We always washed dishes in pairs. My younger sister, my younger brother, and I actually had a schedule posted on the refrigerator — whose turn was when. This way, we could barter and trade if we needed a day off for some type of event. I was the oldest at age 11, but I had not yet innovated the new method of dishwashing where only one of us would wash at a time, thereby ensuring two days off in a row out of every three. My younger brother was only five anyway; he could not be trusted to de-crustulate every last piece of cookware.
On the table in our kitchen was the world’s most ancient GE AM clock radio. It was the kind with iridium on the dials so they would glow, most certainly slowly killing us all with radiation poisoning. My mother had this radio on the table as background for our meals and during her study time — she went back to college for her degree not long after divorcing my father — as well as to drown out the sounds of children eating. Mind you, she still kept an ear out to hear if we were smacking our lips or chewing our food with our mouths open. That was unacceptable regardless of what was coming from the tinny speaker in the corner. My sister’s sloppy manners knew that backhand all too well.
We kept the radio on while washing dishes; I mean, what really is so fascinating about dishwashing that one wouldn’t want some mood music? Although we were clearly elementary aged children who liked the coolest top-40 tunes of the day, again, this radio was a mere AM variety. This left us two choices: KDTH, which was big band and my mother would never lower herself to turn on; or WDBQ, everyone’s favorite classics of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Everything from Elvis to Carly Simon, right at your tiny little speaker. We put up with it because we had to, without understanding that we were getting a daily education in music history.
One day while washing dishes with my sister, The Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” started to play. It was actually a highlight to hear The Beatles on that station, even to us at that age where all “old music” was stupid. Anything to kill the Barry Manilow and Frank Sinatra.
“This song is so stupid,” started my 8-year-old sibling.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“There are only seven days in a week. Didn’t anyone tell them that?”
I giggled and started to explain. “I think what they’re trying to say that he loves the girl so much that his love could fill eight days if there were eight days in a week.” I was no music aficianado back then; my music collection was all Bon Jovi and Richard Marx.
She looked at me. “Oh, I get it!” she exclaimed. “That’s a nice thing to say to someone.”
I met Jen in homeroom, 7th grade. She sat in front of me alphabetically. We started talking thanks to some silly “get to know your neighbor” deal on the first day. She told me that she was John Lennon’s third cousin.
“Your nose,” I said. “I totally see it, in your nose.”
She rubbed her face. “People always say that, it’s embarrassing.”
She had more Beatles memorabilia than I had ever seen at that point in my life; then again, her house was bigger and her family more wealthy than I had ever dealt with in my life, so it kind of made sense. She showed me a faux fur jacket that she got when she was a kid, a present from Yoko, she said. She had this little round dot scar on her forehead between her eyebrows; she told me a story about how she was running around so-and-so’s house with other kids and she ran into this nail that was sticking out of the wall. She pulled out a nice glossy Beatles book and showed me which house, even which wall, as there was a photo of the interior inside — nail and all.
While it was definitely all cool to me, I didn’t really care. I mean, the stories were neat and it was sort of dreamlike to have a peephole into the lives of some mega-super-celebrities and their families, but I didn’t ever bring it up. I didn’t talk it up. It was just part of her life. The part of her that I knew was the one who invented silly games including simulating sex with New Kids on the Block dolls and spending hours bitching about how much we hated Debbie Gibson and Tiffany while playing their tapes nonstop.
The only time I ever brought it up was to my cousin Mickie who was babysitting us one night, and Jen was supposed to have come over but we switched it to the next night. I asked her if she knew who Julian Lennon was, and told her that he was Jen’s fourth cousin. Mickie just about freaked out of her chair. “Omigod he’s so hot!” she squealed, and wanted to know if there was any way Jen might be able to hook them up. I actually felt really bad that that point for inserting this smidgen of braggery into the conversation. Hooking her up with Julian Lennon? That’s just stupid, never mind that she was only three years older than us.
I liked Jen. She was my best friend for two years, even when I found out that she had a problem with lying. No, there was no Beatles relation. But that didn’t matter to me, because I loved Jen like a sister, regardless of her giant piles of lies that would add up and I would get angry about over and over again. I tried to stay close to her, but we went to separate high schools; when she avoided me for several months and eventually had a baby at age 16 (I found out about it when I called her house as we were supposed to go to a movie, and her dad answered telling me she was in the hospital with a baby boy), that was the final break.
She’s still in town; in fact, she worked with my mom for a while. Her kid has got to be 11 by now. She’s mentioned to my mom that we should get together sometime. Neither one of us has made a move beyond that. I mean, if I were to go see her, I would be reminded of all of this by one glance at her John Lennon nose.
The high school clique from hell, my senior year: myself, Wendi, Alanna, Charity, Eric, Steve, and John. We were theater, music, fantasy, sci-fi geeks. Well, I wasn’t so much into the latter two, but I played Magic: The Gathering and watched Doctor Who with them, so I might as well have been. I was definitely the only resident metalhead of the bunch; Steve was also odd in that he loved oldschool rap (which I suppose, at the time, wasn’t all that oldschool). The other common thread that ran through was that all of us females (and John) listened to The Beatles — quite often.
Actually, these music tastes are quite amusing. Wendi absolutely worshipped The Beatles, but also still listened to New Kids (this was, mind you, four years past their heyday) and a bunch of other bands that she was really proud to like and wouldn’t take any crap about it. Alanna too was a giant Beatles freak. Between the two of them, all of the trivia and lyrics would run freely. At least I could hang semi-knowledgably after my years with Jen. Charity was into The Beatles, but her big love was Queen; I think it’s because she kind of resembles Freddy Mercury, teeth included. John, who I eventually dated, had more than love for The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Journey. All of his friends, who I would hang out with more often than not, were also big Beatles fanatics.
I remember once making a crack in Wendi’s car about having to listen to The Beatles again. Unlike these folks, I had been inundated with the Beatles hits since I was a wee child washing dishes in the kitchen. These are people who gained an appreciation for the band when they were old enough to start doing such things as opposed to being totally raised on it (Alanna being the exception).
What I got in return was a tirade about how great The Beatles are. Which, of course, I already know.
Zep and Floyd, they’re great, too. The Stones, Cream, Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, whatever. Legends, forefathers, innovators. After years of reading dissertations on musical genres and groundbreaking bands, I of all people am well aware of the greatness of The Beatles. I know, I know, I f*cking know. I just wanted to listen to something different. The Beatles may be great, but I don’t want to listen to them every time I turn on a radio.
Of course, she probably didn’t understand that, since she’s the type of person who could watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail every single time she turned on the television and still enjoy it.
After high school, I pretty much stopped listening to The Beatles altogether. At one point, I picked up the White Album on vinyl, but it was more for the novelty of it than to spin “Revolution 9” backwards or forwards. Do I own all of their albums? Most definitely. Do I mind the occasional hit on the radio? Not at all. But to sit down and listen to them exclusively?
Too many memories.
It’s driving me mad, it’s driving me mad…