The first time I heard Beatles ’65 I was 9 or 10. It was a big deal because it was my first LP, the FIRST vinyl 33 1/3 Long Playing record album I ever owned. Before that, I had a series of 45’s, neatly stacked in the small bedroom I shared with my younger sister. We lived in a suburb near North Augusta, South Carolina, off the north bank of the Savannah River.
Beatles ’65 was released in December of 1964. After 40 plus years, I don’t honestly remember if my parents gave it to me for Christmas in 1964, or later in 1965. I only know I wore the wax grooves right down to the base. The Beatles stormed the U.S. in ’64. I saved a few 45’s, originals from that period: A Hard Day’s Night on Side A, I Should Have Known Better on the B Side. I Love Her on Side A, If I Fell on the B Flip. I was nuts for McCartney back then. Later it would be Lennon (of course).
The original Beatles ’65 album, with the lads from Liverpool in (almost) collarless suits and ties clutching playful black, red, and beige umbrellas, is packed away with my other 9 or 10 boxes of vinyl. I should get the cover framed. Even though it’s over-worn and has “one” of my last names (yes, I decided to change my name for a while in the 60’s) splashed in 4th or 5th grade backslant cursive across the front corner in black magic maker.
Back then there weren’t 800 different kinds of markers. A pen was a pen. It was a big deal when the Finepoint BIC with the white barrel (instead of orange yellow) and navy cap came out. And most permanent markers were used to scribble initials on waist bands of cotton laundry before summer trips to Girl Scout camp. Sharpies didn’t come with fancy neon carabiner clips that hook around your neck like the set clipped to my pack today.
I don’t remember headphones when listening to Beatles ’65. They must have come later. But those 11 songs remain some of my favorite Beatles music. Obscure. Understated. Un-blockbuster. I Feel Fine (beginning with George’s famous guitar riff, ending in his reverb feedback), I’m A Loser, I’ll Follow The Sun, and No Reply are just plain sad. Then you’ve got John’s raucous Rock And Roll Music with lumbering Ringo’s slow moving country on Honey Don’t.
What I remember most about that time is starting to know what it meant to fall in love, elementary school style (after all, Michael Suggs gave me his ID bracelet). And I remember what it felt like to lose love (how could Ronnie Collins fall for someone else?). I remember my Uncle Bill having dance parties at our house. He and his friends lined up like trains to do Little Eva’s Locomotion; they’d scoot around the corner of the house to steal a kiss in the dark by the luminous magnolias.
I remember my parents doing The Twist in the living room, the balls of their feet rotating on the Johnson’s paste wax floor (they loved to dance). I remember the succulent magnolias, the lone Charlie Brown pine out front, the massive green water tower built on the layers of pine needles back behind our house. (My step-dad reminded me in June that I went inside the tower with my friends, even though I’d been given strict orders not to. I got in so much trouble that day.)
I remember that music became a shelter for me. Shelter from the coming storms. The suitcase record player I carried from room to room had a setting for 45’s, a setting for LP’s. Later, I would get a green RCA spindle style record player for Christmas. I’d stack album after album; they spit a dull clack! when they dropped on top of each other. The static cling that hit the diamond needle, the counterbalance on the arm that had to be just so not to wear out the grooves in the wax. (If it was a double album set, Sides 1 and 4 would be on one record, Sides 2 and 3 on the other so you could listen in order.)
Records had a smell, too. Not plastic – vinyl. Have you ever smelled vinyl? And sometimes they were pressed in dull red, yellow or blue. The Beatles? Basic black.
My friend, Gail, saw the Beatles play in Minneapolis in the Twins old Met Stadium. Built in 1956, the classic outdoor stadium in Bloomington was abandoned for the Metrodome in 1982 and torn down in 1985 to make way for the Mall of America. The Beatles played at the Met during the Shea Stadium days and they were only a finger’s width big against the distance to the nosebleed seats.
The Beatles were the biggest thing ever to hit America up until that point in time. I loved them right through my 20’s and 30’s. When the Beatles Black Box Master Collection of albums came out in the early 80’s, I bought it. And when I first met Liz, I played a couple of the wax masters for her on the refurbished turntable Gail gave me for my birthday that year.
What I really want to say is music gave me a place to hide. Growing up in a large family where space was at a premium, I fell straight down into the headphones during my privacy starved junior high days. I don’t know when I decided it was okay to crawl out. In the 70’s, FM radio was king, the alternative to pop love songs and country twang. I first heard Neil Young, CSN, and the Grateful Dead on FM radio.
And remember quadraphonic speakers and albums? Reel-to-reel or 8-Tracks? Everything was analogue and simpler then. I went to Brown Institute in recording for a few semesters in the 1980’s. I had an instructor who taught me how to mix albums. He hated digital. Why? He said analogue captured the guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards in their purest state, the closest to Live. And to this day, I can hear the difference. He taught me what to listen for. Deep listening.
I still use deep listening. In writing. Art. And, yeah, when I listen to music. I still love music. And I remember those Christmases in North Augusta with great fondness. My heart thumps a little faster when I think of race car tracks winding through the living room or the smell of train transformers (remember that bottled liquid you dropped into the smokestack with an eyedropper to produce train smoke?).
I remember real tinsel and my grandmother’s first aluminum tree with the color wheel that rotated through primary green, red, blue, with a dash of diffused orange. Her birthday is tomorrow, Winter Solstice. She comes to visit me from the other side quite often.
I remember feeling safe and scared at the same time, something not unfamiliar to me now. I remember Beatles ’65. And I feel fine.
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, December 20th, 2007
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LOVE ME LIKE MUSIC (TOP 10)