To quote my fellow Hoosier, the great Kurt Vonnegut, on the wonder of the Beatles: “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.’”
But what I remember most, and what I latched onto like a hungry baby to the breast, was The Beatles. I don’t remember the first time I heard them, but I know it would have been in 1964; I loved dancing to Meet the Beatles on our stereo. I wasn’t alone.
In April of 1964, in the week of my fifth birthday, the Beatles held 12 positions in the American Billboard chart, five in the top 10.
I made it my business to see the Beatles all three times on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember stalling my bedtime to see Paul McCartney perform “Yesterday.” (I was very concerned why he seemed so sad. I thought he was crying. I didn’t realize he was just sweating under the lights.)
I imprinted on the Beatles. Whenever I was to get a gift, I hoped it would be a Beatles album, or a book with photographs of the Beatles. I remember taking their albums to school for “show and tell” — treating them gingerly, reverently. I remember doing my 5th grade oral report on the Beatles, complete with record player and records. The teacher had to tell me to sit down when I was only half way through, though the class was eating it up!!
Thus began a lifelong obsession. Listening to The Beatles, looking at The Beatles, dancing to the Beatles, figuring out The Beatles. I can measure my life with events that would bring me closer to The Beatles:
At 17, in 1976, I boarded a bus (to stay with someone I didn’t know) so I could see Paul McCartney and Wings in concert for my very first time in Cincinnati, Ohio. I felt overwhelmed that I was in the same room with him.
At 20, in 1979, I wrote a piece for an American book called As I Write This Letter, by Marc Catone. I tried to put into words what the Beatles meant to me. I sweated and rewrote, struggling with every word, wanting to give them the credit I felt they deserved.
When I was 22, in 1981, I penned a heartfelt Christmas wish to Yoko, and I treasure a card she sent in return signed not only by her, but Sean as well.
At 25, in 1986, I went on my first trip alone, to England. I was an eager traveler on the very first Magical Mystery Trip, organized by Cavern City Tours, spending time in Liverpool and other parts of England, experiencing the cities I had only imagined for so many years.
At 26, I moved to London briefly to work in my company’s London office. During my off hours, I would traipse down to Soho in the hopes that Paul McCartney would deem it a workday.
One fine day, I was rewarded for my patience (and neurosis) ! Paul showed up with Linda, at his office in Soho Square – and the girls I met while I was waiting there pushed me towards him. I could barely squeak out a greeting. They had to ask him for an autograph on my behalf, as I was fighting being viewed as a “hassle”. He was kind enough to sign a postcard with my pen, give it back, and then he was gone. Today, I am a photographer, but you would never believe it if you saw the photos I took of him that day. They are blurry from me absolutely shivering, but you can tell, dammit, it’s him. I called my parents back home in Indianapolis. I was unimaginably happy. I felt as if I had won the lottery.
And in 1997, Yoko Ono was kind enough to send me a lithograph of the lyrics to “Grow Old with Me” because I had written and told her that was the song I walked down the aisle to.
Over the years I was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney many times, but only in concert! This past year, in 2011, I saw him in Cincinnati again, thirty five years after my first Wings concert. I got ninth row seats, and I was able to live my adult dream – photographing Paul McCartney in concert. It was exhilarating, joyous, and so rewarding to see him, hear him, and shoot his amazing performance. I was wringing wet on that hot night, but so happy.
Here’s what I can tell you now at the age of 53, with two Beatles gone. I still feel the energy, a visceral rush of feelings, when I hear their music. I still marvel at how otherworldly they sound in the context of their time. Their music feels timeless, but also evocative of a certain time, my time. The Beatles are woven into my being; their sounds, their ideas, their politics: they are all part of me. Sometimes I feel it was not only my parents who raised me.
One day, about 4 years ago — in a discussion with a friend — I was marveling at the Beatles’ impact when an idea and intention formed. Over the years I had heard of silly holidays like “Talk like a Pirate Day,” and there were actual holidays on my wall calendar like “Sweethearts Day,” “Grandparents Day.” I thought, if those days can make it to a calendar, why can’t a holiday dedicated to the Beatles? The Beatles aren’t just of Liverpool, or of England. They are of the world, and one of closest things to magic the world has ever known.
It became my dream, and my intention to make this happen: “Global Beatles Day” was born, and it seemed fitting that it should be every year on the anniversary of June 25, 1967, the date of the very first global satellite broadcast ever, with the Beatles headlining and beaming “All You Need is Love” out to the WHOLE WORLD The Beatles Our World “All You Need is Love” first global satellite broadcast.
I want Global Beatles Day to serve as a love letter and a thank you note to them – from the world. It would highlight their contributions not just to music, but also art, culture, and spirituality. I wanted a holiday devoid of trivialization: no festivals with look-alike, sing-alike, talk-alike tribute bands, and no merchandise marketing. It’s only about The Beatles. People can celebrate in any way they see fit, along the lines of the legacy of the Beatles. Perhaps they can listen to their music, make a charitable contribution, throw a party, or buy a Beatles CD for someone. It’s not important how it’s celebrated as it is that their impact is globally acknowledged and embraced, and yet another way and avenue to bring the world together.
I created a GBD website, Facebook event, and two Facebook groups and started spreading the word as much as I could. People are embracing the idea, and sharing with their friends and family. I hope that one day the world can properly thank the Beatles for their gift to us.
I hope you will add the celebration of Global Beatles Day to your story….
— Faith Cohen
(Originally published on Ethan Russell’s blog. Purchase a copy of his ebook, Ethan Russell: An American Story here)