Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Beatles Split Up On This Day in History - April 10

Photo by Luiz Fernando Reis (Bealtes cor 36 on Flickr) 
Creative Commons License -

This is a sad anniversary for fans of the Beatles, as it was on this day in 1970 - fully 46 years ago! - that the band broke up.

Officially, Paul McCartney left the band, although the other members had not felt particularly great about how things were going, and John Lennon in particular had been starting to show signs of going his own way at the time, as well. Of course, some people blame Yoko Ono, although really, it is likely that the breakup of the band was inevitable.

As a Beatles fan myself, I find this date to feel somber, even though I was not actually even born yet when it happened, and would not be born for some years yet.

Still, the Beatles meant a whole lot to me as I was growing up. One of my earliest memories of a major news event was when John Lennon was shot. In fact, that was probably my second real memory of a major news story, with the eruption of Mount St. Helen's being the first.

When my brother and I would visit my grandparents in Liberty, New York, the Beatles records there (especially the Revolver album) was like an oasis of rock music in a desert land of what I then considered boring classical LP's (yes, even cassette tapes had not yet really been introduced to my grandparent's home). There were some other rock albums there, but very few, and the Beatles easily made the strongest impression of any of those artists. When my grandparents took us to Canada in 1983, they stopped in Lake George, New York, where I picked up a cassette copy of Rubber Soul. Even today, all these years later, I still think of the Rubber Soul album when I am at or near Lake George. On the way home from Canada, as we listened to the album on the car's cassette player, literally everyone in the car was singing along to Michelle one evening, and I remember barely being able to stifle laughter.

The first copy that I ever got of the Beatles Rubber Soul was a cassette tape, with the image of their faces imposed upon a plain brown background. I thought it strange - and still do to some extent - that the actual album cover image featured the band in a late autumn or winter time scene in the woods. 

I do not remember if that was the first time that I purchased a Beatles cassette tape. But what I do remember is that I bought a lot of them, and between my brother and I, we probably had every Beatles album available. I even purchased a copy of Sgt. Pepper's, although unbeknownst to me, my brother already owned a copy (or perhaps even bought it on the same day, I can no longer remember). The cover of his cassette tape was a light blue, but I preferred mine, which was a much darker blue. I still have the sleeve that made such an impression on me. Hell, I still even have the sleeve of the Rubber Soul album, too, although the cassette tape itself went bad a long, long time ago.

My brother and I found some old Beatles memorabilia in Liberty, and I remember us laughing to some of the antics by Ringo. Seeing what they became all at once, and how they changed from the mop tops and matching suits to their long and unruly hair, as well as facial hair, was a reminder that we had not actually grown up with these guys, that all of this had taken place in what then felt like a long, long time ago.

During one of our trips to France, I remember finding a Beatles LP in Taverny, a suburb of Paris, and playing that quite often. There was another trip that we took, specifically in 1985, when we spent a week in Marly-le-Roi (another suburb of Paris, which also happens to be much my French family's hometown), with my late aunt. She, too, had only one album of interest to me, the LP of Abbey Road. I played that to death for the week that we spent there. I remember playing the Beatles quite a bit in Leffond, as well, a very small, very rural village in eastern France, not far from the border with Germany. Specifically, for whatever the reason, the Sgt. Pepper album comes to mind when I think of specific places in that village, although I doubt I was actually listening to it while walking through the village, which was perhaps half a mile away from where my aunt and uncle lived (illegally, it should be said).

In the 1980's, I got into heavy metal and punk, and in the 1990's, I really got into the whole alternative music scene, especially the Seattle bands (particularly Pearl Jam). But I continued to listen to the Beatles throughout those times, too. When the remaining Beatles aired the television special of their anthology in 1995, I watched, much like many millions of others. I purchased the albums, and eventually got the DVD's as a gift, either for my birthday or for Christmas.

Seeing Ringo for the first time in 1997 was a thrill, and I remember how exciting it felt to finally see an ex-Beatle in person! He still had long hair then, and he came out in a sparkly blue outfit. It was awesome to finally see one of the people in all of those pictures of the band from decades before. Then, in 2002, my friend and I purchased expensive tickets to see Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden. I remember tearing up when he played Hey Jude, and had it not been for the potentially compromising and embarrassing situation that it would lead to, I might have cried outright. It is rare for me to get emotional over a song like that, especially in public, but that was the effect that it had. I felt the same way when I saw him again, as well.

In 2008, McCartney performed a free concert at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, in honor of that city's 400th anniversary. I made a point of going and, as it turned out, it was the first concert that my then baby son attended. It also happened to be the last concert that my then wife and I attended together, before we would split up a few weeks later. For me, that marked the last time that we were truly happy together as a family. It was a perfect evening in terms of the weather, and we watched the sun set on all of those beautiful landmarks of the ancient city. Well, ancient by North American standards, in any case. I still feel that that particular show was one of the best and most memorable that I ever attended.

Now, I have seen the two remaining Beatles several times each. Hell, I was even fortunate enough to see Pete Best in concert, and George Martin happened to be at a show that I attended, signing autographs. Sometimes, I can kick myself for not having gotten something for him to sign, even though the line was long.

Even their solo material is great. I enjoy both individual songs and whole albums for each of the four former Beatles members, and rarely turn these off when they come on the radio. In fact, I can honestly say that while I have tired of literally every other band that I am a fan of - including some biggies like Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin - I have never grown tired of the Beatles at any stage, and that is saying something! Their music still holds resonance. For proof of that, just recall the powerful video that went viral of one pianist's rendition of John Lennon's Imagine played in front of the Bataclan the day after those awful attacks in Paris. There is something universal and transcendent about much of the Beatles music.

Even now, after listening to them for decades, I still enjoy Beatles music. I play their albums, watch some movies or footage sometimes, and enjoy shows like Breakfast with the Beatles. There has never been a time when I would turn them off of the radio when they come on, because they are overplayed, which makes them the only such band in my personal history. Indeed, at some point or other, I have literally grown tired of every other band that I listen to and enjoy. Just not the Beatles.

As I mentioned before, we did not grow together with the Beatles, and watch them go through their different phases. All of that was well behind them by the time either my brother or I were born. Still, the music lives on, and it means different things to different people. Today, on this anniversary of the breakup of the Beatles, I have recalled just how much the band, and their music, means to me. So, on this day, I honor the great band, and am grateful for the unbelievable music that they contributed, and that millions around the world continue to enjoy long after the band had ceased to be.

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