I THINK it was the writer Michael Chabon who once told me he loved family partly because it gave him a glimpse at four different generations and the way they saw the world and its history — starting with his grandparents and all the way down to his own children.
That’s the way it is for most of us, including me. My situation is unusual though not unheard of: My folks were just the right age (born the same years as the actual Fabs) to connect deeply with the band, and to see them change as the world changed. I was born the year the group broke up, so it was already a historical phenomenon, like the poems or Yeats or the films of Hitchcock. And I loved them as much as, perhaps more than my folks did, as emblems of a lost world.
My son, who rejects a lot of what his parents have pushed on him (including customs like setting the table and taking frequent baths) gravitated to the group as if by instinct, connecting directly with the Beatles for Sale record as a toddler and singing and playing on piano songs like Nowhere Man and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds since.
My grandfather, by contrast, considered the Fabs to be charlatans or lightweights. A vaudevillian and Tin Pan Alley songwriter, he was of the generation and the Irving Berlin-derived style that the Scousers (following Elvis and Little Richard) at least partially destroyed. (Here I will table the fact that many of their songs, especially Paul’s, drew from the American Songbook and in some ways renewed its genius.)
I’ve been thinking about the Beatles in history — or the Beatles as myth — lately because of a fascinating new book that I read in just a few days, like candy (or a really drinkable Pinot of the kind I can’t usually afford.) I spoke to the author Rob Sheffield, like me a Gen-Xer who grew up after the band was done, about his book Dreaming The Beatles, here.
Hope readers enjoy this as much as I did.