Sweet describes stumbling upon a 45 record that altered his perspective on The Beatles. More profoundly, it changed how he understood his place in the world.


My humanities moment is a memory I have—I figured out, I think I was 11, maybe 10 years old, and I went to this store that was like a Target store of its time, it was just a few blocks from my house, called Treasure City. It’s so cool it was called that because I did find musical treasures there in their little record department in the back.

I remember the moment very clearly. I went to Treasure City, I bought a 45 by The Beatles of the song “Nowhere Man,” and I went home, and I remember it was really sunny out, the window was open in front of my dad’s stereo where I was going to play the 45. Then I put on this song on the stereo and was sitting there alone listening to it for the first time.

I had a lot of feelings from it. First of all, it was really cool and sort of magical sounding. I think it might have been the first time I thought about electric guitars and the sound of them instead of just hearing music as a whole. I really remember the sound of the guitars on it. I had not yet picked up an electric instrument, I think it was probably a year before I would start playing electric bass. That really sticks in my head, thinking about the guitars on it.

Then just the vocal and the message, this idea of the nowhere man who makes all his nowhere plans for nobody, and he knows not where he’s going. Then saying, “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” To me the song felt like it was about humanity, that I was the nowhere man and if I just realized it the world could be at my command. Or from one of the other sections—it’s such a human thing to say—he says, “Nowhere man, don’t worry. Take your time, don’t hurry. Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand.” Just that idea as well made me feel like it was a very hopeful thing, that you can get help, and that’s okay.

I understand it in a deeper way now looking back, and I’ve learned a little bit about the song. I didn’t know anything about them really at the time. When “Nowhere Man” came out I was still, I think, only about a year and a half old. I was born in October of 1964. I’ve read since that it was actually the first Beatles song that wasn’t just a relationship song, but explored a different kind of landscape. To me when I see it now, it also is a beautiful piece of art from John Lennon, starting to express really personal kinds of feelings. Even though it makes the nowhere man this focus, all this humanity is coming out of John. And it’s a beautiful—it’s like modern art compared to a lot of the things around its same time.

It was really human. It was really special to me. I think it gave me the feeling like I could be—first of all, all of us are kind of nobody, “isn’t he a bit like you and me?” And that even if you feel alone or you feel like you’re nowhere, the world is there and you can go and take command of your life. Even if you can’t do that, you take your time and you let other people help you. It does stay in my mind like an early experience that was a more grown up thing I was listening to, making it into my consciousness.

– Matthew Sweet (Musician, Omaha, Nebraska)