Saturday, October 09, 2010

It's Johnny's Birthday. . .

I don't think I've ever really taken the time to talk about my deep, abiding love of The Beatles. On the occasion of what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, I think I'll finally do just that.

My parents listened to The Beatles. I remember looking at their collection of record albums, staring and staring at the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, trying to figure out who in the world all of those crazy-looking people were. I listened to "Michelle" over and over again trying to learn the French lyrics. I remember asking my mom which one she thought was the cutest (she likes Paul, I think).

When Brendan and I got together, we listened to The Beatles quite a bit. He was in a cover band in college (which was SUPER fun, btw), and music was (and is) a huge part of his life. I remember driving with Brendan down to visit my sister at her college, and listening to "Ticket to Ride," and singing in harmony, over and over.

Over the years, Brendan and I have studied The Beatles together. We listened only to Abbey Road during the summer of 2000 (though I doubt he will remember it that specifically). I remember listening to the second half of the album (not that that particular phrase has much meaning now that CDs are the norm) with Brendan while driving up to the North Georgia mountains to stay in a rental cabin. Every time I hear "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" I remember us driving up and down winding mountain roads.

We should have had The Beatles at our wedding, but neither of us realized how important they were to become to us, and to the children we'd have.

Anyway, Brendan and I are what you might call serious enthusiasts. We've seen the documentaries, the Anthology, we have everything they did together, and a good smattering of the work they did after The Beatles broke up. We have books and books and posters, and my parents gave Brendan their old Beatles albums in frames for Christmas one year. We know lots of little obscure details about their work, such as which lyric George's mom contributed to the song "Piggies" and which Beatle played the drums on "Back in the USSR" (hint: not Ringo). We delight in picking up their influence in other pop/rock music, and once spent an hour listening to a certain Elvis Costello song repeatedly in order to figure out the exact Beatles song he was drawing from.

When the kids came, "Here Comes the Sun" was the first song each of them ever heard. (And I campaigned hard for Sean to be named "John." There. I said it.) In our nursery, we had the John Lennon baby collection that Yoko authorized shortly before Ryan was born. Yes. It's very true. (And  yes, I'm on first-name terms with Yoko, heh.)

Each kid has had favorite Beatles songs, and those songs will forever be their songs to me. Ryan has "Blackbird Singing" (the lullaby I used to sing) and "Love Me Do" (he once entertained my extended family with a hearty rendition), and "Come Together." His current favorite will surprise no one who knows him: "Revolution."

Morgan is "Martha My Dear" and "Hey Bulldog!" (because, you know, dogs), and now she can sing the lyrics "Billll-eeeee, Sheeeeeaaarrrsssss!" right on key and I'm so proud (bonus: in which song is that lyric found?).

Sean is "Eight Days a Week" as all of my friends here know very well (he sings it often), and "Get Back" ("get back 'rettAHH!"). He also likes "Back in the USSR" as it begins with an airplane sound. Naturally, he prefers the Thomas the Tank Engine original series narrated by Ringo. Oh, and I just remembered--he has christened a certain body part of his "Ringo" (I am not making this up).

Our Music Class teacher, who has known us since Ryan was only a year old, calls us her "Most Beatles Family." Sean brought "Eight Days a Week" in last week to share with the class. It was AWESOME.

We all love The Beatles. I've thought a lot about why I love them so much. Part of it is that I enjoy tracing their musical development over the years--from bubble gum pop to quirky sitar + blues. It's fun to hear them mature right before my very ears. Intellectually, it's very interesting, though I still have yet to listen to Rubber Soul, then Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (written in as a response to Rubber Soul--"God Only Knows" is an AMAZING song), then Revolver (written in response to Pet Sounds, possibly SPLHCB was influenced, too) all in a row. I need to do that. Soon.

The Beatles are a passion I share with Brendan, something we can talk about for hours at a time.

The songs are fun to sing at the top of my lungs.

