Tag Archives: beatles

Still Fighting The Battle 3 of 3

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Third-Eye McCartney

Sunday morning, and Brother Shankara’s talk was on the very subject we had covered in our conversation. My heart further leapt when, during his service, Brother Shankara quoted not Lennon, not Harrison, but Paul McCartney. I knew at that moment that here was an experience I could call my home! And I do not mean that lightly. To my mind it takes a very wise person to witness the oft-overlooked and subtle wisdom that flows from Sir Paul McCartney.

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

Again, my heart leapt when a fellow seeker in the back raised his hand to talk and asked how he was to resolve the battle in him where he goes from great engagements in his spiritual practices to fearing and thinking it was all nonsense and that he was nothing more than skin and bones here to eat, die, and rot in the material world. Needless to say we had one helluva talk in the library after the talk was over.

I feel less lonely. I feel less frightened. I feel less foolish. I feel more loved and understood… and I feel closer, again, to Lord Shiva.

Manharji and I (after the Sunday service) went to the Indian mall here in Atlanta (The Global Mall), where we had a very good, if not humble, Indian dinner, and where I had the chance to visit the Shiva Mandir and the Vinayaka (Ganesh) srhine, as well as the chance to shop through the fantastic Indian boutiques.

Then I came back to the ashram and volunteered to clean the guest house, which I did in all love, and with a great sense of gratitude.

And come Monday, I shared dinner with Brother Shankara between Arati and his “Bhagavad Gita” class. We talked for a moment more on the Beatles, and I was delighted to hear Brother Shankara, in his own words, state something I had dared not speak for fear of people just not being willing to get it. Essentially, it was the Beatles that made it possible for me to understand Eastern spirituality once I came into it. Brother Shankara agreed that they were here to do a job, that job being helping immensely in opening the West to Indian wisdom, and he felt they did their job very well. They were not merely a band, The Stones were merely a pop band, the Beatles, as Brother Shankara pointed out, manifested different Yogic principles, though, to be honest, I don’t recall exactly how he said it, but it was well thought out. With me, the Beatles got in far deeper than anything else had up until Shiva revealed himself to me.

Shortly, we dug in deeper through many of the struggles I have been having, which partly has to do with my very unconservative views of the truths of Shiva. We talked about how I came to Sanatana Dharma, and of how what finally compelled me to seek a temple was that I had a vision of Shiva after partaking in some of “Shiva’s gift,” and while having, let’s say, an ecstatic physical pleasure. This, for me, was the moment of truth, if he could handle that with real insight rather than by regurgitating some “company policy,” then I knew I could trust him with the unorthodoxed truth of my journey, and with anything else I would ever need to share with him. There is a movement in Hinduism that seems to want to sanitize Shiva, but as I understand it at this time (and perhaps further study will clarify this one way or the other), this movement seems to do the same outrageous somersaults certain Christians do to prove that Jesus did not turn water into wine, but Grape Nehi. In other words, there are a number of conservative Hindus who want to pretend that plant teachers and medicines were not part of the story of Sanatana Dharma in general or Shiva in particular, or that if they were part of the story, they have elaborate “logical” reasons that it’s OK for Shiva, but nor for us. To me, this reeks of colonialism and an unconscious submission to American moral tyranny, and people who buy into that with authority, I cannot yet entirely trust. Not all of us follow the common conservative paths. To those people, Shiva calls, after all, he kept company with dogs, demons and ghosts as well as Devas. Brother Shankara proved to be a man of insight and honesty.

Yet, I must say, as I have been reading the “Shiva Purana” I have found no textual evidence to support Shiva as a user of ganja or soma. I have read and heard numerous versions of stories where Lord Shiva does at least consume ganja, and I mean numerous stories from reliable sources, but as of yet not a single mention in the Purana. Of course the Aghori and Sadhus are known to use ganja (“Shiva’s Gift”) as a meditation aid, but there doesn’t yet appear to be much evidence for this in the scriptures. Ultimately, this begs the question… is there any such thing as a, or the, authoritative version of Shiva? That I can answer from a Puranic perspective, and the answer is that he is sportive and takes whatever form he pleases, as forms are irrelevant to the ultimate realized being, Lord Shiva.

