I just desperately want to be a part of our perceived intelligencia now, after snidely commenting against our sociological debate that we’d be lucky if Drexel could graduate 8% of a class that would qualify for such an honor. Suddenly it’s not enough to give attention-getting presentations or to write witty papers that easily meet and exceed length limits. I want to know classic things… movies and books for me to debate assuredly the way i easily peel “A Day In The Life” apart like so much ripe citrus in front of my sleepy songwriting class who barely collectively own a pair of Beatle’s albums.
Here’s an aside i’m not willing to concede into a pop-up window: How can you ignore the Beatles? I’m the biggest anti-snob i know a lot of the time — choosing to deliberately ignore or discount something that god-awfully popular just because i feel that it’s over-weighted. You simply cannot ignore the Beatles, though, because even if you successfully argue around their innovativeness you’ll still have to bring in ten or twelve other pre-1970 albums to cover the width and breadth that they easily stride in any pair of their albums. Yet, hyper-popular R&B artists routinely confess in my treasured bi-weekly sessions with the Stone that their friends would be surprised that theylsiten to the Beatles. It’s the freaking Beatles, people. Even worse, the fans of these artists are often even ignorant of their own musical antecedents, as my mother discovered when a co-worker who endlessly rants about Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill returned to her a blank stare when she started talking about the likes of Martha and the Vandella’s and Roberta Flack (and, i mean, “Killing Me Softly” is just a gimme anyhow). But i digress. I digress because i want to be able to do that for other arts, other things.
Vanity Fair is suddenly written two leagues above my head, talking about influences and movements that befuddle me so much that i don’t know if i should look them up in Elise’s art history book or Webster’s Dictionary. This weekend, awake long past my bedtime, i caught myself browsing the net for Doctoral Programs in Communications … despite having just told someone in the last few months that i was never meant to be called “Doctor.” But i still feel like i’ve just left high-school, or seventh grade, or the womb. I don’t seem to know anything.
I don’t seem to know anything, and today i discovered that i only have eleven classes left with four whopping quarters to complete them in. Not one of them will inform me about the greats in literature, sociological theory, modern international politics, or the rise of technology in society. Not to mention science or math. All of those classes are over, and looking at my all-too-blank schedule for next quarter i find myself debating what to do with my free time: take classes in soc, lit, h/pol, anth, or begin to obsessedly prepare for the GRE’s.
I think this is the opposite of Senioritis.
I woke up from surgery almost exactly eight days ago, and at the time i couldn’t feel any part of my mouth. The state of affairs made it nearly impossible to talk much or open my mouth up too far. Furthermore, as i’ve found in the past, i am an absolutely headcase when i come out of anesthesia – i’m very sensitive to small stimuli.
There i was, Monday morning without a fairly useless body part that i had grown to utterly despise, unable to talk, and wearing a dotted dressing gown. From somewhere down the hall music wafted past, and my softened brain sucked it in like a sponge. “Here Comes The Sun” was recognized immediately, though i couldn’t even begin to approximate the process of humming along. Instead, i immediately turned to my somewhat distraught mother and exclaimed “It’s okay mom, George Harrison is here with me.”
My mother apparently took my accompaniment by a blessed Beatle to mean that i was moving towards the light, and thus became even more upset. Of course, being a mother whose sensitivity to art was washed away by the brutal reign of the television and trickle-through exposure to N’Sync singles, she had already forgotten that my secondary reason for being so upset the last time i was in the hospital for a procedure was that George had just died.
I explained it to her later: Obviously he’s become my guardian angel
Her response? Something about a flying Beatle.
Har har, mom. Har har.
There is a mutiny building in my fingers; a resistance is gathering between my knuckles and around my wrists. They are not used to this sort of treatment… five hours of playing songs that i don’t have the option to fudge … songs that sound only how they sound. Towards the end my fingers were on automatic, picking out strings without my even having to think of it, but in the middle they were clumsy and tired as the muscles in my arms sighed with exertion.
