As the world — or at least my corner of it — celebrates today’s 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America, the best music is everywhere.
That’s ’60s rock. Hands down.
I heard “She Loves You” the other day. It was only the squintillionth time I’ve heard that defining tune, which long ago receded into whatever part of my brain is reserved for songs I will still sing along to at 96, during my final days in a nursing home.
But this time was different. Instead of bobbing almost unheard in the background, as familiar songs often do, this time I heard it with almost cosmic clarity. The joyful guitar licks, Ringo’s thumping drumming, the giddily optimistic lyrics — all rushed back, as if listening to it for the first time ever.
In fact, I first heard “She Loves You” in the winter of 1964. I was not yet a teenager, but back in those pre-helicopter-parent days I enjoyed freedom today’s kids only dream about. I rode my bike wherever I wanted; my bazillion High Point Road friends and I played outside all afternoon with no adults in sight, and when we were hungry we wandered into someone’s house and found food.
Everywhere I went, I carried my transistor radio. It was laughably large compared to today’s teeny iPods, but as 5th graders who had just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, our lives demanded a soundtrack. The Beatles — and Stones, Searchers, Freddie & the Dreamers, you name it — provided one.
I thought of all that when I heard “She Loves You.” In the winter of 6th grade, my friends and I were kings of Burr Farms Elementary School. With 11-year-old swaggers, we strode the halls certain we had all the answers to life.
In fact, we didn’t yet know who we were — or even that we should be trying to figure it out. We were blissfully clueless that — like pre-adolescents everywhere — we were ready to take off on an astonishing journey of self-discovery. Because it was the ’60s, ours was especially wild.
A couple of months earlier, President Kennedy had been killed. For a while, the nation mourned. Now we were ready to look ahead. In the chill of winter, we needed something new and bright and bold.
In 1964, the Beatles provided that breath of fresh air. Fifty years later, half the band is dead. We’re all a bit jaded; half a century has taken its toll. But for 2 minutes the other day, the joyful energy of “She Loves You” took me back to a moment when anything — all things — seemed possible.
And you know that can’t be bad.
(The Beatles’ “She Loves You,” from their 1st Ed Sullivan Show appearance on February 9, 1964. The YouTube clip shows the English version of dates. If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)