Sept. 9, 2009

One of the burs that get into the side of so-called writers is that often we really are incapable of writing anything other than what weíre passionate about.
†† This affliction is particularly troublesome when you make your living as a journalist, since a good 99 percent of what you have to write you really couldnít care less about. So when column time comes around, well, you leap on the opportunity to pontificate about what really flips your switch. Sometimes you hit with the reader, sometimes you bomb. Whatís hard about it is that the readers really donít realize this about how it is we do what we do.
†† All that, then, is in preface to the fact that currently I am enthralled with the Beatles.
†† Yes, thatís right, I said the Beatles. I never really was that much into the band most of my life. Sure, I loved a handful of singles, and have great respect for their contributions to the industry. For most of my life, though, I really liked the music the members did solo more than together. My favorite Beatle was George Harrison.
†† Lately, though, the tube has been awash with Beatles movies, documentaries and the like, and Suzie and I have been watching them religiously, and I have gone off the deep end.
†† Certainly, I am not old enough to remember the band in its heyday. I was born when the Beatles were coming into their own, and by the time they broke up I was only seven. In fact, when Lennon was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman in 1980, I only vaguely knew who he was, having been raised in a country music household and by then only just delving into this new, wonderful universe of rock and roll.
†† Weíve been watching the Beatles Anthology for weeks now, and have also seen The Making of Sgt. Pepperís and more. What strikes me most I guess, other than the music, is the great joy and terrible sadness of their story.
†† Back then long time ago when grass was green
†† Woke up in a daze
†† Arrived like strangers in the night
†† Fab Ė long time ago when we was fab
†† Fab Ė back when income tax was all we hadÖ
†† What Iíve seen in the early part of their career was four friends who were close as any could be. Silly, innocent in so many fleeting ways, and talented as all get-out. Certainly this would change, as the metoric rise of their careers took its toll. By the end of their era, particularly the drug use and Lennonís transformation into a wild-eyed radical who seemed determined to rock the boat in any way he could, there wasnít much left of that friendship to hold them together.
†† But what has moved me most is the comradery between them early on. As I watch Anthology I see the gradual wounds, the creeping toll that fame extracted from them. By 1966, the Beatles were so fed up with performing live they never did it again. Beatlemania had, already, begun to unravel them. But my goodness, the music they produced! Forget the bubble-gum stuff, though it was good in its own way: Iím talking about ballads like In My Life and Hide Your Love Away and rockers like Twist and Shout and even Revolution.
†† I watch these documentaries and I see the pressures get to them: Not having privacy, not having peace. The same pressures that undid Elvis, Jim Morrison, so many more. Itís a wonder they avoided self-destruction. In Lennonís case, his destruction was from without. Harrison himself narrowly avoided being murdered.
†† What I have always tried to do with music and musicians is separate the music from the musician. Itís harder with the Beatles, now, to watch that gradual fall from friendship and innocence into despair.
†† But what survived ware the songs, and the talent. John, Paul, George, and yes, Ringo, left behind a body of work that is unsurpassed. Yes, I hardly knew who John Lennon was in 1980, but I admit I was devastated in 1999 when George Harrison died of cancer. I watch Paul and Ringo grow older and older, and realize thereíll be a day, not too far away, when thereíll be no more living Beatles, and itíll seem like an era will really be ending then, not 1971.
†† Because when you put aside the politics, the religious views, the freaky walrus stuff, what remains is wildly funny movies like Help! You find incredible talent in Eleanor Rigby and, oh, who could dismiss The Long and Winding Road? Penny Lane, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Yesterday, All You Need is LoveÖof course, I could go on and on and on.
†† I think the message Iíve heard, here now, at 44 years old and only just discovering who they really were, is that, in fact, all you need is love. Imagine. All things must pass.
†† And I guess the only way to end a tribute to my sudden fascination with the Beatles would be in Georgeís words:
†† Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
†† Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
†† Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
†† And I say it's all right
†† It's all rightÖ