#b#Landon Y. Jones, Author and Editor#/b#
My first reaction to the Beatles involved all the things they were not. They were not American. (They were very improbably British.) They were not black. They were not cool. They did not even have a good name — the “Beatles” was such a tired knock-off of Buddy Holly’s Crickets. They seemed like a band built for teenyboppers.
But that all changed with the album that began, “It was twenty years ago today/Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play . . .” With their quasi-comic, quasi-psychedelic Sergeant Pepper album, the Beatles became a defining cultural force for the baby boom generation — and those of us a few years older. They were rebellious, iconoclastic, imaginative, funny, antiwar — everything we wanted to be. We could look to the Beatles for clues about where society might be going. Has any other band ever done better?
Jones, a Princeton resident, is the author of Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (1980), which, according to the index, mentions the Beatles on 15 different pages. He is the former managing editor of People magazine.
#b#Sue Ellen Page, Choir Director#/b#
I was in ninth grade when the Beatles’ first album was released. My four brothers and I were living in Santa Monica, CA, at the time — Beach Boys territory — and we didn’t know what to make of the fact that our parents, classically trained professional musicians, liked the Beatles as much as we did. As I recall, we ranged from being annoyed to pleased that the entire Page family were Beatles fans from the start!
After moving to Phoenix, our mother became the associate director of the Phoenix Boyschoir, and our father scored many arrangements — most often Beatles tunes — for that organization. The four brothers — Bill, Rich, Rob and Dave Page — fine musicians all, along with family friend Martin Davich, who went on to a successful career as a composer for the television series ER among other things, spent hours jamming on Beatles songs through high school and beyond.
To this day, we get together annually for what our late mother called “A Beatle Bash” at one of the brothers’ homes in California. Hour after hour of Beatles songs, interlaced with songs from bands that were no doubt inspired by them — who wasn’t? At the most recent gathering, Martin was able to join the brothers for a reunion after nearly 40 years. He sat down at the keyboard and at the request of Richard began to play “Fool on the Hill,” which he had arranged for our chamber choir at Central High School in Phoenix, all those years ago.
More recently, one of my brothers, Richard Page, has been touring with Ringo for the past three or four years as his bass player and lead singer in the All Starr Band, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ringo last summer while they were on tour near here. A true gentleman.
Sue Ellen Page is the director of choirs for children and youth at Nassau Presbyterian Church.
#b#Sebastian Currier, Composer#/b#
I grew up on the Beatles. Always loved them. Looking back now, I’m still impressed by the tremendous variety of sound worlds they created and yet always managed to maintain their identity at the same time. Well, and all those wonderful tunes.
Sebastian Currier is an American composer of chamber and orchestral works. His appointment as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, announced March 12, begins on July 1. His reminiscence came from Beijing, where he was preparing for a premiere of one of his works.
#b#Jessica Durrie, Coffeeshop Owner#/b#
In the mid-’70s I was living in Melbourne, Australia, with my family. We lived in this beautiful Victorian house that had a cool bar room between the kitchen and the living room. My parents threw lots of parties and had the turn table set up in the bar. I remember sitting on the floor with head phones on, listening to the Beatles Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper albums over and over again. It’s just one of those little nuggets of a childhood memory that has always stayed with me. The music is unforgettable.
Durrie is the owner of Small World Coffee in Princeton.
#b#John Weingart, Radio Show Host#/b#
I first came to really appreciate the Beatles through an album called “Beatle Country” issued in 1967 by the Charles River Valley Boys. Since I was already attuned to bluegrass and also irrationally oppositional to anything popular, this record opened my ears to music I had previously tried to ignore. To this day, when I hear the Beatles sing “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” I feel like they are covering a song from the CRVB.
Weingart is the host of “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio,” a folk and bluegrass program that has been broadcast on Sunday nights on WPRB from more than 30 years.
