Posts Tagged ‘Beatles’

Your mother would know

March 19, 2017

Well goll-ee.

Lights

Let’s all get up and wave to a tune that was a hit soon after your mother was born;

though she was born a long long time ago,

your mother would know;

your mother would know.

And your grandmother

and your father and your grandfather.

AlbertJohn

Uncle Albert would know it too– Uncle Albert Schram, who conducted the orchestra last night.

You see him here in the background of this alternative-fact unauthorized photo.

In fact, Albert knows those old Beatles tunes so very thoroughly. He conducted the Charlotte Pops through an incredibly rousing symphonic accompaniment last night.  I could hardly believe it.

Take the infamous John Lennon composition Day in the Life piece, for instance. It’s on Sergeant Pepper’s.

When I first heard that strange finale in 1967, my sixteen-year-old mind didn’t know what to make of it.

Whatever it meant or did not mean (we were all wondering), it signaled that the Beatles had turned a huge corner in their musical development, from pop-music fab-four phenom to . . . ???

“. . . found my way upstairs and had a smoke. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream, Ohhhh, oh oh ohhhh. . .”

Now in 2017, it means. . .hell, I don’t know what it means.

That such a cacophonic  cadence as that Day in the Life finale could actually be orchestrally performed was amazing to me last night. All these years, I thought it was just Brian Epstein’s  or George Martin’s studio tricks.

Tony Kishman, the musician who fulfills the Paul McCartney role, pointed out that John, Paul, George and Ringo had never done this with a live symphony back in the day when they were in their heyday. Pretty interesting, I thought. Now their aged Sgt. Pepper’s studio wizardry has morphed into this phenomenal “tribute” event performed by an incredibly talented Beatles-tribute band. And however many hundreds or thousands of us geezers were enthusiastically waving our lit-up phones while singing.

“Naa naa naa, na na na naa, na na na nah, Hey Jude!”

“Take a sad song and make it better. . .”

Take an old song, and make it rock again . . . is what these guys do, the Classical Mystery Tour (they call themselves) along with our jubilant audience-participle thronging of us when-I-get-older-losing-my-hair baby boomers. I mean it was, like, so far out man.

Just how many 64-year-olds there were waving their devices and singing Hey Jude in that theatre last night, I do not know. But I can tell you this. A rocking good time was had by all, including the band. Just some good clean fun, y’all.

Tony also said something to us that, as he so poignantly pointed out, Paul had never said to a Beatles audience.  “Visit our website.”

Haha! Ain’t it the truth. Who’d have thunk it, that all this stuff would happen since those halcyon smoky days of yore.

    http://www.classicalmysterytour.com/

But hey, life goes on. Times change, and most of us get a little stuck in our minds back in that time of unsure discovery when we passed through teendom while wearing bell-bottoms, wondering who Lucy in the Sky was. And if you’re have trouble remembering the ’60’s, it’s probably because. . .

Never mind. Beneath the surface, something very special was always going on.

PianoPaul

Underneath it all, such a time as that had never happened before, nor would ever again.

But this is true even now; its part of the mystery tour of this life. Our kids will never view it, nor comprehend it, the same way we did. Nor could we see it the way our parents did.

Our parents had grown up in the 1930’s with Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and George Gershwin, and that was all well and good and they did their thing.

That greatest generation–who then grew up to  fight the Nazis back into their holes back in the 1940’s–that generation came back from the Big War, started generating us boomers like there’s no tomorrow. And at some point in the ’60’s, there was indeed some serious question about whether there would BE a tomorrow, because Khruschev and Kennedy almost blew the whole damn world up over those alternative-fact nukes down in Cuba.

When we boomers came along, the old War–the one they call WWII–was so intense, and still fresh in our parents’ memory and experience. But it was just history-book stuff for us. As John had sung:

“I read the news today, oh boy, the English army had just won the war.

A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look,

having read the book.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read a newspaper, or a book, or hazard a listen.

Smoke

Doing the Limbo at 64

January 9, 2016

I remember back in the 1950s when I was growing up and attending Catholic school. They taught us that there’s a place called Limbo, where you go after death if you had never received baptism while living in the world. Although I am a mere Christian now, having been baptized in 1978 by own choice choice at the age of 27, it has been revealed to this protestant that there is indeed a place called Limbo.

