Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Beatle Juice - Concentrate!

I've been asked by (that's right, to post something about the Beatles.

This is because Beatle fans are currently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fab Four's first tour of the United States - and Vegas promoters are involved because there's quite a few Beatle-themed shows, venues and events going on there, which you can read about in this article about the Beatles in Vegas by Jennifer Whitehair and Nicole Lucht.

So, me and the Beatles.  Where to begin?    50 years ago, I suppose.

The Year: 1964.  The Place: My bathtub.

Yours truly, circa 1964.
My sister Carla was crazy about the Beatles.  I mean, big time.  She had a favorite, but that was a secret and she wouldn't tell me who it was.

I was three years old and in my bathtub.

The TV in the adjacent bedroom (black-and-white of course) was tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show and suddenly the Beatles were singing.  This was not their first appearance, and it was one my sister didn't know about.  "Wait til Carla finds out the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan tonight!" my mother said.  "She'll be so upset she missed them!"

Sister Carla about the time the Beatles came to America.

I remember, at age three, wearing a Beatle wig and going around the house with a toy guitar singing like them.  My mother thought it was delightful.  It seemed to me that the best way to make sure my mother loved me was to perform for her - and that, it seems, was the ugly beginning of a deep-seated neurosis that has kept me in show business ever since.  So I guess I have the Beatles to blame.

My sister told me she was dating one of the Beatles.  I believed her.

But then again, I believed my father when he'd telephone from work.  My mom would say Steve Allen was calling, and she'd put my dad on the phone with me and I'd be in heaven because I was talking to Steve Allen, who was my third biggest hero in life.  The other two were Alvin the Chipmunk and Ringo.

The Three Stooges came in fourth, fifth and sixth.  My sister started dating a guy named Larry.  I asked her if this was the same Larry who was one of the Three Stooges.  She said yes indeed it was.  Larry came by the house to pick her up.  I remember shaking his hand and looking up at him in awe - and wondering why he looked nothing like he did on TV.

But I digress.

The Year: 1978.  The Place: A Darkened Movie Theater.

By the time I was a teen-ager, I had one great passion.

Naturally, it was Disco.

Here I am with my girlfriend Missy at age 17 or 18, looking like John Travolta with Harpo Marx hair.

So Missy and I went to see the Bee Gee's in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, which was terrible.  But the music fascinated me.

I remember one of the local radio stations, to mark the release of the film, playing the original Sgt. Pepper's album, by the Beatles, and I remember recording it on my cassette deck.  The sound quality was pretty bad, as this was an AM station, and we were tuning in from miles away at night.  But I remember sitting in the dark listening to that cassette over and over again, utterly enthralled by this music.

It was actually better than Disco!

The Year: 1995.  The Place: Under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Well, we're not under the Arch yet.  First, we have to get there.  First, we're in my living room.

"Karen," I told my wife.  "Ringo is coming to town.  My sister Carla and I must go see him.  He'll be playing at the VP Fair under the arch on July 2.  The concert is free.  I've got to go!"

"Kevin," she replied, "I am pregnant.  My due date is July 4.  You can't go to a Ringo Starr concert two days before my due date!"

"Karen," I said, this is Ringo Starr - the best member of the best band of all time!"

"Kevin," she said, "You can't go!"

Well, I went.

And before the concert and at intermission and after the concert I called Karen from the payphone in the basement of the Arch - just to make sure she wasn't going into labor.  This was before we had a cell  phone - pretty much before anybody had a cell phone.

And guess what - she was fine!  She had no baby on July 2.  Women!  All they do is worry.

The next morning at breakfast, Karen told me she was having cramps.  We went to the hospital and our daughter Kerry was born that afternoon - less than 24 hours after Ringo and the All Starr Band had performed in front of me, my sister, and several thousand others.

Kerry, apparently mad at me because I almost missed her birth.

The Year: 2014.  The Place: The Internet.

So here we are up to date.  Here I am writing, mostly about Culture and Religion and how the two play off one another.  So does that really include Vegas and the Beatles?  Of course it does.

The Beatles were an astonishing cultural phenomenon - and we can learn a thing or two about the Faith along the way.

JOHN - the acerbic, complex leader - is today perhaps best known among the Devout Demographic who reads this blog for his song "Imagine".  You'll hear lots of Christians complain about the overt atheism and secularism of the song, though the line "nothing to kill or die for" has always struck me as the saddest part, for that describes a life not worth living.  If you don't love something or someone enough to die for him or her, you're not fully engaging in life.  You're not really loving.  But the song is beautiful and haunting, and the idealism - if naive and misplaced - comes from the best part of John and the best part of the atheist / secularists around us.

PAUL - John's perfect counterpart and probably the best musician of the group.  Forget Sir Paul's strident vegetarianism for a moment, and see the haunted deep soul peeking at us through his eyes.  His music comes from a vulnerable place, and though he was never as in-your-face with his own personal suffering as John was (John was always kind of raw and naked before us), it's there, it's deep, and it colors every song he writes and sings.

GEORGE - Though George and his annoying Pop Eastern Mysticism sometimes bothers me, and though "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" has always struck me as a pretentious and turgid song, some of the lyrics from that tune are inspired and speak not only to Hindus, but to Christians and all human beings.  I quoted from them just the other day -

I don't know why nobody told you 
how to unfold your love 
I don't know how someone controlled you 
they bought and sold you 

This is, as I said before, the primary goal of all life - learning how to "unfold our love".  Nobody (other than Christ and His saints) really tells us or shows us how.  On the contrary, if we don't watch out, not only will we not be told, we will be "bought and sold", "controlled" and living only for our shallow desires and existing merely for the usefulness of others.

George got that and put it into a lot of his music.

RINGO - And this is why Ringo, my favorite Beatle - Ringo, the sane Beatle, Ringo the affable Beatle, Ringo the happy Beatle - is all about "peace and love".  It may be a less-than-full version of the true peace and love that await those who live in imitation of Jesus Christ, but it's a sign that points in the right direction.