Sunday Night Journal: January 1, 2017
52 Movies: Week 53 - Tony Takitani

52 Albums: Week 1 - Meet the Beatles

As far back as I can remember, I was surrounded by record albums. My father loved music and I grew up singing along with Steve and Eydie, Keely Smith, Della Reese, and so many more—and Broadway musicals. But those were my father's albums.

Later on, sitting in my grandparents' bedroom while the adults talked in the living room and the younger kids played, I discovered the radio. Pretty soon I couldn't wait until Sunday lunch was over so that I could shut myself in the room with Bobby Vinton, the Four Seasons, the Everly Brothers, and Neil Sedaka, and listen and sing to my heart's content. But that was the radio, and it never occurred to me that you could buy those records and listen to them whenever you want.

Then one day in the 8th grade, a friend started talking about this English band called The Beatles. She had heard about them from her friend Margaret, who was from England. From England! Just to have a friend from England was pretty amazing.

Pretty soon I got to listen to the album at a friend's house, and then—I got my own—my first album. I don't remember how I came into possession of that album. I may have bought it myself, but I suspect that I hadn't yet figured out that I could do that. More than likely my father, having heard me enthuse about the Fab Four had brought it home for me.

I loved everything about that album. I loved the dark blue cover with those four faces looking at me. I loved running my fingernail down the slit in the side of the cover through the cellophane, and slipping out the paper jacket of the album, and then, the album itself—and those songs.

I listened to that album every chance I could get. After my family went to bed and I had sole possession of the living room and the stereo, I would listen to that music into the morning hours—and dance. I knew every word. I knew all the harmonies. I knew who sang what, and the life story of every member of the band. I loved to hear them sing, “Ooooooo.” I was in love with Paul.

When I listen to those songs now, it's evident that they are not great music. It's basically just one silly love song after another, but, really, what IS wrong with that occasionally. These were for the most part happy songs, and even the ones that weren't happy, made me happy, and obviously they made millions of other people happy then, and even now. Hearing them every once in a while in a store or on Sirius radio, I smile and sing along.

And of course it didn't it stop with Meet the Beatles. Pretty soon there was Introducing the Beatles, and Hard Day's Night, and Abbey Road, and on and on. And there were Herman's Hermits and the Rolling Stones, and Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Peter and Gordon, and all the British Invasion—but it all started with Meet the Beatles.

Once Bill and I were in the back seat of my parents' car and my parents were in the front listening to some song from their youth, and one of them said something like, “That was great music. Kids today won't have any memories.” Bill and I just looked at each other and laughed.


—Janet Cupo has been commenting on this blog for about as long as it's existed, and has her own excellent blog at The Three Prayers.


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In 1978 my parents were divorced and my father had a roommate for a short period of time who gave me a bunch of albums. This was one of them. So I "discovered" The Beatles at age 12 many years after the rest of America. I was just as entranced as you, Janet. Though not in love with Paul, or any of them. :)

Besides the fact that this is a very enjoyable post, it's the perfect album to start the series with.


Somebody stole all my albums--and there were very many--from the Newman Center at Memphis State over Thanksgiving break about 1970. I'm sure those are my albums you have. The roommate probably gave them to you out of a sense of guilt. I want them back.


Stealing from the Newman Center is just sad to read, Janet!

I sold all of my albums circa 1995 at a big record/book store in Fort Lauderdale that probably no longer exists. I was moving to Seattle at the time.

So now I am well re-stocked with around 1200 or so CDs, but no record albums at all.

Can't believe my father roomed with a thief!

I'll take the money from the record albums.


Ok, I hate to do this pedantic thing, but I am compelled: I think you mean you have no LPs, Stu. "Album" is the collection of music, independent of the medium.

This is important. :-) Because we often need to speak, for instance, of an album originally released on LP and later re-released on CD (mp3, whatever).

I gave away almost all my LPs to my roommate when I graduated from college in 1981. Meet the Beatles was one of them. Plus all the other Beatles albums I had at the time, including the American version of Rubber Soul, which I will write about later.

I only kept a handful of LPs. For some reason one of the ones I kept was ELP's Trilogy album. Weird because I don't care for ELP that much and I don't like the album. But I still have it! I also kept Freewheelin'--a gem of an album. Is anyone doing it?

LPs, yes Mac, that is what I meant. I can't get over just referring to everything as album...which is apparently correct but not specific enough for the context of Janet's missing records.

