Of course all our baby boomer memory switches were tripped to the max last night, when we went to hear the Rain “Tribute to the Beatles“.
Rain‘s first blast of the early song-hits immediately tapped into my personal storehouse of our collective boomer experience.
We were the first generation of TV kids. No one could have predicted what would happen with all us youngsters tracking on the same wavelength, although Marshall McLuhan did try, as the thing later unfolded, to analyze it.
Well this is what happened: the Beatles.
My first hearing of those Liverpool lads arrived through the transistor radio late one night in 1964. I was slumbering in bed at the end of another 7th-grade day; then suddenly there they were, filling the airwaves, filling my ears with wonder.
Nothing like it before that. The Beatles’ world-shaking harmony and jangly guitars suddenly carved a space in my brain that had not previously existed.
A few years later, I remember sitting in the front yard of our house in Baton Rouge, listening to Sgt. Pepper’s and wondering about its strangeness.
You know what I’m talking about.
Last night’s Rain revisitation, thanks to the excellent musicianship of that tributary ensemble, brought it all back. Of course our mounting audience appreciation culminated at the end when we all sang Hey Jude during the pre-programmed third or fourth encore.
This morning I was thinking about it all, reflecting, as it were, on the reflection.
Paul Simon’s poetic line from (Bookends: Old Friends) came to mind:
“Time it was a time oh what a time it was. . . a time of innocence, a time of confidences. . .”
There we all were in a high-tech auditorium, a couple thousand Boomers. Pat, my wife of 35 years, was with me. Our daughter Kim had provided the tickets.
“Will you still feed me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”
Who’d’ve thought, back in 1968, that magical age of 64 would actually arrive? My 64th is this year.
There is so much that could be said about this, but I will highlight here only one aspect of the Beatles’ rise to the world’s first-ever domination of the pop music. Think about it this way:
Good boy/ Bad boy
Good cop/ Bad cop
John Lennon was the kid in the back of the room always acting out, being reprimanded by the teacher and ultimately ordered to sit in the corner with (imaginary) dunce hat on his head. The circumstance only provided a new venue in which he gladly improvised new manifestations of clownish rebellion. Why don’t we d-do it in the road?
Last night, on our hometown (Appalachian State University) stage here in Boone, Steve Landes of Rain performed the role with authentic Lennon irreverence.
Paul McCartney, on the other hand, perfectly embodied the choirboy persona: sharp and attentive, dutiful, ambitious, successful, the ladies’ man. He filled the world with silly love songs, in spite of John’s perpetually disruptive mischief. And the world loved Paul for it. He was always fixing a hole where the rain gets in, while John was spinning yarns about 4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire, or some other inexplicable collection of mysteries.
These two together, Lennon and McCartney. . . well, you know the rest. So let’s all get up and dance to a song.
Much of the Beatles’ success was attributable to the wizardry of others behind the scenes during their intrusion into the musical universe, most notably Brian Epstein, manager. Later, George Martin, producer.
In last night’s masterful Rain production, those roles were represented on stage by keyboardist-sound engineer extraordinaire Chris Smallwood. He was the man behind the scenes– back in the shadows, stage right, fingering those mysteriously familiar layers of revolutionary sound–horns a la Sgt. Pepper, strings, sitar, and all those other audible elements that were so curiously present in the later Beatle albums, but not easily identifiable back in the day.
The outcome of last nights recollective reverie is, methinks, represented in this:
Once there was a way to get back home.
And the words that ring out at the end:
“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight a long time.”
Any boy who has ever played the game of love with his heartthrob girl and then lost her knows what “that weight” is.
All the while, from then ’til now, it’s getting very near end.
“It was twenty (or forty) years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play;
they been goin’ in and out of style,
but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.”
And raise a smile they did, last night, many and many a smile . . .