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Hey, Jude

February 20, 2010

So I’ve been playing the remastered Beatles CDs a bit lately, or rather, one in particular, Past Masters (disc 2).  It’s the collection of singles from roughly Rubber Soul to the breakup, for any non-aficionados out there.  Track 7 is “Hey Jude,” and the new iteration sounds great.  The tambourine sounds like it’s in the seat next to you in the car.  But I’m not hear to talk about the sonic quality.  I’m here to talk about an odd, yet comforting thought I had while listening to it yesterday.  Again.

You see, I keep forgetting to take the disc out and change it to something else.  You would think I’d be tired of it by now, and yet I’m not.   I can listen to the song repeatedly, back to back, picking out different bits, singing along sometimes, trying to extract harmonies other times.  I thought about this yesterday.  The classic Christian depiction of heaven in the Book of Revelation involves four beasts with the heads of men singing the same song of praise to God forever, over and over.  Symbols, I know, but it came to me that if they were the Beatles, and they were singing the coda of “Hey Jude,” it might not be so bad.  But that‘s not the odd and comforting thought.

I considered further: “Hey Jude” is on the relatively short list of songs that has been popular enough, long enough, broadly enough, that it may well be playing somewhere on Earth all the time.  At any given moment, some radio station, some CD player, some iPod belonging to one of the 6 billion plus souls on the planet is probably playing it.  So in a way, though half of them are dead now, the Beatles are still singing “Na, na, na, nanananaaaaah” continuously, world without end, as  surely as if they sat around a crystal throne.

But neither is that the odd and comforting thought.

There is an expanding sphere, about one hundred and eighty years across, centered on our solar system.  The sphere, comprising a series of radio waves (the sum total of our planetary output since radio was invented) has embedded within it every broadcast made of “Hey Jude” since it was recorded in 1968.  Those broadcasts (along with everything else ever broadcast, of course, but I’m not musing about that) are spreading at the speed of light through our galaxy, covering another six trillion miles and change every year.  The harmonies I hear in my car passed Sirius and Procyon, Fomalhaut and Altair, during my lifetime.  John, Paul, George and Ringo, plus the George Martin-assembled orchestra, are now going through heavy rotation on Capella. As the years grind on into centuries, and millenia, and epochs, as the continents drift and our sun fades, the Beatles will still be singing “Hey Jude” somewhere, across the universe, until the end of time.

And that is an odd, and comforting, thought.

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