Speaking of ELP, two of them died this year so now we're just down to the P. :(

Maclin: When I sent you the post and you wrote back that it was a good album to start the series with, I thought that was true in a couple of ways: because it's an introduction to the world of albums, which we've all had in one way or another, and because that particular album was the beginning of an era of music that most of us grew up in.


I still have a fair amount of vinyl, mostly stuff that either never came out on CD or that simply sounds good on vinyl compared with CD.

I think the last time I did an estimate it came out at around 1200 LPs. Kind of crazy, but then I started buying them ca. 1964 and have gotten rid of very few.

Yes, Janet, I was thinking exactly of those two aspects, but especially the second. I expect by far the majority of these posts to be post-Meet-the-Beatles pop music.

Just add Freewheelin on the claims post, Robert. Pretty sure nobody has it.

Never cared much for ELP myself, though I have their first album. I remember hearing Keith Emerson's pre-ELP group, The Nice, and thinking it was interesting, but that was long (long) ago. Basically I distrust keyboard-based rock groups. ;-)

I have Keith Emerson's signature somewhere. At one time he lived in the Bahamas and came to Miami for doctor/dental stuff. My mother worked in the dentist office he and his family went to. I still remember the day she called me up and asked if I knew who Keith Emerson was. "Yes!"

I think I've got roughly 60 LPs left, and approx. 600 CDs, about equally divided between rock and classical.