But it is not actually a place; rather, it is a time, a time of life.

How do I know this?

I am in Limbo now.  I am learning that it is a stage of life through which you pass, before–not after– death, a kind of a nether time through which the maturing American sojourns, somewhere between ages 64 and 66.

When you turn 64, there are multiple signs that indicate you have arrived in Limbo. The first is, of course, remembering back to 1968 when the Beatles raised the profound question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x158z5_beatles-when-i-m-sixty-four_music

On one level, the song is profound for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status or love-condition in relation to one’s spouse, or, as they say nowadays, one’s “significant other” or lack thereof.

On another level, the question itself–about being needed and fed–is critical for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status in relation to “the System.”

You know the System I’m talking about, the one that–as we thought back in the day–would relegate us all to little ticky-tacky houses where we’d all look just the same.

And once you start seeing the signs that you are approaching–or perhaps have already arrived in– Limbo, suddenly the omens are all over the place, and very plain to see.

For example, as I happened to tune in, a couple of days ago, to Diane Rehm’s show, in which the Grand mistress of inside-the-beltway grapevine NPR confab discussed the big “R” word with Teresa Ghilarducci,

http://thedianerehmshow.org/audio/#/shows/2016-01-07/teresa-ghilarducci-how-to-retire-with-enough-money/111702/@00:00

I learned that the assets so far accumulated by myself and my wife (six years younger than me) are, of course, not nearly enough to “make it through” the Retirement years, which is a special golden or rose-colored-glasses period  sometimes called the “rest of our life.”

Theoretically, our assets are not enough, especially with, you know, zero interest rates etcetera etcetera.

On the other hand, who the hell knows how much is enough?

Furthermore, this unstable scenario has been further destabilized by myself, yours truly, who recently, and oh-so-irresponsibly, decided to quit my job seven months before reaching the big SIX-FIVE road marker, because it was–as my body was daily communicating to me–wearing me out, after the past 45 years of uninterrupted work, the lion’s share of which was spent in construction and maintenance jobs.

There’s a reason (as I am discovering) that 65 is the big mile marker, the fork in the road where two paths diverge, as Robert Frost might have called it many and many a year ago.

In my case, I just didn’t quite make it that far, stopped short of the finish line with only seven months to go.

In one moment of time I morphed from one Bureau of Labor Statistical category to another. Whereas, I formerly was perhaps categorized as  employed but underemployed (being a college grad in a maintenance job), this statistical territory I now inhabit is a never-neverland somewhere between “unemployed” and “dropped-out of the labor force altogether–having given up on looking for another job!

Limbo!

The real hell of it is I’m still looking for a job, still striving to redeem myself from the stigma of being a labor-force dropout, still busting gut to add another few thousand bucks into that magic pot of IRA and/or 401K gold at the end of the Social Security rainbow.

Did I mention “gold”? Don’t even think about it, except all the online doomsayers are saying I need to buy it. But I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, I’ve lived in the System all my life.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, where I’m filling blanks and checking boxes in online applications, the question becomes: who is going to hire a 64-year-old who just may be one of those  off-the-chart non-entitities who has “given up” on gainful employment, when there are multitudes of unemployed or underemployed 22-year-olds out there pounding the keyboard and the pavement looking for work?

Who? I ask you who?

Don’t think too hard. That’s been my problem all my life–thinking too much, and maybe writing too much too. (And if you believe that, I’ve got three novels, poised in cyberspace on the website linked below; they’re hanging there, suspended in electrons waiting to enhance your historical reading experience.)

So here I leave you with a closing anecdote. It is a dilemma wrapped in an enigma.

6:30 this morning, still dark. I just delivered my wife to her nursing job. I’m at the gas pump of a convenience store. I’m thinking. . .maybe I should go in there and ask for a job. Then I’m looking blankly at the gas pump as the digitals flash, and my eye wanders up to a sign on the gas pump. It says:

“Polar pop any size 69 cents”

And above that message is another little sign, with pictures of “Crown” cigarette packs, and an offer that smokers cannot refuse:

“$3.18 if you buy two.”

