Another song for you: John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.” I’ve loved this song for years, and recall some very specific memories when I hear it. I thought I’d share two of them below.
The first is when I initially heard the song. While I was aware of The Beatles for most of my life, my entry into lifelong Beatles fandom occurred when the 1 compilation was released. Not exactly the coolest way to get into a band, huh? But I loved how long and diverse the CD was — I could play it on a loop while delivering newspapers or doing chores and never tire of it.
My father encouraged this burgeoning fandom by reaching for what he had available — a copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy on CD. Yes, this is where it gets weird: I went from jamming to some of the biggest singles of all-time to hitting Yoko’s “Kiss Kiss Kiss” on track 2. But for a sheltered, young and directionless music listener, it was revelatory to hear a song like “(Just Like) Starting Over” (the album’s opener, right before aforementioned Yoko track) and realize what a broad, expansive catalog I had to dig into … and for only one band! And yes, this is how tasteless and stupid I was at the time: a song that was a hit in its own right (it went to No. 1 in the US and UK upon its release) became a gem that I had “discovered.”
My second memory of this song comes from the ACME supermarket where I worked as a teenager and into college. Music played throughout the store 24/7. I remember being very interested in the music after my job training, when I had learned that the same music played in the stores and on the phone lines of every Albertson’s supermarket in the country. I thought this was incredibly cool, even though I found most of the music incredibly boring. (While I was slow to develop my musical tastes, my snobbery developed quite quickly.)
During the day, the music was forgettable, if only because there was enough activity around the store to distract me. It’s easy to not hear Lionel Richie when I was trying to scan 100 items as fast as possible. But if it’s the overnight shift and there are pallets of potato chips waiting to be stocked, the music is not only loud and clear, but essential to passing the time. A dud makes 3 minutes feel like 10, while a hit made the dreariest work special.
Naturally, “(Just Like) Starting Over” was one of the few songs that I wanted to hear on my shifts. The music was of a peculiar bent: it couldn’t be too popular or too noticeable. Lennon’s song almost seemed like a mistake on the playlist, but one I was happy to have.
I remember many times where I would simply get up and walk up and down the aisles while it played, because it energized me. The milk rotation could wait for Manilow.