(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 â€“ I think there was a cover of â€œWhyÂ Donâ€™t You Smile Now,â€ a song by a pre-Velvets Lee Reed band â€“ but I do remember our name: the Fiendish Thingees.
Pop trivia question: Whereâ€™d that name come from?
Bingo Ringo: A â€œfiendish thingyâ€ 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 â€“ 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 Dayâ€™s Night, is widely considered the antecedent of music video (â€œShow me the blood test!â€ says Lester in the documentary disc that accompanies the DVD). As Iâ€™ve mentioned before, I rented it for my five-year-old son, and now, heâ€™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, â€œHelp! I need somebody/ Help, not just anybody.â€
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 didnâ€™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 Oâ€™Brien saying that â€œthe Beatlesâ€™ music possessed a beauty so singular it might almost be called underrated.â€ As the filmmaker notes, itâ€™s absurd to call the most-acclaimed group in history underrated, and yet, so it is. Iâ€™ve heard these songs a million times â€“ and admittedly, for years, even decades, I hadnâ€™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 itâ€™s not very blogoteric new-discovery coolhuntery to write, in 2008, about the Beatles. But I believe that, as in literature, itâ€™s always important to go back to the classics, and pop music simply does not get any better than â€œTicket to Rideâ€ (that syncopation!), â€œYouâ€™ve Got to Hide Your Love Awayâ€ (most beautiful sad song ever?), â€œYouâ€™re Gonna Lose That Girlâ€ (those harmonies), [your favorite Beatles song here].
It was Ringoâ€™s birthday earlier this week, and he had a wish: for everyone to make the peace sign and say, â€œPeace and love.â€ Very â€˜60s, but also, very today.