Saturday, October 6, 2012

(More of) My Back Pages

It wouldn't have meant anything to me at the time-I wasn't even 10 and a half  yet. The fractions are always important to you as a kid but less so as you grow older. When you get to my age now you blur the numbers together and hope nobody hears you but back in the day those halves were important.

Yesterday, fifty years ago, The Beatles' Love Me Do arrived in record stores all across the United Kingdom, from NEMS to HMV and all shops in between. One of the things I find beyond coincidental (and I don't think much of coincidence either) is this Tuesday, the 9th, is John and Sean Lennon's birthday. I agree with Einstein that God doesn't play dice with the universe and for much of the last three decades, I've thought about Sean and his older half-brother Julian, this time of year as a way of keeping their father in my heart.

If you think pop music began with the Gangnam Whatchamacallits, you don't come close to having my sympathy and you might think yourself lucky you don't have my contempt. But then I remember our Dad and his face the first time The Beatles came on the car radio. There was NO FM (okay, there was but no one had an FM radio in the car). AM radio was king and that three inch speaker in the dashboard above the radio and below the front windshield glass was a portal to heaven.

I had NO idea what Beatles were when I first heard them, but that was really their appeal (I think) for all of us who heard them when we, and they, were so much younger. Our parents didn't get them at all-sort of like me with countless varieties of music since-and that enhanced their attractiveness.

What we didn't know, and wouldn't for decades, was that all around the world rock and roll music was becoming its own international language. Oh, don't worry-we still preferred better dead than red and no doubt the Young Pioneers hated Wall Street but at every other level imaginable the game had changed and there would be no going back, ever.

There is no one on earth my age anywhere who didn't, and who still doesn't, get a reference inside any lyric from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, and/or a dozen more names. We can finish one another's sentences with the shared musical references and see the same things one another have dreamed, things that never happened before in the history of the planet.

I keep waiting for us to build a better world from our new and improved frame of shared reference and I should concede that just because we haven't yet done so doesn't mean we won't ever, but so far it's a hard slog and there's no sleep 'til Hammersmith.

It was a very simple world when Love Me Do was released-never sure it was easier, and not sure it was a better one, but it was very different. Or it certainly seems so to me now across half a century and yet, as that old chestnut suggests, the fundamental things apply as time goes by and classic harmonica hooks live on and on and on.
-bill kenny     

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