Monday, July 6, 2009

Lennon & McCartney

52 years ago today John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at the Woolton Village Fete. The impact of that meeting is still reverberating throughout the world.

Three months later I was born. It’s ridiculous, but I have always felt a sense of connection in knowing that the Beatles first record was released on my fifth birthday and the same with Monty Python’s first show debuting on my twelfth birthday. I guess that means my destiny is to be a successful comedic-musical blogger.

I remember when they came over in 1964. There was an excitement they created that lasted years. I did not get to see them on Ed Sullivan because my father always watched “Bonanza” and I had no clue anyway. However, my aunts were about six and eight years older than me and they were into the Beatles. I remember sitting in their friend's bedroom listening to a 45 of “She Loves You”, I think it was. I also remember the Beatles’ picture postcards and buttons from 1964.

I remember “I Saw Her Standing There” emanating from our TV one night. I remember watching the Beatles cartoons every Saturday morning. The Beatles, and the British invasion that followed, and the immensely inspired creative response of American bands, plus the growing Motown Sound, plus the turbulent changes in the 60s we all lived through, made for an explosion in popular music that few today can comprehend and the world may never see again.

This past week, everyone has been talking about the genius of Michael Jackson, who only put out an album every four or five years while the Beatles were putting out genius albums every three to eight months and singles out every four to six months.

I diverged from the Beatles for many years because I didn’t own records at that age. I re-discovered the Beatles in December 1980 after Lennon’s assassination, as a young man, better able to understand and appreciate their music. The first album I bought was the White Album and then on and on. I read “Shout!”, the Phillip Norman book and studied their music. That fed my creativity no end, no doubt.

I mentioned in my Michael Jackson piece my theory about music and comedy. I really first grasped it with the Beatles, it became more specific with regard to structure listening to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”.

That was when Dennis Perrin and I began doing Kawasaki Rodeo, otherwise known as Karaoke Romeo, otherwise known as Kamakaze Radio, the misspelling of which we later claimed was intentional as a tribute to the Beatles spelling “Beetles” with an “a”. In fact, our first show was the same month as Lennon’s murder. Dennis and I discussed the Beatles constantly as well as other music he turned me on to. He and I used to refer to ourselves as the Lennon and McCartney of comedy. We would disagree over which one of us was Lennon. He always won, though, because he and Lennon shared the same birthday and his material was edgier. We copied the layout of the White Album for our programs for a particular show.

John and Paul, as we all know, came at music from opposite ends of the spectrum with their shared passion for 50s rock ‘n’ roll connecting them. As everyone knows, this is what made the Beatles so successful. They were both, in their own right, musical geniuses. Obviously their relationship became strained at the end, as this photo will attest.

How and why Mick and Keith were able to maintain their partnership through all the years and not John and Paul is one of those great unanswerable questions. And it is a shame. Lennon said they were only a pop group during the Beatles break up, but I think that was his justification for wanting to end it. The Beatles were obviously more than a pop group, and still, he had a right to live his life any way he wanted if breaking up was the only way he could.

As Lennon mentioned in the famed Playboy interview, and as was depicted in the made-for-VH-1 movie, “Two of Us”, directed by “Let It Be” director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, John and Paul almost made it to SNL to perform in 1976 as a result of seeing one of Lorne Michaels’ pitches for the Beatles to perform on SNL for $3000 the night that McCartney surprise-visited Lennon at the Dakota. A shame they did not, is an understatement.

I read the Albert Goldman book about Lennon and listened to all the things Julian said about Lennon as a father. It did make me see Lennon differently. He was a flawed man. And blind idol worship is wrong regardless of whom they are. The music and their other legacies are all that is really important.

It is impossible, and obviously unnecessary, for me to state all the changes the Beatles brought about which shaped our contemporary world. What may be most significant is they made the world much smaller and united its youth through music, desire for love and peace, hair, clothing, et al.

Today, because of the path the Beatles carved out, we all share the same predominate popular culture. Too bad it sucks now. Perhaps also, rock/pop stars as global social- and political-issue activists—like Bono and all the -Aid concerts back in the 80s, arose from the Beatles, especially Lennon.

Arguably, the greatest testament to the Beatles’ legacy is their influence on Muslim youth.

In my opinion, the best example of the Beatles' influence on anyone from a Muslim country is Salman Ahmad, a Pakistani musician and a phenomenal guitarist, who spent his youth in New York, and whose former band Junoon became the “U2 of Pakistan”. Ahmad has become an activist for many issues, and organized a concert for peace on Lennon’s birthday on October 9, 2001, barely a month after the WTC attacks, which was dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and they all sang “Give Peace A Chance”.

That the western world and the Muslim world have built bridges through music that may help us withstand and fight against the political acrimony of all of our governments, is a solid testament to the resonance of what began 52 years today.

The video below is my favorite Junoon song (the word means “passion” in Urdu), and then back to John and Paul, okay? The song is called “No More” and is their most recent English-language tune, also dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

More Junoon in a later post.

A long time ago, when I was nineteen, I was a disc jockey. While it may be an interesting blog concept, I only wish to upload/play one Lennon-McCartney song here, arguably their greatest collaboration, the title of which well suits the observance commemorated in this piece: “A Day in the Life”.

52 years puts a lot into perspective.