Friday, March 11, 2016

In Search of the Orange Sound

I arrived on earth in the spring of the same year Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. I have black and white memories of the murder of JFK and then on live TV shortly afterwards of the murder of the person arrested for killing Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald.

I was the first born, with no older brothers or sisters to learn from about anything to include music.  As a small child, I had taken quite a liking to Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop” with Mom eventually buying it to shut me up. Sixty-four (nearly) years later, the jury is still out on how successful that was.  But aside from that aberration I listened to what my parents listened to until the day someone played me a record by The Beatles.

A half plus century on, I smile recalling those moments and the memories associated with them. Slowly, the pieces of that life are fading. Places I’ve lived and returned to are different and in some cases, gone; friends I grew up with I lost track of so long ago there’s no way back and many of them are gone as well. But the music of my youth is a source of constant comfort for the rest of my life.

I remember for my thirteenth birthday, my parents gave me money enough to stay after school and go to Varsity Music on George Street in downtown New Brunswick to buy all The Beatles albums I didn’t already own. I didn’t ride the school bus that day and had to walk home but it was so worth it. 

In the basement, we had a one-piece stereo suitcase with a fold-down Garrard turntable (worm gear as it turned out; ‘meh,’ says older me, ‘wow!’ said me then) flanked by two cloth-covered speakers and a handle across the top. With the volume cranked all the way up, more noise than music I suspect,  I was in heaven.

Sir George Martin died Tuesday. By all accounts, he led a ‘full life.’ I have no idea what that expression means and observations like ‘he was the fifth Beatle’ are supposed to catch your eye I guess, but Stuart Sutcliffe was a Beatle and so was Pete Best so I guess Sir George was still in the Top Ten of Beatles, but for me, the kid in the basement, he was the name on the bottom of the back of the album covers and under the song-writing credits on the 45’s (the little records with the big holes) as their producer and part of the magic.

When I look at those records, I still see the kid I was-hell, that all of us were-full of piss and vinegar who was going to live forever just like we were doing and then all of that became all of this and this is the rest of our lives where happy endings are few and far between and more often than not depend on your perspective.

I still, and will always, hate Mark David Chapman for murdering John Lennon and was close to tears for days at the sad, quiet end for George Harrison.  Sir George Martin joined both of them Tuesday as the circle of shared remembrance grows just a little smaller.

I cannot imagine the number of things that had to happen for The Beatles to have met George Martin. And I cannot imagine my life and tens if not hundreds of millions of other lives if they had never met.  In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

-bill kenny 

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