Regardless, Brother Shankara’s warm understanding nature and nonjudgmental approach brought me to being able to trust him enough to share that there is a part of me that is intrigued by, and agrees with, the Aghori. I don’t know that the Aghoric part of me is a very large percentage, but it is large enough to complicate matters as I seek a spiritual home.

Humans are complicated, and the truths of our selves requires understanding more than hard and fast rules, and as the books of wisdom repeat, even if most people cannot see this truth, each seeker will have to find their own way, and some seekers need to walk through the forests rather than along the well-lit and fully maintained roads. I won’t go into details, let’s just say Brother Shankara handled all these topics with insight, grace, wisdom, and essentially won me over entirely in that he did not regurgitate absolutes or rush to judge me, he listened, and he understood that I was on the path I was on, and he saw me as a serious seeker even if my path would not be acceptable to many.

Everything is complicated and nothing within the constructed framework of democratically deemed ordinary reality and the ensuing ordinary points of view work, not once certain experiences and knowledge has been had and gained. “Reality,” for me, has been wholly upended. I can no longer see things in the way other people do, and most do not, can not, and will not see things as I do. This puts me on the outside with my family, but on the inside with Brother Shankara, Siva, Manharji, Swamiji, Durga and Ganesh. But this new reality exists on a level beyond the reach of language. We talked about this very topic, about how between DMT, meditation and Shiva, my concept of “reality” has been utterly shattered. When I told him how frightening this was, he nodded knowingly, saying: “Of course it’s frightening.”

And I guess that’s that. And that was all I needed to hear. He essentially helped me to feel and understand that it is perfectly natural to be frightened at this point… but in no way led me to believe that this was a bad thing, it simply is what is, and is not an uncommon experience. It’s hard enough to find your way in the world… let alone if you have seen and experienced things that bring everything we all take for granted about the world into question. Simply put, Shiva The Destroyer… has destroyed me, but, as challenging, at times frightening and overwhelming as such destruction can be, I wouldn’t have it any other way, which is good, ’cause there’s no going back now. And I would like to add that this destruction is wholly constructive, and I am willing to endure the trials.

Nope, this isn’t going to be easy, but you know what? It’s worth it, and these struggles are a lot better than lying in bed under the smothering inertia of anxiety and depression, and these struggles and this reality is a lot better than hanging around talking about Duck Dynasty.

By the end of the week, on the very day that I was headed home, I made one last stop at the Hindu Temple Of Atlanta. I was satisfied with all I had learned, and with all the new people and places in my life, but I felt bothered that there still seemed to be some Asuras lurking in my shadows. I had not had that release, that mother-of-all blissful experiences that so often had come to me on temple visits. I resigned myself to the wisdom of having to accept that though that hadn’t happened, I had learned and gained a lot. But then, quite unexpectedly, as if I had finally let go of all that darkness I had carried to and through Atlanta with me, within about an hour, the inner-demons I had struggled with and shared with Brother Shankara, left me. I left the temple, got in my car clean, and drove home in peace, and today, I am still at peace.

I have found my center, and it was right where I left it, inside.

I, for one, will accept battles with depression and anxiety, but I will not feed those demons.

And, you know, for all the ups and downs, on whatever road I’ve travelled, it always comes back to that pivotal choice I was given by the fundamentalist youth minister at the suburban evangelical church of my youth, “You know… one day you’re going to have to choose between Jesus and the Beatles.”

I made my choice…

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

Vonnegut On Beatles…

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“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did’.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997

Barefoot Justine & the Beatles in Birmingham…?

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I was contacted The Night Before, quite Out Of the Blue, by a guy from Birmingham (Marcus) about the Beatle Video Nights we had held at the CMC here in Gainesville. He too had thrown a Beatle event (as a fundraiser for a really great cause), see video below:

Though the story surrounding the event was quite tragic, the upshot was that the community was able to Come Together in a spirit of love through the music of the Beatles. After all… All You Need Is Love. Simply put, the Beatles generate LOVE like no other band or artist. Many artists may be great, many bands may be great, but few truly breathe the rarified air the Beatles breathed. It is difficult for me to talk about music with people–and I, by the way, have a huge and diverse collection of music–as I don’t think most people understand that there are rock bands, there are musicians… and then there are the Beatles–those who transcended. Whenever the subject turns to bands and music I sort of want to say to people, “Oh… you’re talking about rock stars… I’m talking about Paul McCartney.” It’s not the same thing. The point is, art heals, and many people have turned to the Beatles for healing. In this case, this community turned to the Beatles for healing. See the video, you’ll get it, it’s beautiful. And I think you’ll get why it had to be the Beatles, and no one else, that this community turned to for healing. The Beatles are like God… you know… if you want it, here it is, Come and Get It.

