I felt the magic for the first time when I was 11 years old. Lounging on the sofa one lazy Sunday afternoon, I complained that there was nothing to do, annoying my parents with my dramatic sense of ennui. My father was cleaning out and reorganizing the drawers of our entertainment system furniture; the drawers were teeming with assorted old cassette tapes and a hidden stash of chocolates.
“You can help me clean this up,” he said. But I just groaned with pre-teen angst and lay prone on the sofa. Undeterred, my dad began to shuffle through the cassette tapes as he began his project, popping one into the cassette player and cranking up the volume. This is when the magic began.
All at once, the world around me shimmered with a bright, harmonizing energy. My ears twitched, and I emerged from the soft darkness of the sofa cushions feeling as though I had been transported. I sat silent, hypnotized, as the music swirled out of the speakers in a burst of cheeky appeal and seeped into my body, plucking at my heartstrings like a Les Paul guitar.
“Who is this?” I asked in awe.
“This? You don’t know who this is?” My dad laughed. “This is the Beatles!”
The Beatles. I had heard of them, of course, but I’d thought they were just some old-fashioned band from my parents’ time. I hadn’t realized they were wizards. I continued to sit in rapt silence as the music rolled over me in thrilling waves – She Loves You, Please Please Me, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Help…they kept coming, hit after hit, leaving me dizzy with giddiness. I had transformed from a languorous lass to a head-bobbing, toe-tapping bundle of buoyant energy.
“You like it?” my dad asked when he noticed my enjoyment. “You can keep this cassette, if you want.”
It was like Christmas had come early. Once the cassette was in my possession, I played it repeatedly in my room, learning all the words by heart, singing along, dancing around. When my parents realized I had become a fan, they started buying me Beatles CDs, in full albums instead of compilations, for my birthday and Christmas gifts. And thus began my journey, album by album, through the recorded masterpieces of the Beatles. Thus began my tour through the evolution of their music and lyrics that, while traversing into completely different styles, nevertheless retained the completely distinctive Beatles sound.
By the time I was in my teenage years, I was a full-fledged Beatlemaniac. I had posters. I watched the movies. I read band biographies. When I was 16 years old, George Harrison died…that night I lit candles and listened to his songs…while my face gently wept.
It is a mystery how the Beatles managed to create music with such a massive and expansive appeal, reaching across multiple cultures, tastes, and generations. I mean, I suppose it had something to do with the perfect combination of musical talent, intelligence, innovation, chemistry, cheeky charm, and good fortune, all at the right time – the 1960’s, amid a landscape of social and musical transformation. But the manifestation of such an unlikely confluence of circumstances is still quite mysterious…and, indeed, magical.