Tag Archives: Beatles

Rubber Soul:The Beatles

7 Feb

I am an odd soul, I admit it freely.  By age 10, I was a full fledge Beatle Maniac.  The only problem was that I was 10 in the late 70’s-not the mid sixties.  During the late seventies and into the eighties, I was one of only a few in my peer group that listened to the Beatles.  The Beatles were not hip then, as synth pop and the ethereal sounds of U2 began to dominate the airwaves.

In years past, I have run into old friends from school and they still ask if I am a big Beatles fan.  That’s how much my fandom is still remembered.

All that to say-that I recently picked up a used CD copy of the Beatles Rubber Soul record that was recorded and released in 1965.  I am always amazed at this record.  It’s unique in the Beatles records in that, it is a transition from the Beatles Mersey beat origins to a more experimental, acoustic version of the Beatles-but not quite the full-fledged high priests of psychedelic rock that would emerge in later years with Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and the Magical Mystery Tour.

One thing that really stands out is the vocals.  Rubber Soul has some of the tightest, layered harmonies of any Beatles record.  As a whole, it’s almost as if they decided to turn down the instruments and turn up the vocal mix on every track.  “Nowhere Man” is still a standout among these gems of amazing vocal harmonies, woven together in a mid-tempo rock sound that is accented with jangly guitars and a lyric that is whimsical and meaningful at the same time.  My favorite turn of phrase comes at the end of the chorus when John turns the lyric around to not fit an obvious rhyme.  If you’re not sure what I mean-give it a listen to see how this turn of phrase makes you take notice of the words and what’s being sung.

Just some random thoughts as I listen to one of my favorite records.

Christian Music: A Personal History-Part 1

1 Sep
The Controversial I Predict 1990

The Controversial I Predict 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Music has always been an obsession in my life.  I was five when I stumbled across my mom’s old collection of 45’s and began listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.  At age 6, I discovered the Beatles when Yellow Submarine was shown on Television on July 4th.  What better way to spend Independence day, hamburgers, sparklers, and then a psychedelic soundtrack in pure Beatles harmony.

At age 8, I bought my first 45 with some money I had saved from allowance.  I bought “She Loves You” by the Beatles on Parlaphone.  I played both sides until I had memorized every note and word.  My first LP purchase was the double LP soundtrack of the movie Grease.  I loved the old 50’s style with a twist of Olivia Newton John.  What a combination!

From ages 8-14. I spent most of my free time glued to a record player or radio, soaking in the best of the old and new sounds of popular music.  Groups like Soft Cell, A ha, Billy Joel, and U2 began to fill up my own record collection.  If I wasn’t listening to music, I was reading about it.  I used to go to the library on a weekly basis to read Billboard magazine and to see the Top 200 album charts.  Other than Billboard, I read bios on the Beatles and had Rolling Stone’s massive encyclopedia of rock.  I read it almost as much as I read the Bible.

Christian Music

Somewhere in my early teens, I began to become aware of  something called Christian Rock.  Rock music that was from a Christian point of view and a more hip look to the covers-well sort of…  My first taste of Christian music was Amy Grant and Sandi Patti.  I enjoyed some of Amy’s early stuff, but a little too soft.  Sandi was just so canned and opera sounding that I hated it instantly.  It didn’t help that I had a Baptist aunt (we were Presbyterian-after all) who insisted that Amy Grant was not Christian and that Sandi Patti was the best thing since chocolate.  It only made me hate Sandi and like Amy more.

These early tastes, left me with the impression that Christian music was pretty much limited to soft rock.

Steve Taylor & Stryper Rock My World

I think it was a Sunday school teacher who told me about Steve Taylor.  He said I might like it, so I trekked on down to the Christian bookstore and found a $4.99 cassette (blue-kind of cool to see a blue one) by Steve Taylor called I Want To Be a Clone.

I took it home and popped this blue meanie into the cassette player…and it shocked me.  It was actually kind of cool. The music was modern (at least, modern for 1984) and the lyrics were biting and sarcastic.  What teen couldn’t relate to biting sarcasm?

