Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Beatles

I guess everyone has some sort of story about how they were introduced to The Beatles, from watching them on the Ed Sullivan show to being introduced to them by parents. Well, here it's my story.

In 1978, my siblings and I arrived to the US. My mom had been here a year and my dad three or so. We were at the mercy of the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and that's how things work sometimes for immigrants to the US.

As soon as we got here we wanted to be just American kids. Despite learning English very quickly, my accent was, and is, a dead give away that I'm not a native American. Each of my siblings have less and less of an accent depending on the age they were when we arrived. Since I'm the oldest, my speech patterns had been more set as was my tastes and attitudes.

I was a 13 year old that was crazy about football, soccer for you natives, poetry, clothes, math and science. That didn't translate well to a world that saw soccer in the same light as the metric system or where early teen boys that spend time memorizing poetry were effeminate. The culture also put down those of us inclined to math and science as geeks, nerds or worse yet terribly uncool. I'm glad to say that in the years since, some of those things have changed for the better.

My siblings and I spent months trying to figure out how we could recast ourselves to fit in. To figure out this crazy country we spent hours and hours watching TV. To me it was no diversion, it was cramming. We caught up on The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island and every cliched show from the 60s and 70s.

Once enrolled in school, I noticed that kids in my school grouped themselves by ethnicity, culture but more importantly music tastes. I couldn't fake my way into the Disco/R&B crowd. While many Latinos were in the group, I was much too white. Also, I didn't understand what the weird repetitive talking over songs was about. Later I realized that I had seen early hip-hop, I just didn't get it.

I tried to fit in with the Latinos who were into salsa. My countrymen and all other Latinos found me lacking for I knew nothing about their music and surprisingly even less about their culture. Why? That is a totally different blog, but let's say that socio-economic reasons matter much more in Colombia than they do in the US. It was as if I came from a different place from most of them.

For weeks, I affected various regional accents trying to find one that they'd accept. That failed. I tried to fit in with the Dominicans, the Boricuas, the Argentines but I was too "white," I was told. I didn't understand what being too white meant in that context. Many of the Latinos were just as white as the Greek, Italians and Jews that made up much of the impenetrable white boy camp. I tried to be one of the white kids, anyway. I still didn't fit there but at last I did make a sort of friend, Charlie.

Charlie was an awkward chubby half-Pole, half-Irish kid. He was a redhead and was the pinkiest person I had ever met. We shared a history class together. We sat next to each other in the back of the room. While everyone gave our teacher, a first year 20-something girl, a hard time, Charlie and I chatted away about this and that. He liked that he finally had someone to talk to and I liked that he wasn't puzzled about who or what I was.

One of his favorite topics was The Beatles. Of course, I knew who they were. I had heard their music for as long as I had been alive. Up until that point it was just background noise to me. I had never paid much attention to them. Charlie's fascination was contagious. I started thinking about what I knew about The Beatles.

My earliest memory of The Beatles was my mom listening to Rubber Soul sometime in '68 or '69. I remember looking at the record cover and thinking about how odd were the elongated faces of the four boys. Yet, I had very little recollection of the music.

I brought Charlie's stories home and somehow, I don't remember how but perhaps my sisters may remember, a copy of the Red and Blue Albums arrived at our apartment. Just like the TV shows, my siblings and I began to listen to these records obsessively. Quickly we picked our favorite songs. Strangely, my sisters and I decided we each had to pick a different Beatle to like too.

I chose Paul, while my sisters chose John and George. My brother, who was 5 at the time, was assigned to Ringo. He didn't seem to mind; then again I think he was too busy with his Rubber Ducky to worry about it. I have thought about this for a long time and have noted that our choices were very evident of who we were or wanted to be. I was "a poet" and preferred sappy sentiment, just like Paul. I still love Paul and while I'll admit he was the lamest of The Beatles, without him they would have never gone anywhere.