Do I really want to spend the last six months of my working life. . .

Fuhgedaboudit.

Smoke

The Fab Four (reprise)

March 5, 2015

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.

RainTkt

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.

RainBeatl

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:

McCartney/ Lennon

Good boy/ Bad boy

Good cop/ Bad cop

Jekyll/ Hyde

Ego/ Id

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?

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM02WcvlKn0

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.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP_68prpJK0

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.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTUi9l84fRw

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 . . .

Glass Chimera

Garrisoning the best of Americana

April 18, 2013

Garrison Keillor’s unique retrospective is really about what America was; but somehow, it doesn’t end there. His profound entertainment does not get hung up in the past. It always seems to cultivate, in the back of our minds, an appreciation of Americana that is timeless, enduring.

You see, there is something deeply therapeutic about elaborating on a precious national heritage that we share together. And I declare that there is nothing morose or counterproductive about looking back, even though Mr. Keillor’s Brand-New Retrospective road show is tinged with a note of vintage melancholy.

Last Tuesday night here in Boone, North Carolina, he demonstrated to us that it is healthy, and  helpful, to find inspiration for the future in recollecting the best of what has gone before– remembering the way things used to be when we were young and foolish. Back in the day.

Nothing wrong with identifying what it was that characterized our baby-boom g-generation, then celebrating it with an evening of poetry, prose and singalong, orchestrated by the bard of the Prairie Home. At one point, Garrison started singing:

“Oh, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean.”

And the way she looked was way beyond compare. . .”

We boomers in the arena instinctively joined along. He knew we would, because, together, we remember. . . I clearly remember the first time I heard those lines sung, laying in bed one night listening to my transistor radio, probably about 1963 or so. The Beatles sailed into our young collective consciousness, via the  airwaves, during that rarified time of our youth.

My g-generation remembers that moment of the Fab Four’s arrival from England, shaking their hairy heads on Ed Sullivan and all that, My generation– who grew up under the strong leadership of  Ike and the dubious example of Elvis–my g-generation, mourning  JFK and Dallas, and believing in Walter Cronkite and Annette Funicello.  All these personality vectors framed our shared experience as the first-ever TV generation.

Oh what a time it was! Never be another like it.

But the first singalong we did with Mr. Keillor on Tuesday night was not that Beatles’ tune; it was an anthem much more sacred than anything the irreverent Liverpudlians would ever compose.  All of us gray heads remembered, from school, the refrain:

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

Then the bard of the Prairie Home crooned us into Home on the Range. The words just come back, you know,  like riding a bicycle.  Most every boomer remembers the tune, accompanied by memories of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Dan’l Boone, Woody in Toy Story. Say what? Woody?

Anyway, after those two national hymns, somewhere in there was when Garrison evoked the Beatles contribution to our collective Boomer memory:

“Well, my heart went boom, when I crossed that room,

and I held her hand in mine. . .”

This is what it’s all about! But hey, it seems this kind of thing doesn’t happen any more.

A decade or so before the Beatles, when Garrison Keillor was about the age that I was when I first heard Lennon-McCartney, there was Buddy Holly. He was a little before my time. But Buddy was not before Garrison Keillor’s time; Buddy was right square in the middle of Garrison Keillor’s sensitive prairie-home experience, which had been birthed about nine years before mine had popped out down in Louisiana, but on the same River, the Mississippi.

At his retrospective concert last Tuesday night,  Garrison mentioned Buddy as he spun his web of preciously memorable treasures. I had a feeling he might mention Buddy Holly, because I knew the importance of the deceased singer’s legacy in Mr. Keillor’s mind.

I knew, because many years ago, it was Garrison Keillor’s tenderly shared recollection of Buddy’s small-plane-crash death that first drew my attention to the rare, provocative experience of listening, on Saturday nights, to a Prairie Home Companion radio show. ‘T’was then I heard the Minnesota bard’s poignant, homespun yarns about Lake Wobegone,  which is a quintessential small-town  somewhere out there in the mythical, archetypical, Prairie Home that we all seem to remember, even if we didn’t grow up in Minnesota.