#b#John Henry Goldman, Jazz Trumpeter#/b#
Like the assassination of JFK, the moment I first heard about the Beatles is etched in memory. A young kid (probably in the fourth grade), I was in a car on my way home from a Saturday morning art class. My good friend Patty Feldman was talking about this singing group that was all the rage.
I had older siblings, so the music soon entered my life — “She Loves You” stands out from that introductory period. Of course in the ’60s and I grew up some, and I began to have music tastes of my own, the Beatles, Motown, Rolling Stones taking the top honors. Rubber Soul, Sgt. Peppers, the White Album, Abbey Road, wondrous music all.
Not being a girl, I was not enamoured by any one Beatle in particular, just in love with their music, all of it, without exception. It remains that way to this day. “As My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “This Girl,” “I’m Fixin’ A Hole,” the Beatles are for me geniuses of musical composition from a golden era of music. I can only be grateful for hearing such beauty at such an impressionable age, something to last a lifetime.
John Henry Goldman is a jazz trumpet player based in West Windsor.
#b#June Ballinger, Theater Director#/b#
The most searing moment I recall when the album Meet The Beatles came out was that I needed to make a life-changing decision. Was I to remain a little girl infatuated with my Barbie dolls or a woman for whom marriage to Paul McCartney was possible? McCartney won. Mind, the very first song I heard was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (not “Please Please Me”; I am not sure when I had the opportunity to hear “Please Please Me,” which I know know was the first single released in the U.S.).
But all my allowances were transferred from Barbies wardrobe to Beatle LPs from that first Ed Sullivan appearance on. LPs were close to $6 a piece then, and Barbie clothes were a lot cheaper. But luckily my British mother was also very keen on The Beatles and very proud of what was coming out of the U.K. So I believe she may have subsidized some records.
The phenomenon also kicked off my fantasy life in which I spent hours in my room listening to music, and all the music I would listen to over and over again became the sound track of my imagined future. I think it was when I became aware of the correspondence between music and one’s emotions.
June Ballinger is the artistic director of Passage Theater in Trenton.
#b#Andy Akiho, Composer#/b#
I remember discovering the “The Beatles (White Album)” in my older sister’s collection of cassette tapes when I was about 7 years old in 1986 — I didn’t even know what the U.S.S.R. was back then! Ever since that day 27 years ago, I have admired the Beatles, and I’m constantly amazed by how much I grow to love each piece the more I listen to them — right now I’m listening to “Julia.” I always catch something new and memorable with each Beatles’ rediscovery!
Andy Akiho is a composer and percussionist purusing a PhD in music at Princeton University.
#b#Brian Katona, Conductor#/b#
I have always been a great admirer of the Beatles and their creative process. The evolution of their music, from “Please Please Me,” to “Abbey Road” is quite a remarkable achievement. In just roughly seven years, they created a compositional arc that some musicians require a lifetime to obtain. As I composer myself, the Beatles have always been a source of inspiration for my own work. They were never afraid to take risks, never afraid to challenge themselves as well as their audience. That is the mark of a truly great composer, someone who goes beyond what has already been accomplished. I compose quite a bit in the musical theater genre, so the Beatles’ albums, especially the latter ones, have had a strong impact on the way I think of music from a dramatic perspective. When an album truly used to be an album, one cohesive work of art, the Beatles knew how to maintain the drama from beginning to end. They were masters of storytelling, and here we are, 50 years later, just as fascinated with their music as we were when the needle dropped on that first album.
Brian Katona is a conductor based in West Windsor. Most recently he has taught music classes at Rutgers University and conducted with the Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra.
#b#Tom Stange, Property Manager#/b#
I always loved the Beatles! I very vividly remember seeing them on the Ed Sullivan show and my brother Karl telling me that he was really Paul McCartney; and that he went back and forth to Liverpool while I was sleeping at night.
