The Beatles... in My Life

I've never considered myself a typical Beatles fan. Not in the strict sense of the word. Yes, I had all of their albums and yes, I had their pictures on my walls (I was 12 when they came to America in 1964 and was prime material for the Beatlemania that ensued), but, as I've said many times, I never wanted to marry a Beatle, I wanted to be a Beatle. In fact, when I went to the Beatles' concert at Dodger Stadium in August of 1966, I was pissed because I couldn't hear the music. I mean, the sound systems were bad enough in those days, but all the screaming certainly didn't help, especially in so large a venue...

After the passage of many years I've come to recognize the role that each of the Beatles has played in my life, my focus on one of the members of the group affecting my experience in some meaningful way, or echoing whatever it was I was busy learning. It wasn't until only recently that I finally came to see how key these four men have been, not as a group, but as individuals.

Ringo Starr
When I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964, I was immediately drawn to Ringo Starr. The reason is probably easy to suss out. He's a drummer and I came from a long line of professional drummers; both my brother and my dad had their drum kits set up in the house and they practiced regularly. By the time I was first introduced to the Beatles, I had already been playing my brother's drums along with his Ventures and Beach Boys albums. I grew up with rhythms and the way the drums can affect your pulse and your deepest emotions. I learned early on to appreciate the particular uniqueness that all drummers share and just how differently they experience the world; they live in one that few of us will ever know. It was only natural that I first attached myself to Ringo. Besides the musical connection, he was cute in that floppy, puppy dog way that pre-adolescent girls can't resist; of all the Beatles, he was the one you could bring home to meet your mother. He had an adorable sense of humor and he lovedreally lovedmusic. Ringo Starr was the Beatle of my youth. He taught me about loving music with a wide-eyed wonderment of how it can move people.

John Lennon
Sometime toward the end of 1965 I began to take notice of John Lennon. I was 14 and had begun to invent myself, unconsciously looking for role models. A friend had introduced me to astrology that year and when I learned John and I shared the same sign. I decided that if I was fated to be a Libra, I would be that kind of Libra: well-read, sarcastic, witty, eccentric, hopefully brilliant. I was also writing music by that time and playing guitar so John influenced me in more ways than just helping me to define myself. He taught me the importance of being an autodidact, of teaching myself new things. I read that every night before going to sleep he read seven pages from seven books ranging from history and architecture to literature and biography. I liked that and it started me on a path of learning to which I still adhere. John Lennon was the Beatle of my teens. He taught me about thinking, questioning, learning, and being unafraid to invent myself.

Young Adulthood
George Harrison
It wasn't until 1977 that I even noticed George Harrison. I mean, I knew he was there and, although he typified precisely what a Beatle "looked like", even in the days of high Beatlemania I just never paid him any mind. I taught myself his guitar riffs, but I never noticed him as a person. When he did catch my attention I had already begun meditating and practicing yoga and, somewhere in the nether reaches of my mind, I remembered that he was into all that as well. One day while I sat teaching myself to play his sitar part in Love You To (from the Beatles' 1966 Revolver album) on my guitar, something just clicked. I went over to Salzer's Music Store and bought his three latest LPs: Living in the Material World, Extra Texture, and 33 & 1/3. I wore them out. George had a way of writing love songs that made it impossible to tell if they were written for his lady or for his Lord. Being of an eastern spiritual bent myself, this really resonated with me (my house was already full of posters of Indian deities and the smell of frangipani incense). So it was that I began my time with George. I learned a lot from him through my late 20s and early 30s. He was a very human man, but he was also wise, moody, and even a little silly. He had his merits and his foibles, but he was ultimately honest and courageous when facing those things in himself, drawing on a spiritual center that he nurtured diligently. He still teaches me things nearly every day of my life. George Harrison was the Beatle of my young adulthood. He taught me about Spirit.

Sir Paul McCartney
But recently, having reached the age of 61, I've noticed that I'm beginning to relate to Paul McCartney, the last Beatle with whom I thought I'd ever have anything in common. To me, Paul has always been the heart throb, the "cute" one, the Beatle most likely to make the teenyboppers moist (to borrow a word from Grandma Klump). I've never had any liking for that kind of idol worship so, to me, Paul has been a brilliant bass man and songwriter, but ultimately 100-percent "show biz". Ironic, too, considering he's the only Beatle I've actually met. Lately, though, I'm beginning to see him differently. I've learned that during the Beatles' peak years he was the one who was the most artistically curious. It was Paul, not John, who first experimented with tape loops and other avant garde recording techniques. Remember that the next time you play Revolution 9. Because he lived in London's Mayfair and not out in the stockbroker belt of Surrey, he made friends with the leading literaries and artists of his day, attending the theater, art gallery exhibitions, music recitals, and all of the other artistic events that go along with being a young man about town. As a musician, painter, photographer, writer, and producer, he's a modern day Renaissance man. As I get older I find I'm now looking to Paul as my mentor. He's 70 years old and he's still touring and recording. He's still doing what he loves most and he's still learning new things. He's really pretty amazing. Paul McCartney is the Beatle of my maturity. He's teaching me about aging not gracefully, but actively and consciously, doing what I love and still setting and reaching for goals.

"Some are dead and some are living,
In my life, I've loved them all."