The first time you hear it, you become disoriented; the kick of the drum beat that sets it all off, the crashing, thumping, majestic beauty of the waves of the piano notes being shamelessly struck and the acoustic guitar strummed with such reckless, nonchalant disregard simultaneously hit your ears with such ferocious sensitivity and exquisite passivity you're left gasping for air, unsure how to breathe. And before you're quite certain what it is that you're hearing, the first verse and chorus is over and gone and the experience of hearing it as a virgin is forever lost to you.
"In the middle of the night, in the middle of the night I call your name, Oh Yoko, Oh Yo-ko, my love will turn you on."
The wonder of the song is in its specificity. Sure, it's a love song, and sure, it's sung by John Lennon, but unlike the myriad of generic, impersonal love songs out there making the rounds, this one belongs solely to John and Yoko. He's not singing about his love for an unknown woman that can be anyone, even the listener, he's singing about and to his one and only love, his wife. The genuine, poignant immediacy of his delivery and the stark promise that "my love will turn you on" make for the most wondrously simple and yet overwhelmingly effective lyrics expressing love ever put to paper. It's such a worthwhile, necessary song. It's the embodiment of love in music and words.
Then there's the progression of the song. This chronicles the love of a man for his woman throughout a lifetime, from child to boy to grown up to adult, and finally death. It begins "in the middle of a night" which paints a picture of a young, innocent, scared child waking up alone in the dead of night, trembling and uncertain about everything except for his love. The child ages, in the next verse, to an adolescent "in the middle of a bath." The significance of bathing is that it's a way to cleanse yourself from the abuse received in your home (see John Lennon's "Working Class Hero," which deals with domestic abuse in the lyric "they hurt you at home and they hit you at school") and even get lost in your love. From here, we move on to catch the protagonist "in the middle of a shave," a crucial rite of passage into adulthood in Western culture. Then, "in the middle of a dream," we see the couple old and retired and content just to spend the long, warm summer days resting in each others arms and smiling as they look back at their lives, their legacy, the dreams they individually had growing up, and the ones they came to share. Finally, and most poignantly, "in the middle of a cloud" represents death, and the love that remains when nothing else does.
The song ends as strongly and memorably as it begins, with a waltzing, meandering, very Dylanesque harmonica line fluttering about all over the speakers, dancing from one ear to the other. This is a song for the ages, and I am forever jealous of those who have yet to hear it; there's nothing like your first exposure to it.