Friday, January 28, 2011
Music Blog #1 - Meet The Beatles, Already
I ignored the Beatles for 32 years of my life.
Okay, that's impossible. I tried to ignore The Beatles for 32 years of my life. You can't be a human being with a pulse and not be inundated with "Hey Jude" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" your entire life. I even know a person who's convinced that the Beatles' music is part of a world-wide mind-control conspiracy full of subliminal messages and symbols. It should also be noted that this person believes that seven-foot shape-shifting alien lizards drink the blood of babies so they can remain in human form and secretly rule the world. So...cuckoo. But that's another blog.
The reason I tried to ignore the Beatles for most of my life isn't because of any bullshit conspiracy theory. It's just good old rebellion. Everybody says they're the best band ever and that's that. My parents' generation treated them like Jesus (John was right) and as a child of the 90's I wasn't having that. No, I was going to listen to bands that really mattered. Bands from my generation that would last forever, like Screeching Weasel and Let's Go Bowling. Translation: I was stupid. Truth be told, I still love those bands but I later came to realize that I was judging the Beatles by their fans and not their music. It's not the Beatles' fault that my parents' generation held them up like idols and worshipped them as the infallible word of rock & roll. They were just making music. Timeless, genius music.
The other problem I had with the Beatles was their image. In my mind, they were almost always portrayed as the shaggy, goofy Fab Four or the hippy-dippy "Give Peace A Chance" Gandhi wannabes. Never mind that their image actually contained multiple eras that evolved in light speed each year or that "Give Peace a Chance" was actually a Plastic Ono Band record. I was misinformed.
Really, what turned it all around for me was when I realized that John Lennon was an asshole. Not just a regular asshole either but a dark, brooding, deranged, monumentally humongous asshole. If they made a Mt. Rushmore of assholes it would have Kanye West and three John Lennons. Usually someone being a jerk turns people off. Not me. I was delighted! I read an interview with Lennon where he talks smack about the Beatles, his fans, the world! I couldn't believe that this golden boy, this "spokesmen" for the 60's flower-power generation was actually flawed and even confused and depressed. It instantly humanized him for me. Then I read further and found out that Paul McCartney was a narcissistic dandy and George was literally "holier than thou." Ringo? Well, Ringo was just happy to be there. But I'm okay with him being that way. They needed an anchor. The grand slam home-run was when I read about the rejected album cover idea where they were holding headless baby dolls with raw meat strewn about. Okay, these weren't my mother's Beatles after all. They weren't superhuman gods from the musical Valhalla. They weren't Paul Bunyon or Mother Theresa or even the Fab Four. They were four dudes. And now I was ready to give them a listen.
Like most people in the world, I knew all their hits. I didn't want to get a "best of" just to hear the songs I'd heard since I was a child. One of my first memories is of hearing "Help!" on the radio and thinking that it was a song about being stuck in a tree. "Help me get my feet back on the ground." I was a very literal kid. I also thought that Toto's song "Africa" was about turning into a monster like the Incredible Hulk. "I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become." And when Gloria Estefan came on I thought the rhythm was gonna get me. Listen to that song, it growls! It terrified little-kid Mike Brody! RAWR! Also, if you ever see me dance, you'll know that the rhythm never did get me.
So I started at the end and picked up "Abbey Road". (Any true Beatles fan knows that "Let It Be" was released last but recorded second-to-last.) Then I grabbed "The White Album", "Sgt. Pepper", "With The Beatles" and all the classic albums. What I was immediately struck by was how much bands (of all decades) have aped the Beatles. Suddenly, bands that I thought were ripping off the New York Dolls were actually ripping off the Beatles. And after having this same experience with 10, 20, 30 songs, I quickly realized that I would be the hypocrite of all hypocrites if I still claimed to be neutral on this band. Half (hell, maybe ALL) of the music I grew up on is a direct result of this band. It's like saying I love airplanes, but those Wright Brothers sure were hacks! (Ahem, I would appreciate it if you'd please disregard any claims from other people saying that they invented the flying machine first. I'm working on an analogy here, people. Work with me!)
I'm 33-years-old now. It's been a year since my Beatles' quest began and they're now one of my favorite bands. Does that make me feel a little bit lame and generic? You bet your yellow submarine it does. To me it's like saying that I love sunny days and pizza. But guess what, Apple scruffs? Goddamn sunny days and pizza rule.