Monday, May 21, 2007

Who isn't a Beatles fan?

The other day I was in my local Bay Area supermarket. I was wearing a Beatles t-shirt (The Hey Jude cover), and a guy about my age says, "Nice t-shirt."
"Beatles fan?", I asked.
"Who isn't?" And with that, we parted ways.

That kinda says it all, doesn't it? If you like pop music, how can you not be a Beatles fan? If you're not, what is it, specifically, that you don't like? "She Loves You" or "I am the Walrus"? Yes, there are the hardcore/alternative types (like John Lydon who I also like) who gag when you say "Beatles". But Lydon himself says he's not interested in catchy tunes. He probably hates the Beach Boys and Elvis, too.

And I've met the jazz snobs and the people who only dig R&B. A lot of them hate the Beatles. Again, that's cool. Part of being a Beatles fan is that they taught us it's all about "doing your own thing".

But in my over 40 years of being a fan, I've encountered people of every color, economic background, and age who loves the Beatles. And for a lot of us, I think it goes beyond the music. Just like they taught us to "do our own thing", they were always there in some form. Beatles music stirs up memories of our lives.

Some of my memories include friends and family, like when we all sat in front of the TV and saw them for the first time on Ed Sullivan's show. The thrill I felt when my mom brought home The Beatles Second Album. Listening to their early records over and over with my older brother. Seeing "Help!" in the theater and watching and hearing the girls scream like it was concert. Seeing them in Seattle with my mom and brother and thinking, "Wow. I'm breathing the same air as them." Hearing Rubber Soul fresh out of the cellophane with a girl from the neighborhood and both of us thinking Paul's French lyrics on "Michelle" seemed kinda corny. Playing the "Let it Be" flip side, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" with my best friend and laughing our heads off. And the first time my brother and I heard "Instant Karma" on the radio, we thought it was them. When the DJ said it was "John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band", we both knew, without saying a word to each other, that things were probably never going to be the same.

And some of the memories are just of me, alone in a room, listening to a record. Holding an album cover and looking at every detail. I still do it.

They've always been there. No matter if my life was great or horrible. If I was broke or flush. Straight or stoned.

I used to work with an older guy, who has since passed away. And he told me that when he saw them on Ed Sullivan, he thought they were fantastic and so exciting. This from a World War Two vet who worshipped Ronald Reagan. So I guess what that fella in the supermarket said is true. A Beatles fan? Who isn't?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I'm currently rereading Philip Norman's fantastic book, "Shout!". Clearly one of the best books about the boys, this is an updated version written in 2003 and details George's death and Paul's knighthood. The original was released in 1981.

The novel-like quality of Norman's writing makes it a fun, and fabulously detailed read. It's especially strong when describing their childhood and the early Quarry Men days. He obviously sees Lennon as the truly gifted one, and while recognizing Paul's skills as a musician, paints him in a somewhat unfavorable light.

I think he gets it right in that department. For although John could be a "real bastard" (as Lennon himself said in the Rolling Stone interview), we tend to give him a pass because of he was such an amazing personality and artist. And while Paul was/is no worse and maybe even a better human being, we peg him as being shallow, vindictive and unabashedly self-promoting.

George Harrison was probably the only person who knew them well enough and long enough, and possessed the spiritual detachment and intelligence to judge them. And in looking at evidence, it appears that George felt the same way: John was difficult, but so truly special we can't help but be drawn to him and admire his work. Because he was so funny, honest and interesting, George had to not only like him, but look up to him as well. Paul has less emotional baggage, and I think that while George loved him like a brother, he didn't really like him much. But who knows? As "Shout!" makes so perfectly clear, it's a complex story, with a Dickensian cast of characters.

So go get "Shout!". Along with Paul's "Many Years From Now", Peter Brown's "The Love You Make", the "Anthology" book and Hunter Davies' authorized bio, it's a must.