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The Freedom of Music: Splitting the Beatles

April 24th, 2011
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freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

April 11, 1970. It was a warm day, as I recall it. Quite warm for mid April. It must have been a weekend, else why else was I at home in the afternoon? My dad was working outside, and the windows were down on his old dodge while he listened to the radio, CFRB – radio for squares.fluffposter01sample1

The news came on and the announcer reported, “The Beatles announced yesterday they have officially broken up.” Paul McCartney had issued a press release.

My thought was, ‘Good. Now I won’t have to hear about Beatles this and Beatles that all the time. I don’t like their music anyway.’

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

In my defense, I was six, and all I really knew about The Beatles was from hearing people talk about them, and people seemed to rather go on about them. Bear in mind as well, I was living with people who listened to “radio for squares.”

It wouldn’t be too many years before I realized Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, a song I would run around the house singing, was The Beatles. And Octopus’s Garden, which I knew from a cartoon that was regularly on TV, hey that too was The Beatles. And before you knew it I discovered that in fact, I did like their music.

But at least people would stop talking about them.

When I was 12, I started learning to play guitar. Up the road from our house was a place with a Japanese family, including two guys who were late teens or early twenties. They were in a band and had a stack of amplifiers against their basement wall. I specifically remember a Gibson SG guitar, although there must have been other instruments. I became friendly with the guitar player, who blew me away with his ability to learn a song, by ear, in about half an hour – a skill I had never even imagined before that.

“The Beatles weren’t just a great band,” my guitar playing friend told me. “They changed the world: they changed how people dressed, how they cut their hair, even how they thought. And they introduced drugs into mainstream culture.”

Here it is, six years since the break-up, and people are still talking about the Beatles. Like I said, wrong, wrong and wrong.

In fact, as I moved into my rock and roll years, The Beatles individually would be as influential as they were collectively 10 years earlier. In the early to mid 70’s The Beatles were everywhere, making music that was comparable to their best. John Lennon did Imagine, Paul McCartney Band on the Run, George Harrison was big with My Sweet Lord and What is Life, even Ringo was singing Photograph – co-written by Harrison (although You’re Sixteen is kind of creepy in retrospect).

So much for the end of the Beatles. Despite Paul’s press release, and later the flying lawsuits, The Beatles were very much a going concern.

April 11, 1970. Marked on the calendar as the day I was wrong, wrong and wrong.


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