I feel nostalgic every time I hear any Beatle song. It was like magic all over again bringing back memories for me whether I hear the songs on my radio, the neighbour’s radio or the radio of the clunky jeepney that plies our village. The driver of this very popular public transport vehicle here in the Philippines would gleefully say while tuning his radio, “Aalis na!” (“Let’s go!”), indicating that the jeepney is about to leave so the passengers must hurry otherwise there will be no seats for them.
However, this is not to say that my pubescence coincided when the Beatles reigned supreme in the First British Invasion during the 60’s. It was actually far from it. I was actually born when the Beatles disbanded in 1970. I began to appreciate their music when John Lennon was felled by a deranged fan’s bullet in 1980. So you see, I didn’t actually lived in the era of the band’s heydays but in the days when there was no longer a band called The Beatles, the supergroup which produced superhits. I lived in the days when there were only individual superstars with the names of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
“Yesterday”…when I was in grade school I accidentally stumbled upon a cassette copy of the band’s album when I was rummaging into my stepfather’s modest music collection. I still remember the cover of that cassette tape, four sombre looking boys all wearing identical hair styles and printed above was the album title, Rubber Soul. I immediately placed the tape in the tape deck of our audio component system.
At first, the music emanating from the speakers sounded funny with a lot of jingly-jangly guitar riffs. But several songs later the noise was now replaced by catchy melodies you can even hum it hours after you’ve heard it. One thing with any Beatle song is that they grab your attention because of their melodies. From that day forward, I constantly pestered my mother to buy me any Beatle album or just anything with The Beatles name on it. This was in the early 80’s. I even bought for myself, after saving my school money for weeks, an LP version of the White Album even if I knew that our old vinyl player is not working. I just wanted that object to adorn my bookshelf and be proud of it whenever I look at it.
It is quite an experience for me back then since most of my grade school summer vacations were either spent playing or hanging out with my neighbourhood buddies or staying at home and listening to a gamut of musical styles and genres courtesy of my stepfather’s music collection. This was a time of discovery for me. I even attempted to learn how to play the guitar so as to emulate my Beatle idols. But sadly, that skill really eluded me. Even after I’ve grown up much as I tried in vain, I still couldn’t play a decent chord. Enough of the illusion of being an art creator and just better stick to being an art appreciator…”While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
This is also the time I had a crush on a girl from our school. She was actually my classmate and I was so smitten that I remember singing, “Till There Was You” and “Michelle” every time I saw her at school. But I was so timid and shy that I haven’t got the courage to even say hello nor corner her to start a conversation. I somehow regretted that because after our graduation from elementary I never saw her again and just kept to myself my dying admiration for that girl all those years…”Misery”.
During my high school days my fascination for the Beatles were somehow muted by the then growing popularity of the 80’s New Wave music genre. Music critics even called that period as the Second British Invasion because most of the bands that became popular in the US and even here in our country came from UK. How can one forget The Cure, Tears for Fears, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Housemartins, etc. What is also not so surprising is that most of these bands admitted their brand of music was largely influenced by the music of The Beatles themselves.
When I reached college some of my acquaintances that came to know about my preference for The Beatles were aghast, they couldn’t believe even at this age and time there are still people crazy enough to listen to “old school” music. I don’t know about them but I considered it as a compliment instead. Fortunately, because of my growing infamy for liking this type of music, I was referred to another classmate whom I would find out later had a bigger passion for The Beatles than I do.
Not only he had the most extensive collection of their records (vinyl, cassette and CD versions) but also owned an array of Beatle literature from books to magazines to comics. He willingly shared those with me and I readily immersed myself in those things. During that time I could rank The Beatles alongside such historical greats like Mahatma Gandhi and Jose Rizal (our national hero here in our country).
I met my lovely future wife in the early 90’s while establishing my professional career in the publishing and book distribution industry, and we were married in 1996. During our wedding, the Catholic priest officiating the ceremony surprised us by asking what is our theme song. He asked this because a choir in the background is on the standby to sing whatever we will say just to add ambiance to the occasion. I really wanted to mention any Beatle love song but maybe because of the occasion’s quickened atmosphere, I blurted out instead Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love”.
I once told my wife that if ever our future children turned-out to be boys I would surely name them after the four Liverpool lads. But as God would have it, He gave us two beautiful “Girl”s as children. No, I didn’t name them after John, Paul, George or Ringo, or my wife will surely mangle me if I did that. We gave them names as lovely and sweet as the most beautiful Beatle melodies ever composed.
This may sound like a cliché but my fascination for the band and their music encompasses everything I believe in life: originality, creativity and a pioneering spirit unyielding to the period’s standards. I am not here to champion their personal lives, which is not my concern and have no right to judge anyway. I’ve set those aside and instead looked at the positive side of their contributions to a world beset by hypocrisy, bigotry and lies. Just look at the newspapers, it is as if the world is going backwards what with those sickening stories of corruption, natural and man-made disasters cramming page one.
For me, The Beatles gave us the power of music that enabled us to think, to love and to be honest with ourselves. I doubt it very much if the band members themselves really meant it to be that way but there’s no denying their positive impact on our popular culture and psyche.
As one of their song declares, “Life is very short/And there’s no time/ For fussing and fighting, my friend/ …we can work it out,/ we can work it out.” And we all need this now badly.