The Beatles Changed the Lives of Millions

of 1960s young people, world-wide, and mine as well

I can remember hearing “She Loves You” back in ’63-’64 on the radio, followed by a succession of hits (“I Want To Hold Your Hand” and others, the legendary Ed Sullivan show live appearances, and recall how my grade 9 classmates became instantaneous Beatles fans. Their attitudes and changes became ours as well. There was a lot of inevitability about this universal love affair album by album, through their first two movies, and the progression of their songs and sounds.

For me, four albums encapsulate the conquest and influence they had. Each one arrived at exactly the right time of teenagers growing up then in Europe and North America.

Beatlemania (1963)–my gr. 9 year (originally released as With The Beatles in England)

No, no one had ever sung or played like this; a self-sufficient band with a very big sound thanks to overdubbing and the guiding hand of producer George Martin. And they wrote their own songs. And each of them could sing. And the fantastic harmonies. Every song on the 14 number album was a direct hit.

Rubber Soul (1965)–my grade 11 year

Their first truly different album which was memorably acoustic with a somewhat folkier sound. “Michelle” and “Norwegian Wood” reveal their warmer broadening of style. I should point out that the Canadian and UK releases differed but each were landmark selections of material.

Revolver (1966)–summer before my grade 12 year

Again two different editions, but both equally fine. The mind-expanding Eastern (first pop use of East Indian instruments) and drug- (“Tomorrow Never Knows”, “She Said”) influenced album upped the ante and “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” would not be far behind as bridges to their next, legendary album.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)–summer following my grade 12 year

Generally regarded as the top rock album of all time, this featured The Beatles at their peak. Although The Who’s Tommy was the first concept album (itself a masterpiece), Sgt. featured the band’s widest swath of styles and subject matter. Harrison’s “Within You Without You” and Lennon-McCartney’s “A Day in the Life” perfectly illustrated how far they had evolved beyond a four-piece guitar band writing catchy top 40 love-song ditties. If you want to know what it felt like to wonderfully alive in 1967, this would be the must-album you have to hear.

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The First Three Audio Technologies That Influenced/Changed My Life

1. From 1951 to the early 1960s. My parents had a stand-alone radio/record player in a medium-sized cabinet. I listened to radio shows and listened to AM music stations during that time. I also played my parents’ and aunt’s 78 rpms and 45 rpms on that machine. My first 33 1/3 rpm album Live at the Peppermint Lounge with Joey Dee and the Starliters was played on that machine.

2. In 1960 when I was 10, in grade 5, I bought myself a small hand-held portable transistor radio which exposed me to top 40 music and I carried it everywhere with me up to 1966, grade 11. I would carry it with me as I delivered newspapers 12 months a year up to grade 9. I would also take it with me when going to friends’ houses. This showed me that music could go everywhere and be heard everywhere. All that was needed was money for a 9-volt battery.

3. In 1963 when I was in grade 9, my parents bought a nice Electrophone cabinet, again with radio and record player. But this one had an FM selector which introduced me to the Hootenany era and folk artists such as The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, and Peter, Paul and Mary. I first heard The Beatles in grade 9 and later the epic Doors’ “When the Music’s Over” on the same machine. At that point, my parents bought me a banjo which I never learned to play well. I followed that up with buying an introductory acoustic guitar and, in grade 10-11, I taught myself to play, eventually buying myself a Gibson acoustic which propelled me into live performances beginning in 1968, second-year university.
The Electrohome also had stereo which was a major revelation and expanded my notions about the possibilities of sound, its nuances and choices. I really enjoyed the stereo records my Dad bought through the Columbia record club. My intro to depth.

Music has been central to my life from the get-go and I still listen to a wide range of music (classical, jazz, and the old folk and rock) today. I became a performer by listening to it, singing, and playing along with recordings. I also spun records at school dances and, with more confidence, could easily have morphed into a dj about 1971-2.

I stopped performing live in 2003 though I did one gig outdoors for my daughter’s workplace in 2017. Over the years, I sang and played as a single, in duos and groups, and played live mostly plugged-in. I also wrote some 20 songs which were marketed to artists like Glen Campbell and others.

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Reply to a Friend Today about Politics and the Arts

(politics in choices for child-raising)

(the late Johnny Clegg: an example of politics via music)

(the politics of relationships in movies–John Schlesinger’s classic homosexual embrace in mainstream film)

(the political consequences of getting most of one’s information online or via social media)

(the political choice to build a fantastic human rights museum in the centre of Canada)

(the politics embedded throughout Shakespeare’s plays)

The politics throughout Orwell’s books)

With the contemporary explosion of partisanship, ubiquitous trolling, and agendas, long after civil rights, the Irish troubles, ’60s feminist protest, gay liberation, indigenous protests, the world has been forced to confront that politics is embedded in everything, everywhere. One can go back to child-raising methods issues of the ’50s and see politics as something as simple and long-standing as pink vs. blue choices for gender.
And, in the arts, politics has been pretty core going back to The Iliad, Macbeth, Shakespeare’s tragedies and histories, Dickens’s novels, Ibsen’s plays, Grapes of Wrath, Miller’s plays, Dylan’s songs, Picasso’s “Guernica”, et al.

Politics is in everything, everywhere, and ‘all’ to a large extent in human life and the arts.
“Take a position” invite most works of art. “Which side are you on?”

