Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Beatles, the Summer of Love and Me

I was conceived sometime near the end of 1967 after the infamous "summer of love" and the release of two preeminent Beatles albums.

Two of their best albums, musically and artistically, in my humble opinion.

The release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably one of the bands brightest and most creative LP's, kicked off the summer of love on June 1, 1967, followed by the worldwide, satellite premier of "All You Need Is Love." That song became my sister's favorite Beatles song while we lived on Race Street in Princeton, Indiana. In fact, some of my earliest memories from that house so long ago are of sitting in the front living room near the stereo, listening to Dad's copy of Magical Mystery Tour, my favorite Beatles album of all-time, and the Sesame Street collection on 45. The former was released as a double-EP soundtrack in London to accompany the Beatles movie of the same title at the end of '67. I was yet a zygote in my mother's belly.

My father was completing his first semester at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Mom was in beauty school, preparing to embark on a short-lived career as a hairdresser. My arrival in 1968, brought their aspirations and whatever career goals they had in mind to an abrupt halt. They married in March of that year and embarked on family life, Dad joining the National Guard on the very day his draft number was called. Bullet dodged.

Was I a lingering effect of the summer of love? I don't know, but that hippie subculture was certainly prevalent in the era to which I was born. And the Beatles were the official soundtrack to that era, my Dad owning several of their Capital releases on vinyl, including Meet the Beatles, Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour. Needless to say, my sister and I about wore out the grooves on those old LP's, which were lost somewhere between Tallahassee and Indianapolis in the late 1980's. Sadly.

Ironically enough, the Beatles graced the cover
of LIFE Magazine the day after I was born.

My favorite of those, opened with the anthemic title track, "ROOLLLL UUUPP!" and I was hooked. I loved the psychedelic flavor to tracks like "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am the Walrus." The haunting organ-bathed tune by Harrison, titled "Blue Jay Way" was one of my favorites. Throughout, I loved their use of orchestration, of horns and cellos especially. The album, as well as the movie booklet that accompanied it, had a dreamy feel to it and I was always intrigued to see the actual film (Note: I just watched it this month for the first time). I can sing along with every tune. "Your Mother Should Know" sort of harkens back to the big band tunes of Benny Goodman, leading his orchestra on clarinet (and is similar to McCartney's "When I'm 64"). I really liked that one and "Baby You're a Rich Man" because they were so different from the tunes on earlier Beatles albums. I should also note my Dad's 8-track copy of the Beatles early years, which we wore out in the old family truckster, so I was familiar with most of their early hits. Their 1967 albums were a serious departure from the bubble-gum pop/rock of the early 60's and I quite enjoyed it.

I've been on this Beatles kick, focusing a lot on George Harrison, my new favorite Beatle, for a couple of weeks now. Not exactly sure what prompted it, maybe just a sense of nostalgia and wanting to revel in some of my earliest childhood memories. We have some old home movies shot at that house on Race Street when I was 4 or 5. They are much of the reason I still remember so much about that old house, but music, almost as much as smell, triggers my memory bank, and the Beatles certainly take me back to a happy, simpler, more innocent period of my life.

To whatever degree I owe a debt of gratitude to the "summer of love," I am thankful for the music it spawned (or vice-versa) and for my existence in the world. I think George would be proud of me for my self-awareness and gratitude. :)

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