I laughed at this column by Rachel Manteuffel in yesterday’s Washington Post: Today, Boomers Should Get over ‘Yesterday.’
Maybe it’s the evolutionary in me, but I love hearing from millennials, especially when they’re complaining about us boomers. Also, I appreciate this column because the writer agrees with me. I’ve never understood the Beatles’ insipid song Yesterday and why it is so popular, iconic even. Manteuffel struggles as well:
Now, let’s examine the chronology. Suddenly, Paul’s fortunes have fallen dramatically. Yesterday he was fine, with distant troubles, and today he is half of his previous self. This is, so far, everything the song has expressed. So what on Earth does “Yesterday came suddenly” mean? Yesterday was the GOOD time, Paul. You just TOLD us that. You mean today came suddenly. Only that doesn’t scan.
Then we learn the catastrophe that occurred: He lost a girl. Why she had to go he doesn’t know, she wouldn’t say. She left him this morning or so, since yesterday was great, despite also coming suddenly. She wouldn’t say why she left. And he quick, giddyup, wrote this song today, which might explain a few things about its cohesiveness.
Consider: This cannot have been a very deep relationship. He says something wrong and she leaves him and won’t say why? What a drama queen. What kind of person leaves someone for a very good but unexpressed reason, based on something he said that was so subtly wrong he hasn’t a clue as to what it was? Paul wants to talk about it — but she is flouncing out the door.
Clearly, Paul is better off without her. She is a shallow, coldhearted jerk. But he still longs for their relationship; in fact, now, in her absence, he is half a man! This makes Paul a sap and a dip.
I know, I know, a great song — indeed any great work of art — doesn’t have to be understood in the ways we normally understand things. It is poetic, impressionistic. Its very non-logic enhances its power to strike the heart chords of romantic and existential pain that are such a tender part of the human experience.
And if I never hear that stupid song again (fat chance) it’ll be too soon.