It seems like every rock and roll heart I meet has a special love for The Beatles. And rightfully so; their music sets a mood that no other band can. All day today, KQRS is celebrating all things Beatles by playing every song, A thru Z, all on vinyl. It’s the perfect opportunity for myself and any other budding Beatles lover to hear these songs the way they were meant to be heard, and to learn more about the band through the one thing they believed in the most: their music.
The Beatles gave life to a generation that really needed it, and their lyrics and quirky melodies affect us today just as strongly as they did back then. Fun rock and roll tethered together with simple messages like “All You Need Is Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” spread across the world with ease, and with that, an insane fan base formed. Most of the crazed Beatles freaks I’ve come to know, I met right here at KQ. From Cassie Hilke, our Promotions Mama here at the station, to Ray Erick, our evening DJ and mad vinyl master, it’s hard not to want a taste of that kind of dedication.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) January 1, 2018
Up until today’s on-air Beatles tribute, I’ve honestly only heard a small portion of the full Beatles catalog, but the handful of songs I got into, I really got into. Blackbird, Come Together and Let it Be are three tunes that immediately take me back to the first time I heard them. I first heard Come Together in my favorite mobster movie “A Bronx Tale,” moments before Sonny, the hot-headed street king of the film, and his minions beat the crap out of the rowdy biker gang that was busting his balls and disrespecting his bar. The song’s hardness led it to become the first song I learned how to play on the drums. Blackbird was passed along to me by my High School friend Michelle, who loves the Beatles almost as much as I psychotically love The Doors. I remember singing the lyrics “You were only waiting for this moment to be free,” in my own head as we walked across the stage at graduation. But I have to say, the most vivid memories of all come rushing back just about every time I listen The Beatles’ twelfth and final studio album, Let It Be.
When I spent a semester studying abroad in Bologna, Italy four years ago, I was lucky enough to share a home with an Italian rock band, and lo and behold, the rock and roll gods blessed me with a crazy Brazilian Beatles fanatic for a roommate. It was a very telling time in my life to say the least. Not only because it taught me about generosity and how important it is to accept people for who they are, but because it allowed me to be open and expressive with my hopes and dreams. I was able to share my love for music with people who care for it just as much as I do.
Before my time in Italy, I had never listened to Let It Be in full, but I believe I was meant to share that first time experience with these people. Each song off the album brings on familiar feelings that we all share as humans: how it feels when you go home after a long while; how you feel when you really, really want something, or better yet, somebody. No song is like the other; they each have their own unique, twisty musical arrangement. More than anything, I love hearing more than one voice slam the microphone. Paul McCartney’s harmonizing on Dig A Pony really makes that song for me. The way each verse builds up and teases the chorus is wild, and I can imagine myself seeing this performed live back in 1970 just freaking the F out.
Let It Be’s first two songs bring back many bittersweet feelings from my time in Italy. Two Of Us was like the plane ride home — how excited I was to come home and see my family — and Dig A Pony was the reality check — when I was crying hysterically on my bed, unaware of when I’d be seeing my friends from Bologna again. Of course it was nice to come home after five months abroad, but I was sad as hell to leave the life I worked so hard to create, and the family I became so close to. A warning to all you travel birds: falling in love with Italy is not hard to do!
As soon as the third song, Across the Universe, starts up, I almost feel a little drowsy. It’s a soft string of words I could easily drift off to dreamland to. I feel that its lyrics should actually be read and digested as a poem to capture the full intensity of the song. Not to make sense of it, but to take a moment to take in the phrases fully. It’s like John Lennon wanted us to be curious and think, “What the hell is he trying to say?” My roommate from Brazil, who we actually nicknamed Brazil, used to speak in this sort of poetic way. What he’d say sometimes seemed nuts until we really sat and thought about it for a while.
I’ve been listening to Let It Be on a loop since last week, and still, every time the song Let It Be starts, I immediately start singing along and thinking back to my time in Italia. Each night, our family would make a delicious “cena” that would include quite possibly the best pasta I’ve ever eaten, paired with the smoothest, (and cheapest!) deep red wine. After the meal, we’d enjoy our café and start jamming, still seated around the kitchen table because we didn’t have a traditional living room. We spent all our time in the kitchen in that house: cooking, talking, fighting and playing music. I even got my tattoo done in that kitchen!
Daniele would play his acoustic guitar, Daniel’s powerful vocals would lead us in song, and Brazil would play the guitar too, keeping the beat as we’d all sing along. We were the rock and roll house, and our friends that lived close by would often come over and join our cozy little music celebration. Let It Be was definitely our favorite song to sing. We loved singing it with company because it seems that everyone on the planet can relate to that song. When we’d go out and explore the streets of Bologna after hours, we’d run around singing out the universally understood lyrics at the top of our lungs, encouraging others to sing with us. Some people thought we were out of our minds, but many joined in on the harmless silliness. Let’s face it, everyone who was out that late in Bologna on a week night had a little bit of crazy in them anyway.
I can’t help but feel emotional when I listen to these songs. It really brings me back to that time and place; a period in my life that was new and pure, but will never be again. I know that Italy is just an ocean away, but as I grow older, I worry about leaving my family, my job and my life here for a long period of time. Overall I’m thankful I was gifted the experience and that I now have these songs to take me to that place whenever I want — that truly is a powerful thing.
The remainder of Let It Be isn’t as rocky of a roller coaster for me. My favorite track has to be I’ve Got A Feeling. Out of all the Beatles vocals, McCartney strikes me the most. The sexy screech he uses in this song is reminiscent of Abbey Road’s Oh! Darling. Here, he lets out his Roger Daughtry type yell most powerfully with his “oh yeah” and “oh no” screams. I just LOVE that. It’s like he really cares about what he’s singing. Just like the lyrics say, that kind of thing “keeps me on my toes!”
For You Blue has a swanky Doors feel to it that I like. George Harrison’s lyrics are sweet and simple. Then Lennon starts flicking the strings on his steel lap guitar in a sort of seductive way, just as Robby Krieger would. He’s like a god damn libertine.
Even though I hear Get Back played all the time on the KQ, I almost always have to listen to it all the way through. The decision to close out the album with it was genius. It’s definitely a “best for last” moment. Ringo Starr’s simplistic approach to the drums in this song seems lost in today’s music scene. Sometimes that clean beat is all a good song really needs.
It’s a nice little ride, this album. I think I’ve felt every single emotion possible while diving straight into its madness. My absolute favorite thing about The Beatles is that their music speaks to all sorts of people, with all sorts of feelings — that fact was most apparent to me while I was living in Italy. We all live and breathe, and everybody goes through hard times. It’s the way in which we choose to deal with them that differentiates us. Many of their songs make sense, and many do not — nor do they really need to. Music has no boundaries, and The Beatles prove it, if not best with Let It Be.
Listen to Let It Be here: