Sunday column: Beatlemania is back

A few weeks back, former flower children and hippies everywhere were reliving Woodstock as the nation celebrated the 40th anniversary of that little concert in the cow pasture.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of perhaps an even bigger event in music history, however … the last live performance by a little foursome known as The Beatles. That year, 1969, also marked their last album, “Abbey Road.”

That’s right … it’s been 40 years now since The Beatles have done anything new, yet it’s hard to watch commercials without hearing a Beatles song, listening to the radio without hearing a Beatles-influenced tune and still difficult to meet somebody (all generations, all races) who doesn’t know a Beatles song.

What’s incredible is the window of time The Beatles had to forever change pop and rock music. Seven years.

They hit it big in the U.K. in 1962, and in seven years, they went from mop-topped suit-wearing youngsters to psychedelic, beard-growing rock veterans. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” somehow morphed into “Get Back.” “Love Me Do” to “I Am the Walrus.”

I was born seven years after The Beatles’ break-up, around the time John Lennon was giving the world “Imagine,” and Paul McCartney was leading Wings. I’ve often wondered what it was like to grow up in the 60s and “experience” the release of a new Beatles album or to hear a new Beatles song on the radio for the first time. Long before the days of Internet leaks and iTunes sneak-peeks, the public heard The Beatles through vinyl, through the airwaves and in film … great, great films, by the way.

But I’m lucky in that I grew up the son of a big Beatles fan — my dad. He was 10 when John, Paul, George and Ringo landed at JFK Airport and soon after, performed on Ed Sullivan. He was a a teen when The Beatles matured into their “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sergeant Pepper’s” days. He was in his early 20s when his first son was born, and it wasn’t long before he started playing Beatles music around him (and a bunch of forgettable nonsense from the late 70s, early 80s … but The Beatles stuck).

I always appreciated them, but it wasn’t until I matured that I became a big fan. Back in 2000, the compilation album “1” was released, featuring every No. 1 single ever released. The purchase of that album turned me from casual Beatles fan to all-out devotee. I’ve since delved deeper into their catalog and discovered songs like “Hey, Bulldog,” “Glass Onion” and “Norweigan Wood.”

And I’m still discovering.

I’m glad to see Beatlemania is alive today, as Wednesday marks the biggest day in Beatles history since that 2000 release (or the 1995 release of “Free as a Bird”). “Beatles Rockband,” the Fab Four version of the hit video game, hits stores on 09/09/09, and if it has half the success of games like Rockband and Guitar Hero, it will mean millions of tweens, teens and 20-somethings will not only be hearing digitally remastered Beatles tunes … they’ll be playing and singing along.

I’m beyond excited about the game, so much so that I’m bugging my 37-weeks pregnant wife to forget the money we’ve been saving for the newborn and splurge on a new Playstation (one that supports this game). I think I’m wearing her down … perhaps I’ll ask again while she’s in labor.

You can be sure it will be a game I’ll introduce to my daughter as soon as she’s able to get her fingers around those colorful buttons. Already, I’m considering The Beatles “Rock-a-bye” lullabies CD, which I discovered after a friend got us the Radiohead version (it’s sleepy, baby versions of these songs … and it’s actually pretty good).

I think my dad will be proud to see his influence will be passed on to my young ones. And he’ll agree with me that if our world ever hits a generation where The Beatles have been all but forgotten, it just won’t be a better world.


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