Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blackbird

Since this is one of the songs that plays a small part in the most recent excerpt of my Dickens Challenge piece, I thought I'd post it.

What is it about the Beatles that endures? They recorded music together for less than a decade and announced their break-up 37 years ago; yet, they're an indelible part of our cultural consciousness. When I was three or four years old, my mother bought "Meet the Beatles" and I can remember her playing it on our KLH portable turntable, turning the volume up loud and dancing with my little sister and me in our tiny living room. My parents had a lot of records, but until The Beatles, they were all classical and jazz. I'd almost go so far as to say that The Beatles mark the beginning of my awareness of the world around me.

Were the Beatles a big part of your life?


18 comments:

Maddy said...

I'm no musician, so it just seems like magic to me.
Best wishes

steve said...

Unlike most other Sixties rock groups, the Beatles have crossed the generations. All my three children, ages 23, 22, and 18 are Beatles fans. In 1987 there was a wonderful documentary called "It was Twenty Years Ago Today," which tells the story of the Sgt. Pepper album.

I'm not a musician or musicologist, but serious musicians like Peter Schickele talk about the Beatles with the same regard that they would Dvorak or Mendelsohn.

Rob in Denver said...

Like you, Lisa, I was pretty young when I first discovered my mom's Beatles records (the curious American releases on Capitol Records and not the British ones we now consider to be Beatles catalog).

I didn't know it then, but those records were life-changing for me.

I guess I had some sense they were famous, and I understood that "famous" meant "good." And, at seven or eight years old, I'd play these songs over and over again on shitty little portable turntable. It was magical.

Of course, hindsight tells us that Beatles were special because the band represented the first coming-of-age for a nascent popular art form. Earlier popular rock and roll had an innocence that masked the maturity of the music's foundation and themes.

While the earliest Beatles records still, at least lyrically, held a lot of that same innocence, there was something more to what was happening musically. A tad raw. Less bubblegummy. Slightly more mature. Still pop, though.

But there was a deeper understanding of the blues... crazy shit for a group of white guys from halfway around the world.

Great post!

kristen said...

It is amazing, isn't it? My 6-year-old son can instantly identify a Beatles song. He just gets their sound. Oh, and The Beach Boys (he is part-Californian, afterall...)

moonrat said...

a huge part.

my personal favorite is "i've just seen a face"

so sweet

Sustenance Scout said...

It's funny because my brothers were more into the Beach Boys than anything else when I was a kid so I was exposed to the Beatles at a friend's house. Her big brothers played Beatles albums in the basement while they tried to teach us to play foosball; Hey Jude takes me back to that friend's basement every time.

As far as the Beatles' impact, I think their personalities, their original innocent outlook, comments like "we love jelly babies" which led them to receive an avalanch of jelly babies for the holidays one year, and their radical "long" (below the ear) haircuts went a long way in endearing them to a generation that was antsy to escape their parents' content but suffocating lifestyles. Not to mention their terrific music. I think the one comment about their ability to understand the blues without seemingly trying has a lot of truth in it; I read once they adored Elvis and when they went to visit him for the first time one evening they were so nervous they barely spoke. Elvis said something like if you guys are just going to sit there, I'm going to bed and things finally picked up and they all played music together into the night. Wouldn't it be great to have a recording of THAT! Love the image of you and your mom and sister dancing in that living room!K.

Josephine Damian said...

I think music touches you the most when you're very young and infused with emotions - all things seem possible.

As a kid in the 60's, the Beatles were a huge part of my childhood, and I feel sorry for anybody who wasn't a kid or a teenager during that time.

Yeah, they resonate across all generations, but music, IMO, just doesn't affect you when you're older as much as it does when you're young.

Carleen Brice said...

The Beatles didn't mean much to me. I was watching TV when they interrupted to say that John Lennon had been killed. I told my mom and was so surprised when she burst into tears. I hadn't known they had meant that much to her.

Shauna Roberts said...

I wasn't a big Beatles fan. Still, just living then meant that their sound was all around me and certain songs marked certain events.

I still remember exactly what I was doing when I found out John Lennon had been assassinated and what I did the rest of the morning; that's burned on my brain with MLK's assassination and the Challenger explosion.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Rock" music wasn't allowed in my house. My dad called it "Duck Quacking music." I never heard the Beetles until I was in my late teens and by then I'd already acquired a taste for (off the radio in my car where my Dad couln't hear it) ZZ Top and Aerosmith. So when I first heard the Beetles I thought they were kind of a wimpy rock band and never got interested in them. Too this day I really don't care much for most Beetles tunes. I kind of like Hey Jude and Helter Skelter, some of their harder rocking songs.

Larramie said...

The Beatles were a huge and positive part of my life with music that ranged from silliness -- "She loves you, yay,yay yay" -- to the reflective -- a la "Elinor Rigby."

Lisa said...

Maddy, I think there is some element of magic to it...