There was a power to it — to making other people’s songs sound how they were meant, and to making my own songs sound out like i hear them in my own head. Kat sat on the bed mostly non-plussed, pecking away at her laptop, but Laurel seemed to be in a mild form of shock. And i… i wasn’t even in the room. The songs had filled it beyond its capacity to hold me.
Fingers aside, my voice amazed me. After having barely mustered up enough of it to power through my jury last week, imagine my surprise as it rose to the top of the staff and i was still hitting clean notes, open throated and howling. Sometimes a song finds one spectacular note inside of itself that my voice is attracted to like a moth to flame, willing to burn itself around the edges just to hit that one note and hold hold hold hold it over the four chords in the progression.
There is definitely a Trio brewing around here, somewhere.
I have been hearing the Beatles my entire life — first on the record player as a baby, and then on long trips to the shore on our cruddy Past Masters tape, and then on shiny new see-through cassettes of Abbey Road and The White Album. There are constants in my life; everyone has constants. Even the most unstable and unable people i know have things they can always turn to, or that they will always turn to.
The parking lot at Kiddie City Toy Store, and Ringo sings “Octopus’ Garden.” I am playing “Name That Beatle.” We are crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge to New Jersey and Paul and Mom and I are wailing “Oh Darling” so hard that our voice is cracking around the edges as one. We are zooming down the Atlantic City Expressway and Lennon croons out from carefully nested speakers “I’m So Tired” as i lazily stick my feet out of the window.
“I’m so tired.”
The wind dug between all of my toes as i laughed and sank my head back into the seat. The drive to WildWood was always longer on the way there than coming back. I was always so busy trying to decide if it was John and Lennon singing that half the time i missed George. George: the quiet one. My mom loves Paul with all of her teenaged heart, but on the way home she would confess to me conspiratorially that she’s always had a soft spot for Mr. Harrison. “The ugly one?,” i would ask? “With those cheekbones?” “Does he play the second guitar?”
My mother denies the existence of Middle Beatles and will glare at you icily if you mention Let It Be, so she first was eyes at George Harrison with his bowl cut and then sliding around in the midsts of his delicate guitars as his songs grew more and more central to the end records. My entire life it has been just the two of us, and just the three of them: Paul, George, and Ringo — because we didn’t have poor dead John around anymore.
At fifteen i got my guitar, and it never occurred to me to play anything by the Fab Four. The Beatles were more than the sum of their parts, and to this day i still can’t quite distill any of their songs to a single guitar and voice. But, my guitar was a door to things i had never heard before. Paul’s deft bass lines. Lennon’s funky solos. Ringo’s amazing drumming on the back half of Abbey Road. George’s stunningly simple “Something,” and Clapton adding to the throb of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I listened to the Beatles for my entire life as a phenomenon … as if they would walk into a room and music would just happen. It wasn’t until i got to college that it occurred to me that they all brought their own distinct musical merits to the table, and that you could pick them out one by one if you listened closely. A McCartney song, but a Harrison Riff. A Lennon vocal with that twelve-string chiming in the background.
I never owned a Beatles record of my own before yesterday other than the sad red #1 that exists as a placeholder for albums i’ll eventually have to own as an adult, and for two albums i know as well as “Lucky Star” or “Still Rock and Roll to Me.” I know them: the songs, the lyrics. I never knew the music before, though. Yesterday i locked myself in an empty house, in an empty room, and i turned my headphones as high as they would go. And listened.
At twenty I heard the Beatles for the first time.
At twenty i have suddenly found myself with only two of them left. I will always remember sitting on Michella’s couch in July and seeing TWA 800 emblazoned across the screen of Good Morning America, and i will always remember sitting in admissions desperately trying to load up CNN’s website this September. And, i will always remember myself curled into a ball on that rubbery hospital bed, trailing IV tubes and sniffling back tears because i didn’t want anyone to think i was crying about me.