Yesterday and today
Earlier this week, I sat down and watched two Beatles-related films, their 1964 musical extravaganza A Hard Day’s Night, as well as Good Ol’ Freda, a 2013 documentary about the group’s eternally devoted and wildly modest secretary, Freda Kelly, who still labors away as a largely thankless office worker. That I watched these two films is unusual for two reasons. First, I hate watching movies, but we’ll go into that neurosis another time. Second, I’ve never outwardly embraced the image of Beatles fandom. Growing up, my parents were non-tie-dye wearing Deadheads who thought the Beatles were just too pop, so in keeping with my youthful iconoclasm, I decided that I wouldn’t like them either.
One day, however, I found a copy of the band's eponymous 1968 double record, a.k.a. The White Album, in my parents' record collection nestled between a thick stack of Coltrane LPs and those Funkadelic albums like The Electric Spanking of War Babies with nasty cartoon covers that I was instructed not to look at too carefully.
The White Album, in its sparse austerity, seemed rather attractive in that moment, alluring in its carefully considered nothing, allowing me to project whatever it was I wanted or needed in an album. I stole it away and quietly put it on the turntable in my Bedouin lair of a pre-stoner's bedroom. The White Album at that moment filled in most of what I didn't “get” about the Beatles. It was light and airy with an underlying darkness, and listening to it felt sneaky and subversive. From then on, I listened to it daily, never telling anyone, least of all my own parents. A few years later, as I competently sang along to Danger Mouse's The Grey Album in the car or at home, friends remarked it was as if I'd been listening to The White Album for years. Suspicious.
Which brings us to this past week, which has marked the ramp-up to the Beatles 50th anniversary of coming to America, an event celebrated by local music promoter Jerry Perry with more than 15 bands performing two or three songs each for what would end up being a mammoth undertaking of a show. My own boyfriend volunteered to participate, and through the week, the Beatles became impossible to escape. In the bedroom, my boyfriend tirelessly watched harmony tutorials on YouTube by an Italian named Galeazzo Frudua who begins singing one part and then layers in another until the screen is split into four Brady Bunch-esque sections, and Frudua evolves into a Beatles band of one.
Come Sunday night, Bows & Arrows was packed for the Beatles '64 show, with tables stashed away and the “stage” pushed against the front door as guests streamed in through the side entrance near the bar. I missed the opening portion of the show, but I did catch upward of 10 artists, including Dead Western, Cove, Dog Party, and Kepi Ghoulie, all of them adding something of themselves while highlighting what it was they found compelling in the songs, and proving that the Beatles, even half-a-century later, remain as vital as the fist day you heard them.