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The Beatles Influence
Are you a Beatles fan?
It was December of 1963 that I first heard “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” by a group called The Beatles. I had been listening to the radio during Christmas vacation of my fifteenth year and “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton had just played and before that “Puff The Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary. The DJ came on and said there was a new song by a group out of England and they just might be the next hot group.
Just might be? In music terms we were about to take the leap from the sweet girl next door to Marilyn Monroe and there would be no turning back. Music as we had known it had just taken a quantum leap into the future and I, for one, signed on with the Fab Four for life.
The year is now 2012 and to date The Beatles have sold over one billion units. Stop and let that number soak into your brain for a second….one billion! Lennon and McCartney combined wrote over 180 songs as arguably the most successful songwriting duo in history.
I had always loved music. One of my earliest memories was of our family standing around an LP machine and recording our voices as we sang songs of the 50’s. My mother taught me to sing in harmony and rarely did a day go by when someone wasn’t singing in our household. I grew up to the Big Band sound and listened to the crooners as I approached my teen years, but nothing could have prepared me for The Beatles. Their energy, their vitality, their willingness to break the mold and go where no group had ever gone, it all deeply resonated with me.
Now fifty years later I still catch myself humming one of their songs. My son grew up to his father singing those same songs to him, and hopefully that tradition will be passed on when he has a child. The Beatles defined my teen and early-adult years so that even now I can hear a song and remember what was happening in my life when the song was recorded, as if one was so entrenched in the other as to become a single unit….song and event…both one.
What follows, then, is a list of some of my favorite songs by the Boys from Liverpool and a recollection of what was happening in my life when the song was released. There is no ranking nor is there any chronological order to them; rather it is a glimpse at their history and the impact it had on my history. By the way, I was lucky enough to see them in concert. In 1965 they came to Seattle and I was there, twelve dollar ticket in hand, twenty-five rows from the stage, enjoying the event of my lifetime.
Released in the United States on July 19, 1965, Help stayed in the Top 40 for twelve weeks and held the Number One spot for three weeks. It became the title track for the movie and album of the same name and Lennon considered it a personal cry for help as he was going through insecurities at the time.
Insecurities were nothing new to me in 1965. I was a scrawny, homely mess in 1965, feeling down on myself because of my insecurities over dating and a rising fear over possibly having to serve in Vietnam. I would sing the song constantly that summer, releasing all of the pent-up emotions that had been hidden so deep within me. The Beatles spoke to me in that song as they did to millions of others during those uncertain times.
During the winter of 1966 I was finishing up high school and sending out college applications in hopes of continuing my education and yes, avoiding going to Vietnam. The War was weighing heavily on my mind in February when this song hit the charts. It spent nine weeks in the Top 40 and topped out at Number Three.
My dad was a World War II vet and was encouraging me (to put it mildly) to sign up for ROTC when I got to college. We were not getting along very well over the subject of Vietnam and I was torn between my love for my father and my distaste for that war. Needless to say this song was written just for me, or so it seemed, as I struggled with my uncertain future.
WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS
Recorded on July 25, 1968 as part of the “White Album,” this song was written by George Harrison and featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar. What a beautifully haunting song it was, and is still today.
The Vietnam War was escalating, protests were in high gear in the United States, I was in college and questioning everything about our world. “With every mistake we must surely be learning;” well, in my mind we as a species were not learning much of anything and I was depressed over the state of world affairs. My father and I were barely speaking as my awakening clashed with his beliefs and it was just a very hard time for our family and millions of families around the world.
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
I was in love for the first time in my life. Ah, the first love! Is there anyone out there who does not remember the first time? Eva was her name and it was the Summer of 1966. I was preparing to go off to college and The Beatles found the words and the music that said exactly what I was feeling about Eva that summer. How did they manage to see into my soul? How could they possibly know exactly what I was feeling?
Oh, the angst and hubris of youth!
LET IT BE
My father had been dead for a year when this song was released on March 11, 1970 and quickly rose to the Number One spot on the charts, selling one million copies in one month alone. I was lost without my best friend and mentor; my dad had been my greatest supporter and I was still walking in a daze because of his death and my almost overwhelming sense of loss.
I was also about to graduate from college and that meant the draft. I had already received my draft lottery number, Lucky 87, and orders had arrived in the mail for me to appear for my Army physical in one month. This was, to put it mildly, a tough time in my young life and The Beatles managed to give me strength during those long Spring nights.
THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED
Of course, shortly after that recording The Beatles broke up to the shock and dismay of millions of fans. Life moved on, however, as it has a way of doing despite our permission.
I was refused admission into the Armed Forces because I was the only surviving son. I learned to stand on my own without my dad’s support and Eva found someone else, someone not nearly as moody and immature.
Eventually I married and eventually I divorced. Eventually I embraced alcoholism and eventually I was beaten down and had to climb back up again. Eventually I adopted a son and eventually I learned to handle life on life’s terms. Today I just keep moving forward, one step at a time, and with each step the words of The Beatles accompany me.
“I was alone I took a ride I didn’t know what I would find there.” What I found was life….happiness…and love. Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo! It has been a great ride!