Ever since I was a kid, some of my earliest memories were the strains of the Fab Four echoing in my ears. My parents were definitely Beatlemaniacs throughout the 1960s (along with the Rolling Stones, Cream and other great rock bands). Not so much the silly pop stuff the Beatles made when they first became successful, but the dark, complex, spaced-out rock music they made towards the middle and end of their career. The music that transformed how we view popular music as serious art, and not just another passing fad for screaming female tweens. Their strange blend of Indian, Classical, American Rock, Psychedelia and Victorian Music Hall is still both modern and old, challenging yet accessible, futuristic yet timeless.
I remember that my favorite cartoon to watch as a kid was the animated Beatles Yellow Submarine movie. If you’ve ever tried watching this film as an adult, you have to assume that those guys were on some serious LSD when they made it. That thing’s a drug-induced mess, all set to to the far out tunes of their late Sixties albums. I must have watched this thing over and over again: hypnotized by the colorful lightshow, the Good vs Evil storyline and the passionate yet trippy music. Truth be told, it probably warped my fragile, and as of then, unformed little infant mind. But hey: it made me into the warped adult I am today!
I was once backpacking through God-knows-where in a small town in Bolivia. I mean, this was some stopover in the high Andes desert, as remote a location on Earth as could be. The houses looked like they were made from mud. At a lunch cafe, as I paid the young girl waitress, she friendly asked me where I was from. We chatted a bit in my crappy Spanish and I told her I was born in England. Instantly, her eyes lit up and said she couldn’t believe that I was someone who came from the same country as the Beatles!
This was a girl who was probably born in the 90s. She told me that her room was full of Beatles posters and she was always trying to get translations of their lyrics into Spanish so she could better understand what they were talking about. We talked about why she liked them so much, and we both agreed that their music represented something positive for all humankind. Something that all people, no matter what country or culture they come from, should be able to relate to; the strands that connect us all. How does music from decades ago still resonate between two people (who could not have been further apart in culture, geography and socioeconomic class)?
Ultimately, why do the Beatles still matter? It was only just a few months ago that the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band turned 50 years old. My dad told me that he, and everyone he knew, could remember where they were, and what they were doing on the exact day a new Beatles album came out. They were that culturally relevant in their time. I can’t think of too many artists these days that are viewed by an entire generation as so important. Sure, Justin Bieber sells a lot of records and is super famous right now, but will young people still remember him and be listening to his music Half A Century later? I doubt it.
In my mind, more than just about any other group of musicians over the years, the Beatles embody a message of Universal Truth and a hopeful vision for all humanity. The simple, yet strangely neglected, idea that Love, Music, Positivity, Beauty, and Divine Consciousness can triumph over the forces of Hate and Ignorance.
Maybe this all just seems naive, and I think it’s important not to revel in nostalgia for a long-ago past, but maybe these are values are worth holding onto in a chaotic, violent, and so often a negative world. I think they still do mean something important, at least to me, and I believe that they mean something to many other people the world over too, even to young cafe waitresses in some podunk town in the Bolivian desert. I hope that one day if I have kids, they’ll also get to grow up listening to and understanding what the Beatles have to say.
“Each Day Just Goes So Fast,
You Turn Around It’s Past,
You Won’t Find Time
To Hang A Sign On Me…”
– Love To You (Revolver, 1966)