Anyhow, the event organizer realized something very important, and that is that it is all well and good to organize a one-time benefit, but the problem is that usually the person or situation the event had been thrown for suffers long after the good vibes and cash generated for them runs out. His thinking… throw a second event. Continuity, baby!

the-beatlesThe first event was simply called “Hey Jude,” and he is embarking on throwing a 2nd “Hey Jude” event for the same cause. This time he wanted to add a Beatles video component to the event. I, of course, have tons of rare and unreleased Beatles videos, concerts, promos… you name it. And, of course, I have shown many of these videos at the Civic Media Center here in Gainesville. Marcus (the organizer) started doing some research on Beatles videos and Beatles video parties and came across our event at the CMC. He contacted me and asked for advice on how to make this work. The initial problem is getting access to this stuff. Of course nowadays this stuff’s all on YouTube (which I kinda think sucks), but streaming YouTube videos is no way to run an event on a professional level. Nothing takes the sheen of specialness off an event like the presence of something as ubiquitous as YouTube. The problem is that otherwise, most of the stuff in my collection takes some work to find, and I have collected this stuff up for decades. I sent him as much advice and guidance a I could on how to run such and evening, and his reaction was, “Oh wow ! Justine. You are AMAZING ! First of, Thank you for taking the time to reply. You have an incredible insight and I would love to discuss how we can make this happen….I’m referring to your making the trip up.”

So… how do we make this happen? I have little Money and I wouldn’t want to Drive My Car, as I wouldn’t trust it with a trip to Birmingham Alabama. I’m sure We Can Work It Out, but I didn’t really want them paying my expenses as I felt that all the proceeds should go to the cause, so I offered to simply send him copies of some of my best bootlegs. I just wanted to help, to be a part of all those good vibes, and perhaps collect a little Instant Karma. But… but… I’ve always had a case of Wanderlust, and I ne’er been to Birmingham, so I’d rather be where it’s at than mail my stuff where I ain’t.

He called me tonight, and I liked him immediately, and I had NO IDEA just how together he was, and what a fabulous job he was doing making things happen… and I mean all sorts of unexpected things. Maybe I’m Amazed, It looks like this next “Hey Jude” event is going to be fabulous, and well worth traveling to. They will be holding rooftop concerts both nights of the event, one night recreating the Beatle’s own rooftop concert from “Let It Be,” and the next night they will be recreating “The Concert For Bangla Desh.” Additionally, he told me that they may have enough funding from a sponsor to pay my expenses without eating into the money that would go to the cause.

So, here’s the thing, looks like I may be going on an all expenses paid trip to Birmingham to do a VJ job sharing my fabulous collection of Beatle (and solo) videos! It’s All Too Much!

Of course there are no guarantees in all these possibilities, but, My Sweet Lord, this Marcus is one together dude… and this sounds like an absolute blast, so I am sure as heck hoping this happens.

I not only want to be a part of this cause, I not only want to be surrounded by Beatles music and fans, but I would be thrilled to share my video collection.

With a Little Luck, this will all happen, I (and the people of Birmingham) will have a great time, and the event will raise plenty of money for this great cause.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Now… if only I had someone to make the trip with…

George Harrison

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feinstein-07I’ve been watching bits of “The Concert for George,” as well as playing “All Things Must Pass,” both magnificent. And for me, full circle. Who is George Harrison to me? I ask that question because he has been part of my life since my earliest memories, a powerful force in my growing up and getting through the heartbreaks of high school and college, and his music still fills me with a sense of the sublime and sacred… and now more than ever.

