Hell of a title, isn’t it? Stick with me, please.
I was just barely 9 years old when Meet The Beatles was first released. I remember the fuss about them, my sister and her friend from next door made a point of us all having to watch Ed Sullivan to see them. I always basically did whatever my sister told me to do in those days, so I watched them. I remember the screaming from the audience, I remember that they highlighted each member in turn, superimposing their first names. I remember them playing I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You…I remember their mop top head and hair shake with a mutual “Wooooo!” *
Sometime later I remember being in Vancouver somewhere with my sister and my grandmother, walking past a record store and seeing the Meet The Beatles album displayed. I remember thinking I wished we could buy it, but we were kind of poor, and I didn’t ask. Astonishingly to me, I don’t think I ever heard the whole album in one sitting until just a couple years ago.
So I’ve got the earbuds in, listening to the album, and it’s just absolutely terrific. The enthusiasm. The clean, live-in-the studio sound. Those voices. Energy, talent, intelligence…all pouring forth with such deceptive simplicity.
Of course the Beatles were already seasoned professionals at this point, caught up, engulfed and probably overwhelmed by more success than they ever could have imagined or even wanted. But they were still kids in a sense, adults still young enough to express that special combination of longing, joy, desire and impatience that belongs to us all for such an awfully brief time.
And, boy, they don’t waste any time, either. There are 12 songs here and you can play the whole album in about 27 minutes. You’d almost think it was a Greatest Hits album, with only the ballad, “Till There Was You,” that is at all weak. I say weak only because it’s got an old timey feel to it, a song that might have been sung by Bing Crosby or Pat Boone.
I’m also struck once again by how prolific great talent is, especially at the point where it first becomes refined enough to be recognized. The Beatles, especially in the years 1963 through 1965, and not slowing down all that much during the rest of the sixties, filled their albums with tremendous performances time after time. They learned lessons, mastered them, twisted them, advanced them, discarded them and taught them. You know, somewhere along the line we all stop learning, get cautious. But so long as the group was still together, they never really lost it and were still growing…and finally growing apart.
About that output…In a documentary about George Harrison I was amused at a story he told about the years after they stopped touring. He said that he and John and Ringo would often just be getting together and smoking dope, just hanging out. Eventually the phone would ring and they’d all say, “Oh, there’s Paul, bugging us to get down to the studio, get to work.” As George recounts, “If it wasn’t for Paul, we wouldn’t have put out anywhere near as much music as we did.” Something like that, anyway.
I didn’t actually want to write an article about the Beatles but I sort of got sidetracked as I listened to the album. This article is really about the second part of the title, “Following A Path To God The Prime Programmer.” I wanted to write about that feeling I noted earlier:
“…they were still kids in a sense, adults still young enough to express that special combination of longing, joy, desire and impatience that belongs to us all for such an awfully brief time.”
That’s what I wanted to write about, that time in our lives that mostly takes place between the onset of puberty and maybe, at most, the age of 25 or possibly 30. That time is not about reflection or re-examination. It’s not about preparing for your retirement. It’s not about apologizing for your feelings or your actions, not really. It’s about what you want, about thinking of things and then doing them. Doing them Right Now.
You don’t worry about making your bed or finding a cleaner shirt. It’s about wanting something and getting it, or wanting something and not getting it. It’s about the aching frustration of wanting without even knowing what you want. It’s about the exultation of a lover’s kiss, over and over and over.
It’s about anger, sometimes, and about laughter, sometimes. ‘Pain more painful, laughter much louder.’** It’s about finding new ideas in your head every day or even every hour.
At that very moment, and it really is just a moment, we are at the gate to a path to god the great programmer, a time when it’s all in front of us, when everything and nothing is possible.
And then, sadly and crushingly, we begin to make choices. With bitterness or perhaps just resignation, we realize that we cannot even refuse to make choices because even that is a choice. And every choice we make diminishes our opportunities.
Someday we meet god, a god of some sort, a final destination of our own choices and of those that were made for us. Someday we die and that’s all she wrote. I am not a churchgoing man. I don’t believe in religion, particularly. But I believe that in spite of that I have a spiritual side.
What harm is there in imagining what it all means? I think we start out on a path of infinite opportunities and whittle it down till all that is left is you, dying. Logically, in my logic, all of the paths take us to same destination. The one where the luckiest are satisfied, where most of us at least come to acceptance.
So right now I am not listening to the Beatles. I’m listening to Tom Cochrane singing No Regrets. Awesome performance. It’s not really similar to Meet The Beatles…more advanced, really, the recording not so primitive but you know, it still touches on the same thing. This is what rock is all about, tapping into that fantastic feeling of really, truly being alive.
Gary Fletcher – October 21, 2017
* My memories here are pretty good, surprisingly. As I wrote this I suddenly thought to look up that performance online and found this:
Beatles First Time On Ed Sullivan
They actually performed four songs, in two segments during the show. You know what? Watching this, all these many years later, was almost heartbreaking. I’m a bit taken aback to realize how sentimental I am.
** Eric Burdon / The Animals, ‘When I Was Young’