My younger sister laid claim to the Beatles first. My idea of popular music back then was Henry Mancini's movie scores and Nino Temple and April Stevens crooning Deep Purple. When Ed Sullivan brought the mop-headed boys into our living room, I more than feigned indifference—I really didn’t see the point.
By the time I got to the Beatles, they were almost gone. I was in college, and we listened to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in a haze of hash and LSD. I went along with that, but secretly, the tight vocal harmonies on Abbey Road were what got to me: “I never give you my number/I only give you my situation/and in the middle of investigation/I break down.” Nobody has ever made “-tion” sound so good.
I moved on to a long stretch of the Doobie Brothers before, to the relief of my friends, I took up Brahms and Bach. There I stayed until the remastered edition of the Beatles came out, and I thought, well, really, I ought to give it a try. After all, they were my youth, too.
The package arrived, the CDs neatly stacked in a sleek black box. The jewel box inserts reproduced in loving miniature the covers I remember. I loaded the CDs on my iPod and went out to jog. I’d long ago settled on Bach as my preferred running mate, but the Beatles, I discovered, precisely match the beat my aging stride requires.
My taste in popular music hasn’t advanced too much. I don’t care for the nasal voicings the Beatles sometimes use. And I remain unimpressed with Ringo’s compositional skills: Octopus’s Garden can stay under the sea, for me. Whatever my view of any single tune, though, I can’t help but admire their endless, exuberant ability to come up with something new.
They are my generation’s musical Picasso. When they sing, “Each one believing that love never dies/Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there,” there is nowhere else I want to be.