Today being a hell of a big deal to Beatles fans like myself (the release of Rock Band, digital remasters et all), I interrupt the Pictorial’s regularly scheduled programming for a bit of shameless rhapsodizing.
The thing you have to understand is that I was thirteen years old when I fell in love with the Beatles.
Granted, 13 is a simply wonderful age to fall in love with anything, true, but when the stars happen to be aligned in the most beautiful of formations, well, you’ve really got it made.
In November of 1995, a chubby, frizzy haired thirteen-year-old average girl happened to tune into a special documentary on TV that would change every single thing about her life.
The Beatles Anthology aired on a night much like every other night in our household: Dad worked the graveyard shift then, since he did anything and everything to keep food on the table, and my mother was spending the customary two and a half hours on the phone with her mother who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. (She would fight it for three valiant years before succumbing to the fatigue that would, eventually, claim most of my mother’s side of the family.)
Dad left for work around 6:00 each night and, this particularly warm November evening, he’d told me to, please, remember to set the VCR for him. It had been in all the newspapers, and even a stupid seventh grader with bad grades knew that something, something, special was going on.
So I set the VCR for dad, quietly intrigued by the constant conversations between he and my mother and my grandmother and granddad about things like ‘I remember the Ed Sullivan Show’ and ‘I remember where I was when he died’ and ‘That was the first album I ever bought’ and a slew of other personal memories that the talked so very openly about. And my family did not, as a rule, talk openly about anything.
Of course I knew who they were. Who didn’t? Who doesn’t? I knew I Want To Hold Your Hand and Let it Be and all those other songs that trafficked up the oldies radio station all the time.
But that night … November 19th it was … It shaped my life.
Because if I’d not pressed “record” on the VCR player that night on the otherwise quiet and unaffected Tamarisk Street in the hopeless suburban doldrums, I would simply not be the person I am today.
I pressed “record” on the VCR and decided to sit out at least a couple of minutes to see what had my Dad so excited. Mom popped in and out during her lively, animated conversations with Grandmother, but it was mainly me … alone … in the dark … with four figures the like of which I’d never seen, and the music … the like of which I had never heard.
I’m sure a lot of it was down to timing. My sister, all of sixteen, had decided she was leaving home (a Beatles song my parents still can’t listen to without crying) and left me, at twelve, all alone. It was for her own good, and nothing personal, I’ve since learned, but at the time I felt abandoned. And … Social skills not being my particular forte, I closed myself off. Mom and Dad communicated by shrieks and screams. And I looked, in vain, for something to understand.
On that November night, what I understood more than anything, was the melodious riff in Paul’s bass, the aching reach in John’s harmony, George’s dependable solo and, bless him, Ringo’s tirelessly optimistic beat. By the time the first episode of the Anthology ended, and the TV ran a banner counting down the seconds to the “new Beatles song” I was bouncing up and down like one my squealing black and white counterparts at the Ed Sullivan show. I’d never known such a feeling … I’d never known such music …
My need to know their music reached ridiculous heights. In the age before iTunes, and in a household where money was tight, I was relegated to listen to their wondrous sounds on a badly received station in the city, every Sunday morning from 7:00 am to 9:00, the necessity of which had me fashioning tin foil on my radio antenna and standing in just the right position, like a game of Twister, to get the correct frequency to indulge in that beautiful music that I’d come to live for.
It was there, in those uncomfortable yet necessary Sunday mornings, that I’d first heard Dear Prudence (right arm raised like an Egyptian, left leg hoisted like a Satyr) and I’ve Got A Feeling (crouched like a lioness in the middle of my room, not daring to breathe at the risk of upsetting the reception) and scores of others. And I relished every second of it.
Going to bed that night, nearly fifteen years ago, I knew that my life would never be the same.
And it hasn’t been.
Tempered, admittedly, by adulthood, my love for those scruffy cuss’ from Liverpool has never been brighter and …today, 09.09.09, I remember that rapturous optimism … the beauty of discovery … the ecstasy of true love, the memory of finding oneself after years of desperate searching— in the form of criminally simple two and a half minute songs …
So I blow my kisses to you, my dearest lovely lads for the Pool, and thank you for everything you’ve given me, and hope that during this latest wave of your irrepressible mania, countless more awaken to the marvel that is … The Beatles.
Forever and Always.