When I see ELP, unfortunately I think of Extended Learning Program. If you hadn't mentioned Keith Emerson, I wouldn't have ever figured it out.


~~~I still remember the day she called me up and asked if I knew who Keith Emerson was. "Yes!"~~~

No! ELP!

That's because you're not a pop music nerd.:-) I've seen the initials in other, non-musical contexts and wondered "Why are they talking about Emerson, Lake, and Palmer?"

I've never counted my CDs, though I imagine it's under 600. During the first 10 or 15 years of its rule I really wasn't buying music. Then for a while I bought a fair number, many of them used. Now I buy very few because there's not enough room on the shelves for the ones I have.

I'm not even going to talk about mp3s. Too embarrassing.

I was replying to Janet.

Rob: ha.

In the 60s and early 70s, I was the biggest pop music nerd there ever was. I'm not sure what happened except that I was very busy with kids and had no money. And then maybe it was because I started listening to Contemporary Christian Music, but I'm pretty much over that. ;-)

I had really quit listening to music before I started reading this blog, which is very strange. If I had continued buying LPs the way I started, I could probably have given you a run for your money.


I was always very picky about which LPs I bought, which makes Trilogy even more surprising. I think I bought it because of "From the Beginning." Boy, was I surprised by the rest of the ablum!

I only own two Dylan Albums--Freewheelin' and Shot of Love (which I still have, but would never listen to).

I don't get the whole Contemporary Christian Music phenomenon ... I now work at a Baptist school so it is ever present at any churchy type of function I might go to. Other than a few very well known hymns that I'm sure come from the African American Christian experience I'll take old-time classical church music for my spiritual needs.

I'm with Mac in his distrust of keyboard-based rock music.

My parents owned a handful of LPs when I was growing up -- one by the Beach Boys, and a single of "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown", I remember -- but otherwise I've had little exposure to them. I've never owned a single one. I had a friend in grad school who had several thousand, which he would play on his diamond-tipped record player.

At first I collected cassettes, and then transitioned to CDs around 1990. I now have about 2000, I think, but sadly they are stored in the furnace room at present. I ripped them all to mp3, and have since amassed an embarrassingly huge collection of music in that format.

I wonder if my CDs will ever see the light of day again? I have storage racks for them, and I used to love browsing through them, organizing them, and showing them to people. Now they would have to compete for space with bookshelves. And children.

Shot of Love has a couple good songs on it. I always liked "Dead Man" (Keltner's drums are great on that one) and "Every Grain of Sand."

I was a big CCM guy from the late 70s through about 1992. I've moved on from most of that stuff but I have a few faves I still listen to.

Funny thing about the Beatles. I'm a little too young to have experienced their music at the time of its arrival, but I do remember some of my older cousins listening to them. Thing is, I've got stronger memories of The Dave Clark Five! I remember cousins on both my mom's and dad's side talking more about DCF than the Beatles. I can even picture some of the album covers.

Was there a period of time when the DCF rivaled the Beatles for popularity? This would have been mid 60's, when I was four or five years old.

All CCM is not dross, and I used to listen to some while I traveled, but it was almost all on cassette tapes. I do like Audrey Assad. Maybe I should write about one of her albums.


I meant to say it wasn't ALL dross. It's interesting that you say you like African American Christian music better because both are fueled by emotion for the most part.


My mother opened a fashion boutique in Greenwich Village in about 1964-1965. Most of her shopgirls were English, but not all. There was a record player on the stairs to the basement. My mother's favourite was perhaps Otis Redding but the shop girls brought in their own records, and I heard the early Beatles all the time from the moment she opened the shop. It was part of her genius for PR. She 'did' 'English designer in America' and at just the right time. My parents were 'the English couple' and my mother milked the English provenance of her design talent for all it was worth. So of course the mid 1960s Beatles were a part of my life - I would say, from about 'Hard Days Night' on. I knew there was earlier stuff, but - in accordance with the LAW invoked on here a few days back - it always sounded weird to me, even at the age of 6! I grew up with the progression of the Beatles, from this pop band through their hippy music. I was taken to see Yellow Submarine by my parents, on I'm geussing my 9th birthday, and another year I remember going into the shop and the girls played 'They Say its Your Birthday'.

My son, who was born when I was 30, really liked the Beatles. I used to say he was reliving my childhood--not totally a good idea.


When I speak of the 'early Beatles' would sounded weird to my young ears, I mean very early like 'A Taste of Honey' (tasting much sweeter than wine) or 'Anna'.

My parents were not Hippies. They were the Bohemians of the 1950s who, as PJ O'Rourke noted, made a good living out of the feckless hippies. My father (and, to a large extent, my mother too) despised most of hippy culture. He had a odd view about the Beatles, one side of which is tenable and one side probably not. He thought the Beatles were 'good'. I tried to persuade him that other bands were good too - perhaps I said, 'and the Rolling Stones' - I cannot remember what my 'and' was. But my father said if you add any 'and' at all to acceptance of the Beatles, that was the end of culture and civilization. He was pretty serious too. I love pop music as much as anyone, but I do see his point entirely. The second idea my father had about the Beatles was probably one of those nutty 'there was no moon landing' kind of views. He thought their producer - was it a man named Martin - wrote most of their songs. I realize some evidence could be given for this - especially the awfulness of the Beatles pre and post 'Martin' - 'Anna' or most of Wings. But as we've seen since then, most pop musicians have a creative lifespan of about ten years, after which they really cannot write whole good albums any longer. There's an occasional good Dylan track or von Morrison song, but essentially they seem to dry up creatively after half a dozen albums. So the dirth of good post-Beatles music from Harrison, Lennon and McCartney cannot be taken as evidence that 'Martin' (or whatever his name was) wrote their songs.