There is so much I could say about our tender evening with Garrison Keillor, but I will not dwell on it, because you are, after all, reading this online, with the attendant post-Boomer short attention  span and so forth. You would. . .ah. . .you’d have to be there. But I will say this:  just to hear Rich Dworsky’s piano playin’ was better than nirvana.

And know this: America’s resilient character lives on and on, despite what soulless fanatics may do to maim and kill innocent bystanders in Boston, or in Texas or in Oklahoma or New York, or in any other place in these United States.

Garrison Keillor’s shared music and monologue continues to reinforce preservation of our precious Americana cultural legacy in every venue he addresses. He is a man garrisoning the best of what America has been, is, and will be.

Boomer’s Choice

4000 Holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

June 13, 2011

I was a high school student when the Beatles mystified the pop music world with their very unusual Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  The collaborative musical opus therein was an exquisitely woven fabric of bizarre imagery and lyrical enigmas, along with some groundbreaking rock n’ roll.

Since those late 1960s days, I have often wondered about the meanings of so many of the band’s odd vocal references. One phrase in particular, sung by the master of modern musical mystery himself, John Lennon,  hollowed out a little question mark in my mind that has been unfilled all these years.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I picked up a clue about the possible meaning of the “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” about which John Lennon sang in the ablbum’s finale song, A Day In The Life.

While reading English Journey, a travel journal published in 1934 by J.B. Priestley, I was quite moved by his reported impression of Blackburn, Lancashire, UK. The city had been for many years the very heart of British textile industry, most especially the enormous output of cotton fabrics and clothing. But in the 1920s and thirties, as new producers of cotton goods in India began to supply their own markets, the volume of exports from England’s textile belt (Lancashire) slipped into a period of serious decline, from which they never truly recovered. By the early 1930s, employmnet in Blackburn and other cities had decreased to “depression” levels.

Sound familiar? This economic scenario is quite similar to what has happened here in North Carolina about a half-century later, and in New England USA shortly before that.

Mr. Priestley’s poignant account of the Lancashire situation in 1934 includes his describing (page 214) a visit to a place called “Community House,” which was set up by local volunteers as a resource for unemployed folks to occupy themselves with productive projects. The volunteers had recovered a condemned school building, where people were cobbling–repairing and making shoes–and doing other helpful works. Most notable among the activities, as far as Mr. Priestley wrote, were woodworks being cranked out by the men there.

It was a great work happening in the decrepit old schoolhouse, built upon a good idea and the willingness of local folks to get busy and make good things happen in spite of the hard times that had shut down their factories and their prosperity.

Priestley described the goings-on at Community House:

“This instructor, paid by the volunteer society, was busy all day giving out wood and tools and showing his men what to do. The wood is supplied without charge to the men, and one of the instructor’s duties is to find quantities of it at the lowest possible price or at no price at all….He said that the men were not very good craftsmen, and tended to be imitative and careless, but that many of them were very keen and did their best.”

And Priestley wrote: “In the next and largest room of all, a public assistance class in woodwork was being held. The young men came here instead of breaking stones in the workhouse. At first, the instructor told me, they resented any attempt at discipline and tuition. They felt they had been dragooned into messing about with bits of wood in this ex-schoolroom. They would not do what they were told…and they were not going to be treated like kids by any bloody instructor. That was their attitude during the first weeks.  But after that, almost in spite of themselves, they gradually acquired an interest in their jobs at the benches; they began asking one another the best way to do this and that; and finally were glad of advice from the qualified instructor. There was something rather touching in this, the emergence of the natural craftsman that is buried somewhere in every man.”

These men were gradually filling “holes” in their unemployed days and times, with constructive projects–something to do instead of nothing to do.

But J.B. Priestley’s initial impression of the condemned schoolhouse, before witnessing the activity inside, had been this: “It was a dismal hole in a dark back street.”

One dismal “hole”, perhaps, among four thousand others in Blackburn, Lancashire? But the good folks of Blackburn had undertaken projects to fix the holes.

Now, moving right along…maybe you can help  me understand the second part of Lennon’s mysterious lyric:

“They had to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress