The Beatles

Ticket to Ride

Do you need a reason to dig the Fab Four?

By Greg Cahill

I‘m an unapologetic Beatles fan. That’s not always an easy position. My wife frequently asks why Beatles music spends such a “disproportionate” amount of time blaring from the home stereo. And co-workers recently started regarding me as obsessive-compulsive when I spent a month researching a magazine article on the 40th anniversary of Paul McCartney penning “Yesterday,” the most covered song of all time, and one that sparked a revolution in the use of strings in pop music.

I offer no high-minded, self-indulgent analysis of this fascination. Just another aging baby boomer on a nostalgia trip? I can accept that.

The Fab Four may have lost much of their over-the-top popularity, but their appeal hasn’t diminished after all these years. This month alone, the Beatles, in one form or another, can be found on American TV practically every day, from A&E’s programming of Paul McCartney in Red Square to HBO’s cablecast of the John Lennon biopic Imagine to Ringo’s appearance in the low-budget 1981 comedy Caveman (which also featured Dennis Quaid in a role he’d probably like to forget) shown on FLIX.

And their influence can be felt everywhere, from the new Oasis album to fashion guru Simon Doonan’s Carnaby Street creations, as well as the prevalence of strings in the pop music of Kanye West, Portishead and others.

My wife and co-workers may think I’m ready for meds, but my teenaged kids totally get the Beatle thing; the Fab Four are a part of their overall music mix, co-existing amiably with Aesop Rock, Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Erase this and your soul will turn blueish,” reads the slogan on the small greaseboard attached to our refrigerator, a remnant of my 17-year-old’s recent foray with his friends into the fanciful Yellow Submarine DVD. Meanwhile, the shelves in my home office, the same ones that hold my modest collection of Beatles books and related magazine articles, are crammed with collectable Yellow Submarine figurines, a gift from my 13-year-old, who has diligently stalked local toy stores for the past four years searching for the last gem in that Spawn collection to pop up (Ringo with Yellow Submarine). He recently scored it.

I just rewarded my kids’ ’60s-pop-music co-dependence by purchasing three tickets to McCartney’s November appearance at the HP Pavilion in San Jose; for $300, we’ll have nosebleed seats pretty much behind the Beatle bassist. But even from that vantage point, and despite the anticipated muddled sound, I sense it will be a moment they’ll remember. Of course, the Fab Four have their detractors who would argue that I and my ilk are nuts.

The Internet offers 16.8 million hits for the Beatles, and there’s no shortage of sites hosted by folks who argue that the Beatles suck. Jon Bon Jovi, Boy George and Peter Hook rank among those celebrities that don’t have a kind word for John, Paul, George and Ringo. And you can plunk down nine bucks for the British music magazines Mojo and Uncut and be treated to frequent tributes to the Beatles that inevitably include comments from grumpy pop artists suggesting that the boys from Liverpool lacked any substance.

Meet British singer and songwriter Luke Haines (whose official website touts “the genius of Luke Haines”), best known as the driving force behind the Auteurs and New Wave. “I’ve come to find it really twee, their entire output,” Haines complained to Uncut. “There’s not one good lyric.”

He also lambastes “the awful Lennon philosophizing and the adolescent whining.”But Haines does offer a suggestion on the band’s missed redemption: “I think what would have saved the Beatles, they should have let Yoko in. She would’ve given them some fuckin’ balls.”

An intriguing notion.

Give it some thought while enjoying the upcoming Beatles tribute–featuring five local acts–on Saturday, June 25, at the Russian River Brewing Company. If you’re intent on hearing those celebrated string arrangements, check out Peter Penhallow and his Angels when they deliver their annual outdoor Beatles tribute (also free) on Saturday, July 23, at 6pm, at Creek Park in downtown San Anselmo, 415.258.4676. The Beatles tribute at the Russian River Brewing Co. is slated for Saturday, June 25, at 9pm. 725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. Free; all-ages. Performers include members of the brewery’s staff. 707.545.BEER.

From the June 22-28, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.

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