“When I was younger, so much younger than today…”
John Lennon was all of twenty-five years old when he wrote that memorable lyric from Help! On one hand one wonders just how much younger he could have been; was he pondering the complications of the human experience as a fourteen year-old boy in Liverpool? On the other hand, he’d already lived over half his life. Perhaps it was the unknown impending demise at the hands of a crazed fan less than twenty years later that led him to the type of introspection usually reserved for people in their fifties or sixties?
It probably just “sounded cool” at the time. And Lennon was all about cool, wasn’t he? Ask anyone who their favorite Beatle was. If they say Paul McCartney, they have at least an idea of who the Beatles were. If they say George Harrison they really want to be different. If they say John Lennon, they “get it.” If they say Ringo Starr… well, no one ever says Ringo.
I have my mother to thank for instilling in me an appreciation for Lennon’s music at an early age. When all the other kids my age were listening to bands like Kiss, Aerosmith, and The Knack (I’m talking late seventies here), I was spinning Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and that Americanized bastardization album Yesterday and Today (which I wouldn’t learn until years later was never a “real” Beatles album). Sure, I liked the modern bands just like the other ten and eleven year-olds, but I LOVED the Beatles. Mom first played Beatles’ records (yes, records) for me when I was maybe five or six years old. Oh and we had Beatles’ 8-tracks as well. Lots of them. She also sang Beatles’ songs around the house while she was cooking or cleaning or doing whatever kind of mom stuff she’d do, she was humming tunes like Penny Lane and Lady Madonna a lot of the time. She sang them to my brother and I the way some moms sing lullabyes. Mom was awesome in that way.
This affection for the music of the so called Fab Four stayed with me throughout my life. In my late teens I discovered the wonders of recreational substances such as alcohol and marijuana (as many teens do, unfortunately) and suddenl;y the Beatles’ later music made much more sense to me. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD. It HAD to be, no matter how many times Lennon himself denied it. Penny Lane was all about shooting oneself to palookaville on opiates. After all, the pretty nurse was selling poppies from a tray, wasn’t she? You don’t have to be Dorothy or the Tin Man to know what poppies do.
Of course, in 1970, just two years after I was born, the Beatles broke up. They didn’t even have the decency to wait for me to know who they were. They each embarked on solo careers which proved to have varying degrees of success. Even Ringo, the un-coolest of all the Beatles, was allowed to put out records on his own and people bought them. George Harrisojn got to prove that he had more to offer than just Something and While my Guitar Gently Weeps, and Lennon kept letting his spouse Yoko Ono influence his music (and letting her sing, something I’ll never completely understand… the crazy things love makes us do, I suppose.) McCartney proved to the world that he was little more than a hack, releasing a string of crappy pop songs that, to me anyway, represented a small fraction of his actual talent. They sold well because crap always does (Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, anyone?), but lacked the substance of anything from Abbey Road or Let it Be.
I’ve often observed that the real difference between Lennon and McCartney’s styles and priorities can be examined through their respective Christmas songs. Lennon gave us the introspective plea for an end to the Vietnam War with Happy Christmas (War is Over) while McCartney was Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Oh, how I wish that could have been avoided. Now I have to be reminded of it every December.
I don’t wish anyone ill, certainly not one of my beloved Beatles, but am I the only one who feels the wrong one got shot?
I suppose I digress. this is supposed to be a blog post and those are supposed to say something worthwhile, aren’t they? I guess as my first one this will set the tone for all of them: they are my random musings. If you don’t like it, click to another page, effectively “turning me off.” To quote another of my mini-heroes, filmmaker John Waters, “That’s what I did when Forest Gump started running.”
June 21, 2011