My kid wants to know what it was like when The Beatles first came to America.
It was amazing, I tell him. Simply amazing.
One of the nicer things about being an older parent is having been alive during one of the most creative, energetic, joyous periods in musical history. (And I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t admit how thrilled I am that my kid loves The Beatles, too.)
I tell him how, on the Monday morning after The Beatles appeared on the “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the girls in my neighborhood walked to school in a gaggle of gaga over the Fab Four. Who was the cutest? Which song that night was the best? (“She Loves You,” of course!)
My elementary school world was abuzz. While my third-grade classmates compared notes, the “wooooooo” heard around the world in “She Loves You” echoed in my ears.
It was a different time, back then, I tell my kid, and it’s hard to imagine today an historical event — let alone a musical act — that could make an entire country tune into a single television network at exactly the same time. It was a shared cultural experience that defies duplication.
For that, and so many other reasons, I say, The Beatles could never, ever happen again. They were a once-in-a-millenium thing, magical musicians whose songs cut across all lines. Their music had something for everyone, young and old, rich and poor, black and white.
I ramble on and on about my love for The Beatles and my belief of their importance to the history of life as we know it.
“Their music reached across the universe,” I say, knowing that a certain newspaper reporter with whom I used to work, who gleefully worked Beatles references into his stories, would be proud.
“Which are your favorite Beatles songs,” my kid asks.
I rattle off a list of songs so long that I laugh. Each album has particular significance in my life, triggering different memories; just about every song holds their own meaning for me.
Today, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles appearing on the “The Ed Sullivan Show,” I whittled my list down to 13 songs that make me stop whatever it is I am doing to sing along, listen, cry or just remember. They’re listed in no particular order, culled from a list many times longer.
“Julia” — Sweet, sorrowful, full of longing, it’s a love song without compare. It always brings me to the verge of tears.
“Penny Lane” — I experience a slice of London life whenever I hear this song.
“Here Comes the Sun” — In the midst of the longest, coldest winter of my lifetime, I long to hear this on the radio, signaling the start of spring.
“Let it Be” — This song is better than going to church, especially when I sing along.
“A Day in the Life”
My most-cherished gift of Christmas 1967 was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” I spent countless hours studying the album cover, learning the songs, and playing “A Day in the Life” over and over and over again on my parents’ console stereo. I played that song until I knew ever note, every word. And that final chord; oh, my!
I’ve long heard that what is likely the most-famous-chord-ever-played inspired the startup sound of the old Macintosh computer. I don’t know whether that’s true, but I do love my Macs.
“The Long and Winding Road”
This song about love (temporarily) unrequited set the stage for what the then-junior-high-girl me expected love to feel like. There’s a reason why I’m certain that what is unrequited in the song becomes reality: Such a deep, passionate plea for love could thaw the frostiest of hearts.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
For so long, George Harrison was the Beatle I didn’t really know as well as I thought I knew the others. Then this song from the White Album made me fall in love with him.
“Back in the USSR” — That Georgia’s always on my mind.
If, instead of eloping, I had had a traditional wedding, I’d have chosen this song for my first dance with my husband.
“She Loves You”
My favorite song from the Feb. 7, 1964, life-changing appearance of The Beatles on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
The Beatles are important, too, as an illustration of the circle of life. When the band broke up in 1970, the world crossed its fingers and hoped for a reunion. The murder of John Lennon a decade later dashed those hopes.
Instead, we’re left with this incredible body of work — with a distinct beginning, middle and end —and a lesson as powerful as the music itself: Nothing lasts forever, so make beautiful music while you can.