The Beatles

beatlesWell, this is an easy one. Or an impossible one. Definitely one of those.

According to family lore, when I was a baby, the only music that made me rock back and forth in my crib was the Beatles. As early as I can remember, I would go to sleep listening to Beatles records, eventually stacking them up to play sequentially once we had a record player that would drop one disc after another onto the turntable. (As you might imagine, none of my surviving original Beatles records are in very good shape now.) My parents didn’t exactly have broad musical tastes — my dad listened to a lot of classical, my mom had more of a taste for ’70s pop like Helen Reddy and Linda Ronstadt — but they agreed on the Beatles. Hell, everyone agreed on the Beatles in those days, I guess except for the holdouts who insisted on the Stones.

I remember clearly the day I found out that the Beatles had broken up: I must have been five or so by then, because I know that we already had a couple of solo albums by Beatles members (McCartney, certainly, maybe Imagine), and I was surprised to hear that this meant there wouldn’t be any more Beatles records, ever. Until I was at least ten or so, the Beatles remained my primary musical soundtrack — I recall getting one of those 1970s portable cassette players that everybody was getting and listening to tapes of Band on the Run on an earplug (portable headphones weren’t really a thing yet) while waiting to go somewhere on the subway with my parents. That was the height of technology then: You could actually listen to music outside the house, sorta kinda.

And then I stopped. I discovered radio stations (first Top 40, eventually rock stations like WNEW and WPLJ that all the other kids were listening to), and anyway McCartney’s records were getting weird, and John wasn’t recording anymore, and I still loved all the old Beatles songs but I’d heard them so many times and I just couldn’t anymore. When John died, I picked up a few records that I’d somehow missed along the way (his Shaved Fish compilation, Hey Jude, Abbey Road which I know I’d had but had somehow gone missing — I can tell these today because they’re not scratched to death). But then it was on to things that were new and exciting at the time: Pink Floyd and Yes and Jethro Tull and all the wonders of what I’d missed listening to The White Album over and over for years. (Never side four, of course, because then I’d hear “Revolution No. 9” and be freaked out and never get to sleep.)

I watched the Beatles Anthology TV documentary when it came out, but never was tempted to buy the Anthology CDs, because I had better things to buy than Beatles records, you know? At some point, my dad bought me the 1 compilation CD of all their number-one hits, which seemed pointless to me as I had them all already on various albums, but it was his way of trying to hold on to a connection. Eventually I started playing it for my son, since it was poppy enough and had a good beat, which was all he required when he was little.

He got hooked. When Paul McCartney played at Citi Field the summer he was six and his cousins went, he complained bitterly that we hadn’t taken him, and demanded that we go the next time he came to town. (We did. He only fell asleep for a few songs in the middle of the show.) We bought all the albums on CD that we hadn’t had on CD, and the Anthology as well. For a while, he went to sleep every night listening to the Beatles.

Now my son is almost 12, and is discovering new things: rock radio, Jimi Hendrix. (Okay, not new new things, but new to him. Pink Floyd wasn’t new in 1980, either.) But he still listens to the Beatles, and so do I, not as often as I once did, but more than I have in a long while. They wrote some pretty okay songs, you know?