The Inner Groove: Getting Back to Our Childhood

The Child is the father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

–from “My Heart Leaps Up” by William Wordsworth (1807)

There is wonderful whimsical moment at the very end of the “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles. Following the apocalyptic ending of the album’s final song known as “A Day in the Life” (depending on what album version you own) a brief burst of The Beatles and some of their associates break into a spontaneous cacophony of gibberish.

I first heard this snippet on the now out of print compilation titled “The Beatles Rarities.” These two seconds are labeled on that particular album as  “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove.” There was a rather mischievous intention behind this gibberish. If you had a record player in 1967 without an automatic stylus, then the needle would play infinitely until you had to manually remove it from the record. The two-second gibberish on “Sgt. Pepper” could conceivably play for eternity on a non-automated record player.

As a kid, I would place my ear up to my little cassette player speaker (I had the tape version.) and try to figure what nuttiness was being said. I could never figure it out but I always enjoyed that snippet after resonating crescendo of “A Day in the Life.” It was audio equivalent of a breath of fresh air.  (Sidenote: The Beatles also added a dog whistle as well at the end of the album. Only your friendly neighborhood canines can hear that whistle, but that’s another story for another time.)

The “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove” mishmash following “A Day in the Life” is a powerful reminder and fascinating contrast to explore. The Beatles were very aware that they were creating a masterpiece with this particular album. The album was a calculated risk recorded by band wanting to push the boundaries of musical expression. It is filled with experimental sounds, avant-garde flavorings, Eastern-tinged instrumentation, orchestral flourishes and poetic lyrics. I always thought this particular gibberish was a reminder by the band not take one’s self seriously. It is if The Beatles are saying, “Yeah, we made this grand artistic statement, but we are still a bunch of blokes from Liverpool.”

The brief blast of Jabberwocky sounds childlike and in a way connects back to the original concept for the “Sgt. Pepper” Album.

Two of the greatest songs recorded by The Beatles were originally intended for the “Sgt. Pepper” album. “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were tracks based on real-life places in the native Liverpool of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s life. Both songs were written for an album that was originally intended to be a celebration of the band’s childhood past. It is interesting to note that these songs rooted in nostalgic retrospection are two of the most progressive and innovative pieces of music The Beatles recorded. The concept of an album as ode to their Liverpudllian childhood stalled when the record company needed songs for the then-popular singles market and radio airplay.

Childhood nostalgia is the fuel for some of the great works of art, music, film and literature. As a former English Teacher, I loved bringing in a song like “Penny Lane” to reinforce the beauty of nostalgia in a poem like “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas.

Our noble profession as educators is filled with moments of bliss, challenge and grit. The schoolhouse is a place where childhood intersects with standards, compliance and policies. Sometimes, we default to the rigidity rather than valuing what we are called as educator do. The call is rooted in a support of the social and emotional well-being of the Whole Child. As an educator, I know all too well the realities burdening our noble profession. I am not calling for us to stop the bell schedule for a collective cry of gibberish like The Beatles did with “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove.” Perhaps, we do need to tune into our own “Inner Groove” of remembering our childhood as we support and serve our students in the schoolhouse.

Collaborating with students and supporting their creative voices is steps towards tuning into that “Inner Groove.” Celebrating Monday (#CelebrateMonday), committing Random Acts of Kindness, exploring in a Makerspace are ways to promote the Whole Child by establishing a culture that is positive and inviting. These examples are planned with consideration for the unique needs and extraordinary gifts of our children. We have been entrusted as educators with the center of someone’s universe. We must not forget that our students bring inspiring wonder and gifts to our respective schoolhouse communities.

Tapping into the nostalgia of childhood helped to fuel a world-changing album by The Beatles. Following along the Inner Groove of our childhood as educators can spark waves of creative possibility in the schoolhouse.

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