Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. McCartney

In terms of life imitating popular art, there may be no more poignant example of the passage of time to a baby boomer like myself than the 64th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney next month. It was Paul, after all, who as a Beatle wrote and sang "When I'm 64," his witty and eerily sad snapshot of things to come - originally on side two of 1967's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album."When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now," the then 25-year-old Brit sang. "Will you still be sending me a valentine; birthday greetings, bottle of wine?" Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view;Indicate precisely what you mean to say; yours sincerely, wasting away.Give me your answer, fill in a form, mine for evermore;Will you still need me, will you still feed me,When I'm sixty-four?" Unfortunately - or fortunately, as the case may be - Paul will be serving himself breakfast when he reaches that personal landmark in June. Seems he and his second wife Heather lost that lovin' feeling and have opted for divorce. Some of us in our 50s can remember being electrified watching the Beatles on their first Ed Sullivan Show TV appearance in February of 1964. That scratchy black-and-white, audio/video experience transformed a goodly number of us into lifetime fans.As a slightly gawky, wavy-haired, suburban nine-year-old I wanted nothing more than to look like my new Liverpool heroes. Especially the left-handed bass man with the wide vocal range, jet black, straight hair and confident twinkle - a potent combination guaranteed to make the girls go wild.And how cool was that name, McCartney? Living in Fall River I was used to less exotic monikers like Horvitz and Pacheco.But the funny thing about us serious Beatles fans was that we were able to separate the physical good looks of the four guys from their music. And in the end it was the music that won out, hands down.My younger sister was nice (and smart) enough to give me the group's first U.S. album "Meet The Beatles" as a gift for my 10th birthday. It was also the first LP (long playing) record of any kind I had ever owned, and I would listen to it daily when I was home for lunch from the local elementary school.Besides the easy hits like "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There" and "All My Loving," there were rough but tuneful rockers like "It Won't Be Long" and "Don't Bother Me."The second U.S. (Britain had a different set of releases for the first few years) LP was tougher and better. Not only did the boys continue to write strong originals but their covers of American hits, in particular, set them apart from any other rock/rock & roll band of the time.Because not only did they do justice to black groups like Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, but in my opinion they actually cut better versions of "Money" (That's What I Want) and the even more challenging "You Really Got A Hold On Me."The magic and fun of being a so-called serious Fab Four fan was trying to keep pace with them as they progressed and matured. Lennon's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was an instantly addictive acoustic sketch, while McCartney's bracing "I've Just Seen A Face" let us know just how versatile they really were.However it was the more experimental songs that set me straight for good. "Strawberry Fields Forever" became synonymous with mind expansion (It was, after all, 1968), and the melting string sounds and absurdist lyrics of "I Am The Walrus" still hold up to this day.And forget hits. To me the mark of greatness of the Beatles has always been that for every Top 10 hit they had at least three other album cuts were just as impressive."Getting Better," Fixing A Hole," "Old Brown Shoe" and the ominous "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" can easily be filed in that category.An important aside: Thank the heavens above the classically-trained George Martin was on hand as producer for the entire nine-year studio run.But my biggest thank you for the Beatles is for opening me up to the musical world at large. It wasn't long before I was buying records by Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, MC5, Igor Stravinsky, Eddie Palmieri and many others.So a very Happy B. Day in advance, Sir Paul. Without you and your chums my ears would have lived a much less interesting existence.


At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey Dude we have May not the June 18th.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Moose said...

I know but the title of that article was Happy Birthday Paul. In the article it says happy birthday in advance.


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