Sunday, January 16, 2011


I was a bit surprised when, on Boxing Day, my recently acquired son-in-law said, “I guess the Beatles must be your favourite band of all time.” Like I say, I was surprised, and I was about to ask him why he would say such a thing, until I remembered that I had, only the day before, smiled broadly upon opening a box containing the complete collection of Beatle music remastered for stereo. There are hundreds of Beatles songs in that box. I haven’t even heard them all yet and it’s already mid January. No wonder Derek thought he might have discovered my favourite band, even though I denied it. Looking back I think it would be fair to say that Beatle music provided a sound track to my coming of age. I was 7 or 8 when it all got going. When Love Me Do came out as a single, my two older sisters argued over it. One of them was a modern teen-ager, the other a lover of country music. Later on came She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah, and Shake It Up Baby, Twist And Shout. Enough said about that.
There was Beatle music on the jukebox when I drank a milk shake of the metal mixer container at the Lougheed Cafe. There was Beatle music on the speakers at the local skating rink. The Beatles play the Ed Sullivan Show on a Sunday evening while Mom curled my hair and wondered in bafflement what those crazy girls were screaming about.
When, just before my 12th birthday, I went to boarding school in Vancouver, a city with not even one country music station, our dorm literally vibrated with Beatle sounds. Girls swooned over beatle movies. Beatle records orbited their centres day after day after day. We sang You Won’t See Me in four-part harmony in the stairwells. We sang Yesterday in the shower. And one year, during summer vacation, I sang beatle harmonies with a friend named Kim on a stage at the Calgary Stampede.
Strangely though, it wasn’t until I was well on into adulthood that it occurred to me that the Beatles were truly talented. Some songs still played on the radio, beautiful melodies, intriguing lyrics, Fool On The Hill, She Doesn’t Need You, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane. These songs were not the sound track of my youth. I had paid them little attention, probably because of their lack of romance.
So here I am, less than a decade away from 64, reading Many Years From Now, an authorized biography of Paul McCartney by Barry Miles. Here’s how they got so many songs. Lennon and McCartney wrote in motel rooms, facing each other on twin beds. Paul is left-handed, John was right-handed. They could easily see each other’s finger positions on guitar. One of them would start with a line, the other would provide a second line. In an hour or two they’d have a song. If they needed an album, or the sound track for a movie, they’d write a song a day until they had it. In between they’d write extra songs. Songs and songs and songs and songs. They wrote them fast and they wrote a lot of them. As they aged, they wrote better songs.
It’s a lot of work to write a song. I think of how much effort has gone into my writing of perhaps four songs in a lifetime, and my heart bursts with admiration for boy/men in their teens and early twenties who could do it in such abundance and generate a few masterpieces in the bargain. And I wonder, if albeit belatedly, I might be exhibiting a moderate case of Beatlemania.

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