When I was a kid the very first music I remember hearing was Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, and George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Of course I still love Cash, and have written at length about my relationship to Simon and Garfunkel’s music, but I haven’t yet touched George. His music was forming and shaping me from the moment I could walk and wonder. My old man, a self-proclaimed hippie-hater from his days in Vietnam, came home and had what, sorry dad, I could only describe as hippie parties. I don’t remember any pot, my old man would not have allowed that (too bad, that asshole could have used some), but I do remember a very heavy sixties feel in the air, especially when “All Things Must Pass” fueled the parties. My old man was a parks and recreation director in Akron Ohio, he loved table tennis and making little movies, and I am convinced that had he been able to listen quietly to himself and hear the truth over all the dogma he held in his throat, he would have made one hell of a hippie. But it wasn’t to be, he was far too attached to his obsessive desire to be “normal.” “Normal” was a very important word to my old man, it was what he aspired to be, regardless of the depths of his potential. And I saw that potential most clearly in those days when I would stand up on tiptoes and stare out the window, “All Things Must Pass” blaring from behind me on enormous speakers, out through the open windows to bathe the party below in gold and God. It seemed like every weekend he had a swarm of kids from the park over for sloppy Joe’s and blackberry pig (both specialties of my doting mother), and of course the backyard parties, which I would oversee from the window, Harrison’s music enveloping me as I dreamed of joining those kids, those much much bigger kids. I know “All Things Must Pass” was playing the day they took a queen-size sheet, one to a corner, and held it over the fire, they did this a lot, letting it fill with hot air, then let it go. It would float like a ghost, and I remember the day it caught fire and caught the tree on fire as it passed, but no harm was done.

I often wonder what effect it had, “All Things Must Pass” flooding through my toddler consciousness. I know this, it set the bar very high regarding what I feel music and art should be. The impact of growing up under the shroud of that album and its monolithic mysticism runs deep. How could I have become anything other than what I am? Those moments, that music, gave me no choice. It was formative. At a very young age I learned that art and music are sacred and should be treated with the utmost respect by both the artists and the audience. Art and music were things worthy of sacrifice and devotion.

tumblr_mw9mm4IZZE1s034tqo1_1280As a child, growing up and away from the promises made by the tail end of the hippie era, I have to admit that as the world moved on I wasn’t thinking all that much about George Harrison, I didn’t even know who the Beatles were, dad didn’t play rock in the house, only rarely, it was mostly Country and Western (as they called it then), Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. But as happens in adolescence… I was wandering from my father’s identity and finding my own, finding bits of myself, and I knew I had found a very large bit of myself when I finally realized who the Beatles were–and as it turned out, unbeknownst to me, they were the creators of the greatest songs I had ever heard. Rifling through a piano bench full of 45’s, playing one after another, I came across the Beatles, I Am the Walrus. I remember that swooshy gold and orange label, and I remember how the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I felt the magic of the Beatles enter my being forever. I was hooked, and nothing less than the Beatles were ever going to do. There were several dozen sides in that pile… I don’t remember any of them, just the Beatles.

It just so happened that George Harrison was a Beatle. It was a powerful connection, going from my toddler connection to “All Things Must Pass” to innocently discovering I Am the Walrus as a preteen, without yet knowing a thing about how all that connected. of course, as a Hindu now I realize that this was not a coincidence, this was consciousness connecting to consciousness, this was Godhead to Godhead.

I leaned on my Beatles to get me through the dreadful drudgery of high school and college, a hopeless misfit, no less so today, but I had the Beatles to go home to. I never felt that they understood me, this was love, not delusion after all, but I most definitely understood them–or so I thought. I realized as I grew that they and their music grew as well. I did not grow out of it, but my relationship to them, their music and how I understand them has changed time and again. Just as my relationship to George Harrison’s music changed from my staring out through the window at the very sixties-like goings-on to the profound disappointment I felt when listening to contemporary music in the new world of my teens. That world, was NOT the one I had so longed to enter–though I already wrote about that in my piece on Simon and Garfunkel.

