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Red Album/Beatles book excerpt

Tuesday 6/20/23

Falling in love with a musical act may take many forms. Love always requires a choice to go deeper, if it is truly love, but first the heart must be alerted that here could be something worthy of affection and devotion. That opening chord doubles as estimable tip-off, for it’s a hell of a chord.

With music, that can be a song you hear precisely when you need to hear it at a stage in your life. A day when you need to hear it. (Or the actual concluding chord of "A Day in the Life," for that matter.) There may be a personal, emotional attachment. A friend loans you a record and the entirety of its forty minutes hit every last part of you in such a way that you sit there playing the thing again and again, unsure of how many official times it’s been.

To fall in love with a piece of music is a form of romance. We never forget our first loves, either, whether it was that Kindergarten classmate of ours whose dexterity on the teeter-totter outpaced our own, or that compilation, the mere mention of which causes the heart to relay to the brain that now might be a fine time for another listen.

Everyone who loves the music of the Beatles has a story about how they came to love them. A stoner friend in high school introduced them to the White Album. They turned on the TV one night and there were the lads larger than small screen, black and white life on The Ed Sullivan Show. “Penny Lane” started playing on the car radio during an otherwise routine Saturday drive to grandma’s and a child discovered that life would never again be what it had been before those three amazing minutes.

If one was not there when the Beatles happened, coming along later as so many fans have, there’s a strong chance that the so-called Red Album, released in 1973, is both their point of romantic entry and the one that the most amount of people have in common.

There’s the Blue Album, too, released that same year, but presented with both—and given that a person is likelier to be hooked on melody before anything else, musically-speaking—those selections from 1962 to 1966 carry the live-long listening day like few, if any, curated collections of songs do.

The Beatles as an active band had been gone for thirty percent of a decade by that time. Or, put another way, the span of years from A Hard Day’s Night to Sgt. Pepper, or “Please Please Me” to “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

The musical world would have seemed like it had slowed down without the Beatles in it. Along came these reminders of what the Beatles had been, which also suggested what the Beatles could be for anyone going forward as the kind of listener who falls in love with what they love again and again.

Such is the way of all successful romantic relationships, and the Red Album, in particular, seemed to understand precisely how this is so in the musical sense. Love may always be just beginning, no matter how far back it goes.

* from Just Like Them: A Piece by Piece Guide to Becoming the Ultimate Thinking Person's Beatles Fan


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