The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, perhaps. So many people had an intimate relationship with their songs and music; their words shaped the development of thousands, if not millions, of minds. And I too, 30 years after the band had split up, also had my Beatles experience. It’s perhaps overplayed, there has been so much said about them, but this just adds to confirm the striking influence of the band. So, here’s my experience with the boys.
I was 18 and I’d just moved up to Edinburgh with my mum. She’d just left my dad and I was recovering from a bit of a drug problem I’d acquired in my mid-teens, so I’m sure you can imagine it was a rather tender time. But everything was fresh and new, our second chance, and we both relished in having the opportunity to start again.
I’d never been spoilt as a child, far from it, but at this time my mum was very giving, allowing me to buy a few items to busy myself with during the transition. I’d just finished reading a John Lennon biography which a friend had lent me, so was keen to listen to some of his songs. I mean, I’d obviously heard Beatles music before, but just not as thoroughly as I was about to. So that’s what I bought.
She did me good. Those next few purchases would go on to influence my life in a very big way. I didn’t start right at the beginning, but got a compilation CD of all the early stuff. And then from then on it was albums all the way. The first one was Help. I just found the songs, the music, the sound, the lyrics, it was all so appealing, so relevant; I listened so attentively, engrossed in everything they had to say. I felt that I too needed help, I felt that I too needed to hide my love away. It was all so incredibly relevant to me at that point.
The next one was Rubber Soul. This is probably still my favourite Beatles album. The sound developed and the freedom in the song writing was so apparent. I could tell they were being more open, more honest, having more fun with it. Then came Revolver. And then came Sgt. Pepper.
I found all the eastern influences interesting. I guess I was trying to find myself and all these hippy ideals, the idea of meditating, being out in nature, growing my hair, it was just very appealing and comforting. I was perhaps living a little out of my own time, but in my head, between those headphones, crouched on a tartan rug, swaying, I felt more connected to anything than I ever had before.
That’s all you want when you’re a growing kid- to connect to something. You want to feel meaning within yourself, and that there’s a possibility of finding something kindred outside as well. And the Beatles gave me that; they made me feel accepted, if only by myself. Seeing them grow as people with each album I bought was a delight and it somehow mirrored my own journey of self-discovery at that time.
I continued right through to the end, picking up consecutive albums with the weeks that went by: Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Be. Each one furthering more and more my keenness for the next. I was learning the guitar and had an endless amount of songs to try and play, and then to imitate in compositions of my own. There were so many references to follow up, introducing me to so many other artists and concepts. And then there was plenty of material to indulge in after the albums too, such as the Anthology.
The best thing though is the people I’ve met afterwards who share a common love of them. I rarely truly bond with someone who isn’t a Beatles fan. It has formed the basis of many of my closest friendships, including that of my relationship with my wife. We would discuss different aspects of the catalogue for hours and hours. And that still goes on today; it never fades.
They’ll never just be some band that I liked, some phase I went through. I learnt so much from them. It isn’t because they were so completely intelligent and their works so carefully formulated; I mean, obviously they were 4 incredibly talented individuals that had a magic in their collected efforts; but it was their naive-ity, their daring to confront personal dilemmas openly, their honesty, the experimentation, it was that, and their great sense of humour, that had such a powerful affect on me…
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