george_harrisonOf course I got older, and so did George Harrison. I followed every one of his solo albums, sometimes being disappointed in them, as they never lived up to my juvenile expectations. It took years for me to meet Harrison’s later solo work halfway and realize that, just as McCartney had done, Harrison had gone on ahead of me. Perhaps that is why I never went astray, perhaps that is why I still find them fascinating… they were always ahead of me! They were a challenge. It’s easy to love the Beatles, it is much more challenging to love the solo stuff, it’s all just as inspired… but nothing could bear the weight of the people’s expectations, especially where the Beatles and their solo work were concerned; it has to be what it is. Sex is like that, too. I recall reading Colin Wilson relaying in his book “The Misfits” how real sex with an object of desire is always a disappointment, as the real sex can never live up to the imagined sex. Reality cannot always compete with our fantasies, and that goes for music as well as for sex. Let sex be sex and music be music without letting our fictions come between us and them. Harrison’s music mellowed significantly in tone. Certainly the lyrics were as profound and intimidating as ever, but the sound did not please my young ears… the sounds most definitely please my ears now. I accept them for what they are independently of the fictions, expectations and bull I’d had wadded in my ears for so many years.

When George released “Cloud 9” in the eighties, my enthusiasm for him as a solo artist bloomed anew, an enthusiasm that remained in place all through the delightful adventures of the Traveling Wilburys. I started to realize what a gifted poet Harrison was.

Grand as all this is, the impact Harrison had on me was nothing compared to what he had done for me without my knowing.

71RlogJIHpL._SL290_I was raised going to a fundamentalist church… complete with a right-wing agenda. At one point in my teens, one of the youth ministers gave me the choice between the Beatles and Christ. The choice was easy, what was hard was filling that hole–NOT the hole God had filled in my heart, that version of God never filled my heart (and was not meant to), no, what I was missing was a sense of purpose. Suddenly death was the end, and no more. It was a terrifying place to be. I did not believe in Hell, but I did believe in absolute death now that I was no longer a Christian. I sought, I wandered, I tried on Taoism, Zen, wandered Ireland in search of ancient preCeltic tombs and monuments–felt the presence of the fey–journeyed into shamanism, paganism, and even had dinner with Buddhist monks in the mountains of Korea. But none of it stuck, I was left agnostic. For many years I had simply quit looking and accepted that I was not religious or an atheist… I simply had no idea at all. It was not comfortable to me.

Hinduism never once crossed my mind as a possibility, it was too close to taking the Beatle thing too far. In fact, I knew NOTHING about Hinduism beyond what was in Harrison’s lyrics, I didn’t know one God from another. Quite honestly, I wasn’t even avoiding Hinduism, I was simply not even allowing it to cross my radar. Of course, many unexpected things happened, too profound to go into here, but I had to go where I was being led, and I was being led to Hinduism.

George Harrison in no way converted me to Hinduism, he did something much more important, what he had done was far more elegantly profound. When I finally realized where I had to go, and that I needed to follow Shiva’s call, the world of Hinduism was not foreign to me. Thanks to George Harrison… Indian music, food, and spirituality were already warm and comfortable to me. George Harrison had made Hinduism home before I ever knew I had a home. This was God at work, just as it was God at work when that youth minister let me know I was ultimately going to have to choose between Christ and the Beatles–God knew the Beatles were going to help me get where I needed to go more than Christianity. Christianity–full of meaning as it is for many–never fit me, Hinduism has fit me like a glove, and I was being called, and thanks to Harrison, I knew how to answer that call.

george-harrison2One of the multitude of signs that India was calling was the first time I saw “The Concert For George,” and heard Ravi Shankar’s composition in honor of George, “Arpan.” It reduced me to the warmest tears I had ever cried! I have never tasted tears so warm and sweet, they came over me like chai! The whole concert touched me, the love that projected from the stage was thicker than honey. There are so many sublime moments in that concert, so many emotions shared and experienced through the music. Watch carefully during Arpan… watch the interaction between the musicians, Anoushka Shankar and her father. Beautiful. Warm air like a balloon inflating in my chest fills me every time I see those musicians connect.

Today I watched some of the bonus features and was moved by the lack of show-biz tributes coming from Harrison’s circle. When they came to pay their respects to Harrison a curious thing happened, every single person who took that stage forgot they were famous, forgot the tribute routines, and simply became people, became musicians, became friends of George Harrison’s.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

The wonder of it all is not knowing what George Harrison is going to mean to me in the future. I won’t even try and predict it, but I am smiling, warm, and welcoming whatever’s next.

All that… and he’s always been pretty damn sexy, don’t you think?

Om-symbol-purpleOm-symbol-purple

OK Let’s Stop the Beatle Boyband Shit Already!