My brother Karl, aka McCartney, played sax, and that was my influence to begin to play it, too. I was 6 and he was 12 at the time, though I did not begin to learn to play until I was 9. I really loved the Beatles, especially hearing them through a transistor radio tethered to my bicycle’s handle bars!
Tom Stange is the leasing manager for National Business Parks, a manager of commercial properties including College Park at Princeton Forrestal Center. He continues to play the saxophone with various rock ’n’ roll bands.
#b#Phillip Fine, Financial Manager#/b#
Born in 1960 and not one who dubiously claims he remembers things when he was 3 years old, I don’t remember the Please, Please Me album’s debut, the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the concert at Shea Stadium, not even Kennedy’s assassination. Growing up with three teenage siblings during the 1960s, I always heard the Beatles in our New York City apartment, and they made a tremendous childhood impression, which as we know lasts a lifetime.
Some reminiscences that bridge the decades since then include when “Let It Be” was released as a single. I recall going to the local pizza joint on 181st Street in Washington Heights and being so excited that “Let It Be” was on the juke box. Around that time, there was a widely known understanding that the Beatles were almost finished and “Let It Be” would be their last album. A slice of pizza cost 25 cents then.
As we know, Paul McCartney tried in vain to keep the band together in its dying days. So much has been written about Yoko Ono pulling John Lennon away from the band. In 1971, at summer camp in New Hampshire, one of the counselors was a friend of my sister’s, and he actually once interviewed Paul McCartney. To meet that counselor was like meeting royalty.
I was a junior in high school in 1976 when it was announced that Paul McCartney and Wings would appear at Madison Square Garden. I heard the news at school and immediately cut the rest of the days’ classes, bolted home to my mother’s secret cash hiding place, and “borrowed” enough to buy the maximum six tickets at $8.50 each. To this day, I remember the line at the Garden. I stood there for hours, and people were pushing and shoving so tightly that at times my feet didn’t touch the ground, but still we all moved forward. Later on I scalped two of them to my Spanish teacher for $45 and two to a stranger for $70 right before the concert.
I recall seeing an interview with Sir Paul some time in the late 1970s or 1980s, where the interviewer thought he was being clever and unique and asked him “You’ve been interviewed so many times; is there any question you haven’t been asked yet?” to which Paul McCartney answered “I’ve been asked that one, too.” Lastly, about Paul McCartney: I read that he really liked SuperTramp. It has always interested me which musical acts the great musical acts admire.
When I was a senior in college, I remember when John Lennon was shot. That was truly a sad day. His comeback album and his and Yoko’s lengthy interview in Playboy had come out within the preceding few months, and I couldn’t help wondering if the murderer, Mark David Chapman, had somehow been influenced by John Lennon’s re-emergence to the public stage.
When my father died a few years back, and I cleaned out my parents’ apartment, I came across some Beatles cards and bubble bath (see photo above). I still have the cards, but managed to sell one of the bubble bath statues on eBay.
I think it was truly telling that at the benefit concert for Sandy relief on December 12, 2012, at Madison Square Garden, which saw the largest collection of rock and roll legends on one stage for one event — the Who, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Nirvana — the show-closer was the greatest of them all, the living legend, Paul McCartney.
Classical music from the 17th and 18th centuries has survived and is still popular in 2013, though no modern composer seems to be able to match the genius of the greats of yester-century. Some years back, even the great Paul McCartney (did I mention him yet?) tried his craft at a classical album, and it royally sucked.
At a Billy Joel concert, I heard Billy Joel say that he would be very proud by the end of his career to be worthy of walking in J.S. Bach’s footsteps. I wonder if several hundred years from now, they’ll be listening to the Beatles, and the super-legends of the second half of the 20th century will be known like Vivaldi and Bach are today.
— Phillip Fine
Phillip Fine spent 11 years as an international development financial manager and consultant in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan, where knowing the lyrics to Beatles songs and being able to sing them in English was very well-received. He currently is chief operating officer of a start-up investment advisory firm in Lawrenceville.