They’ve been going in and out of style

Recently, Mike has discovered The Beatles. I mean, sure, he knew about them, and he listened to some of the albums I owned, but he finally got around to watching The Beatles Anthology on DVD, and, suddenly, I feel the need to apologize to my parents for my Beatles fan-girl-ness back in high school. Mom and Dad, thanks for putting up with that. And thanks for taking me to buy the second Anthology at midnight. And for letting me watch my tapes of the Anthology as much as I wanted. And for not killing me. (I probably should have said that last one first.)

Not that I’m going to kill Mike. It’s actually fun to see him find out songs that I remember discovering, and telling him which are my favorites. As usual, he’s taken it to extremes, but if there was ever a band to go a little crazy about, well, The Beatles certainly make the cut. We spent time last night talking about what an “essential Beatles” CD would look like, and how we would go about choosing the songs.

Last night he was showing me Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums and we were comparing it to VH1’s 100 greatest albums (note: that link is weird, because VH1 put Revolver as 1, not 11, and Sgt. Pepper as 10, not 20). Those two lists have very different Beatles philosophies, because Rolling Stone put Sgt. Pepper as number 1, and VH1 put Revolver as number 1. I like Revolver, I do. I think it’s a great album, and I see how we go from Help! to Rubber Soul to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper. In other words, you can’t get to Sgt. Pepper without Revolver. But, Mike and I were talking about this last night, yeah, Sgt. Pepper is overplayed now, and it’s really lost its impact, but . . . I remember the first time I listened to it (on vinyl at my friend Kim’s house), and it blew me away. I had never heard anything like it. It’s not that those are my favorite Beatles songs (please don’t make me choose any favorite Beatles songs). It’s just that, for me, as an album, it always comes first.

I am sure that says some interesting things about me. I have to admit that, in high school, the Beatles-loving side of me never seemed to be quite in line with some of the other aspects of my goody-two-shoes personality (black clothes and purple tights aside). Especially the acid-dropping Beatles. If I was going to like The Beatles, shouldn’t it have been the more innocent version? And, yeah, I like those songs. But they’re just not as interesting as the Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper era. I’ll admit that the band loses me a bit after The White Album, though there are plenty of songs from that and later albums that I love.

What does it say about me that I love Sgt. Pepper, but prefer most of what came before it to what came after it? Maybe deep down inside I’m the girl who likes to toy with being edgy, but who doesn’t really want to make the full jump out of the mainstream into drug-addled hippiedom. Maybe I’m the girl who likes it when people are getting along instead of fighting. Maybe I’m just a little too conventional after all.

Maybe Yoko Ono really did wreck The Beatles. Or maybe the problems they were already having couldn’t be ignored anymore.

In the book I’ve been reading, A Southern Family by Gail Godwin, a character who is an author said that one fo the things she didn’t like about her own writing was her tendency to wrap things up: “What ugly truths of human existence had I been regularly avoiding in my life and work in order to maintain my vision of life and my belief in myself?” I related to that because I, too, like to wrap things up neatly. In Beatles terms, I would probably be a Paul more than a John, espousing a more hopeful view. Or at least wanting to. I go to great efforts to make that happen in the things I say and write, in real life. I prefer books and movies where there is a clear sense of closure. I don’t like it when relationships are unavoidably messy. I think maybe I like the earlier Beatles because of that, too – those later relationships were a mess, and, no, they couldn’t “just get along.” And it shows. The music doesn’t gloss that over, as much as I want to. Maybe I don’t like the end of the Beatles simply because it’s so raw it makes me uncomfortable.

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