Monday, July 12, 2010

In My Life

Way back in high school and into college, I was very fond of the pop/rock band Cheap Trick, so much so that I even bought one of their imitation silk tour jackets. When they recorded a cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper," I was happy to presume that this somehow elevated them among their peers and moved them one step closer to their inspirations on the Rock and Roll Pantheon. Having grown up in a household in which the Beatles were the alpha and the omega, it made my fanaticism for this little band from Rockford, Illinois more legitimate. When they went on to record an entire album, "All Shook Up," with the Fab Four's legendary producer, George Martin. They even went so far as to open the record with the same chord that played at the end of "A Day In The Life." I felt that I was happily attaching my wagon to the next big thing.
Little did I know at the time that the next big thing wasn't going to be Cheap Trick. Or Boston. Or AC/DC. The era that could support a cultural phenomenon like the Beatles was over. Even the solo albums from John, Paul, George and Ringo failed to whip the world into the frenzy that their recordings as a group once did. Very few artists cite one of their major musical influences as "Wings At The Speed Of Sound." Cheap Trick never attempted a note-for-note cover of any of the Plastic Ono Band albums, as they did with Sergeant Pepper. But I listened to them all, and waited for the next big thing.
Until I stopped. Saturday night, I went to AT&T Park and sat in the upper deck to watch one quarter of the Fab Four run through his career. The cute one played from a catalog that spanned nearly fifty years. I knew all but the most recent tunes by heart, but the ones that the crowd consumed most readily were those from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. These were the ones that people could sing and remember where they were when they first heard them. They could remember wearing out vinyl albums from repeated plays. They could remember having a favorite Beatle. For three hours on Saturday night, Paul was my favorite, and as he played, I watched from my lofty perch and tried to make him a real person. He was there in front of me, but the gigantic images of his grooviness projected on the video screens on either side of the stage kept pulling me back. That was the size of a Beatle: Oversized. Enormous. Super. In my mind, I could rationalize being in close physical proximity to this force, this phenomenon. But my gaze kept slipping back to those video screens. I could not fully reconcile my image of Sir Paul as a sixty-eight year old speck of a man standing in front of a bank of speakers bigger than my house. He was that kid strumming away at his Hofner Bass next to his mates from Liverpool at Candlestick Park, just down the highway from where I was sitting. The last time the Beatles played live.
Now I was here, and so was he, and Cheap Trick was nowhere to be seen. It was him and all those memories. I thought of my older brother, who once did the now impossibly generous favor of bequeathing me his "old" Beatles records, most of which were on the Apple label, so that he could buy himself newer, more pristine copies. I thought of the jukeboxes that we loaded up with our nickels and dimes to play "Hello, Goodbye" and "The Long And Winding Road." I thought of the hundreds of times we called KIMN to request "Yellow Submarine." I thought about how desperate I was to have that last dance at my ninth grade prom to "Let It Be." Now I had come back to the mountain. I looked and listen with a mixture of awe and familiarity. I sang along. At the top of my lungs. It made me laugh and cry. It made me keep looking back at that oversized video screen. It was just the right size for a Beatle.


LauraF. said...

You should consider seeing Cheap Trick perform "Sgt. Pepper" at Paris Las Vegas. Ya get The Beatles and Cheap Trick all in one. It's an awesome show. I'll be going back in Sept to catch it again. Glad you enjoyed Sir Paul.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the very next night, I was snapping pictures of Cheap Trick at close range in NYC...