Music was a vital part of my upbringing. My parents had (still have) an extensive collection of vinyl records, and music was almost always playing in my house. I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, headphones on, singing at the top of my lungs (tonelessly, because I couldn’t hear myself). I loved The Moody Blues, Simon & Garfunkel, Traffic. But more than anything, I loved The Beatles.
I knew about their early work, of course: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She loves You.” But those weren’t the Beatles I was in love with. To me the Beatles always were the scruffy and wildly inventive artists pictured in The White Album, or on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. And their music was colorful, compelling, imaginative, the sort that inspired the surreal Yellow Submarine. I could lie on the floor, headphones on, and listen to “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” over and over, images of that strange, chaotic, slightly sinister circus dancing through my head.
But as much as I loved (and love) Sgt. Pepper, my favorite was, and remains, The White Album (yes, I know that’s not its official title, but considering that’s how everyone knows it, it might as well be). What an incredible collection. As a kid, I listened almost exclusively to the first record: side A was driving and bright with “Back in the USSR” and “Bungalow Bill,” while side B was quieter, contemplative. “Julia” still breaks my heart. As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the second record as well, even when the bizarre dial goes up to 11.
The album is now one that I keep in the car and return to periodically. Let me tell ya, “Back in the USSR” sounds awesome when blasted on my car speakers!