I was in the Beatles!
Really, I was actually IN the band. I didn't play guitar, that was George's thing. Ringo played drums, Paul played bass, John was on rhythm with that cool Rickenbacker guitar, but without me there would be no Beatles at all. You see, I was their listener.
This weekend I found some old Beatles albums – not the CD's or the digital downloads, but the actual records. I pulled out a stack of albums that I haven't seen since I was a kid and I remembered that at one time in my life, I was indeed a Beatle.
Would I play “Meet the Beatles,” or “Rubber Soul?” Maybe “Sgt. Peppers” or “Magical Mystery Tour?” Then I saw the “Revolver” album and I was back in the band. I was the final judge of just their work – their months of writing, rehearsal and recording was not complete until I heard it. I had to look over the cover, searching out any hidden messages they had for me. On the back cover, were their sun glasses totally cool or not? I was the judge. Was the all black and white album too artsy or the hot new trend from across the ocean? Is John’s shirt Paisley? Ringo is wearing a tie. Why is George Smiling? Nothing escaped my watchful eye. They needed me and I was up for the task.
My part was to save up enough lawn mowing money to buy the album, the moment it arrived in the stores. I had to carefully cut the plastic shrink wrap that sealed in the musical magic which was about to be unveiled to the world. Like a supplicant reverently holding a religious object, I would slide the record out of its paper sleeve and touching only the edges, place it on the green felt of the waiting turntable.
Never sure why 33 wasn't enough I set the turntable speed to 33 and 1/3, lifted the tone arm and as gently as I could, placed the needle on the album. “Shhkt, Shhkt,” it clicked as the tip of the diamond needle found its groove. "One, two, three, four…"' it said. The record kept spinning and I thought, "There is someone coughing in the back ground." Suddenly, Paul hit the first notes of “Tax Man” and my musical journey had begun.
This weekend, for eleven Lennon/McCartneys cuts and three Harrison cuts, I was in the band and I loved every moment of it. As “Tomorrow Never Knows” faded into the night, I couldn't help but think of the people who listen to music today. While they can instantly get any track they want, there is no suspense, no anticipation. No one gets to look at the album cover and ponder its significance as the songs play. The order that the songs played was not chosen as specific acts in a musical performance, but as coldly random cuts that appear in a coldly random order.
There is no reverent opening of a treasure you sacrificed time and energy to "own." For that matter, you don’t even get to own the songs, you get to rent them. That feeling that this was “My Album,” and these were “My Songs” has been supplanted by a faceless sever somewhere in cyberspace. It doesn't care about the artist. It only cares that you have paid 99 cents to rent the song for four months at Amazon Music.
So, while this weekend I was saddened that the Beatles will probably be the last band I will ever be a part of, I was glad to have had the chance. I guess George was right.. Life goes on within and without you.