Wednesday , April 17 2024
The Beatles continue to provide the soundtrack for my generation long after we have doused our last roach.

The Rockologist: The Beatles And What A Drag It Is Getting Old

What a drag it is getting old.

Okay, so it was actually the Stones who wrote that line. Regardless, it was still  the Beatles who actually changed my own life, for better or for worse.

Unlike my colleague Josh Hathaway, who did such a wonderful job this week talking about the Beatles in both his New Album Releases report and in his Verse Chorus Verse column, I was actually there. Never mind the fact that I was about twelve years old at the height of Beatlemania, and roughly thirteen by the time it was all falling apart…

The fact is, it still changed my life forever.

I wouldn't be writing this column right now, were it not for that fateful night in 1964 when my parents allowed me, a seven-year-old boy, to stay up far past my bedtime to watch the phenomenon that would turn America and the rest of the world on its collective, cultural, and especially musical ear on the Ed Sullivan show.

Nor would I have ever eventually fulfilled every dream I ever had as a kid (albeit briefly) of landing a cushy music biz job in L.A. as a young man in the nineties, working for the biggest record producer in the world.

The Beatles, quite literally, changed both my own life, and the rest of the world at large (well, at least the "at large" part). But you already knew that.

These days I spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been with a few different twists and turns here and there, and, yes, about what a drag it is getting old. Like that song (that isn't by the Beatles, by the way — did I mention that?) says.

But this still is, first and foremost, an article about the Beatles.

This past week, the Beatles upgraded their catalog for the first time in some twenty years, with the release of their (finally!) properly remastered catalog, along with a new boxed set available in both stereo and mono — which is as it should be — versions.

And of course, the Rock Band video game franchise also paid tribute to the greatest band of all time this week with their own Beatles edition. The less said about that, the better, at least for right now. Personally, I'd just rather talk about the Beatles and their music.

For our own part, Blogcritics has been all over this in a way that makes me really, really proud to be a part of this particular organization. In addition to Hathaway's articles, I would have to single out Kit O'Toole's excellent coverage of this week's Beatles event for accolades in that department.

But enough of the back slapping and personal glad-handling here.

For those of us who actually lived through it — however young we were (particularly in my own case) — the Beatles story was always one of infinite possibilities. For that reason, it was also one of the greatest, and one of the saddest, stories ever told. For all of the promise there, much, if not most, of it went unfulfilled.

The reason that to this day the sixties are celebrated by some, and reviled by others — yet consistently remembered, relived, retold, and dissected like no decade that has come before or since — is precisely those largely unfulfilled possibilities that they represented. Even for everything that was in fact accomplished, which is considerable.

Personally, and quite admittedly, I saw much of this through the rose-colored eyes (and the every bit as off-colored psychedelic prism glasses) of an idealistic young boy. The Beatles — and to a lesser extent, their contemporaries at the time (Dylan, the Rolling Stones, etc.) — told that story like no artists before or since ever have, and at least in my own opinion, probably ever will.

The fact that they did so largely as the innocent mop-topped boys who will forever be immortalized in history as writing — in about six short years — some of the most amazing songs of all time, makes what they did all the more remarkable. That the Beatles went from "I Want To Hold Your Hand" to Sgt. Pepper during the years from 1964 to 1967 is something that I simply defy any recording artist today to duplicate. Ever.

Not possible in my own estimation.

Granted, the times had much to do with it. But the fact is, I don't believe such a feat is even possible today. Not when the recording industry exists in the present vacuum of instant access via the internet (often at the risk of the art, and how it actually sounds), and the short attention spans such instant aural gratification produces and, in fact, encourages.

The fact that the old-school record industry has acted re-actively, rather than pro-actively, to this revolution in the way that music is actually distributed — what's left of that old system is essentially just playing catch-up even at his late date — provides precious little cause to be encouraged about anything like the Beatles ever happening again.

Sorry to burst that particular bubble…

So for now at least, all we have are the memories of what could have been.

I, for one, can remember when my natural parents just couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about when it came to the Beatles. Earlier this week, I was reminded by one of them of how he once referred to the Beatles (and bands like them) as the "devil's music" — which is another story, best saved for another time.

But my response back then, as a twelve-year-old boy, remains the same now as it was then.

And I believe that time has proved me absolutely correct in that regard.

I told my Mom at the time — who, just for the record, wasn't that parent who assured me that I'd burn in hell, on the very same day he gave me the Magical Mystery Tour album for Christmas, for actually listening to it, I might add — that the Beatles would be remembered for all eternity in the same breath as people like Bach and Beethoven.

You had to be there, is all I can say.

But I believed it then. I believe it now. And I believe history has borne me out on that same, simple, indisputable fact.

So I haven't heard the new Beatles remasters yet. Can't afford 'em, one of the many casualties of the Bush-years war on working class America (again, a story best saved for later) that I unfortunately am.

But what I am expecting to get in the mail any day now is the sampler of the big, bad-ass Beatles box the record company is sending out to reviewers like yours truly.

I can't wait.

The plan is to take the twelve or so tracks there, and do a side by side comparison with the last Beatles CDs — from 1987 — that EMI put out in what were supposed to be the end-all, be-all definitive versions of these classic albums. Which, of course, they weren't.

There were complaints then, and there may well be complaints now. I mean how exactly do you re-manufacture a unique moment in history? I'm not really sure, and I am doubly sure that, even now, the recording engineers really aren't either.


But everything I've heard tells me this is well worth the wait. I certainly hope so.

Because if nothing else, the story of the Beatles reminds those of us who were there that it was a time of infinite possibilities, and that the Beatles provided a soundtrack that has stood, and will continue to stand, the test of time for generations to come long after the Rockologist and those of my generation have doused our last roach.

I doubt very much that the Beatles ever intended it. But nothing before or since has ever come close. Like it or not, it's a matter of record.

The sad part of this story — as anybody who has seen the way the film Let It Be chronicled how that dream finally fell apart will attest — is how the story finally ended up playing out.

What a drag it is getting old, indeed.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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