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The Beatles Turn 50

on November 16, 2012, 12:03am
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beatles comp The Beatles Turn 50

I’m 28 years old, so I’ve been driving on my own for over a decade now, but I can still remember seeing my father’s fingers tap on the dashboard of his car. For most of his youth, he spent his time behind a piano or organ, playing in a circuit of hip New York bands throughout the ’60s. Some toured with Mitch Ryder, The Animals, and Paul Butterfield; others just jammed in the garage for fun. Every time I bring this era up to him, he just lights up, and he’s always quick to discuss his Sgt. Peppers Story, where he picked up the vinyl on the day of release, and he and his bandmates learned the entire thing for their weekly gig in Cortland, NY days later. I’ve heard this story 15 or 20 times already, but it’s still exciting.

My father’s passion for The Beatles isn’t one of obsession, but appreciation. He spent so much time learning their music — learning from their music — that every time he revisits their tunes he goes right back to playing them. So, whenever we’d drive around and pop in A Hard Day’s Night, Rubber Soul, or even my old, worn out cassette of Live at the BBC, his fingers would innately start playing ghostly keys on the steering wheel, the dashboard, or simply in the air. “All My Loving”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Drive My Car”, and “Get Back” always sparked something remarkable in those fingers, and only once did we ever get tired of The Fab Four while driving. Though, that was neither the fault of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, nor Ringo Starr, just Miami traffic.

the beatles turn 50 The Beatles Turn 50I’m quick to discuss my father when chatting about The Beatles because the idea that this band is celebrating its 50th anniversary both shocks and scares me. This isn’t true, but for me, popular music more or less starts with The Beatles. (Note: My first concert was The Everly Brothers, I still think Buddy Holly is the true King of Rock, and I grew up on Mississippi Delta blues songs, so yes, I’m fully aware music existed before “Love Me Do”.) So, the idea that it’s only been 50 years, and I’m turning 30 in just two years, seems both small and large at the same time. What scares me, however, is that if this music’s 50 years old, and my father lived and experienced this music at the time of its inception, then that means he, too, has aged just as long.

Now, that’s a major “duh” moment — people age, things age, and culture certainly ages. What’s so daunting for me to accept is its celebration. I’m terrified of aging, I’m equally horrified at the fast and merciless concept of time, and I try not to think about it much. Yet, day after day, I find myself surrounded by constant reminders: wrinkled LPs, remastered MP3s of music that was captured before computers were even commonplace, and thousands of photos snapped decades ago. Again, I don’t dwell on the years, I focus on the artifacts themselves.

It’s been hard to keep that up in 2012, a year where almost everyone’s celebrating their 50th anniversary. The Beach Boys did, The Rolling Stones are about to (even though, technically, they should have already), and even James Bond recently had his much-deserved piece of cake. Collectively, they’re nagging reminders that time marches on, pop culture icons stay pop culture icons, and that, yes, the future will continue to cherish their work. With The Beatles, it seemed frugal to reiterate how they’re still the greatest band in the history of music and how their songs and albums will last forever and blah, blah, blah. Instead, it felt necessary to highlight their key innovations, describe how they’ve impacted our lives, and ignore the big 5-0 altogether.

If anything, my pops would appreciate that.

-Michael Roffman

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