I'm guessing that my father's opinion came from precisely his status with relation to the Hippies - the ten years older Bohemian guy who could easily outsmart and direct these young hippies. He must have seen 'Martin' as playing that role. Its rationalist to think there's any explanation of the Beatles phenomenon, but it seems likely or possible to me that a very good producer was part of the story.

I like some Christian rock music that I hear on the car radio. I can only take it for about twenty minutes, then the emotionalism gets too much for me. There are some very good bands in there - notably of course David Crowder and I also like Robin Mark. My sister likes to quote the Simpsons, that Christian Rock makes both Rock music and Christianity worse, but - bowing to everyone in my unmusicality - I just don't think that's true.

I think the fact that everyone likes the Beatles down to this day cuts against the case that no one can really like pop music that was made decades before they started listening.

What is the LAW?


Grumpy, it was George Martin your father was talking about -- "An English record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician", he's been called the "Fifth Beatle". Long Wikipedia piece on him here.

This series is going to be a real education for me because I somehow missed out on the whole rock music thing; mysterious to me since many of my age peers really got into it. I still remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 when I had just turned 22, and thinking they were cute, but with very funny hairdos, and the music just okay. All the screaming girls in the audience must have made me think them simply a teenage phenomenon. I like some individual rock songs that I've heard on the radio over the years, but have never listened to a whole album, and I really couldn't identify many of the performers.

I'm pretty sure that all those songs couldn't have been written by one person. It's like reading the posts on this blog and saying they might have been written by one person. It's obvious from the different writing styles that they're not, and I think the Beatles' songs different styles, too.


You can certainly like songs from any period, what I was referring to is that you might not have the same attachment to it unless you are introduced to it at a formative time in your life. And of course I was just using my own experience as an example.

Stu formulated the LAW. It states that a person can only have an attachment to a song if they first encounter it at a formative time in their life.

The first LAW I have ever formulated. Hooray for me!

I guess that is my problem with CCM, the huge emotion of it, and then that I do not have the same emotional response as I do to so much secular music. There are songs I hear and immediately get goosebumps for one reason or another. None of them have someone emoting to Jesus/God.

I think they are trying to give evidence for their faith and strengthen the faith of others, and the only way they can think of to do that is to hype up the emotions. It does get to feel embarrassing after a time. But there are some really talented artists in the genre, like David Crowder.

Responding to Janet: I have a friend, a well-known theologian, who knows which are Paul songs and which are John songs and perhaps even which are George songs. I agree the songs are all different, and that that could be a strike against the idea of a single presiding genius being behind them all. But I can't myself figure out which voice is which (not literally voice).

I think there could be some truth in my father's view. He had no idea of the process by which an album is put together. It could be that George Martin was a better producer than any of the other producers of his time. I think my father would have said that the Beatle albums were 'really written by Martin'. I'm sure that view doesn't hold. But Martin could have been a genius producer who raised all four voices above the level of any other band. The fact that the songs are all different (ie that there are four unique voices behind or within the group) doesn't actually tell against the (attenuated) thesis that George Martin's contribution was invaluable.

But now that I'm getting older music that I never paid too much attention to, like the old jazz standards written by Cole Porter et al also give me quite a nice feeling.

I was watching the newest Woody Allen movie with my mother over Christmas and beyond any interest in the plot, or the actresses and actors, I just thought that all of the music was so wonderfully played and sounded so crisp and beautiful. All pretty much played in the background, all songs that I somehow know because they are part of the sonic landscape of 20th century American music.

The movie ended and the credits were rolling and I was just enjoying the music still ... until my mother switched channels. :(

My teenaged son was telling me the other day that some study or other indicated that people have the strongest appreciation for music that was popular during their teenage years, with another but lesser peak of appreciation for music that was popular during their parents' teenage years. We laughed, since he brought this up in response to me saying how much easier it was to find good music now than in the 1980s. Neither of us has much appreciation for the popular music of the 1980s.

There was a lot of good music produced in the 80s but much of it flew under the radar. Most 80s top 40 stuff was pretty bad though, and that's what people mainly remember.

I'm much more familiar with 80s music than with 90s, as during the latter decade I was listening mostly to folk and alt country. I didn't discover some of the good 90s pop/rock until the decade's close.

Not appreciating the popular music of the 1980s is a sign of good taste!

Grumpy, I've never heard of David Crowder or Robin Mark, but I'm going to give them a listen.

I used to listen to some CCM, mostly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I was a teenager. My favourites at that time were Mark Heard, Daniel Amos, and The Choir, and, to a lesser extent, Adam Again and The Seventy Sevens. They were all part of the same circle. I still like quite a few of those records. That can't just be because I discovered them in my formative years, can it?

The Beatles is just about the only pop music my mother would have in the house. My father would listen to some on tapes in the car. My sisters got to watch Top of the Pops (when we had a television), but that mostly just confirmed my low estimate of pop music.

Well, what a lot of interesting comments made while I was otherwise occupied today. A few remarks (of course):

"Was there a period of time when the DCF rivaled the Beatles for popularity?"

Yes, definitely. I mean, I can't say about record sales, chart positions, and so forth, but certainly it looked that way to me. It didn't last very long, but I think for the first year or two all the British Invasion bands were pretty much peers as far as public estimation was concerned. The ones who only had a few good songs in them soon faded. I expect "Glad All Over" and "Bits and Pieces" still sound pretty good. I never heard a DC5 album so I don't know if there are any neglected treasures there.

