Sometimes the significance of the moment doesn't become apparent until well after the fact.
That thought came to mind as I repeatedly listened to “This Will Be Our Year,” a song on The Zombies classic album “Odessey and Oracle.” This song is at the crossroads of a number of significant moments of my life.
Those things involve a lengthy discussion in a Chicago bar, a live performance by the band, and a wedding ceremony.
The Zombies' album was released in 1968. It was recorded amid the musical fairy dust The Beatles unleashed with “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band,” to the point where much of The Zombies album was recorded at Abbey Road, the studio made famous by The Beatles.
“Odessey and Oracle” has a fantastic feeling of whimsy, as timeless as “Sgt. Pepper.” The hit single off the album, “Time of the Season,” is a signature song of the 1960s, but its feel is different from the rest of the album. Even though the single sounds perfectly in place.
Flash forward to a Chicago bar 20 years ago. The man sitting across from me, whose band I'd just seen him lead through a set, was arguing passionately about the quality of “Odessey and Oracle.” I was arguing The Beach Boys' “Pet Sounds” was a better album, because that's one of the things music fans love to do with each other. I emerged from the argument as the “winner,” I thought. That argument is the cornerstone of an interstate friendship that continues today.
Taking my new friend's passion to heart, I started listening more intently to “Odessey and Oracle.” It's like listening to a symphony with movements, the same case as “Sgt. Pepper.” Individual songs began to jump out and surpass “Time of the Season” in my estimation: the harrowing "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914), sung from the point of view of a soldier in the trenches near a World War I no-man's land; the poppy "Friends of Mine" (whose chorus literally features the names of friends of the band); and particularly "This Will Be Our Year."
In the song — a sweet, simple, swinging little pop song — the singer praises the warmth of "your love" and "your smile," and the song's uncomplicated lyrics celebrate the joy of soulmates finding one another.
Six years ago, a pair of friends asked me to oversee a civil wedding ceremony, and chose that song as the sole music played during the service. The choice was wonderful, touching, and — given that the duo were born 20 years after the album was released — spoke to me and others of a timeless moment, where generations reached across generations and found themselves all in the same place, enjoying the song and the creation of a memorable moment.
Wedding footage is designed to be scanned across in slow-motion while a song like “This Will Be Our Year” plays on the soundtrack. The interesting thing in this case, though, is no recording exists of the service. Given how many people associated with the couple were photographers, cameramen and filmmakers, I was surprised (and even taken aback) when the couple quietly expressed disdain of the idea.
But if they were aiming for a perfect memory moment, they created it with that and the rest of the ceremony. There's scant evidence of the experience, so it will forever be as wonderful as everyone present thought.
The Zombies never played any of the album at the time of its release – they broke up before the record came out. But they've toured a number of times since, with the core being the keyboard player and the singer. Last year, they played Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois at Springfield. They billed it as the “final” “Odessey and Oracle” tour. (They were going to play the album full and in order, and this was going to be the last tour in which they did so.)
By this time, my musician friend's assertion of the quality of the album had become mine as well. So I sat in my fourth-row-center seat and marveled as the music washed over me.
As “This Will Be Our Year” began, I was grinning uncontrollably, thinking about a discussion in a Chicago bar, my subsequent re-investigation of the album (which was inflicted on everyone around me), and the song appearing in a wedding of two young people who either couldn't tell me where they found the song, or they didn't want to tell.
That was a lot of people to bring into the concert in my head. But they're always there when the song pops up. And eventually, we realize what our significant moments are.