spoti.fi/2HqFSWt (click for album)
We had “Meet The Beatles!” before the band appeared on “Ed Sullivan.” The single of “She Loves You” on Swan backed with “I’ll Get You” too, actually we had that first.
They called it “Beatlemania,” and it truly was. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” exploded out of transistors right after the New Year and the band was on everybody’s lips, back when we were young and impressionable, when distractions were limited and you could easily gain everybody’s attention, assuming you had the platform and the goods.
I know some boomers were old enough to buy the album themselves, but the bulge was comprised of a younger set, without driver’s licenses, they bugged their parents to purchase “Meet The Beatles!” with the desire only a child can exhibit, mixed with nagging, and sure, parents wanted to shut their kids up, but even more they wanted to deliver for them, in an era where an LP cost between two and three dollars. We’d heard about a “jet set,” but we not only weren’t members, we didn’t know anybody who was, we were not famous, that was a tiny group of people, and as far as being rich…those were people who drove Cadillacs, we couldn’t contemplate a lifestyle beyond that. Which is to say satiating your children’s desires used to be so much cheaper, so much easier to achieve.
And when “Meet The Beatles!” came home you might have played it on the console stereo in the living room, but if you were lucky you had a record player in your bedroom, a box containing a speaker with a heavy tonearm that turned the vinyl gray with repeated plays, and which oftentimes sported a taped-on nickel or dime to ensure there was no skipping.
And we played the album, over and over again, for two reasons, we had so little product and we had so few distractions. We’d sit there in front of the box, as close as possible, and soak up the sound, believing the more we knew it the closer we were to the source, the magical Beatles.
And unlike its English iteration, the album contained “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” opening side one. And no listening of the track today can simulate what once was, a fresh sound that exploded out of the speaker that sounded like nothing else.
And at this point, you hear “I Saw Her Standing There” much more, with its reference to the object of desire being seventeen. Truth was we thought that was too young back then, she would still be in HIGH SCHOOL! Then again, didn’t people drop out earlier in the U.K? It was all exotic, England went from the backward Mother Country to the primary influence overnight. We soaked up the clothing and the accent, anything to get closer.
And at this late date, most of the focus is on the Beatles’ later work, from “Rubber Soul” on, when they were experimenting, testing limits, when the lyrics and the execution were more mature.
And for a few decades there, we had little access to “Meet The Beatles!” You had to own the LP and a record player and the desire to spin it, hearing the clicks and pops evidencing history. And you didn’t.
And then there was the seventies renaissance with “Breakfast With The Beatles” and in the eighties the albums came out on CD and suddenly, the Beatles were a staple of our society, they sustained.
You rarely heard those initial two minute tracks.
“Little Child” was even 1:46, it didn’t seem like someone implored the band to condense their message, it’s just that they spun off diamonds, they were thrilled they had anybody’s attention, they didn’t want to overdo it, they wanted to nail it and bask in the accolades.
And everybody had their favorite Beatle. Paul, the cute one. Or John, the brainy one. Or Ringo, the playful one.
Or George, the sensitive one. He stood on stage picking the notes, he was essential but gained less attention, less focus, and then there was “Don’t Bother Me.”
It was raw and dark in a way that nothing else on the LP was.
Sure, “This Boy” was sensitive and quiet, but it sounded like something that ultimately seemed to come from the “American Graffiti” soundtrack, it looked back, not forward.
And “Till There Was You” was literally a cover, which we all knew, because prior to the Beatles the dominant, universal sound was Broadway Original Cast albums.
But “Don’t Bother Me”…
In retrospect, the vocal was different, but at this time, except for Ringo, we thought they all sounded the same. But the track and the intonation…they stood out.
“Since she’s gone
I want no one
To talk to me”
This we understood. Our ultimate goal was to be popular, and most people were not, so they sat in their bedrooms contemplating their loner status. They didn’t want to confide in their parents, they were not best friends, they had all these feelings they couldn’t express, but they were in the grooves of this record.
“So go away and leave me alone”
How many times did you say this to the ‘rents? We just wanted to be left alone, to wallow in our thoughts, we felt if we stewed in our own juices long enough we’d cook ourselves into a better mood. Then again, we had to get up the next day and go to school, there was a reset button, a veritable “Groundhog Day,” a chance to get it right the next time.
“I can’t believe
That she would leave
Me on my own”
Indignation, it’s the human condition when you’re a teenager, feeling your way. You’re not resigned to your spouse, to your job, you’re jumping through hoops and when one is taken away, you feel it. It’s personal. Despite people saying it’s them and not you, deep inside you doubt that, you KNOW it’s you.
“I know I’ll never be the same
If I don’t get her back again
Because I know she’ll always be
The only girl for me”
You’ve got to be damn old until you realize life is a process, with ups and downs, and that you can survive almost anything and end up better off. It’s all personal before this. And loss seems permanent. You’re convinced you’ll never find anyone as good, and since this was probably the first time you were in love, or got to second base, or third, or even home, it was all the more visceral, the comedown back to where you once were was EXCRUCIATING!
“But till she’s here
Please don’t come near
Just stay away”
It’s like you’re truly wounded, if someone touches you, talks to you, it’s gonna hurt too much to endure. You’re willing your way back to the past, when the only way to go is forward.
So the dark, brooding Beatle wrote a dark brooding song. He was more sensitive, he wasn’t always winning. That smile gave Paul everything he wanted. John was too smart for the room, he was ready with a quip, it paid dividends. Ringo was the butt of the joke and the life of the party and…
George was left out.
That’s what it felt like.
And the winter seems endless at that age. Now life passes too quickly. Then it couldn’t pass fast enough. You sat in your bedroom after school, on weekends, and played your records again and again and again, you knew them by heart, they were best friends. That’s why girls screamed at gigs, they were so invested in the act, they couldn’t believe the band was there in the flesh, so close, yet so far, to scream was to be in the moment, for soon you’d be back home with your memories, and memories fade.
The guitar intro seems to be saying…
I’m gonna tell you a story.
And when the track starts to fade out two minutes later…
You’re left wondering what happened, what came after, how George was feeling. Could this mega-successful act be just like you and me?
They were and they were not.
The Beatles were the first with this level of success.
But we’re all human under the skin.
And we get in touch with our humanity through art.
Most art is disposable.
And then there’s that stuff that lasts, that permeates our skin, seeps in and becomes part of us.
And its saturation is not based on premeditation, but inspiration. Doesn’t matter if it’s ragged, perfection is irrelevant, it’s got more to do with a FEELING!
When I hear “Don’t Bother Me” I’m brought right back to the winter of ’64. Sledding in the backyard, skiing at Mt. Snow, watching Jim McKay on “Wide World of Sports.”
It’s as if “Meet The Beatles!” is a younger brother, or a cousin, a blood relative.
And at this point, fifty years hence, “Don’t Bother Me” is my favorite song on the record.
He gets the least attention, but George was an integral part of the band. He played the leads, which we all started to pick out shortly. He was the youngest member. But he seemed to have thought about it, and with “Don’t Bother Me” he started to speak his truth. Ain’t it always darkness that leads us to the light.