When you boil it all down, any person’s attitudes, ideas, values, purposes, and lifestyles proclaim positions, sides, and agendas.
The hardest thing for any individual is to remain neutral, independent, and unique even when one does not socialize much.
One is still influenced by words and views of others via social media, reading, broadcasting, and personal experience.
And there will always be the inevitable social pigeon-holing and stereotyping: “Uh, what do you do?” Society is inevitably political thru its relationships and influences on individuals. Most of our conflicts are political on some level.

So what moves, excites and interests one? What gives one’s life focus, purpose, and meaning?
The arts potentially, but politics for sure. And it is impossible to separate politics from life, living, relationships, and lifestyles.
Likewise, the arts. Like trying to separate fish from water.

And ideas are inevitably political in some way. They always reflect and express individuals’, artists’ and politicians’ ‘positions’, agendas, goals, and politics.


Coda: Exceptions to ‘The Rule’

Some examples of spontaneous, natural and neutral stuff:

(sharing a good laugh and other emotions and live in-person experiences)

(the beauty of Nature)

(much ‘pictorial’ art)

(‘pure music’/instrumental music aimed at affecting feelings, moods, the spirit or soul)

(simple, basic human survival and endurance in the moment)

(long-time childhood friends; at a 100th school anniversary)

(true loves of our lives: the early days)


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“The Night of the Iguana” Movie (1964)

(2006 Warner Bros./Turner DVD, 117 mins.)

Ah, the inimitable Tennessee Williams at the height of his fame. Shannon (Richard Burton) is a womanizing defrocked minister turned Mexican tour guide (a wonderfully politically incorrect rendition of a male-chauvinist woman-magnet) who lands at a run-down resort with a busload of women and who has to deal with a nubile teaser (played by Sue Lyon), a ‘loose woman’ hotel- widow-owner (played with depth) by Ava Gardner and by New England spinster-artist Hannah (played memorably by Deborah Kerr–she is the most unique character of the four stars). Hannah’s 90+ handicapped-poet-grandfather is well-acted as well by Grayson Hall; his powerful recitation of his final poem is the first climax of the play’s/film’s theme.

The appropriately black-and-white movie is skilfully directed by John Huston who gave each main actor a derringer and bullets with the other actors’ names on them as a tone-setter for the film’s shooting! He also forced them to travel by skiff to a peninsula every shooting day.

Spoilers: The iguana is the main symbol of Shannon and his ‘freeing’ from his worst self coincides with the freeing of the iguana. But his freedom is not the only one. Sue Lyon’s character goes off with the bus driver, Gardner’s character and Burton’s join together as proprietors of the hotel, and Kerr’s character goes off to sell her quick sketches in a nearby village after she is freed by her grandfather’s death. And it largely, and significantly, Hannah who changes the life of Shannon and Gardner’s character in the end.

Tennessee Williams’ work is more of an acquired taste than ever these daze, but Iguana is well-worth the effort for its truthful observations on endurance, salvation, and its views of relationships and those of men and women. Offbeat, strangely realistic, and highly recommended for those re-examining personal gender roles and possibilities.

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Happiness: Practical Hints

47 of them in this month’s Reader’s Digest (Canada). Recommended reading.

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Keeping Hands Clean When Gassing up the Car

Buy a pair of those ubiquitous cheapo fabric gloves found in grocery stores or stores like London Drugs. Put them by the driver’s seat door. Use them when you gas up. These also make practical gifts for birthdays or Christmas.

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Easiest Way to Keep a Poppy On:

Tear off an eraser head from a pencil. Stick the poppy pin into the eraser on the inside of your clothing.

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How We Mishear Things

The tv ad for “Shaw Blue Curve”.
When I first heard the service advertised, I thought the speaker said “Frau Blucher” (as in the character from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein).

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Wooden Steps and Porches

defy reason on cold frosty days of winter. I recall my first encounter with them working as a paper boy in 1959-60. Many of the homes in my St. James neighborhood of Wallasey St. and Thompson Dr. had old-fashioned steps and porches which were an adventure to stay upright on. Probably my first fall led to a quick education about how ice coats wood in frigid temperatures. I imagine a lot of seniors and kids fell on those steps and porches in winter.

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The ‘No Stone Left Alone’ Initiative

whereby school children go to cemeteries to leave poppies on deceased soldiers’ graves is an excellent way to honour the dead who fought in wars to safeguard our country, other countries, and the world.

For me, this is a significant, meaningful practice of Remembrance that brings the generations together, and an appreciation of context and history. Today, overall, there simply isn’t much perception, understanding, and appreciation of the past and of history in general. People’s sites, including many young people, are focused mainly on the personal here-and-now, hand-held technology, or the future, not the past.

But it is common sense to remember we enjoy our freedoms and comforts largely because of the way some made a choice to serve and give up their lives for Canada and families. To them, we owe thanks for the privileges, comforts, and prosperity many people just take for granted.

Death and life go side-by-side all through life. In Canada, our holidays and occasions often coincide with death; at Easter, on Canada Day, but especially on Remembrance Day. Wearing a poppy in the first half of November, donating to veterans’ funds, attending or viewing the November ceremonies are marks of respect, understanding, and appreciation of the dead and the military. ‘No stone left alone’ is an effective, noble, respectful, memorable way for the young to pay their own homage to the dead and those who served.

(my father on the left, about 18-19, when he served in the Canadian Navy in WW II)

We were all young once, even those who served in wars.

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