Not Just Anybody

(Originally published on MOLI 7/10/8)

Many moons ago, I was in a band. My friend Michelle played bass, my boyfriend Jeff played guitars and sang, my roommate Paige drummed, and I played guitar and sang. We only had one gig, a going-away party for Michelle and me, who were embarking on a two-month road trip around the States; shortly after our return, we moved from Providence to Minneapolis and New York respectively. The, er, smoke has clouded my memory of the few songs we played – I think there was a cover of “Why Don’t You Smile Now,” a song by a pre-Velvets Lee Reed band – but I do remember our name: the Fiendish Thingees.

Pop trivia question: Where’d that name come from?

Bingo Ringo: A “fiendish thingy” is what George Harrison called an explosive device that was curled at the Beatles in the classic Richard Lester movie Help!

Paige and I were obsessed with this deadpan, madcap adventure – probably had something to do with that aforementioned smoke. Recently, I got to revisit my love for the flick that, along with the earlier Lester-Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night, is widely considered the antecedent of music video (“Show me the blood test!” says Lester in the documentary disc that accompanies the DVD). As I’ve mentioned before, I rented it for my five-year-old son, and now, he’s a Beatlemaniac.

It is one of the deepest pleasures of my adult life to hear my son singing in his wee little earnest voice, “Help! I need somebody/ Help, not just anybody.”

The Beatles were one of the first groups I got obsessed with as a kid myself (there was also the Jackson Five). They were already broken up even back then, but it didn’t matter: There was something timeless about those million-dollar melodies and their cheeky, appealing personalities. In the liner notes for the Help! DVD, Martin Scorcese quotes the critic Geoffrey O’Brien saying that “the Beatles’ music possessed a beauty so singular it might almost be called underrated.” As the filmmaker notes, it’s absurd to call the most-acclaimed group in history underrated, and yet, so it is. I’ve heard these songs a million times – and admittedly, for years, even decades, I hadn’t bothered to play a Beatles disc. But rehearing them now with Cole, the sheer number of perfect compositions is overwhelming. Even a five-year-old can tell.

I know it’s not very blogoteric new-discovery coolhuntery to write, in 2008, about the Beatles. But I believe that, as in literature, it’s always important to go back to the classics, and pop music simply does not get any better than “Ticket to Ride” (that syncopation!), “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (most beautiful sad song ever?), “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” (those harmonies), [your favorite Beatles song here].

It was Ringo’s birthday earlier this week, and he had a wish: for everyone to make the peace sign and say, “Peace and love.” Very ‘60s, but also, very today.

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Filed under Cute Thing Cole Did, Populism

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