The following is my entry in The Favorite Foursome Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from July 6-8, 2018. Click on the above banner, and read about bloggers’ favorite foursomes from all venues of pop culture!
My earliest memory of The Beatles — probably one of my earliest memories ever — is when I was 3 or 4 years old, sitting in front of my dinky little record player, listening to The Beatles’ Second Album. Why would a 4-year-old be listening to a Beatles LP? Well, it’s practically part of your DNA when your older sister is a red-blooded, full-throated Beatlemaniac.
My sister Sue, who is 10 years older than me, was one of millions of American females who would scream every time The Beatles came on TV. I have no memory of her watching The Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964 (though I’m sure that’s how she got into Beatlemania). But I have clear recollections of her screaming heartily when the film of The Beatles’ Shea Stadium concert was broadcast, and even when ABC premiered their weekly Beatles cartoon series on Sept. 25, 1965. So it seems that I became a Beatlemaniac by proxy.
I have some strange childhood memories of The Beatles. One is that I wanted to listen to my sister’s copies of their albums, and despite her reluctance to let me do so, my father insisted upon it. One time, I left her copy of Rubber Soul too close to our front room’s open radiator. Forever after, when we played the album, the phonograph needle would have to ride over a rotating hill in the grooves.
My dad had the funniest memory of our family’s “encounters” with The Beatles. We lived in Chicago, and The Beatles played two shows there at White Sox Park on Aug. 20, 1965. Against my dad’s better wishes, he bought two tickets to the second show, for himself and Sue. My dad had two overriding memories of the concert. One was that, when he was driving himself and Sue to the concert, they got about halfway there when Sue realized she had left the concert tickets back at home, and he angrily had to drive back home to get them.
His other memory was that he was practically deafened by the screams of the 37,000 other fans who had attended the concert that night. Also, The Beatles performed on a 360-degree rotating stage. Right behind my dad and sister were a mother-and-daughter couple who had brought along a huge banner reading, “WE LOVE YOU, RINGO.” Every time they thought that the band was rotating in their direction, the mother and daughter would jump up, scream at Ringo, and waved their banner at him.
I don’t remember the first time I listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I definitely had a reaction to the album that was radically different from my sister’s. I was always fascinated by the album’s lavish artwork and era-defining music. But for my sister, that album was the beginning of the end of her fascination with The Beatles, as they had become too far-out and psychedelic for her. (She didn’t even bother buying the double-disc White Album, which would have been too expensive for her meager allowance anyway. As a result, I didn’t even know there was a White Album until I checked it out from a local library in 1972.) So from then on, I ended up carrying the Beatle torch for my family.
After 50-some years (!), their music continues to amaze me. They did so many different kinds of music — rock, ballad, country, experimental — and did them all so well, I’ve always regarded The Beatles as a genre unto themselves. And every phase of their career yields something great to listen to — from their early music with its escapist pop lyrics, to their studio-only years when they experimented with any type of sound they could imagine, to their valedictory era with its solid musicianship.
They weren’t perfect, heaven knows. Producer George Martin was probably right in his opinion that The White Album could have been cut down to a really solid single album instead of its somewhat uneven double set (but who would want to be the one to axe any of the album’s songs?). And Let It Be, while it has its moments, makes it clear that everyone (except perhaps Paul) was ready to move on to other things. (I prefer the stripped-down Naked version of the album that was issued at Paul McCartney’s behest in 2003.)
Yet the best of their music — which is surely the majority of their work — continues to reward new generations of listeners. My 22-year-old son has a friend who is as into The Beatles as I ever was. And as the 50th-anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper — remastered by George Martin’s son Giles — proves, we continue to find layers and layers of wonderful sounds in what seemed very familiar songs. I can never get enough of them.