Steve, Nice to hear your kids are fans. I had to Google Peter Schickele of course :)

Rob, It's interesting to watch their evolution from blues and rockabilly influences early on and see them grow into something that was entirely their own. Even more interesting was how different the individual contributions (while the band was together and after they split up) came to be and how varied their work was from album to album.

Kristen, The Beach Boys were huge when I was really little and even though they made a huge contribution, it was much harder to identify with that California sound back in Beantown ;)

Moonrat, My friends and I knew all the words to every Beatles song ever written (as most teenage girls did) and I have to thank you for bringing up "I've Just Seen a Face" because I couldn't get the lyrics out of my head all day!

Karen, You're bringing me back to specific Beatles memories in my life (no pun intended). My friend Teresa and I would sing every Beatles song in the universe while we were out underage drinking and driving around (good times good times) and you also made me remember my crush on Franny Vitiello. He was my friend Darlene's older brother and he was the drummer in a "band". We used to watch them practice and one of the songs they used to do was a Beatles Cover - "You've Really Got a Hold on Me". Gosh, I thought he was so cute (I was in 8th grade and he was in 10th). :)

Josephine, I think you're right that when you're young, you actually sort of imprint to certain music. Later, when you're more grown up, every love song isn't necessarily speaking directly to you and music isn't as huge an influence and doesn't serve as the touchstone it does when you're growing up. I'd also say that in the 80s, 90s and in the 00s (?) a lot of songs have touched my deeply, but typically they've touched emotions that go beyond love. Songs that speak to social and political issues come to mind and can choke me up, like: Allentown, by Billy Joel, Beds Are Burning, by Midnight Oil, I Ain't Gonna Play Sun City, by Little Steven, etc., Sunday Bloody Sunday, by U2, Pride (In the Name of Love), by U2, Behind the Wall, by Tracy Chapman, Right Here Right Now, by Jesus Jones, Little Pink Houses, by John Cougar Mellencamp, Waiting on the World to Change, by John Mayer, and lots more. In the Arms of the Angel, by Sarah McLachlan brings me to tears because of a family death that was happening when it was popular and finally...since I'm not completely unromantic...I'm not sure there's a more poignant love song than Nothing Compares 2U, by Sinead O'Connor.

Carleen, Your story reminds me of the day that Carl Yazstremski ran his final lap around Fenway Park and retired from the Red Sox. It was only the second time in my life I ever saw my grandmother cry. Who knew?

Shauna, I was at the airport in San Antonio when the TV programs were interrupted to report that John Lennon had been shot in front of the Dakota. It was December 8th, 1980, the day I went to basic training. It marked a startling milestone in our culture and in my life.

Charles, I'm not sure how The Beatles would have sounded to me if I hadn't literally grown up listening to them. I can see where if you were more of a metal fan, their sound wouldn't have been all that appealing.

Larramie, I was driving to my last novel writing class and Eleanore Rigby came on the radio. What a beautiful, sad song it is.

Lana Gramlich said...

Never been big into The Beatles. Scary thought, but Pink Floyd I could (& still do) really relate to.

Lisa said...

Lana, Me too on the Pink Floyd :)

Vesper said...

Hi Lisa,

I'm stopping by to say hello. I've discovered your blog from a comment on thecoppermoonproject, Szelsofa's other blog, and I'm glad I did.

I love the Beatles!

I've started reading your novel in the Dickens Challenge project - the first chapter for now. I admire you for what you're doing and for your determination.

I also found the post "One Hundred Paintings..." very interesting and quite uplifting. Thank you!

I'll be back to read some more...

All the best and godspeed!

Vesper

Yogamum said...

My dad played Beatles albums over and over when I was a kid. I still know most of the lyrics -- I didn't particularly "like" the Beatles back then because that was Dad's music, but now I do. And my kids love them too.

Mom played Elvis albums....I was never too fond of those.

Denis said...

Like so many kids from the 60's, I can relate a lot of music to discreet activities. The Beatles were a huge part of all our lives. In 63 I was 14 and remember walking up to the Plaza with a friend of mine. We were talking about the competition that local station WMEX was having - "Who was the #1 British Band?; The Beatles,The Rolling Stones or The Dave Clark Five? At a moment, my friend stopped. I stopped to see what had stopped him. He looked at me and said, "What do you think they mean by "YA-YA-YA"?
The Beatles won the contest but, we were all on Needles and Pins!

Lisa said...

Vesper,

So glad to have found you. I've added you to my sidebar and I just love your blog. Glad you came by -- and of course we are trying to recruit a Canadian for the Dickens Challenge :) so if it looks like fun...we would love to have you!

Yogamum,

Well -- Denis, who commented right after you is my uncle, but he's only 13 years older than I am, so I think a lot of my musical taste was heavily influenced by what he was listening to. Nobody in my family was an Elvis fan, so I never got into him either.

Denis,

That's really funny! I wonder -- is the plaza still there? Who was it that wondered what "ya ya ya" was supposed to mean? I'll bet it was Bruce ;)

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon

Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf