“Want to go for a Beatles performance at the MPO? Tickets are going fast” was the message from my friend Julie, one evening in February. And having loved the Beatles from wayyyyyyyy back in primary school, there was no way I was going to say no! And so, just about a month later, we found ourselves seated in the very last row of the Malaysian Philharmonic’s theater in KLCC.
Waiting in the dark hall for the performance to start, I really didn’t know what to expect. Would it be something I would enjoy? Would it be a stiff, formal performance or would the orchestra do justice to the wide range of happy, crazy, wild, sad, emotion-filled Beatles songs? But the moment conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald walked out onto the stage dressed in a brilliant purple and red striped jacket, (straight from the album art for Yellow Submarine) all my fears were put to rest. This man, was definitely a Beatles fan. The audience exploded in claps and cheers, and the tone was set for a fun, magical evening!
The orchestra swung into the simple but incredibly lively Can’t buy me love, and the screen behind the orchestra came alive with photographs from the Beatles’ early years. The MPO team had put together a collection of some truly wonderful pictures of the fab four. Most of the pictures were from their younger days, the heady, happy, can’t-believe-how-successful-we-are days, when the smiles came naturally, splitting faces in half, and fame and fortune had not yet taken their toll.
As the orchestra continued its meandering journey through John and Paul’s (and George’s) compositions, as picture after picture flashed by of the four boys laughing, jumping, singing, fooling around, I could feel my eyes prickle with a faint hint of tears. I must confess that I get teary eyed at the drop of a hat, or whenever I feel nostalgic (whichever comes first). Pictures, smells, sounds, trees, flowers, food, music, everything and anything can trigger memories. And even when the memories are happy ones (which they mostly are), I think of moments gone by that will never return, and it makes me just a little bit sad. Which is exactly what happened on that evening of 24th March. Part of me was swept away by the music, and part by the memories. I could feel myself traveling down my own long and winding road (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!) of memories and feelings. Or more accurately, memories of feelings.
The Beatles and their music have been part of my life from perhaps the age of 10 or 11. An early, faintly embarrassing memory is of singing “I wanna hold your hand” loudly, and not completely tunefully in front of the class. Hopefully the class has forgotten this traumatic moment by now. An even more embarrassing memory is of singing Yellow submarine for a school band audition, and the aftermath thereof. Those were the years in which I loved their rock n roll sound the most. She Loves You, O Bladi O Blada, Twist and Shout, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hard Days Night, When I’m 64. All songs with a great beat, and easy to sing along to 🙂
Move on to college, and life was one big party. Far from home, loads of freedom, and not much responsibility, beyond managing my grades. My three BFFs and I formed a little (not so musical) group and our theme song was *drum-roll please* Drive My Car, from the album Rubber Soul. In fact, that song pretty much summed up our repertoire as a group 🙂 Those were crazy years where entire conversations could be carried out using lines from Beatles (and other bands’) songs. Midnight gab sessions, long walks, journeys by bus and by train, picnics and parties, and always, always music. I remember listening to John Lennon’s solo songs a lot. Beautiful Boy, Woman, Dear Yoko, Jealous Guy. I loved them all. Intensely. And the song I listened to the most? The Ballad of John and Yoko. For some reason I listened to it a lot. Well I know the reason, I was madly jealous and wishing it was ME he had written all those songs for!
Post marriage, the Beatles were one of the musical acts hubby and I agreed upon. In those days, Metallica wasn’t my thing (though I’ve learned to appreciate them now) and Bob Dylan wasn’t his (though he’s learnt to appreciate him now) but we always agreed on the Beatles. And as we enter our seventeenth year of marriage, we have a host of common favorites. In My Life, Strawberry Fields, Here Comes the Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Long and Winding Road and many more. Far more complex and layered compositions, perhaps reflecting the more complex, layered lives we lead as we grow older?
Throughout the concert, conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald made a point of telling the story behind each song they performed. Like how Paul wrote Hey Jude for Julian Lennon, to make him feel better after John and his mom got divorced. Or how Black Bird had a deeper, underlying meaning and was a commentary on the race riots happening in the US at that time. Listening to these stories, I felt myself tearing up once again. This time the tears were for the Beatles. For the songs they gave us. For the fame and fortune they earned, and the price they paid for it. The controversies, the heartaches, and in the case of John, his life. I still remember hiding under my blanket, playing Imagine and sobbing my heart out when I heard he had been shot. I didn’t want to explain to my mother WHY I was crying at the death of a musician all the way across the world from me. But that was the power of their songs and their music.
And as I left the theater after the concert, I made a promise to myself. That I would try harder to introduce my daughters to the magic that was the Beatles. So that one day, hopefully, they will be able to look back at their life, and mark their journey by the Beatles songs they heard along the way.