When I was a very little girl, my family went to London and my dad and his brother Hugh took all of us kids to see Yellow Submarine at a large fancy cinema in Picadilly Circus.
It’s hard for me to picture now. My former RAF Dad and my debonair British uncle, wandering around swingin’ London surrounded by a gaggle of tiny children watching a ridiculous animated psychedelic romp. But I can’t put this too strongly: it was the most memorable moment of my entire childhood. A year later, the film came to the US and my family went again, and as we walked out of the theater I can still remember how aggrieved I felt. “They shouldn’t have taken out the ‘Hey Bulldog’ sequence,” I griped.
I was 5 years old and I had found my calling.
It should be noted that at this time, my family was already full on obsessed with the Beatles. Indeed, I simply cannot stress how important they were to all of us. We didn’t own a television set, but on the days they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, my parents would rent one. Roxanne, the older girl around the corner, had informed us we all had to have “a Beatle.” Hers was Paul, my sister had John, Corry had George and I had Ringo. They actually had me dress up as Ringo on Halloween – being a baby, I had the right sugar bowl haircut, even – and when our guinea pigs had children they were inevitably named for the Fab Four.
Years passed and history happened and the Beatles faded from the zeitgeist, like four Cheshire cats, leaving only their smiles. When John died, we mourned. When George died, my brother, then working in Options on the stock exchange in New York City, texted me: “My Beatle is dead,” and I wept again. George was the only Beatle I had ever seen perform live, at the Albert Hall in London at a surprise benefit for the TM candidate for Parliament when I was over there covering a different band. My cousin Jeff got me on the press list and it was indeed transcendental. That year I saw Nirvana perform 7 times at the height of their power but George Harrison’s Albert Hall concert was for me the highlight.
In other words the Beatles were the most important element in my musical upbringing, and I think it was remembering that show that made me want to see Ringo Starr this week. I knew he was going to be accompanied by some musicians from bands that I don’t appreciate – to say the least – but there are times in our life when it’s just worth it to throw caution to the wind. Plus, it was my cousin Jennifer’s birthday. After the Congressional Hearings on Thursday, we both felt that seeing a Beatle sing silly love songs from our youth might be the only possible antidote to our existential sadness and – preview of coming attractions – we were right.
|Venue. Sept 28, 2018.|
Ringo Starr has been touring for years, always accompanied by an “All Starr Band” who play their own hits while he drums along. (Full disclosure: there’s a second drummer on stage as well, filling in the gaps. Just like with the Grateful Dead. Or the Butthole Surfers.) In the past, this tour has included such luminaries as Bruce Springsteen, Todd Rundgren, Levon Helm, Ginger Baker, Dave Edmunds and Jeff Lynne, but on this tour, we were serenaded by members of Santana, Toto, Men at Work and 10CC. I know, right? Well, you can’t have everything and our hope was that 10CC would cancel Toto out. Also, it may just be a thing for my family and me, but Jennifer and I enjoyed hearing the songs we hated almost as much as the ones we loved.
And the funny thing was, the show was split evenly between the two. Our agonized cries of “Oh god…not Rosanna!” and out howls at the opening notes of the hell spawned hit “Africa” were offset by sudden moments of the sublime, as when Graham Gouldman sang “I’m Not In Love” or when Ringo stepped forward to sing “Photograph.” Those songs rose well above the scrum and really made the night. “I’m Not In Love” is definitely one of the top songs of all time ever – a fact agreed to by everyone on my Facebook page – and “The Things We Do For Love” is not far behind. As for “A Little Help From My Friends,” while I am sure we can all think of Beatles songs we like a lot more, there is something about the sound of Sergeant Pepper that really soothes a careworn soul.
Careworn we were. Who wasn't, last Friday? But even so, despite the dreaded presence of Toto and Greg Rollie, whose fretwork I don't appreciate, Jennifer and I had a great time. It was just like being at a sing-song at a pub in Liverpool, complete with the drunken revelry. But another thing we liked about this show was that it made us feel really young. The only people younger than us were the children, or more likely the grandchildren, of audience members, who were running around in the aisles and who sang lustily along with “Yellow Submarine.” Another thing we liked was that we knew all the words to every song. We played name that tune with each other – and as you can probably imagine, in my family that game is perpetually a lightening round.
The whole thing was like stepping into a jukebox stocked with bad hits from the 1970s, or maybe seeing a cover band at a bar in Missoula, or a jam session by your kid’s high school math teachers, like the one I saw in my hometown last week, only on that occasion they played songs by the Pixies and Metallica, which was frankly preferable song selection. '70s rock is just so degraded – the sonic equivalent of a cheap orange plastic Halloween cup with a pumpkin face that lights up carved on the bottom – but man, songs were hooky in those days! You would be surprised. Like, there’s this song by Toto called “Hold the Line,” I haven’t thought about it in a million years, but I knew its name and every word before three notes were up. Will the same be true in 2040 when members of 21 Pilots and Muse are doing some similar type tour? I think not.
And even if that were to happen, I’m not sure who would play host. Who, in 2040, will have the emcee status of an actual Beatle? Who on the planet even has that status now? Watching Ringo Starr, one is struck by two things. First, he looks and acts incredible for age 78: we could hardly believe Wikipedia when we looked it up. Second, and more importantly, is the incredible history that the Bin our minds as well. Watching Ringo Starr perform on the occasion of Jennifer’s birthday made us thankful that we were born into an era during which we were able to participate so fully in their existence.