Written by, Karen McKenzie
It all started when I was around 7. My family was away on vacation in beautiful Whistler, BC and we were winding down from a busy day of vacation-typical activities with a family movie night on the couch in our condo. My dad pulled out a video of what my naive, childish mind only assumed was going to be the most snooze-worthy film of all time. It was not only a movie about four dudes with funny-looking hair-dos, it was also SO OLD! The 1960's?! But Daddy, that's when dinosaurs were probably still around! I protested and complained and begged that we watch something else, anything else, but Dad insisted.
Within the first five minutes, I was mesmerized. The campy cult interrupted mid-sacrifice. The silly assassination attempts on Ringo. Tiny Paul. Booby-trapped curling stones, and all of the rest of the silly slapstick. If that weren't all enough to hook in a 7 year old, it was topped off with some of the best music I had ever heard! When the movie ended and it was clear that I had thoroughly enjoyed every last second of it, my Dad looked at me with the "I told you so" face, but I didn't even care. I had just witnessed The Beatles and I was delighted.
George - The funny one with the unappreciated writing talent;
Ringo - The drummer with perfect timing who also played a caveman in a movie;
Paul - One half of the most famous writing team on earth, the one with the ability to croon softly and then belt and holler on the very next track; and then, of course, John - My favorite, the other half of the most famous writing team on earth, the brooding and deep one, the one that was tragically taken from the world 7 years before I was even born. When my Dad told me of this, I remember feeling sad, as though I had lost a friend, a sense of grief, even though it had happened so long before I had even existed.
My father's sister, my Auntie Roxanne, had also been a huge Beatles fan in the 60's when she was a child and young teenager, so she also was enthusiastic to nurture my obsession. It was no secret in my family that I LOVED the Beatles. Every birthday and Christmas, Beatles paraphernalia piled up high around me. Original prints of vinyl records, retro nostalgia, artwork, CD's, DVD's, books, posters, lunchboxes, etc. I relished visits with my Auntie Roxanne so that she, my Dad, and I could discuss all of our favorite things about our mutually favorite band.
My Auntie Roxanne passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on September 24, 2009. My husband and I had just gotten home from our honeymoon and I was awoken with a shock when my Mom arrived at my apartment in the morning to tell me the news. My sister and I performed "Blackbird" at her wake as our family looked on. I can still see my Dad's face from the stage. Less than one year later, my Dad passed away unexpectedly, August 30th, 2010. I do not wish to relive my experience with that and the hours leading up to his death right now. His death had nothing to do with who he was as a person and the lessons he taught me, so that is where I choose to leave it. What I will say, is that the loss of these two people in such a short period of time devastated my family and left us all in a state of disrepair, disconnect, gut-wrenching and unending grief for what seemed like an eternity. Family dinners and Christmas seemed empty and incomplete. The void that they both left was so deep that it felt like I was the only person in the room, even when I was surrounded by the people I love. The absence of their booming belly-laughs echoed and it felt as though nothing would ever be alright ever again.
The atmosphere outside of the venue was electric. I was literally giddy with excitement and anticipation. My sister was joking about them cancelling the concert at the last minute, people were hugging, singing Beatles' songs, laughing. There was a very real feeling of connection between the crowd. We could hear him rehearsing inside, it was indescribable. Once we were inside, after what seemed like hours of waiting, we got our drinks and junk-food staples, and found our seats. We were in the lower bowl and had a fantastic view. It would have been nice to score floor tickets, but we were just thankful that we managed to get in at all. The concert started with a scrolling collage of photos from Paul's personal collection. Pictures of him with the other Beatles, his late wife, Linda, his children, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and many others. Watching these personal moments in his life scroll by really made it sink in just how famous he is and what an incredible experience it was to see him live. When he finally arrived on stage, the stadium exploded. The only accurate way I can describe it is pure awe. When he approached the mic to actually speak, the tens of thousands of fans silenced, and hung on his every word. I was so delighted, he was just as handsome, charming, funny, and wonderful as I had always hoped he would be. When he spoke to the crowd, it was like he was talking to every single person individually. He was so comfortable, so cool, so amazing. I was in ecstasy for the entire set. Song after song played, tears streamed down my face for "Maybe I'm Amazed," and "Let It Be" (my Dad's personal favorite.) I was overwhelmed during "Live and Let Die," the song itself is iconic enough to stand on it's own, but paired with the extravagant fireworks, pyro, and lights show, it was a feast for the senses. Allegedly, his fireworks scorched the BC Place roof. And along with us for the entire ride, my sister was carrying a small urn with some of my father's ashes, because it
just wouldn't be the same without him.
Whether you're an avid fan, a casual listener, or you're young and just learning about them now, there is no denying the universal appeal that The Beatles have. I am sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of stories out there just like mine, of people who have been touched or effected by their art. I am confident that although they have been relevant for half a century, Beatlemania is far from over.
"And in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make."
Please feel free to share your own personal connections and experiences with The Beatles in the comments section.