I was a teenager when the Beatles hit, and I liked them, but I was a bit of a folk music snob, or at least a would-be f.m.s., so I didn't take them or any of the others all that seriously at first.

Grumpy, there is in fact a great deal of validity to the Martin thesis. Not that he wrote the songs but I think it's pretty generally recognized that his contribution was huge. My impression is that it was more in the mid and late stuff--the baroque trumpet parts on "Penny Lane," for instance, were probably not within the capabilities of any of the Beatles.

Regarding the four different voices, both literally and figuratively, if you start listening with that in mind it becomes obvious, especially as the group goes on. By the time of the white album there are obvious Paul songs and John songs, even though the credit is Lennon-McCartney.

My favorite remark about CCM is from the sage Jimmy Swaggart: that Christian rock is like methadone for heroin addicts.

I do like some of it. I've wanted to like it, and there are some relatively less-known artists in that area whose work is just good, period. But in general...I'm sorry but it tends to make me cringe a bit.

There was a lot of great pop music made during the '80s, though I don't think most of it got the household-name level of popularity. U2 an exception, maybe. In fact one the first albums I thought of for this series was from the '80s, but there's a good chance that you never even heard of the artist. Granted, I was purposefully trying to think of lesser-know things--I was not planning to write about the Beatles or Dylan

Stu, I may have been about the age you are now when I began to appreciate the pre-rock standards and singers. I'm a fairly big Sinatra fan.

Craig, this is the album I have by David Crowder

Possibly the most striking thing about the evolution of music from, say, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (my mother didn't believe that could be their real hair) until, say, Led Zeppelin II, was only *five* *years*. Listen to the first cut from each album back-to-back. That's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Whole Lotta Love." The difference is mind-boggling.

Granted, what we heard on record from the Beatles in 1964 had already been heard live for a year or two, but that may have been true of what we heard on record from Led Zeppelin in 1969, too.

Interesting portrait of your parents' relation to the hippies, Grumpy. Makes me think of Bill Graham (b 1931).

Yes Mac. I was listening to PJ O'Rourke on the radio a few years ago, and he said that the Bohemians of the fifties created and made money out of the hippies of the 1960s. My father used to say that once everyone in the Village was stoned, life was easy. All one had to do was guide their hand across the cheque....

That's a joke.

Doggone it! Y'all already made me buy an album.


I like Dire Straights. I never bought one of their Albums, but someone gave me a cassette of two of their records which I really love - I still listen to them on my laptop. Isn't that 1980s music? That's the only example of good 1980s music that I can think of.

I think I've said this here before: there were only 5 good albums in the 1980s. Nebraska, The Joshua Tree, Appetite for Destruction, and Rain Dogs. I forget the fifth one. Maybe Dire Straits.

Well, those are good, except maybe for Appetite, which I admit I have not heard except for one or two songs. But there is much more.

I'm pretty certain Dire Straits's first album came out in 1979, because I moved to another city late that year and remember hearing it in the place I moved from. But that's pretty close to '80s.

What album, Janet?

Not one that's been mentioned, but the conversation reminded me of it. If I like it as well as I remember, I'll write about it.


There were plenty of good albums in the 80s, but they weren't from 80's bands.

I perceive that my contributions will need to be focused on the '80s.

Some good 80s records from 80s acts:

Blue Nile - Hats
The first three REM records
Simple Minds -- New Gold Dream; Sparkle in the Rain
The first three U2 records
The Church -- Starfish
All three Chameleons albums
Talk Talk -- Colour of Spring; Spirit of Eden
Talking Heads -- Speaking in Tongues; Stop Making Sense
Much of the Cocteau Twins' work
Lloyd Cole -- Rattlesnakes
Wire Train -- In a Chamber
Big Country's first two albums
The Silencers -- A Blues for Buddha

I don't know all of those but can vouch for most of them. And add Ultravox.

Yep. And I forgot New Order also.

Culture Club - Colour By Numbers

Ooooooo! HATED Culture Club! :-)

Not sure I ever heard them. I guess they were on the radio but I didn't hear the radio that much.

Speaking of the '80s, and radio: Madonna. I think I may have told this before, but I was aware of her as a celebrity for a long time (impossible to avoid) before I ever heard any of her music. When I finally did, I thought "What?!? This is what all the fuss is about?!?" Seemed like pretty dull stuff to me.

The Culture Club post was meant to be funny. A good example of 80s music though. Madonna on the other hand, c'mon Mac we're just talking fun dance music with Madonna!

Michael mentioned The Waterboys on the other thread -- there's another good 80s band.

I always loved hearing Karma Chamelion on the radio

"we're just talking fun dance music with Madonna!"

Yeah, but those dang rock critics seem to take her seriously.

Those same rock critics love rap, which is the worst possible music in the history of the world.

Some years ago, at least 10, I read that the album Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest would convince any skeptic that rap can be really good. I borrowed it and listened to it two or three times and it was...okay. Seems like the great claims people make for it have at least as much to do with socio-political statements as music.

I think Madonna's popularity and critical acclaim had more to do with her flouting of traditional sexual mores than with any talent she had.

That was my impression at the time, especially after I heard a bit of her music.

I didn't say there was no good music in the 80s, just that it was hard to find. Added to which, I wasn't keen enough on music to put in the effort required. It's an awful lot easier to share music now. Back then, very little of what was readily available was worth listening to.

When I was maybe 14 a contemporary was raving about Madonna, and I said I didn't like her music. "What, are you gay or something?" was his (now hilarious) reply.

It makes a sort of sense, in line with what we were saying earlier: as if the sexual stuff was the only reason to listen to her.

Yes, that was what brought it to mind. These days, I gather, she's pretty much a gay icon.

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