But mostly, I love their sense of life, and how the lyrics and music reflected that, even in the weird years. :o)

And of all of them, John is my favorite (George is a close, close second, but he really didn't get great until post-Beatles, probably because he was finally free of the other two). I remember when he was killed, and I've written before about the effect it had on me as a ten year old child. My mom cried, people on television cried, and I cried because for the first time ever, I understood that there were real Bad Guys out there.

But I don't remember him because of his death, though it impacted me profoundly, in ways I would not understand until adulthood. I remember him because he was fun and talented and had a weird sense of humor. I know he was a pacifist hippie--and I don't care. I love him anyway! :o)

Maybe it's just because it's an '0' year--John would have been 70 today. In December, it will be the 30th anniversary of his death. Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 next month (he was 40 when he died) and I think about all I have yet to accomplish, and all of the things John missed.

But I just want to say: Thanks John (and Paul and George and Ringo). I can't find the words to express my admiration and how much I enjoy your music. The Beatles are in my heart and soul and all of the people and places I remember. I know I'll never lose affection.

Don't forget to see Google's tribute to John.


Anthony said...

"Billll-eeeee, Sheeeeeaaarrrsssss!" - are you talking about it in the album Sgt. Pepper album, between the first two songs? I didn't think that was actually part of any song. Am I right?

PC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PC said...

"Let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears, and Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band ... Billll-eeeee, Sheeeeeaaarrrsssss!"

Do I get a chocolate fish?

PC said...

Great post, BTW. I love the way Objectivists milk their values. " I'm on first-name terms with Yoko." Heh heh.


So which is your favourite album?

And which your least favourite?

Jenn Casey said...

Anthony and Peter: Yes, chocolate fish all around! I always thought it was part of SPLHCB, the tail end and segueway into "A Little Help...."

And I'm glad you liked the post, Peter. Thanks for sharing it on your blog. :o)

PC said...

So how about your albums? If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine.

Jenn Casey said...

The record albums my mom framed for us are Sergeant Pepper's, Magical Mystery Tour, and Introducing The Beatles, which is the first one released in the US. I think there's another, too...maybe Beatles for Sale? I'll have to go check.

A friend of a friend has the Yesterday and Today album with the butcher cover. Can you believe it? !!!

PC said...

Oh yeah. You guys had different early albums.

The butcher album! Now that's a rarity.

The White Album and Revolver were what first got me hooked. Magic stuff, and still my top two favourites (though Plastic Ono Band is pretty good).

Who could dislike an album that starts off by lambasting the Taxman. :-)

Sandwiched between those two however is Sgt Pepper, unfortunately, my least favourite. I reckon it has Lennon's weakest song writing, and all of what Lennon used to call Paul's "nana songs," i.e. songs for grandmas. It was only George Martin who could manage to make it all listenable.

I blame the acid. ;^)

Anonymous said...

Douglas Adams (author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series of novels) had some charming recollections about his initial exposure to the Beatles and some very insightful comments about their music and sense of life. I'm sorry I don't remember the title of the book, but it was a non-fiction work. Well worth reading and very compatible with your post.

brendan said...

PC -

Jenn's favorite album, I believe, is Revolver, with Abbey Road a close second.

I intentionally listened to their albums in order of release when I first got to know their music. Spent about two months with each album before moving to the next, and doing this you can really listen to them grow musically, particularly Georg Harrison.

My favorite, without a doubt, is Rubber Soul. In Help, they are just beginning to stretch their musical horizons, but in RS they hit their stride. Almost every Lennon song is a masterpiece: Nowhere Man, In My Life, GIRL... all among his very best. I love Revolver, too, and it certainly had stronger work from Paul than RS, but Lennon's work is better in RS, IMHO. And I consider Lennon's work to be the measuring stick by which The Beatles' albums run -- his is almost always the strongest writing of the four (Revolver being the exception to that rule, I think).

I'm with you on Sgt. Pepper's, for the most part (there are a few great songs). But it being The Beatles' worst album is a bit like being the dumbest person in MENSA -- still brilliant.