It all started innocently enough when I spotted in the newspaper that Paul McCartney was seen at a local Circle K gas station. It was then that my mom first showed me her old Beatles’ albums in honor of Paul’s bathroom stop in little Nowheresville, Illinois. I was really wondering what the big deal was with some old washed up rock star, but I tried to act interested anyways. My mom gave me an Abbey Road CD shortly afterward. It sat in my room for about two months before I bothered to even give it a listen. When I did, it changed my life. After the album was over, I began sobbing uncontrollably because I thought I had wasted my life thus far in terms of really listening to music.
I had always liked bands like Green Day and U2, but there was something very fresh and different with the Beatles, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Was it because they were British? Ever since I saw the first Harry Potter movie I had developed a liking for English accents. Was it their mop-top hairstyles? The more I tried to rationalize my new and sudden obsession, the more serious it became. I started buying their CDs and other types of merchandise. I began shutting myself in my room for hours, just listening to their multitude of songs and their various complexities. I watched a Hard Day’s Night and Help! I also watched the trippy Yellow Submarine cartoon. As a result, I started playing piano again for the first time in years, and also picked up the guitar and the harmonica just to learn to play along with their songs. I really don’t know why I didn’t realize sooner that I had caught a serious case of Beatlemania.
There were other changes with myself that were more important. The Beatles became the foundation of rekindling a friendship that had broken off after an ugly fight years before. It gave me and my mom another reason to be closer. It even inspired my dad to listen to the music he shunned when he was younger because his it was his older brothers’ thing. Most importantly, it gave me a reason to smile during some of the hardest years of my life: High School. As Steve Carell’s character said in the movie Little Miss Sunshine, “High school - those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that.” Whether I was stressed about the ACT, the SAT, choosing a college, or just the stresses of day to day life, I could always turn to my music and trust that I’d cheer up after listening to the entire Sgt. Pepper’s album. Listening to the Beatles would remind me that “it’s getting better, a little better, all the time” even when I thought that it couldn’t “get no worse”.
Of all the Beatles, I’d have to say John Lennon has changed my life the most. His message and his music transcends time and continue to influence my life and my decisions. If I really had to single out one person in all of history to be my hero, it would be him. He taught people to imagine a better world, a peaceful world. He made a point of questioning authority and showing the pointlessness of war and violence. He’s not my hero because of the way he died, but because of the way he lived.
Last year, in June, my family and I took a trip to England and Scotland. For me, it was like a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We spent a few days in Liverpool, where John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up. One day, we visited each of their childhood homes, and when I suddenly became aware that I could have been walking in their footsteps, I nearly cried with joy. The real pinnacle of the trip for me in regards to the Beatles, however, was seeing a concert in Glasgow. At this, I actually did cry with joy, as well as scream at the top of my lungs. He walked briskly onto the stage, waving and greeting the audience warmly in a chipper English accent. It was none other than the very man who made the iconic bathroom stop that changed my life, the one and only Paul McCartney.