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The+BeatlesNever+Mind+The+Tremeloes...+Here's+The+Beatles+(2011)+FrtOK, let’s stop this Beatles “boyband” comparison shit. I know that when a band (person, actor, leader, artist) is the biggest thing ever, people just can’t stand it and they have to go on the attack and disassemble them, but this is utter rubbish. I don’t know who started it or where this idea that the Beatles were the first boyband came from, but I’m announcing the end of it here. We are no longer allowed to mutter some crap about the Beatles being the first boyband… as a culture we are done with that. Yes, I, Justine, have the power to make such proclamations and changes of cultural norms and manias, I simply haven’t used that power for good up until today.

The Beatles were far closer to a Punk band early on than a boyband… see attached photo! Yes, they were more like the Ramones than NKOTB, and in so many ways, let’s list them quickly so we can all just drop this:

1) They were not a boyband, boybands aren’t bands. The Beatles were a band. If you can’t see that difference, stop reading.
2) The Beatles endured serious trials of fire in dangerous clubs, toured their asses off and gigged in sweaty little shitholes like any band worth their salt.
3) The Beatles played their own instruments.
4) The Beatles wrote their own songs.
5) The Beatles kicked ass! Their early rock was incomparable, no one could touch them when they were hot, and that includes the fucking Stones!
6) They were little hoodlums from Liverpool, a hard-ass seaport town… not models or refugees from Disney TV.

If it looks like a punk, acts like a punk, plays like a punk and lives like a punk… it’s a fucking punk!

Can I stop here, or do I have to hammer this home? I’d like to stop here.

Such Magic

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How do you define magic?

I don’t even try.

Magic is too large by far to be defined, but I know it when I see it, know it when I feel it, and know enough to let it be. Most importantly, I know enough not to question it, second-guess it, or let my mind convince me that magic is anything but magic.

Some artists are magical, not many, and by that I mean precious few, perhaps a handful of artists are magical each generation. I do know one kind of magic by definition and description, and that is when an artist (or artists) transcend their genres. They do this by revealing their Godhead to us through being deeply in touch with their muses and creative spirits–combined, of course with the hard work and discipline it takes to truly work magic for real magic doesn’t waste itself on idiots, it is far too important for that. Now, how many artists work such transcendent magic? precious few indeed.

A couple nights ago at the CMC I ran our Beatle program, frankly expecting little, in fact, expecting less than little, I was expecting a disastrous lack of interest and enthusiasm. That was not what I got at all. of course, I loaded the deck, I put together a show that I would have dreamed of were I not the hostess, the insider, the obsessive collector with the connections and gumption to track down rarities and obscurities. I put on a great show. These are the bits of film I shared with Gainesvile:

CMCBeatlePosterbarefootjustineXPwebSet 1:
Braverman’s Condensed Cream Of Beatles,
George Harrison’s “Crackerbox Palace” video,
and his “Cloud Nine” live in Japan with Eric Clapton,
John Lennon’s Cold Turkey,
Paul McCartney and the Fireman’s “Appletree Cinnabar Amber,”
Two Ringo videos, “It Don’t Come Easy,” and “Back Off Boogaloo,”
Beatles promo films: Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, A Day In the Life, All You Need Is Love, and a Hey Jude Rehearsal film.

Intermission,

Set 2:
Paul McCartney’s Secret Web-site concert,
and lastly, the Beatles Live in Paris in 1965, (never seen in America).

Of course a great program does not stir up magic in every room, not when there is the possibility of indifference and cynicism. Nothing dulls magic like indifference and cynicism. One thing I have learned about Beatle people, they are NOT indifferent and rarely cynical. We had a great crowd too, a good turn-out, but even that does not guarantee magic. Miriam came out and set up her lovely display of Beatles collectibles, which really added a festive atmosphere to the event, but none of that, still, guarantees a magical result.

So, perhaps you are thinking that I am about to talk about mundane magic, a use of the word that has cheapened its meaning, but I am not. The mundane element may simply be that the show went great, we had a great crowd, and I had the best night I’ve had since moving to Gainesville. THAT is the mundane magic.

