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Excerpt from Beatles New Year's Eve op-ed

Thursday 12/8/22

Take a New Year’s Eve lesson from the pre-fame Beatles.

In the final moments of 1962, the Beatles were in one of the last places they wished to be. They were wrapping up their final club residency in Hamburg, where a form of musical teeth had been cut that were worthy of a lion’s mouth.

But Hamburg wasn’t where the Beatles believed the action was. Their first single “Love Me Do” had come out in the autumn and reached #17 in the charts. The band was anxious to get back in the studio, and throw themselves headlong into a future that they hoped would be replete with triumph upon triumph.

We tend to be a lot like those Hamburg Beatles ourselves at the end of December. We’re so often not where we wish to be, an idea that transcends geography. The thinking is, 11:59 will become 12:00, December 31 be bumped aside for January 1, and now we can get started again properly.

People often expect a kind of de facto magic with the new year replacing the old. A cosmic eraser is taken to the slate of one’s life, and room is cleared for the markings of a happier, richer annum.

The Beatles themselves would transition from a band with one pleasant-enough hit to matchless force of musical nature. 1963 would bring the release of their first two albums, as well as the “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” singles. Hell of a haul.

But perhaps the coolest thing about the Beatles was that they couldn’t stop being what they were. And when that’s true, you end up mining the most meaning even in the liminal zones of life, when we’re looking to what comes next.

We can even say that those in-between times, which have a grating knack for being down times which we wish would pass, are what allow us to be successful later.

For all of their songwriting brilliance, the Beatles wouldn’t have gotten where they did if they weren’t the tightest band on the planet. That aspect is frequently overlooked. In their four-chambered soul, they were a bar band who could blow any other competing collective straight out of the joint.

Ringo Starr had joined mere months prior, in August. The Beatles needed that final Hamburg stint. It’s almost like a football team at the end of a season where they’re not going anywhere. The squad is eliminated from the playoffs, but they give some new players and coaches a shot with their final three games, run the table, and win it all next year, which they wouldn’t have done without that liminal period.

Things in life often start earlier than we think. We get caught up in the fixed points of the calendar. A week. A month. A year. The fidelity is rough, but the surviving recordings the Beatles made around New Year’s in 1962 are as exciting as any they ever did. You can hear a lot of what they became, because they were becoming it in those dying moments of a year.


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