In My Life
I’m 17, and, I think I want to be a record producer. Oddly, though, I’m not really into music. At least, not the way one would think if one were seriously considering a career in the music industry. I mean, I love No Doubt, and own the obligatory Smashing Pumpkin CDs (ah, Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness). But it’s my love of The Beatles that puts this idea in my head.
I’m in elementary school. My parents only listen to KFRC, which plays music from the 50s and 60s. They also have some tapes (Ricky Nelson’s greatest hits, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack), and a handful of records, including Rubber Soul. All ‘oldies,’ all the time.
I’m in middle school, and we are visiting Lake Tahoe. My family goes to one of those Beatles impersonation acts (Rain, maybe?) and something clicks. This music is amazing. I want to hear every song, own every album, see every movie. But I don’t have money to buy Beatles tapes. Instead I wait for the songs to come on the radio and then record them onto my own tapes.
No streaming, no Spotify. No CDs.
Just blank tapes.
I sit on my bed with a tape in my portable stereo, tuned to 99.7, and wait for Beatles songs to come on. Wednesdays are the best for this — that is when Beatles songs are guaranteed to be played at least a couple of times per hour. I record about 30 tapes this way.
I listen to my parents’ Beatles records, cover my walls with Beatles posters. I watch A Hard Day’s Night and HELP! over and over. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” is my favorite song at the time.
I’m in eighth grade. John Lennon is my favorite. I read biographies about him, buy his solo albums. When I move to NYC for graduate school, one of the first places I go on my own is Strawberry Fields.
I’m 35, and my husband and I buy a town home. As a surprise, my husband gets a fancy record player and the entire Beatles collection for the house.
I’m 38, and I live in London. My sister and her partner Gavin (musician and Beatles fan) are in town, so we go to Abbey Road studios. We can’t go in, but we can see the famous crosswalk and take a picture of the front of the studio from behind the fence. My sister writes our names on the wall, which will be painted over in the next year. At the gift shop I notice an advertisement for a lecture inside the studio in August. After going back-and-forth over the price, I click purchase. I’m going to Abbey Road Studios.
I listen to The Beatles on my tube ride over, but it doesn’t really hit me until I walk through the gate.
This is Abbey Road Studios. Where all the music I associate with growing up — even 20 years after its release — is made.
Staff exchange my ticket for a lanyard and direct me to the building. I walk up the stairs and my stomach drops I cannot stop grinning.We aren’t allowed to take pictures in the corridors, just in the studios themselves. And I can understand why — there are some amazing photographs on display, of everyone from The Beatles to Amy Winehouse. Posters from movies whose scores were recorded here, like Lord of the Rings.
The lecture is held in Studio 2, the one most associated with the Beatles.It is so big inside. I don’t know quite what I expected (I mean, I’ve seen pictures), but it isn’t this. It almost feels dated — like they figured out the best sound in the 60s and 70s and decide not to screw with it. It makes sense, but I picture something slick and high-tech; this feels more like my junior high school gym.
The lecture follows the studio history from 1931 to today, with a chunk of time spent on The Beatles. We listen to a clip of “Twist and Shout” in the room where it was recorded nearly 60 years ago. Tears form in my eyes.
Musicians have recently recorded just the string arrangement George Martin composed for “Yesterday,” and the lecturers play it for us. It is gorgeous and moving. A couple of tears leak out.
But the moment I immediately know I’ll remember forever comes when they ask for four volunteers and direct them to each play a chord on a couple of the pianos in the room. On the count of four, they play the chords and hold them as long as they can.
It is the final chord from “A Day in the Life,” played on the original instruments.
I don’t know if rooms or places absorb the energy of the people around them — that seems a bit woo woo for me. But at the same time, it is impossible to deny the feelings I have while in that room, knowing what took place there. All the joy that has been created. The art. Songs that millions of people listen to over and over again. Songs that are the background of our days.
I’m 14. I’m sitting on my bed, replaying The Beatles’ 20 Greatest Hits, staring at my John Lennon poster. Someday, I’ll be in the room where it all happened. And it will be better than I can imagine.