Sunday, January 29, 2006

To Beatle or not to Beatle...

So many ways to appreciate the Beatles. So many stupid, depressing, milquetoasty, hyper-nostalgic, counter-evolutionary ways to appreciate the Beatles. Still, the simple pleasures of great songs and the players who played them survive.

Since the world continues to bestow them with such exalted status, well then, the very least you can do is find interesting ways of making them relevant. What meaning the Beatles should have on a cultural level today, I have no idea, maybe none other than a loosely connected web of personal meanings. In which case, what they mean to y-o-u personally is something to wrestle with, since it is a given that y-o-u will be hearing their music for the rest of your life in passing cars, and shopping malls, and finally, when you start buying music for your kids. Why not reclaim their sonic waves to further your own cause, rather than allowing them to further evaporate into marketing vapidity? Does it upset you to see them endlessly repackaged and watered down for new profits? Not that the Beatles ever had any real fangs - their mission to change the world, to promote love and peace, was as safe as it was superficially contagious. But like royalty, they did seem somehow above the ugly marketing clusterfuck that strips most endeavors of their soul and erotic power over us. Oh yesterday came suddenly.

If you estimate that they wrote around 200+ songs over eight years (1962-70), is it safe to assume that most people know 100 of them by heart? 50-100 let's say. As aspects of the public consciousness, each of those songs represents something unique to each of us - a personal state of being, a signifier of specific memories and emotional triggers. These can be curated, updated, honed and factored into your "present" so that they may color a moment, give expression a psychic condition, or spark your immediate aspirations in powerful ways. Sonic vitamins for your will. Cookie cutters for your chaos.

If you take stock in the calculus of the band itself: the archetypal characters feeding off of (and destroying) one another, you may occasionally find reason to invoke the well documented power dynamics of this quartet into your own group situations. Here's the inevitable roll call: John, the self-absorbed, reluctant, orphan-king (who had the good sense to die first and leave the others to the legacy business), Paul, the miserly raw talent rooted in cotton-candy, George, the curiously materialistic young soul miner, and Ringo the coddled Mexican day-laborer with a heart of gold. Recall the interweaving of egos and then the bitchy ungluing of what was the original boy band... The growing up and the sad solo aftermath, the supposed liberation from infantile mop-topdom that actually lead to many forgettable and anemic snores across the 70's. The parts were not the sum.

Is it even possible to re-process what the Beatles mean? All these sounds, these images, these archetypes, the rise and fall, the childhood singalongs and the eventual disassociation... All these layers? Is there a keyhole somewhere hidden in the well-worn scum of tired mythology that surrounds these latter day insects? Or is the whole thing best forgotten?


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