As a kid, I remember the stack of plastic shapes that looked like bloated cassettes. Dad called them “8-tracks”. They all had a picture of the same four boys with funny hair cuts. The favorite movie rentals from the local video store were their documentaries. Dad remembered seeing that famous Ed Sullivan show the day after his ninth birthday. I don’t know if I have a strong memory from the ninth year of my life, but I am sure that I had had the chance to experience the Beatles that year, I would have remembered it too. I suppose that my interest was sparked merely because it was music that my father loved, and I loved my father—idolized him. I wanted to be just like Dad.
Regardless of how it began, my interest in the band of all bands has only grown throughout the years. Back before there was a computer with an internet connection in every home, I connected with other Beatles fans my age through email, and we would write line after line of Beatlemania-ish dribble about their humor, their temperament, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yoko Ono, and the end. Unlike many other Beatles fans the world over, I’ve never wasted time hoping for a reunion. There were never four of them alive during my lifetime.
Yesterday marked the 29th anniversary of the day that John Lennon was murdered. Listening to the lyrics of his songs, one cannot help but wonder what other truths he would have uncovered through his music. I was living the dorms when George Harrison lost his battle with cancer back in 2001. The news hit me a lot harder than I expected. I am not the type to lose control of my emotions when famous people die. True, I’ve never been an MJ fan (my 1980s music experience was more “London Bridges” and the “ABC” song than they were modern pop). I have spent my life under the influence of the Beatles…losing George was like losing a friend. I think I listened to “My Sweet Lord”, “Something”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and “Here Comes the Sun” about 50 times combined that weekend.
I go in streaks with the level of my obsession. An eighth grade music appreciation course covered the Beatles in a unit that lasted an entire quarter. An extra credit question at the end of the test gave a point for every three Beatles songs we could name. I remember asking for a second sheet of paper to keep writing. I had at that time, spent my life studying for that test! It was around that time that I ensnared my cousin, Michelle, into the strange retro-world of the Beatles. I suppose I jabbered on so much about them that she was forced to read up on them just to figure out what the heck I was saying.
We would argue endlessly which half of their career was better (She preferred the former, I preferred the latter). Neither of her parents cared for the Beatles the way that my father did, so she had never been decently exposed to possibly the best music ever. It really didn’t take much before she was scouring stores for posters to hang on her bedroom walls. She proclaimed one day that George was her favorite. At the time, I remember teasing her because the other three had much more obvious personality (Sorry George). As I have gotten older, I realize that while it isn’t as flashy, there is something spectacular about the quiet, gentle type.
Her name is Michelle, and while she knew that her name was based on a combination of her parents’ names (Michael and Ellen), she got it in her head that she was really named after the Beatles’ song “Michelle”. I told her that maybe her personality was chosen after the song “Fool on the Hill”.
It was great having someone so close to my age interested in the Beatles. Dad and I watched and recorded on VHS The Beatles Anthology when it aired on television in 1995. I was excited to share the series with her, and she helped feed my natural obsession.
I won the anthology book, and was gifted the DVD series later. When “Free as a Bird” came on the radio a few weeks ago, I sighed with a happy smile, “I remember when this was released!” Nick looked at me, confused. “YOU WEREN’T ALIVE WHEN THE BEATLES MADE MUSIC.” Oh, but I was. Apparently everyone does not know that “Free as a Bird” was a demo recorded by Lennon in the 70’s that Paul, George, and Ringo added their voices to and released in 1995.
Nick likes to irritate me. He tolerates the Beatles, but is not a fan. I know, that should be a deal-breaker right there, but I still have hopes that I can break him. It’s harder when you don’t get them young enough to mold. On road trips, I have my iPod playing. I probably have a couple hundred Beatles songs loaded (plus the hundreds of McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison solo songs that he groups into the same category), so they pop up often in the rotation which makes him fussy. He likes to say asinine things such as, “Who is John Lennon?” at which point I tell him that he is dead to me and find a song where John sings the lead to blast through the speakers.
When we were in the Keys a few years ago, there was a really great guitarist at Mallory Square. His voice was really folksy like Harry Chapin, and beside doing an awesome version of “Cat’s in the Cradle”, he played “Norwegian Wood”. I typically don’t like Beatles covers, but that guy did it justice. I looked over at Nick who said it sounded like Scandinavian pornography. Again, should be a deal-breaker. He up and dissed both the Beatles and Norwegians.
I feel the need to remind him of my merciless viking ancestry.
Naturally, the availability of remastered albums has caused my frenzy to return. I know it’s silly to want to buy them since I have just all about all of the CDs, but I love this band. It’s like having new music again.
I was out walking at lunch time the other day at work, and my friend Sue asked what I listened to while I walk. I told her that lately I’ve been listening to the fab four. Sue is…well, she’s older than my father, we’ll put it that way. She said she never really liked the Beatles, but heard they are getting back together again. I told her that it really didn’t seem likely since half of them are dead, but she made a point to search online for reunion information. She didn’t find much because SHE SPELLED BEATLES WITH TWO E’S! I told her that I wouldn’t be able to look at her for the rest of the day.
I guess I’ve been watching Beatles documentaries and anthologies for almost three decades, and have memorized the voice of John Lennon telling reporters, “I had a vision that a man came unto us on a flaming pie, and he said, ‘You are Beatles with an A.’ And so we were.” That John, funny guy. Spell the band with an “A”, please, or you will offend me.
As for my father, he likes the early stuff, just like Michelle. They’re all short, catchy, and have to do with love and happiness. I like the drawn out, moodier, introspective ones. I wonder if our tastes in music represent our personalities? Let’s not think of that, shall we? I talk to him now and then about the Beatles, and I don’t think that he has a clue how much his childhood favorite influenced my own music tastes. He worked a 4:00 AM to 12:00 PM shift when we were young, so me and my brother would only have to spend mornings with a babysitter, and I don’t think he realizes that my love of music from the 60’s and 70’s is directly tied to those days in the cab of his pickup truck, listening to the Oldies while running errands and just hanging out with my Dad.