Two Weeks With the Fab Four

Although I’m more than a decade too young to have experienced Beatlemania firsthand, I was first “introduced” to the lads from Liverpool by a high school friend in the early 90’s.

Sad, I know. But better late than never, right?

So basically while everyone else was sporting the flannel, crushin’ on everyone from Eddie Vedder to Billy Corgan and rockin’ out to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I was gaining quite an education about the band that forever changed the pop music landscape.

As my friend and I flipped through countless pics of the band and listened to the music any time we had and opportunity, it was clear that she was wholly devoted to John.

I, on the other hand, immediately took a fancy to Paul, “the cute Beatle,” which I’m pretty sure is where my allegiance would’ve lied in the band’s heyday—just like it did for a bazillion other girls. It wasn’t a particularly original choice for sure, but seriously who could resist those big, sad, puppy dog brown eyes and the voice of so many great songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty Four” and still probably the most depressing song on the planet, “Yesterday”? After watching “A Hard Day’s Night” though, I’ll admit that I almost switched my allegiance to Ringo who was super adorable while getting picked on endlessly by everyone—including his band—but I never quite made the switch. So Paul it was.

Anyway, in college, my education continued as I steadily started acquiring The Beatles’ music. While I indulged in the unlikely combo of dc talk’s Jesus Freak, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged LIttle Pill and Jars of Clay’s self-titled album, I always worked The Beatles into my steady repertoire of listening and marveled at the progression from the sunshiney, innocent songs like “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “She Loves You” to the moodier, more complex offerings of “Strawberry Fields” and “Come Together” in the later years. Truth be told, the more bizarre, experimental and drug-influenced the music got, the more I liked it. But in today’s world where Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” topped the charts week after week this summer, it’s still difficult to imagine a time where music only got as steamy as “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

My fascination with the Fab Four continued long after college ended, too. In fact, during my second trip to London in 2004, I made sure to see all the Beatles hot spots via the fabulous Magical Mystery Tour, where I strolled by the Apple Offices, the site of that famous rooftop performance near the end of their career, crossed the street of Abbey Road (even though it was 100 degrees that day, a rarity in London, I went barefoot and out of step just like Paul did—minus the cigarette, though) and came face to face with the theater where Beatlemania all began (in London, anyway). It was fun and historic and oh-so-memorable, and even many years after Beatlemania had passed, there were probably 60 other people who were just as curious as I was about everything Beatles that hot August afternoon.

These days, I’m feeling even more informed thanks to Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography. For the past two weeks, I’ve digested way more than the Cliff’s Notes on John, Paul, George and Ringo. Breaking it down in glorious detail (only the ending of the nearly 900-page book felt a bit rushed), I read about the band members’ respective upbringings, how long it actually took to kickstart their career  (it wasn’t a quick climb to the top, that’s for sure), what it felt like once they’d officially”arrived” and was saddened by the inevitable fall-out that happened when the adoration of millions wasn’t fun anymore and ego, not to mention a constant stockpile of drugs, divided them.

While there were a slew of sad moments (Stu and Brian Epstein’s early deaths in particular), I was  especially moved by John’s tragic story—losing his mother at such a volatile point in his life, the loneliness and emptiness he felt even at the top, having his non-existent father creep back in the picture only when he was famous, the breakup of his marriage to Cynthia and taking up with Yoko. To say the least, I wasn’t surprised  the diehard Beatles’ fans hated Yoko so much, and I found myself breaking into spontaneous laughter a few times at the sheer craziness of her artistic endeavors. She’s one unique broad, that’s for sure, and it all made for one page-turning story that I won’t soon forget.

In honor of finishing the book, I went back and listened to some Beatles’ songs today. It still amazes me how timeless and creative they are. And for anyone who’d be interested in knowing how they all came to be, I can’t recommend Mr. Spitz’s book enough. My hubby loved the biography he did on Bob Dylan so much (another warts-and-all account) that he picked up the Beatles’ book just because he wrote it, plowed through it and told me I’d love it, too. And he was definitely right…it was a winner. Just like The Beatles’ music.

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