The real magic was in the Beatles, and in how their music, love, spirituality and creative spirits still captivate people. We had an audience of mixed ages, but many of the audience were older, contemporary to when the Beatles happened. What I did not see coming (but had secretly hoped for in my sub-conscious) was that the entire audience would be wholly engaged in experiencing the Beatles, in knowing that what they were seeing was special, rare, and worthy of their full attention. As I looked out into the audience what I saw were a room full of captivated 14 year-olds, people feeling things they may not have felt since the Christmases of their childhoods. They had traveled through time with the Beatles, and found themselves sitting in a room stripped of their cynicism. There was THAT kind of joy in the room. I could see in their faces that they had returned to a state of wonder that adults rarely experience (unless they have learned to cultivate it). All of them. They were slack-jawed, eyes wide, wholly in LOVE with the Beatles, the moment, and each other. They were in the moment, mindful, and wholly and vibrantly alive!

Not once did anyone fuck with their god-damned phones! And you don’t think THAT is magical?

That, my friends is the kind of magic the Beatles (together or apart, it makes no difference) possess. They can transport full grown world-weary adults into immersed and captivated joyous children, and that is no small spell to cast.

John, Paul, George and Ringo… we love you, still.

Beatles Anthology Revisited

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Beatles-John-Lennon-Paul-McCartney-George-Harrison-Ringo-Starr-4WARNING: This post will be full of unpopular opinions and observations. I have warned you, so if you read on and disagree, please leave me alone.

Beatles Anthology Revisited (by Justine Mara Andersen)

I’ve been rewatching the Beatles Anthology, and have regrettably come to the same conclusion, though this time with even more conviction. I wasn’t sure I should mention it, not as much as it will open fire on me, but the unpopular conclusion I’ve come to is that Lennon and Harrison can be real buzz-kills at times, and Yoko, well… yeah, I’ll handle that in a moment.

So, here’s the rub. The Anthology is a remarkable document, it’s full of amazing stuff, and biased as I am I am so thankful for McCartney’s sunny disposition and Ringo’s loving and sentimental attitudes. They are much needed to take the edge of Lennon’s bitter axe-grinding (an axe he seems to be grinding endlessly against McCartney’s skull) and Harrison’s dour, frowny, and very (very) unforgiving and grudge-spewing attitude. In fact, every time a Lennon clip comes on I cringe, knowing he will once again be grinding his axe, dismissing McCartney’s every contribution (while being, no surprise here, quite fond of his own contributions). He’s not terribly subtle about it if you’re paying attention. When one pays attention to other subtle moments his negativity seems rather evenly distributed, one example being his smug response to the question of whether or not the Maharishi was “on the level,” in which Lennon mutters some cryptic bitter nonsense… and in the background you can hear McCartney saying brightly, “He was on the level.” Lennon comes across as terribly unhappy, angry, and petty. Frankly, Lennon seems at times to have been wallowing in a mire of anger and bitterness, even his tone of voice is often angry and scolding. Knock McCartney all you want, at least he’s roundly and fairly positive about everyone in the group. He does not dismiss or disrespect anyone’s contribution, at least not in retrospect, though he certainly (and admittedly) kept Harrison down while in the Beatles.

Harrison’s so-called honesty and “humor” starts to come across as self-righteous and rather bitter. In fact, even in vintage clips (especially around 1967) he looks often quite disgusted, bored and scornful. This, of course, contrary to his belief system, flies quite in the face of the generally loving and forgiving philosophy he struggled to live by. Harrison should have had the wisdom to find the joy in what he was doing. After all, it was his duty (in the spiritual sense) to be doing what he was doing… and so far as jobs that get in the way of meditating goes, trust me George, there are a lot worse ways to make a living than being Fab! Additionally, he spoke a lot about forgiveness and love, but seems quite ready to pass judgment on John and Paul. I know now that Harrison is considered quite “cool,” but that’s more of a statement on our times and culture, times and a culture in which bitterness, sarcasm, and anger are seen as positive “real” traits while positivity, hard-work, and kindness are seen as suspect. Shame, ’cause I love Harrison, too, but I was surprised watching it again how many negative things he had to say. Then again, perhaps I myself could learn a lot here considering much of the bitterness and anger I carry in me towards the comics industry. Also, I understand that life in the Beatles no doubt opened a lot of wounds and created a lot of scarring, and though I can understand where Harrison is coming from… it’s still a drag to have to listen to it.
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Let’s talk about Ringo, who quite admirably comes across as the great sage of the group. He’s so even-tempered, sentimental, honest and loving that he comes across as the most well-adjusted, real, and honest of the lot of them. Then there’s Yoko, well as a Lennon fan for years (which I still am, though with far less doe-eyed innocence) I tried to pretend I got it and liked her… but DEAR GOD I just want to slap her every time I see her attached to Lennon’s side during Beatles recording sessions. Johnandyoko come across as simply pathetic, even vaguely creepy. And moreso, imagine for one second how Lennon would have reacted had another Beatle brought her in to every session. Seriously, Lennon fans, pause and think about that…

