Sharp readers may note a specific theme for this “issue,” linked to a phenomenon experienced by my parents; I scarfed the leftovers, capitalizing on an already complete catalog and untold retrospective acreage.
I speak, of course, of The Beatles.
Strange as it sounds, over the years, I’ve written nary a word about them. A previous generation studied the four as religious icons to their corpuscles. What fresh perspective could I offer?
All’s I can say is that we all shared the world, though not for long. An assassin killed John Lennon not long after my eighth birthday. At the time I was aware of The Beatles — as the offspring of semi-hippies, how could I not? — but had no concept of them as individuals.
Yet Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were each household names. My folks had their solo albums; to this day, I can belt “It Don’t Come Easy” as performed on Harrison’s multi-shellacked The Concert for Bangladesh (though please don’t ask). That they ever comprised a unit didn’t occur to me.
With youthful shame I confess that I knew nothing of Lennon in 1980. I distinctly recall the news of his death, for sure: weeping crowds in Central Park, my own mom and dad dumbstruck by the unbelievable — though it wasn’t at all as depicted in Mr. Holland’s Opus, with long kitchen hugs, tears, and "The king is dead" lamentations for lost innocence. That seemed a bit overblown. I mean, they were sad, but minus the sob-bucketed commentary.
I then heard Double Fantasy for the first time around the holidays, during a Southern California visit when my parents checked in with one of my mom’s high school friends, who lived in a Whittier-area apartment with her husband, a free-flying parrot (not the husband), and a shit-ton of macramé. They’d propped the LP on a turntable, John Lennon and Yoko Ono forever growing closer in a PDI but never quite making contact. “(Just Like) Starting Over” poured quietly through the space.
I didn’t truly get into The Beatles until I was 12. Unlike interview subject Robert Meade, however, my parents owned most of their records, going back to notorious Vee-Jay gun-jumper, Introducing … the Beatles. Mom actually saw them live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1965; when the audio received an expanded reissue a few years back, I asked which scream was hers. “I didn’t scream,” she assured me. She wasn’t one of Them, her love for the Fabs too pure.
You could separate my folks personality-wise based on the Beatles they preferred. Mom, the Paul-lover, dropped out around Beatles ’65, as their mop-tops grew unruly. George was my dad’s favorite, and he embraced them at Rubber Soul. They’re still that way, I think, though she appreciates the later, softer numbers: “Michelle” and the like.
My favorite is my first: Abbey Road, particularly the suite that culminates in “The End.” (I skip “Her Majesty.”) I discovered it at the age of 12, and it seldom left the stereo. I’d blast “Oh! Darling” over my own vocals and pretend I’d made it up on the spot. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” was a nice, violent lark. I already knew “Octopus’ Garden,” because our third-grade music teacher, an ex-Berkeley troubadour, had taught it to us. “Come Together,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun’s” reputations preceded my introduction — radio staples, all.
I kinda went overboard while plotting this Noise. I had two Beatles-related events and didn’t want to separate them. So I consulted a Feb. 8, 1964, copy of the London-based Daily Mirror, whose front page brayed news of The Beatles’ U.S. arrival, and built a page to resemble its front. Initially, I was going to write copy to accompany the sheet’s own headline, “Father flies to get Irene,” but decided to drop Robert Meade in that space instead to give my stories equal play (though it leads the page on phones).
Then, to even the bottom columns, I used wild art shot by my girlfriend, I being an unwitting model, and added a smaller piece under an Evening Standard-nicked headline that actually inspired a 1970 Pink Floyd album title. I also employed English style (dates, single quote-marks, double spaces after periods) throughout the text and “justified” it to mimic a newspaper’s errant-spaced cleanliness. It reminded me somewhat of my own page-design days.
This is all geeky shit. Time-wasting typography and grammar porn. But I enjoyed it. Hope you did too.
She came in through the bathroom window,