Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Beatles: The Great Social Uniter

Earlier this week, my nerdy need to demonstrate my grasp of useless trivia reared its ugly head.  Because I knew the date of the Beatles' first appearance on Ed Sullivan (February 9, 1964), I won two tickets to see a Beatles cover band that was playing here in town.  What else was I going to do on a Saturday night?

As my sis and I took our seats, we looked around and kind of marveled at variety of people assembled in this one place.  There were the fan girls wearing their Beatles t-shirts and who seemed so excited that I kind of wondered if anyone had told them that the guys about to take the stage were not the REAL Beatles.  There was a large number of senior citizens, which seemed weird until I pointed out that the original Beatles fans are all eligible for social security.  I mean, Sir Paul did just turn 70.  There were hipsters, aging hipsters (a category my sister danced around placing me in), little kids there with parents (including one adorable little girl who spent most of the show dancing in the aisle), and my favorite concert-goer -- the obnoxious drunk.

This diversity is a testament to the music of the Beatles.  Can you imagine that kind of diversity at a Justin Bieber cover band concert?  It's not unusual, though, to find Beatles fans of any age.  As a music lover, I've always just kind of thought of the Beatles as a band you had to love if you love music if only out of appreciation for what they did to push music to develop.  They were musical auteurs, taking ownership in their music the way no other pop/rock acts ever had before.  They experimented with sound.  They played with orchestration and instrumentation.  They wrote these lyrics that had depth and poetry.  The band made their debut on Ed Sullivan in 1964 and were kaput by 1970.  What they accomplished musically in those six years is kind of mindblowing.  As I said to my sis during intermission last night, it's sort of incredible to realize that the band that recorded "She Loves You" would eventually produce songs as gorgeous and sophisticated as "A Day in the Life" or "The Long and Winding Road."  (My sis, of course, pointed out that drugs probably helped the process along, which made me wonder what would happen if someone kidnapped Justin Bieber and dosed him with some really crazy acid.....)

It's easy to take for granted the miraculous growth of the Beatles, particularly for people like me who have never lived in a Beatles-less world and yet have never lived in a world where the Beatles were still together.  (I'm really too young to even remember living in a world where it was possible that the Beatles could reunite -- I was 10 when John Lennon died.)  It's easy to kind of shrug them off and cling to one of the bands that rode the Beatles' coattails over to America.  For example, I always include the Rolling Stones on my top five band list but rarely include the Beatles, and yet every song that was played last night brought a smile to my face as a voice in my head gushed, "I love this song."  If spending an evening with a bunch of old guys in questionable wigs (but lovely costumes) did nothing else, it reconnected me with those songs and the memories attached to them -- and gave me the opportunity to twist and shout with a bunch of very excited elderly women.  That alone was a priceless Saturday night.