While too many memories from my youth have slipped into the foggy recesses of my mind, one is still pretty clear to me.
I can recall quite specifically the sights and sounds — and exactly how I felt — during the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 1980, when I woke in the darkness to the sound of Beatles music in the air.
I remember 9-year-old me getting out of bed and making my way downstairs, where my parents were sitting in the living room with the stereo on. It made no sense to me why they would be up so early listening to music until I heard the news: Some evil piece of disgusting trash had murdered John Lennon.
The assassination, which included shooting the most peace loving Beatle of all the peace loving Beatles in the back four times (out of five shots), took place the evening before, around 11 p.m. Dec. 8, near the entryway of the Dakota in New York City where Lennon lived with his wife Yoko Ono and then five-year-old son, Sean.
The event shook me in a way I had not been shaken prior to that. It was, in fact, my first go around with personal loss. The first time someone who had meant a lot to me had died.
It was — and still is — a significant moment in my history because music has always been an extremely important part of my life.
I can say without a doubt my journey to becoming a musician started with The Beatles albums my parents gave me when I was a young lad spinning vinyl on an old record player in my bedroom. Back then record players weren’t “hip,” but instead, one of the only ways to listen to recorded music.
I was born too late to have lived through Beatlemania, of course. In fact, by the time I came crashing into the light of the world, Liverpool’s Fab Four had already gone their separate ways, disbanding two years before little Jesse pee’d in his first diaper.
Still, even though it was the late 1970’s before I was old enough to really listen to the music, it wasn’t all that far removed from the peak of their popularity. John, Paul, George and Ringo were still, and for all intents and purposes still are, the greatest musicians on Earth.
My love affair with all things Beatles began with the early stuff: “I saw her standing there,” “I want to hold your hand,” “She loves you,” and “Michelle.” I soon graduated to the “White Album,” and it opened my ears to a whole new level of music appreciation. I wore that double album out to the point I had to tape pennies to the top of the phonograph arm to keep the needle from skipping.
As good as that record is, however, “Rubber Soul,” has been and always will be my favorite and “In my life,” from that album, my favorite Beatles song.
By the time 1980 had rolled around, the Beatles were the center of my musical world, and if I’m being honest, I felt like they were part of my family — four uncles I wished I could hang out with.
Paul was my favorite and John was a close second but I never understood George until much later. I knew even then that Ringo was the glue that held it all together.
As I grew older, my musical tastes and my favorite bands and musicians changed depending on what stage of life I was in, but the music of The Beatles, how it made me feel and the memories of sitting on my floor listening to them on my little record player, were never far from my heart.
Which brings us to today, just over 41 years since evil took John Lennon and 20 years since lung cancer took George Harrison, and a documentary that was just released on Apple TV called, “Get Back.”
The three-part, over eight hour masterpiece, centers around the Beatles writing and rehearsing music during the “Let it be,” sessions in 1969 and was culled from over 60 hours of intimate video footage originally filmed for another documentary. Peter Jackson — he of the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and King Kong — put it all together and it is fabulous.
For a Beatles fan, or even a music fan or musician, it should be required viewing.
In fact, it should be required viewing for humankind in general. It’s an intimate peek into the world of four individuals at varying stages of their young lives, living under the pressure of being “more popular than Jesus” as Lennon once said, while trying to hold on to the little things that brought them together in the first place.
While there were many highlights for me, the final episode where The Beatles performed live on the rooftop of their studio in England while crowds gathered on the street below, really hit home.
It wasn’t the performance that did it, it was the response from some of the people who peaked their heads out from their homes or businesses and when asked by the people documenting the event what they thought, had nothing good to say.
The music was disrupting their day, they said. It was inconvenient. Unenjoyable. A drag, man. Eventually, the police were phoned. One particularly smug young officer caught on videotape for the rest of time relayed to the band’s reps at the studio that the concert must be stopped as nearly 20 people had called and complained. The 1969 version of Internet trolls demanded The Beatles stop making all that racket and move on.
Eventually it was all shut down. The complainers and whiners winning the day.
As I watched the Fab Four put down their instruments and exit the roof, John leaving last, I couldn’t help but view the scene through the eyes of today, which made it all quite sad.
That short performance would be the last time The Beatles would ever perform live together and a little over a decade later Lennon would be dead.
That concert also seems to mark the unofficial end of an era. Life after 1969 got a lot deeper, a lot darker. The innocence of a time when The Beatles conquered with love and laughs and timeless music and brought smiles and tears to the faces of thousands of people around the world would soon be over.
And as the end credits rolled on the documentary, it got me thinking of the significance of that moment and how those who lived through it had no idea what they were a part of.
I wonder as life moved on if any of the negative Nancy’s that had complained that day ever realized how foolish and petty they ultimately were and longed to “get back,” to where they once belonged.