train to school every day. Not being a fan of driving, it provides a way to get to class that also serves as about twenty minutes of downtime each way between the rush to get ready and the chaos of class. It also gives me a chance to listen to enough music to set my mood the right way.
One of the things I found most interesting about going to undergrad for music was that I actually stopped listening to music on my own. I stopped searching out new artists, and if I did click on my iTunes, it was only because I needed the comforting sounds of my few favorites. The only way to get me to learn anything new, really, was to leave it in the CD player in my car–I never changed them, just listened on repeat until I got a wild notion or someone rode in my car often enough to get sick of it and tried to strangle me. As it is, I’m slowly getting into the habit again, now that it can be my hobby and not my task (obvious proof that music wasn’t meant to be my profession.)
I’m usually leaving the house by 8am, and I am not a morning person. I hate any TV and conversation while I’m getting ready; I’d much rather just go through my routine uninterrupted. As such, when I listen to music in the morning, it needs to be of a specific kind. Nothing heavy, nothing remixed, no rap, no yelling, and so on. I’m like a block of clay in the morning–I need the music to be warm and soft, persuading my sleepy brain into the pliability I need to get through the rest of the day.
These requirements are not so hard to meet, but as the creature of habit I am in the early hours, I tend to find a song or an album that fits the bill and listen to it repeatedly. That is pretty much what happened with this song.
The opening bells, the gentle first lines that roll right into an upbeat (but not too upbeat) verse? This song is perfect for getting going in the morning. It doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are maybe some of the most optimistic that John Lennon had ever written. “(Just Like) Starting Over” appears on Double Fantasy, which was released in 1980, just weeks before John’s murder. He hadn’t released a single since his cover of “Stand by Me” in 1975, choosing instead to stay home and be a househusband and stay-at-home dad to his new baby boy (who also gets a song on the album, “Beautiful Boy.”)
The poignancy of this song perhaps lies in its bittersweet beauty. It is upbeat and hopeful, and remains so, even though it became the #1 single after his death. It’s a love letter to Yoko, an invitation to start their lives anew.
I could write a psychoanalysis on John Lennon, but I’ll spare you. I’ll just say that while John wrote prolifically about love, he tended toward the “world love”, the “brotherly love.” It wasn’t until later in his career that John wrote about romantic love without being tongue-in-cheek. Whatever your opinions on Yoko, it’s hard to hate a woman who inspires a song like this.
And it makes me want to dance on the train.