Finding Your Beatles

I wrote this post months ago on my old blog – sob, sob! – and found that I had saved and reposted it on Medium. Enjoy!

I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as being an “all or nothing” kind of person. Rather than believe that the world can be viewed in mere black and white terms, I like to think that there are myriad shades of grey. There are different ways to look at and debate every situation, or make comparisons between one thing and another. For instance, there are a plethora of ways to appreciate new music, or a new person that may have come into your life. Sometimes, you want to spend all your time with this person, other times you realize that you like them, but prefer to encounter them in small doses. Their voice might be annoying to your ears, for example, or you find that there are few topics that — well as you may be able to speak on them — you share in common.

However, I’ve noticed recently that when it comes to having strong feelings for another human being, you know pretty quickly whether that “spark” truly exists, or if you feel nothing more than a mild, friendly interest.

ve also noticed recently that the same is true when it comes to listening to a new album.

People have a wide and wonderful range of opinions on music. That’s why, in the beginning, there were many well-respected, quixotically fascinating music journalists who, more often than not, were able to capture the essence of what made music utterly wonderful. Today, there are bloggers all with their own opinions, and places like Pitchfork that I think reek of hipster pretension, but that’s just my opinion. At the end of the day, however, music has the ability to grab you — to hold on to your ears, your heart and even the very essence of your being in only the way that a strong attraction to another human being can. And this intensely personal reaction might be well-captured by a well-respected writer. Then again, it might not.

Most of the time, music’s tight hold on a person’s being makes sense. There are a ton of well-written albums in existence that deserve such forceful interest. Musicians can interpret the world in a weird, beautiful and enchanting manner and many do so with an astounding degree of talent. For instance, I’ve had a hard time separating myself from The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit. The combination of the hollow, windswept-moor-like vocals, mostly acoustic, heartfelt instrumentation and simply gorgeous lyrics — that capture tiny snapshots of the human experience — continues to blow my mind. There’s a song on that album I want played at my wedding, whenever that may be. Heavy words are not so lightly thrown; that’s how this music makes me feel.

In a similar vein, meeting a person — with the potential for romantic advancement — for the first time can be a tad superficial. You chat. You make eye contact, hopefully. You try to be polite and on some semblance of “good,” socially acceptable behavior. If you’re really lucky, you and this other person have a lot of common ground and topics that both excite you enough such that some of this social chain mail falls away, and a few arrows strike their intended targets. However, if this individual’s personality, pheremones, whatever, doesn’t grab you, their company can be quickly relegated to the iPod shuffle rotation of life. They’re fun, friendly and great, but there’s no deep, intense curiosity that keeps you coming back for more.

Take The Kooks, for instance. Last year’s album of theirs Junk of the Heartsnatched my hand and took me for a headlong gallop along the Jersey City waterfront as soon as I heard it for the first time.

I was attracted to the lyrics, the simple, upbeat tunes and uncomplicated melodies. It was hard to force myself to stop listening to it; I had to take “breaks” to prevent the tunes from running through my head. Yet I didn’t feel deeply connected to it. There was that sexy, “let’s jump into bed” attraction, but it felt hollow and lacking in something. Without depth, I know I probably won’t see it further than on the back end of my playlists by late 2012.

But then, you have something like the Beatles. And with this band, where on earth can one begin? Discovering the Beatles is first like meeting that person with whom you’ll grow old. Yes, I mean that person who will want to hear something as weird as Frightened Rabbit played at their wedding ceremony.The person with whom, on your first date, you swerve between laughing, and shyly asking questions, between debating the best new film last year and your religious beliefs — the person you want to kiss and hold onto and with whom the universe fell right into place as soon as you parked yourselves on those sticky bar stools. The Beatles will work in every situation, and there’s an album for your at every stage of your life. You might become irritated at their more cheerful sounds, and downright angry at the wilder, more experimental tracks. You’ll cry one day listening to something like Julia because you decide to have a pity party and feel misunderstood (you’ll be wrong.) You’ll play Revolver at 2 a.m. together, drunk, dancing around the house and singing your heart out, because it just seems right at the time. You always go back to The Beatles because you never, ever forget the first time you pressed play on that jagged compilation tape and your world, brain and emotions were just painted with a new, as-yet-countered color.

There’s a deep, intense understanding there that stands the test of time and — no matter who “your” Beatles are — there’s always that band, that album and that sound from which you cannot extract yourself. And like hearing a great album for the first time, when you meet a great person, you just feel it. Maybe this person/album is perfect for a life stage — a la The Kooks — and you’re left with some catchy melodies and happy memories. Or maybe you learn that you’ll never forget this song, this person and they’ll be with you forever, even though your time together has passed — thank you, Frightened Rabbit. But eventually, you find that there’s the right sound and music for each encounter, and you don’t ever want to be separated from it. And that’s when you find your Beatles, in every sense of the word.

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