Do you really think Lennon would have understood or tolerated that same behavior from ANYONE else in the group for a split second? Hell no! Simply put, she had NO business being there. Period. The Beatles were the Beatles… THAT IS IT! I can’t imagine being an outsider, girlfriend, or guest at a Beatles session and thinking that it would be in any way appropriate to interject or involve myself. The Beatles did not need ANY help from Yoko-fucking-Ono!

Wow, so I know it’s now open-season on Justine, as one thing I have learned is that Lennon fans can say all the nasty shit they want about McCartney without any recoil, but dare a McCartney fan do the same and they really get their knickers in a twist. But all I am doing is making an observation, and I think if you really pay attention you will see a sadly surprising amount of bile and venom flowing from both Lennon and Harrison as the Anthology plays out.

The real shame is I LOVE Harrison and Lennon, and I even love their solo work… right down to the deep catalog b-sides and lesser known albums. As songwriters and musicians they still stand as 2 of my very favorites (of course Paul and Ringo being 2 of the others) so this is a bummer of a conclusion to come to. And even at that the moments when Harrison is positive are positively heart-warming. And, of course, at his best Lennon may be not only one of the great songwriters, but one of the most brilliant entertainers of all time. His vocal characterizations are almost as brilliant as Mel Blanc’s, and his physical comedy is Pythonesque in its brilliance. Yet I wish to hell they would have left his bile out of the mix when editing this thing. I really do not need to hear Lennon and Harrison dismissing Sgt. Pepper. What a rotten authoritative statement that makes on what was not only a major artistic accomplishment but a profoundly important cultural event… and that’s without relying on hyperbole. Their negativity diminishes something that should not be diminished. Of course, we all know Pepper was basically McCartney’s brainchild, so why wouldn’t they hate it? I hope that had Lennon survived, his take on things might have softened and become warmer. At least Harrison seemed to have mellowed and was, at times, fairly ready to remember things warmly. Of course, all the things I have said here are generalized and highly personal emotional responses, but it’s my blog, I’m allowed to do that… right? And, of course, I also realized as I watched that there was plenty of positivity, warmth, and love coming from Lennon and Harrison as well, I was simply annoyed with the number of negative and angry comments that made their way into the final product, and this is what this blog is about, something that bothered me emotionally after repeated viewings of the Anthology.

So the point here is really not to insult Lennon or Harrison (they were spectacular) but I find their curmudgeonly comments to be a serious buzz-kill. Simply put, they turn what should be one hell of a great trip into a bit of an anticlimactic bummer. When I watch something like the Beatles Anthology I do not watch it to be brought down and experience the long-lasting strife that seemed to be a part of the trip, I watch it ’cause I love the Beatles, I love Sgt. Pepper, and I want to sit and revel in my happy place without Lennon and Harrison shitting in it. Certainly, the trip of being Fab was hard and complicated, emotionally trying and scarring, and certainly it is good to get the whole story, but sometimes, as I said earlier about Pepper, the amount of negativity coming from Lennon and Harrison deflates and diminishes a body of work that should be celebrated and beloved. I know some readers might lecture me on how they liked this “honesty” being a part of the Anthology (as I do and said… but only to a point), but I’m not sure that resentment, anger and bitterness are always genuine honesty. Sometimes I think real honesty comes from learning to let go, forgive, and smile about things that deserve to be smiled about… and great works of art deserve to be smiled about. Hm… maybe I can put that to work in my own life, we’ll see… but until then…

Lennon and Harrison be darned… long live Sgt. Pepper!