I like Veterans Day, which we are celebrating today. It is a great holiday – it honors a worthy cause, the veterans (like my dad, uncle, and and papou [grandfather]) who have served our country in the armed forces. It also has not been commercialized – in fact, quite the opposite; many business have special deals or free items for vets on this day. Finally, the holiday does not move. This is a big deal – if it was one of those that if it were moved to a Monday it would likely have a different meaning. Memorial Day is great, and we do the cemetery thing and all of that, but it is basically a long weekend.
Despite all of this, the first thing I think of when Veterans Day rolls around is the song Penny Lane by the Beatles. The song was a double-A side along with Strawberry Fields Forever, and this disc is often considered one of if not the best psychedelic singles ever (another great contender is Eight Miles High b/w Why by the Byrds). Both Beatles tunes are about the atmosphere of their childhoods and include radical musical and lyrical experimentation. Paul wrote Penny Lane, and the lyrics are very contradictory. The song takes place in the summer under blue skies, but it is also raining. There is a girl selling poppies from a tray. This is a practice that takes place on Remembrance Day, the British equivalent of our holiday, both of which originally commemorated the end of the Great War (WWI), in which my grandfather mentioned above fought. So in the song, it is summer and Veterans Day at the same time, with rain and sunny skies. The psychedelic imagery is sealed by the great line “though she feels as if she’s in a play, she is anyway”. Give it a listen.