I was the Beatles’ biggest fan for a while. My connection to the men and their music was unique, never quite equaled before or since. I owned every album—not just the singles, not just Sergeant Pepper’s/the white album/Abbey Road—every single one of them, including Please Please Me and even Yellow Submarine. Do you know what’s on Yellow Submarine? It’s a handful of Beatles’ songs (and two of those are Harrison songs) and then a bunch of instrumentals by George Martin. There are romantic comedies with more Beatles music than Yellow Submarine. You needed to be a pretty devoted fan to go buy Yellow Submarine. Lucky for the Beatles (and for George Martin), that’s exactly the kind of fan I was.
A few weeks ago I was out at lunch with some slightly older friends and they started discussing how their kids were starting their Beatles phases. I was surprised at how nonchalant they were, as if they had always known this moment would come. So I asked a few questions about the “Beatles phase.” After it became clear that I was still a bit over-sentimental about my own Beatles phase, one of the guys looked at me and said “Bell, did you really think you were the only one that had a Beatles phase? Everyone has a Beatles phase. It’s like the number one most common teenage milestone in America.”
Yeah, I knew that. I knew when I was buying life-of-John-Lennon comic books that I was just one more kid among countless other fans. All those times I watched HELP!, with my friends and all alone, laughing at the clever one-liners and quirky details that could only be fully understood by John, Paul, George, and me (Ringo didn’t seem to be in on some of the smarter puns), I was well aware that this was a mere rite of passage for a huge swath of American adolescents, rather than a lonely but transcendent trail blazed by one uniquely gifted fan. When I paid good money for the George Harrison live double album, a collection of concerts for the people of Japan, I didn’t for a moment consider myself far more entitled to the music than the masses of ignorant people applauding in the background.
All of that time, all of that money, all of that emotion- that was just my Beatles phase. No big deal. The photographic histories I pored over; the mythology; and the trivia. Tons and tons of trivia. From the rise and fall of Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe to the secret origins of the Walrus to the strange effects behind the organ solo in For the Benefit of Mister Kite. I knew it all, every bit of it. I never for a moment thought that this knowledge, this veneration, made me unique in any way, or qualified me for any special approval or blessing from the masters themselves. Nor did I ever indulge in drawn out daydreams in which I was called upon to sing backup vocals for every song on Rubber Soul, or to mediate a peace between Paul and Yoko. I knew very well that there could be no reason I would be selected for such things over the rest of those millions of teenagers who had devoted their own hearts and souls to knowing each of these geniuses intimately, through their lyrics, rhythms, life histories and romantic tastes. I was just an average kid going through a Beatles phase, and I had no illusions that that was anything special at all.
So I think it’s cool that kids these days are still going through this same old stage in life, even though it’s all been done like a million times. It’s funny to me that these kids think it makes them all ‘deep’ or something to point out the appearance of the Sitar on Norwegian Wood or talk about the legal difficulties Apple Records had to deal with. It’s not deep, kids, get over yourselves and just enjoy the music. And honestly, you’ll never understand them like I do anyway, so don’t even try.