I played the tape to death and was fascinated by Taylor’s Christian worldview put to a pop rock soundtrack.  I was hooked….

My next trip to the Christian bookstore, I spent over an hour just browsing all the different artists, meticulously studying the covers to try to pick my next purchase.  I think the manager thought I was trying to shoplift, because she kept poking into the section and asking if I needed help.

Actually, I did…since I didn’t know what any of these groups sounded like.  I told her I liked Steve Taylor and she directed me to the rock cassettes.  She also pointed me to a cassette deck and told me that they had demos of all the groups.  I was free to listen to the demos to help me find my next big group.

I wasn’t really a metal fan at this point, but I had vaguely heard of a group called Stryper.  The cover looked very cold war meets Motley Crue and the title was Yellow and Black Attack.

I purchased the Stryper cassette and hoped it would live up to its repuatation.  I stuck it into my player at home and the thrashing and slashing came pounding through my stereo as Stryper launched into “Soldier Under Command”.  At one point, I ran over to the player and switched it off.  Michael Sweet was screaming Jesus so loud, that I wasn’t sure if it was ok or not.  I had never heard anything like it.  Could you really play metal music and still be a Christian?  These guys sure seemed to think so.  But the spandex, screaming, and feminine make up and hair doos had me wondering if this was really Christian at all.

A few times through the cassette, and I began to enjoy the intricate guitar work and layered vocals…even if I wasn’t into the spandex, I was willing to overlook it.  These guys were good and the music rocked, while not being raunchy.  If anything, they were down right Evangelical in their lyrics.

This was my first foray into Christian music and began a journey that would last over 25 years.  A journey that started as a fan and turned into a profession.  One that had many strange twist and turns.  One filled with many fun and musical moments.  Others filled with politics, money, and the hypocrisy that seems to follow.

One that I enjoy remembering in one sense, but also fills me with a measure of regret.  I’ll explain more as I get the chance.




Learning to Stand Up for Myself

7 Jun

In my last post (which you can read here) I pondered the motives of my five-year old friend who lashed out violently.  The many comments, about childhood pain and pressures got me thinking, about the one time I did take up my fists and try to hurt someone.

New Kid on the Block

In between my 3rd and 4th grade school year, my family bought a new home and moved us about 2 miles away from my old house.  At the time I thought nothing of the move.  Little did I know how tough it would be, to be the new kid on the block.

Our new house was built in 1967 and was situated on an acre of woods and green grass.  It was one of 15 lots whose backyards were mostly open and backed up to each others’ yard on the block.  The block was teeming with kids and it seemed like nothing, to have 30 kids playing kick the can until ten at night on a summer evening.

I also discovered my two passions in life.  Playing baseball (something we did almost every day of the summer) and collecting baseball cards.  With any spare money we could find, about 5-10 of us would walk 2 miles to the local Wawa.  After arriving, we would divvy up our spending between buying candy, playing Asteroids, and buying as many packs of Topps baseball cards as we could afford.  Our greatest hope was to find cards from our hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies.  At that time, 20 cents could get you a pack of 15 cards and a stiff piece of gum.  Those were the days my friend, (cue Mary Hopkins)…..

But summer ended, school began, and a new trial arose.  My neighbor from across the street, was a year older and didn’t play with us during my first summer.  Everyday at the bus stop,  he would pick on me without mercy.  He would tease me, trip me, shove me, make fun of me.  And all my new friends went along with him.

Why did they do that?

How come I could go over to Dave’s house and play for hours, but the next morning he would join along or stay silent, as this ring leader taunted me?  My feelings were deeply hurt and I began to doubt my own self-worth.

A few months into it, and I broke down and begged my dad to move back to our old house.  I cried and pleaded for us to just move back…I just wanted the simple life that had been mine before moving across the street from a bully.  My Dad was shocked and concerned, but he made it clear that moving back was not an option.  I would have to learn to deal with my new arch nemesis.

I tried my best, by mostly pretending that his taunts did not hurt me.  But on the inside, I was crushed.  I was not (and in many ways am still not) a fighter.  I simply had no natural skills at standing up for myself and I was taking a verbal beating, everyday.