Quickly, we bought copies of Beatles albums; my sisters favoring the earlier stuff, while I focused on the later stuff. The Beatles opened a flood gate that changed how we became to fit in, or in many cases how we chose not to fit in, in our new country. More current music was purchased, first in hit collections from "As Seen On TV" advertisers and quickly replaced by albums from people like Steve Windwood to David Bowie.

The introduction, or re-introduction, of The Beatles to our home sent all four of us into a love affair with popular music that continues to this day. We moved from one genre to another, quickly cramming just like we did with TV. As the 80s came to being, we settled on an eclectic mix of everything from country to German techno.

Just as the popular culture at large, there are so many things that are important to me that I attribute back to The Beatles. Without The Beatles I may have become a fan of Man U. That would be awful. I don't know if The Beatles ever followed football or if they were Everton or Liverpool fans, but I'm a huge Liverpool FC supporter because of them. George's interest in Eastern Religion was a catalyst for my interest in the subject and my very flimsy Buddhist leanings. Paul's vegetarianism was in a small part one of the reasons I tried it. Sixteen years later I'm still a vegetarian.

We can debate whether the Fab Four were real Mods or not, but because of them I like to say I'm one too. At a minimum, I like Mod music and Mod aesthetic.

Finally, The Beatles made me into a life-long Anglophile. Please don't think that means I love the Royals or that I like Simon Cowell. It simply means that given the chance I prefer English things. Their telly is many times better, at least their comedies. They have better sports, although a multi-day cricket test sounds more boring that a baseball series. They have Tories so they are as idiotic as we are with the GOP. Not even England can be perfect.

As for Charlie, we attended the same school for four more years. I'd see him in the hallway from time to time and we'd smile and say hello. The last time I saw him was at our High School graduation. I think of him rarely, but I'm glad we crossed paths. I wonder what ever happened to him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad 2 (The last one I won)

Location:In Bed

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I must come clean. It has been decades building. I'm ashamed of it, for some unclear reason. Perhaps because I have fancied myself as a hard edge sort of fellow.

I spent years in the early eighties following the NYC hardcore punk scene. I was there when the Beastie Boys forsook hardcore and embraced hip hop. I was at the show when Rachel played with them for the last time -- Yes, the Beasties once had a female member. I was there when GBH played and halfway through the show The Ramones walked in and the band stopped playing to pay homage to the gods of punk. I was there at a Dead Kennedys show when Neo-Nazi skins were beaten when they dared boo Jello during "Nazi Punks Fuck Off."

So what is this that I have come to terms with? I've come to realize that my all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode. Yes, that Depeche Mode. There is no denying my LastFM scrobbles. Far and away they are the artist I listen to the most.

It's true I have everything they have ever recorded including every single, remix, b side, etc. That in itself is a testament to what I think of them. Then again I have the full discography of acts that I don't listen to that often; David Bowie comes to mind.

So why Depeche Mode? Seriously, I don't completely know. There are artists that I love everything they do like Esthero, Morrissey, Jack White, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Paul Weller. But with the exception of Esthero, there are months where I just don't listen to them. I always seek out Depeche Mode.

They have always been written off as a synth-pop example of 80s excess. I find them to be brilliant; the opinion of my beloved Mandy not withstanding. Their lyrics are more profound than most people think -- perhaps because the continuing struggles with drug abuse. Their music is down right catchy. It doesn't hurt that they are inspiration to groups like Ladytron and Datarock, which I love; not to mention a slew of Goth bands the world over. I do admit loving Goth sensibilities while finding them contrived at the same time.

After reading gobs and gobs of Buddhist books from Thich Nhat Hanh to Ram Dass, and from time to time even spending time meditating, DM's "Get the balance right" is still my favorite explanation of the middle way. Did they even mean it that way? I don't know and I don't particularly care.

I gotta get back to the DM Barcelona Concert I'm watching while on a plane heading to New Orleans; "Drive" is coming on. "Oh little girl there are times that I feel I'd rather not be the one behind the wheel..."

Another learning, it's hard to dance in a small plane seat while your love is next to you reading a serious book.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Flying somewhere over America