Explaining my love for the Beatles is like trying to spoon up mercury. I can come close to catching it all in a simple, tidy container, but not.
McCartney got the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song last night at the White House. He’s in great company, along with Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. So why do I think he’s a great songwriter? I can’t really say. John was equally as great, with George coming in a distant third. What is/was it about the band that makes me love them?
- None of them were fantastic players, even though Paul claims to be the best bass player he knows. (Apparently he’s never heard of Ray Brown.) George was frightened to death to play solos, and with probable good cause; he just wasn’t very good at it. However, it wasn’t about studio quality playing. And here’s where it gets tough to explain. Their music was just so different; they didn’t claim to change the world with it, but they did. Truthfully — who else in 1966 was writing songs like “Norwegian Wood,” “Taxman” and “And Your Bird Can Sing”? Nobody. And it wasn’t just the words or the harmonic structure or instrumentation or melodies, either, although they were groundbreaking. It was all of it put together, plus that je ne sais quoi. They weren’t just another group of guys from Merseyside wanting to score a record contract. They were a phenomenon that even today defies accurate description.
- Go back and look how their hair, clothing, personal outlook and general cheekiness changed a generation, almost immediately. And they really weren’t exclusively the hard-partying, smarta$$ rockers. Transcripts of their hundreds of press conferences are amazing records of how bright they were at such a young age.
- As wonderful as they were, they were also human. They said and did stupid stuff and they wrote doggy songs every once in awhile. There’s a considerable list of songs of theirs that I think are really dumb. I just listen to the dozens and dozens that I love.
- Those of us who love the Fabs have to separate the men from the music. Paul was (and probably still is) a self-promoting megalomaniac. George was an intolerant snob, and John could be downright cruel to people who loved him (and often was). Ringo was so insecure and fretful, he rarely ever said what was really on his mind during the difficult studio days.
Hm. I just read those four items, and it still doesn’t really explain why I adore their music, and why it’s part of me on an absolute cellular level. I guess I’m trying to say that it’s not the four men personally that make me love them, although I was married to all four of them at various times during the sixth and seventh grade. Rather, it’s the way their songs spoke — and still speak — to me in a very personal way, both as a musician and a human. Does that make any sense?
Anyway. Time to get ready for my contract day. For you non-teacher types, that means the LAST DAY of the year! YAAAY!