When I finally moved from Anthology to the "real" Beatles records, I started with Revolver. [Wait, no. I did not just start with Revolver. Read the Preamble for a good post-Anthology, pre-Revolver story.] The album with the intricate line drawing for a cover is often regarded next to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as the best Beatles album and best rock album of all time. Of course, I didn't know that. I wasn't even 12 years old, so I didn't know or care what other people thought about The Beatles (except when my friends talked about their favorite music; I hadn't listened much to Coldplay or Blink-182, so it was hard to identify with them). I just knew that I liked the music, and I listened to the album over and over, just as I had listened to outtakes of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away."
Revolver was oddly formative in my memory:
- I listened to the album for the first time in the basement, with my dad and (I think) my brother present. "Taxman" was snarky (and quite similar to the Anthology version!), "Eleanor Rigby" was... well, "Eleanor Rigby" in all its glory, and "I'm Only Sleeping," like the Anthology cut, gave me a vocabulary to express my affinity for the dream state. The next song, however, my dad skipped over. It was "Love You To," and I can't blame him for not wanting his 12-year-old son to hear about people who "make love singing songs." It was The Beatles, though, and while I obeyed and skipped over the song every time it came up, some other song was bound to subvert it.
- One time, I played with Lego sets in my brother's room, and I remember projecting myself onto the minifigures, vrooming a car across the carpet, and looking out the window to the backyard as... "Doctor Robert" played in the background. I wasn't playing with a doctor minifigure, I wasn't vrooming an ambulance, and I didn't act out the critiques of the National Health Service to which I was oblivious until I studied in London. There was no connection at all between the toys and the song. However, it's still a very strong memory.
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" will never, ever, ever leave my head. Even the pared-down Anthology version is good, and I would later learn how revolutionary its lyrics and use of instruments and tracking were. In middle and high school, though, is when the song really became a part of me. When I couldn't fall asleep quickly, I would sometimes set up my stereo to play for 20 minutes before turning itself off. In those 20 minutes, I would play the last three songs on the album, and so I would be closest to sleep when "Tomorrow Never Knows" would come up. "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream," indeed. (Well, until REM sleep, when your mind turns back on.)
... I haven't gotten into watching Mad Men, but I really want to see the "Lady Lazarus" episode.
For a little while, Revolver was the only proper Beatles record I heard. Receiving 1 for a birthday or Christmas sometime before eighth grade was my next step, and it caught me up with every single that had reached the top of the charts and, thus, the songs that people were probably most familiar with. On it, I heard "Eight Days a Week," "Day Tripper," and "Paperback Writer" for the first time, so for a while, I thought I was sufficiently educated. (Y'know, besides missing the blatant drug reference in the term "tripper." I took the reference to Sunday driver literally.)
Then came The Beatles (aka The White Album).
Fortunately, I got it not long after 1, so I wasn't resting on my laurels for long. I skipped some of the songs ("Yer Blues" was way too depressing), but, just like everything that had happened before, I otherwise consumed the hell out of it. I wanted to visit every Soviet territory from "Back In The USSR;" I wanted to meet a girl named Julia so I could sing her that song (before I found out John was singing to his mother); I wanted to be either a blackbird or "Mother Nature's Son;" I witnessed my dad's skip over "Love You To" being blatantly subverted by "Why Don't We Do It In The Road;" and I was tickled by the campiness of "Piggies," "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey," and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill."
And, of course, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I mean, DAMN.
This time, though, I was much more willing to share the love. I thought of using "Good Night" to put kids to sleep when I babysat, and I used the album to show a friend during freshman year of high school that The Beatles are SO MUCH BETTER than a fake band like The Monkees could ever be. (I was shocked, SHOCKED!, that someone could think a band made for TV was better than The Greatest Band That Ever Played.)
After this, Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper came in quick succession. More on those in the next post, but here, I must end with an example of how far I still had to go to know everything Beatles.
It helps, when you have an obsession over something old, to have someone to share it with. My dad started my obsession, and he educated me well, but much of the assurance that the obsession was okay came from someone my own age who had developed the same love for The Beatles that I had. He had listened to Past Masters at an early age, while I wouldn't find myself listening to it until freshman year of college (!).
One day, some time after listening to him play the piano, we talked about that most awesome of bands. Eventually, he asked me, "What do you think of 'Rain?'"
Surprised at myself, I said, "I haven't even heard of it."
"What?? You should! It's one of their greatest songs! Everybody loves it."
There was a Beatles song I didn't know?! I was flabbergasted. But I didn't go looking for it immediately; I got distracted, and while I knew the title was one simple word, I went on for years thinking the word was something like, "Go," and I never found a Beatles song named "Go." (I also wasn't convinced enough that it was called "Go" to look very hard.) It wasn't until Past Masters that I could wholeheartedly agree with him.
More on that journey next week.