There are many decisions we make about our child’s future that we hope will bear positive fruit as they grow into adulthood, although we are usually left with a vague sense of worry and the nagging question: Will my kid be a jerk? But I am here to tell you I have stumbled onto a parenting strategy I am fairly confident eliminates that possibility.
Teach your kids to appreciate The Beatles.
I have yet to meet someone who likes The Beatles who is mean, dishonest or outright stupid. Anecdotal? Completely. But so far, so good.
My children’s exposure to The Beatles was done primarily in our car while driving; after all, I have control of the radio/CD player and there’s only so much Taylor Swift any one person can take. (I say this recognizing that in 20 years someone will be writing about their brilliant parenting strategy of making their kids appreciate Taylor Swift, but I digress.)
Fortunately, the ubiquitous Red and Blue “Best of” collection of The Beatles provided an easily transportable, always available primer to their work, with the red collection encompassing (roughly) the first half of their career and the blue collection the final half. As you might imagine, there were initial protests. From their perspective, me playing The Beatles was akin to my parents breaking out a wax cylinder of Enrico Caruso. But over time — as I trusted it would — the music spoke for itself. The infectious melodies and increasingly complex lyrics wormed their way into their brains until the day several years ago my now-16-year-old daughter Emily asked to hear The Beatles. I remember the moment well. Driving along M-59, I felt a shaft of heavenly light shine through the windshield and illuminate me as a slightly sinister smile spread across my face. Yes! The plan had worked!!
Well, that was it, obviously. I had won parenting. Grades, college aspirations, life partners? Mere details that would clearly all now fall into place. That is until the day recently that my youngest, 9-year-old Claire, popped my bubble of self-congratulation with the realization that I had not won parenting.
“Dad, what’s your favorite Beatle song?” she innocently asked.
Assuming my benevolent parental role, I answered, “That’s hard honey. I like them all.” (A lie – Mr. Moonlight still makes my fillings ache.)
“Come on Dad, there has to be one you super-duper like.”
And indeed there was one song I secretly liked above all others. Not one of their hits, but one I never grew tired of hearing.
“Well honey, I guess I would have to say ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is my favorite,” a smug satisfied tone in my voice.
“Is that on the Red or the Blue CD?”
“Oh, it’s not on either honey. It’s on Revolver.”
“What’s Revolver?” she asked, eyes wide with childlike innocence.
“One of my favorite albums,” I replied.
And then, she asked the question that changed everything. Actually it was two questions. The first was, “What’s an album?” Right. I hadn’t actually touched a vinyl LP since Bush was in office. And I’m talking George H.W. Bush. So that was not really a surprise. But it was the second question that struck like a Hitchcock dolly zoom: “There are more albums than the Red and Blue ones? You mean there are other songs?”
I had failed: as a parent, as a person, as a Beatles lover.
Thus, the “Dad & Claire Listening Project” was born. We would listen to each of their albums from start to finish, from their earliest to the last. My child’s future was on the line after all.
First up? “Please, Please Me” their debut studio release from 1963 in the UK. Right out of the gate, “I Saw Her Standing There” ripped through the speakers. A song as identified with The Beatles as any other, and yet one Claire had never heard before.
“Ooh, I like this one.” (Of course you do.)
“Please, Please me” and “Love Me Do” were familiar, while “Anna,” Chains,” and “A Taste of Honey” were entirely new to her.
Claire’s review? “They sound like a country band.”
Obviously all the harmonica had an effect. But yet it was an astute observation as The Beatles had a definite Country and Western influence that would grow over the next two albums. Her favorite song? “‘Boys’, because Ringo sings it.” Interesting.
Next was “With The Beatles,” their second studio album, released Nov. 22, 1963. Americans were distracted that day as you might imagine. (Although just three months later, Beatlemania was in full swing across the pond.)
Claire’s review? “It’s ok” Such verbosity! She liked the first album better, although she was singing along to “It Won’t Be Long” and was tapping her toes to “Roll Over Beethoven,” although I declined to tell her that was a Chuck Berry song lest she ask “Who’s Chuck Berry?” I can only handle one musical icon’s catalogue at a time.
“A Hard Day’s Night” was their third studio album, released in July 1964, two weeks after the debut of their first feature film by the same name. Unlike their first two albums, all of the songs were written by John and Paul. Claire’s review; “Pretty good.” Favorite song: “And I Love Her”
“The Beatles For Sale” was the band’s fourth studio album, released on Dec. 4, 1964. A definite shift in tone, likely due to the nonstop 18 months of touring the band had endured. A bit darker. Less cheery for sure. Claire’s review; “I liked the second album (With The Beatles) better.” Her favorite song; “Honey Don’t” (She really likes Ringo)
“Help!” was The Beatles fifth studio album, released in August of 1965, corresponding with the movie of the same name. Despite the classics “Help!,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “Yesterday”, this album reminded me a lot of the movie; moments that shine, but unfocused as a whole. But still, it hints of a group in transition. Claire’s review: “They made a movie?” Her favorite song: the Johnny Russell tune “Act Naturally” (did I mention she likes Ringo?)
Up next: “Rubber Soul” was The Beatles sixth studio album, released in December 1965. It marked a definite turn away from producing albums solely to spawn hit singles, and instead focused on the album as a collection of songs that could be considered a work in its own right. Claire’s Review: “Cool.” Her favorite song: “Nowhere Man” But a new category was born: Least favorite song, which for Claire was “Run For Your Life,” which made her comment “A little dark, don’t you think?” With lyrics like, “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, Than to be with another man…Catch you with another man, That’s the end little girl.” Yes, Claire, dark indeed.
A discussion ensued about why John Lennon would write such a song in which I tried to explain his pre-Yoko Ono misogyny and penchant for being nonchalantly cruel. Heady stuff for a 9-yearold, but as “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s” loom on the audio horizon, a more complex picture has begun to emerge for her of who The Beatles were and what inspired their music.
And that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
And you thought The Beatles were just a rock band.