Learning to Cope

I wish I could report that these incidents of bullying stopped.  They continued for another couple of years and it took a toll on my self-image.  Just when I would start to feel comfortable, this guy would take me out, cut me down to size, and make me doubt my self-worth, for weeks on end.  It never crossed my mind to punch him, I just learned to cope.

For me, coping came in the form of wit.  I learned that most bullies are dim and easily disoriented by a little wit and misdirection.  Kind of like confuse a cat for bullies.  He’d say something typical, like I was an idiot.  I would thank him for the compliment and ask him if he wanted to know where I’d bought my sneakers.  He usually would repeat himself and then I’d comment on how nice the weather had been lately.  This would tire him out, because I had gone off script and I’d be off the hook for a little while.

The other way I would cope, was to pretend that it didn’t bother me.  As this is not the most emotionally helpful coping mechanism, it has taken me well into adulthood to realize that it’s ok to say when someone has hurt you, or admit that I have emotions about what has happened in life.  Or God forbid, actually get angry.  No, at that stage, anger and emotion was exactly what this bully wanted, so I refused to give it to him.

Relief, at Last

It finally happened….he moved away.  As in miles away.  His parents had gotten a divorce and the family soon moved.  All I understood, was that my hell was over.  The daily taunting was mostly over and I could actually enjoy my mornings waiting for the bus.

In hind sight, maybe the hell of his own family situation is what motivated him to pick on the new kid.  Maybe, he was just repeating phrases he heard his Dad hurl at his mom.  Maybe he felt let down by a Dad who couldn’t be bothered to take him to a Phillies game when my Dad offered them first-rate tickets.  I don’t know, but for my 11-year-old mind, all I knew was sweet relief.

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

Fast forward another year or so…I am walking home from school with my new best friend, James.  He’s a year or two younger, but we share a passion for all things Baseball and my new passion, The Beatles.  We are Beatle nerds, for lack of a better description.

Anyway, we are walking home-me lugging a very heavy trombone and James lugging a bag full of books, including a discography of the Beatles.  At some point, one of my neighbors joins us, but he starts in on James because he is younger and a little overweight.  I tell my neighbor to stop, but he doesn’t and then he starts to tease me.  He teases me just like the bully who’d moved away had teased me.  He called me the same names, because he’d seen me a thousand times before just suck it up and endure.

It’s fall, the sky is overcast, and we are actually standing in the middle of my old back yard from where I had moved, a few years before.  Back when I didn’t even know what a bully was.  But now, my neighbor starts pushing James to the ground, and I just snap….

There Will Be Blood

Just as I saw James hit the ground, it happened…I snapped.  All the years of teasing, all the years of never standing up for myself had caught up, and I erupted in anger.

I threw my bag and instrument to the ground and came at my neighbor with a fury of fists and screaming.  I told him I was going to kill him and I just kept punching and punching.  All the anger, all the pain, I was determined to punish this neighbor with my fists.

He looked like a scared dog and he just kept backing up and ducking as I screamed and punched.  Lucky for him, he was able to miss the full fury of most of my punches and he quickly retreated, as I yelled at him some more.  I was swinging so hard at him that I pulled the muscles in both arms.  I yelled so loud that my voice became hoarse.  But I didn’t care, no one was ever going to treat me like that again….never.   He eventually ran home and I settled down enough to finish walking home.

I’m sure the whole incident was less than 2 minutes, but in that 2 minutes, something changed.  I had stood up for myself and my friend.  But I also had become violent and out of control.  I had let things go for so long, and now I could barely contain my rage.

I never again threw a fist at someone, and learning to stand up for myself, even verbally, was a skill that I had to learn over and over.  Many times, I would let feelings build up to the point of eruption.  Eruptions that sometimes hurt relationships.  Learning to cut these off at the pass, meant learning the fine art of standing up for myself and believing in my own self worth.

Post Script

As an aside, nobody in my neighborhood ever picked on me again.  As for the neighbor I threatened with my fists, he sheepishly said hello the next morning and kept looking over his shoulder.  I think he was actually scared I’d attack him.

Lucky for him, I’m more of a lover than a fighter.