Saturday, May 31, 2008

There was a long period where, when people would ask me the question along the lines of "What exactly do you think your problem is, anyway?", I would reply: "I listened to too many Beatles songs as a kid." This was less than half in jest. I stopped expressing this theory some years ago, not so much because it seemed less valid, but more just because no one younger than me had much idea what Beatles songs were (and, inexplicably, there seemed to be more and more of these people younger than me every year.)

By "Beatles songs" I was not referring to fine later mind-expanding compositions such as Polythene Pam, I Am The Walrus, and Fixing A Hole. I was talking more about the earlier [sappier] classics like All My Loving, If I Fell, and I Don't Want To Spoil The Party. (Seriously, this is what I was avidly listening to in my pre-teen years-- that, and REO Speedwagon, which probably didn't help.)

So I was intrigued by a theory espoused by the protagonist of High Fidelity, the latest novel loaned to me by Stay (the source of most of my reading material). On page 24, Rob expresses his impression that listening to Neil Young, The Smiths, John Prine, et. al., as he did, would inevitably leave a person "bruised somewhere". "How," he asks, "can that not turn you into the sort of person liable to break into little bits when your first love goes all wrong?"

On page 25, he expands: "People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands-- literally thousands-- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives."

Interesting idea. My parents, like most good parents, were fairly protective of us kids in terms of keeping us (largely) from alcohol, cigarettes, guns, drugs, etc. But the Beatles albums (and the Peter Paul & Mary! And even the Johnny Cash, for chrissake!) were right there on the shelf in the living room, easily within reach of any seven-year-old. Should they have been locked up with the liquor?? Has the child psychiatry community ever weighed in on this?

Luckily, I don't think kids listen to this kind of stuff these days, even if they can get their hands on it (which isn't easy, since the Beatles opus is still not available on iTunes-- don't get me started on that.) They listen to much safer stuff about gangs and violence and crack and booty. Stuff that will never make them sad. For me, though-- and probably countless other children of the 1960's and 70's-- it's been a bit of a struggle back from the brink of excessive sentimentalism.

P.S. In case you're wondering, my favorite Beatles' song of all is I Will.


Blogger Turboglacier said...

A friend points out that Allison Kraus put out a lovely cover of I Will (which IS available on iTunes.) Now if only Ms. Kraus were Canadian, that would be perfect...

6/1/08, 9:23 AM  
Anonymous said...

God, my parents should have locked everything up. I remember the only thing I was forbidden specifically to read (removed from my hands when I took it off the shelf) was Clockwork Orange. And you could still pretty much describe my music collection as "Songs to Slit Your Wrists To."

But again, causation vs. correlation...

6/1/08, 11:35 AM  
Blogger brushfiremedia said...

I preferred The Cure. That must explain my sunny disposition.

6/1/08, 4:31 PM  
Blogger dweller on the threshold said...

Just found your blog and am really enjoying it, thanks! If you liked the book, you'd really enjoy the movie. Its a fantastic film with the lead role played brilliantly by John Cusack and with a great sidekick role by Jack Black. I still remember thinking he had a great point about pop music the first time I watched it.

6/4/08, 7:50 AM  

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