As I sit here at my ridiculously cluttered desk, I am fortunate to be surrounded by lots of cool stuff. To my left is a sweet tube stereo amp, a player piano, and my beloved JBL 4311B Control Monitors from 1980. To my right is all my camera gear, a scanner, a red vintage clock, and my iPhone. But call me a romantic sentimentalist: I'd give all of those things up before I could bear to part with my very first record, even though it has long been completely unplayable and is not terribly rare. That's crazy talk!, you might say, and you might be right. But I do not care. This record was IT...the ticket to how the entire rest of my life would go and just about every good thing that ever happened to me. It represents so much more than a record to me.
It's a British Parlophone 45 of the Beatles' "She Loves You" b/w "I'll Get You," which I received from my parents in April, 1964. I had just turned two years old.
My parents had decided to take a no-kids vacation to England that month, and my weeping, clinging, hysterical baby response to my mother trying to walk out the front door with her suitcase was to projectile vomit all over her. Twice. They nearly missed their plane because my mom had to change clothes. Hey, it nearly worked, what can I say? Anyway, my dad, being a smart guy and also a guy who preferred adults to kiddies and really wanted that trip, calmed me down by telling me he would bring me something really special from England. (To put this improbable toddler-to adult talk in context it might help for you to know that although I still was diaper-dependent, my parents had also found out that month that I could read well and that I had become wildly fascinated with pop music on my new red transistor radio. What can I say; I was a mutant child.)
Beatlemania was in full bloom all over the world in April, 1964. It touched everything -- the papers, magazines, TV shows, radio, and everyday conversations were referencing something about the Beatles every day. To me, the Beatles were just 100% fascinating. They were clearly grown-ups, but they weren't at all like my parents or anyone I knew at all. They were handsome and funny. Girls screamed for them on the TV, so I screamed along with them, thinking this was the appropriate course of action. I was hungry to see them, to hear them.
When my folks' came back home a couple weeks later, walking into our house in the middle of the night with their big grey Samsonite suitcases, they woke me up to greet me and hug me. My dad, far too old at 44 to listen to silly shaggy-haired Liverpudlian boys play electric guitars, handed me my present, this 45. "I know you like the Beatles," he said. "They are very popular with the kids in London. Be careful you don't scratch it!" My father, the ex-Army-band man, loved music as well, and I think he was happy to see that I had such a strong response to it at such a young age, even this "pop crap." For all the things we didn't have in common, he and I would always be able to talk about music, for another twenty-eight years.
He put the record on for me on his stereo, and it must have been close to 2AM by then. I felt a rush of this incredible energy when "She Loves You" started playing through the tweed-fabric speakers in our family room. It was the most exciting thing I had ever heard in my life, and every single cell of my little brain and body was filled with this natural, sparkling, amazing joy. It is perfect.
The Beatles, "She Loves You"
I played my record over and over and over and over and over and over, flipping the A-side to the B-side and back again on my Close n' Play, then as I got a little older, on my dad's stereo, and when I was seven I got my own Sears Silvertone stereo and played it on that. I punched the little spindle hole out so I could stack-play it with my other 45s. I left it in the sun and it got warped. And finally, the day I stepped on it with a sickening, final crack on my record-cluttered bedroom floor was the day I couldn't play it anymore. But by then, "She Loves You" was part of my DNA anyway.
I may have been one of the youngest Beatlefans, but hardly the only one who has had the gift of enjoying their music, their humor, their style, and their influence every day. Everything I liked came from there. Everything I wanted to be came from there. And that feeling of being so filled up with happy through music that it spills out in great big piles of sunshine...it's still there.
So my old, wavy, broken record? Forever, priceless.