I love this song. It might just be my favorite.
Hey – if I don’t love it, who will?
‘There was a time’, in late spring ’03, where I was working 10, 11, even 12 hours a day at my paying job. It had gotten to the point where my one personal goal was to at least make it home by 9 on Wednesdays to watch my favorite TV show. My music had been pushed aside, but hey, ‘I thought I’d figured it out fine’. I was bucking for VP.
Right about then, in honor of my 16 year old daughter’s completion of her second year of college, I took her to see London, where my brother Dizz lived. One rainy day, we all headed off to St. John’s Wood to see Abbey Road Studios. Like typical tourists, we took pictures of the zebra walk and stood at the bottom of the stairs, gobstruck. ABBEY ROAD!! Damn.
As we turned to leave, Dizz went up the stairs and said, “come on”. Somehow, he had arranged a tremendous surprise for us, a full tour of the studio. Up the stairs we went!
Can you imagine? Looking down from the control room onto Studio B, and its smoke and memory filled acoustic baffles, the piano that John used still sitting there. You know, the one he played Day In the Life On. Oh my gentle Jesus! And there I was, standing on the very spot where the greatest collection of songs in history were created.
It was a life altering moment. Right there and then, ‘inside that place in St. John’s Wood. I knew my life had changed for good’. Why was I working so much unpaid overtime? They weren’t going to make a VP! ‘…those were lies. Hit me right between the eyes’. I had to go home and get back to work on my White Album.
The opening line of Putney Bridge, written to Dizz, ‘you took your wife, around the world to live your life’, I wondered if it was perhaps too personal to translate to others, but I realized that I too had taken my family to live in the Middle East from ’93 – ’95. And then, duh, hadn’t John and Yoko ‘travelled so far’ to start over? Surely, we couldn’t be the only three couples to ever venture far from home to find out who they were.
John? There he was again. ‘There was a man, he had the whole world in his hands’. I mean, who among us, at least from my generation, hasn’t ever fantasized about being a Beatle. The creativity, the passion, the looks, the adulation, the influence. ‘and if I could, I’d be standing where he stood’. Who wouldn’t want to stand in those shoes?
And then a third meaning to that lyric hit me.
When I was in High School in NY, I had a good friend who lived in the Dakota (before the Lennons moved in). I must have walked through that gate, that awful gate, at least a hundred times. After December 8, 1980, I kept having a recurring thought, why couldn’t I have been there that night? Even to the point of imagining that I’d have taken the bullets for John. “And if I could, I’d be standing where he stood”.
And then, we had to leave, return to the real world, to take ‘a walk out in the rain’, back to the bus stop, where we caught a red double decker…
‘down to Putney Bridge’.
I took a boat
I took a plane
I took a walk out in the rain
I took a bus over the ridge
Down to Putney Bridge
You took your wife
Around the world to live your life
Travel so far
Going to find out who you are
There was a man
He had the whole world in his hands
And if I could
I’d be standing where you stood
– chorus –
There was a time
I thought I’d figured it out fine
But those were lies
Hit me right between the eyes
– chorus –
Inside that place in St. John’s Wood
I knew my life had changed for good
Words and music by bobwhite
© 2003 Hannah’s Dad’s Music/Samsongs BMI
bob white – lead vocals, acoustic guitars, drum programs
barlow sample – electric guitars and background vocals
cliff – bass and vocals
joe bob “don’t call me bob” bob – drums and percussion
DeWayne “Whitey” Roberts – slide guitar
produced by Roman Cliff
engineered by Hans Asperger
mixed by Joey Abersom
recorded at 44 Square, California, USA
vocals recorded in the blue room
executive producer – Joel Abramson
photos by Roberto Blanco, London, England