Monday, August 16, 2010

Cut off

As I've noted several times, I was on vacation for much of the past two weeks. During that span, I found myself more or less cut off from all things Beatles. No news updates, no random bits of history, and no music. Not a single note of The Beatles' art passed through my ears. And I was even road tripping, an enterprise that naturally leads to a surfeit of music intake. My companions and I did consume a hefty amount of tunes, much of it indie rock and none of it The Beatles. It's not that we didn't have a few of their albums at our disposal; we just chose to not partake.

And you know what? It didn't feel off or abnormal or leave me feverishly unsated. I didn't feel as though the regular order of my life had been radically upended. There was never a sense that I had been separated from something critical to my well-being. Not even close, in fact. And this I take comfort in. As should be apparent, I'm an ardent Beatles fan; I'm confident in saying that I will always cherish their music and their legacy. But I don't hesitate to qualify that devotion. It's simply the case that I don't need to be in constant contact with their music. I don't need that presence, if you will, on a daily basis. My fan-hood is rooted in an abiding appreciation of the group, not a fixation.

Is this not a healthy approach? I certainly feel it is. I think it's important for me, as an avowed Beatles diehard, to always stay cognizant of the fact that the world of pop music doesn't revolve around four lads from Liverpool. The Beatles cast such an imposing shadow that this truth can easily become shrouded. But it still should be an obvious truth. There are, indeed, numerous other bands that bring me tremendous pleasure, and this was amply borne out on the road trip.

Following the trip, I had a moment that crystallized many of the preceding thoughts. I was driving on some rural back-roads of the Midwest en route to my late grandfather's gravesite. I was behind the wheel of my dad's car and, thus, was listening to his CDs. Guess which band I spent the most time with? The Rolling Stones, famously the chief rivals of The Beatles in the 1960s. A week and a half had passed without the latter, and there I was rocking out to the former, enjoying the dickens out of them and musing silently about how, yes, The Stones made music that was dark and sinister and violent in ways that The Beatles rarely attempted and perhaps weren't equipped for. Yes, The Stones are among The Greats.

To be honest, I was pleased when these thoughts came to mind. For in those moments, I felt more comfortable than ever as a Beatles fan. These thoughts (and the trip as a whole) reminded me that fan-hood need not be obsession and profound appreciation need not be preoccupation. I can deeply love The Beatles and, at the same time, occasionally prefer a week's worth of Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, and The Strokes to Rubber Soul and Abbey Road. I know those albums will always welcome me back.

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