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I should’ve known

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Published on: Thursday, January 30, 2014

By Brian J. Karem

It was 50 years ago today, more or less, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. And true to their lyrics, they’ve been going in and out of style but they certainly are guaranteed to raise a smile.

More than half the people on the planet were not around when the Beatles came to town and wanted to hold our hand, so perhaps I can help in some small way to bring some understanding to the situation from one whose first album purchase was Magical Mystery Tour. The second was The Beatles, better known as the “White Album.”

I grew up listening to my father sing – off key but enthusiastically, “Michelle”. He also would sing “Words of Love” – the Beatle’s version of the Buddy Holly classic. Only later – on my father’s death bed did I find out he was a teenage Buddy Holly fan who learned to enjoy the music of my generation through the music of his.

The Beatles came to us about two months after the death of John Kennedy. I, seemingly along with every other person on the planet watched them on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember very little because I was so small myself. But they seemed to have fun and I liked that long hair.

As I got older I would lament my plight going to the barbershop when my father would emphatically demand I get a crew cut. I wanted the Beatle cut. “Forget it,” pop told me. “They only have that hair because it’s in their contract.”

It stifled me until my next haircut when I questioned my father concerning the ability to get my own “contract.” My mob cousin told me I was too young to go whacking out anybody. He misunderstood.

I guess with all the hype regarding the 50 year anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles to our shores, I have been inundated with memories of those times – sad and happy.

I picked up a guitar and learned to play because of The Beatles. I joined a band. I grew my hair long. I was one of the millions who could’ve gone to Woodstock – but my mother would not allow a prepubescent pustule to engage in such behaviors. Ultimately, and inevitably I grew up. This is the sad part. I knew boyhood ended and manhood began when John Lennon died. Paul, with his black hair, had reminded me of myself and had been my favorite Beatle as a child. After the group broke up, it was John.

Three songs of his touched me deeper than any other music ever did. The year he died I met my wife. “Woman” became our song. It said everything about a loving relationship with a woman that I ever wanted my wife to understand. “Beautiful Boy” became the lullaby I sang to my own sons when they were very small.

Then, there was “Imagine.”

During the last four decades it was a tune that stirred, among other things my own imagination.

It has angered some, perhaps many, for its prodding to “Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try.”

But I, for one, never saw it as a renunciation or repudiation of God, or Heaven. While many of my conservative friends have expressed dismay and been upset with this line, I always considered the word “Imagine” and I did just that. Having done so has given me a greater appreciation of God and Heaven.

But that is merely the esoteric, or the existential angst the Beatles touched in me.

Their music introduced me to R & B, jazz, as well as pop, electronic feedback, acid music, orchestral music and other musical realms I’d never heard before.

They were my introduction into a world of pleasure and they had a lot of fun doing it. I had a lot of fun listening to them.

Sure, Lovely Rita, the flower child hippy girl with the yellow two-piece who lived just down the street and constantly sang “Penny Lane” as she skipped down the street did a lot to influence me. To be honest, the tie-dyed shirts and crocheted two-pieces would’ve probably done it for me without the Beatles, but without the Beatles I doubt she’d have gone that route.

When the Vietnam War raged and we all worried about serving or dying, it was John and the Beatles who were our inner voice.

When we wanted to rock n’ roll we played with the feedback and felt fine. Tomorrow never did know, but we did. We read the news today, oh boy and we were all paperback writers. We had a Hard Day’s Night, but we were in the inner grove.

Nothing like the Beatles came before us and nothing has been seen like them since.

That says something. And all my worn vinyl still sings to me the same as the day I bought them.

I’m looking through you and I’m happy to say We Can Work it Out.

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