B is for Beatles


In honor of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan next month, where most of America first saw the Fab Four, I thought I’d track down my development as a Beatles fan.

Yes, I watched Sullivan on February 9, 1964, and I thought the group was all right. But I really couldn’t hear them or enjoy them over all of that SCREAMING. I went to school the next day and it appeared that my female classmates in the fifth grade had also been riddled by a mild form of what came to be called Beatlemania. This really turned me off from the group.

Beatles at the Indiana State Fair

But as I saw them (twice more on Sullivan) and heard them on the radio (a lot) I began to soften towards them. Don’t know exactly when, it was some point after the movie A Hard Day’s Night came out, because I had had zero interest seeing it at the time, whereas I eagerly watched 1965’s Help! as soon as it was released. Eventually, both my sister Leslie and I clamored for some music by the Beatles, and so my father brought home this:

Apparently, parents all over the country were fooled were fooled by this knockoff. Frankly, I don’t recall how, or even if, we expressed our disappointment.

In 1965, I started a paper route, which meant I had my own money. At some point after June, I joined the Capitol Record Club. 12 albums for only a penny! (If you buy 12 more at the club’s inflated retail price, plus shipping.) I ordered all the Beatles’ albums that were out at the time, and was horrified to discover that my Meet the Beatles was in stereo, rather than mono, since the warning on the stereo albums was that they were incompatible with a mono player; ultimately, I played it anyway.

That year and the next, we would lipsynch Beatles’ albums, especially Beatles VI, which was the first of the full-price albums I bought, using brooms and mops as guitars and Quaker Oats boxes as drums. . I was John, the literate, intelligent one; Leslie was Paul, who was left-handed and she thought he was CUTE; our neighbor Mary Jane was Ringo, because she thought he was CUTE; and our baby sister Marcia was George, because he was the only one left.

I started reading all the magazines about the Beatles. One article stood out: John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful indicated that Drive My Car was his favorite album on the album Rubber Soul. EVERYBODY knows that Drive My Car was on Yesterday…and Today, didn’t they? It wasn’t until a couple years later, possibly until after the breakup, when I discovered that the British albums and the American albums were not the same.

I quit Capitol Record Club when I realized I could buy the albums not only cheaper, but sooner from the stores. I got Rubber Soul and Revolver from the club, but Yesterday…and Today from the Rexall Drug Store ($2.99) and Sgt. Pepper at W.T. Grant’s for the outrageous amount of $3.67. I noticed I was at least a little colorblind because it took me forever to find the word Beatles on the Magical Mystery Tour cover. I recently discussed the white album.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, I started reading books about the Beatles and became rather expert at what was on which album in the UK and the US, and even Italy. Recently, a colleague went to a funk concert and asked about a song called Bad Boy. I could tell him, without looking it up, that it was a Larry Williams song from my beloved Beatles VI in America, but that it didn’t show up in Britain until the mostly singles collection A Collection of Beatles Oldies But Goldies in late 1966. It’s on the Past Masters 1 CD.

I decided, probably foolishly, that in the next couple weeks, at random intervals, I will rank the entire list of Beatles songs, based on how much I would enjoy a piece if I haven’t heard it in, say, six months. It is NOT necessarily a list of BEST songs, though quality can enhance enjoyment. The list will punish perfectly good recordings that, from overplaying, I just don’t want to hear anymore.

I’m going to limit the list to the canon; that is, the songs released on Beatles singles, albums and EPs through 1970. In other words, the tunes from the British Beatles CDs and from the Past Masters CDs. There will be no songs from the Anthology albums.

If I were a purist, I would have separate listings for the single and album versions of Love Me Do, Let It Be and Get Back or the alternative and album versions of Across the Universe; I don’t. While the single version of Get Back is what I had in mind, the coda on the album version has its charm.

NASA beamed a song — The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” — directly into deep space at 7 p.m. EST on Feb. 4, 2008. The transmission over NASA’s Deep Space Network commemorated the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA’s founding and the group’s beginnings.

ROG

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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