Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama, Ortiz and the Octopus' Garden: a night with Paul McCartney

I was twelve years old when the Beatles Anthology was released. By that time John Lennon was dead and Ringo was the Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine. The Anthology series played on school nights, so my parents taped it from television for me, an effort required a series of VHS tapes because it was such a long documentary, spanning multiple days of coverage.

To say The Beatles changed my life is trite, but true. My obsession with the Fab Four -- their lives, their music, their artwork -- can be seen throughout artifacts of my life at that time. I made paintings that were inspired by Beatles songs, wrote fake fan mail letters as if I lived in the 1960s, and collected as much memorabilia as I could. This at a time in life when most other girls were beginning to read Cosmo and hold hands with boys in the locker banks; instead I was reading old copies of Rolling Stone and dreaming I was Mrs. Paul McCartney (circa 1968). It was my obsession with The Beatles that allowed me to survive middle school with few social wounds. I was the girl who was weirdly into classic rock, which made me disenfranchised rather than a target for teasing. I even found three friends who shared my interest in the lads from Liverpool.

I was so into the Beatles that they inspired my first true business idea: a themed restaurant called The Octopus' Garden. I imagined it to be much like a Hard Rock Cafe, but completely dedicated to The Beatles. Everything from the building design (a yellow submarine) to menu (Glass Onion rings with Mean Mr. Mustard dipping sauce) was inspired by the band. I drew mock-ups for the layout and logo, thought about which cities to launch in first, and considered the issue of licensing: after all, the Beatles would probably want a cut of this, if their name was all over it. This proved the stickiest point. At age thirteen, The Beatles (or rather their lawyers) stood between me and my dream. This would be the first of two times in my young life that I would be warned about The Beatles' intention to sue me... how many other people can say the same?

In 2005 I got to see Sir Paul in concert. He was remarried to Heather by then (a second dream of mine now shattered) and the performance made him seem, well, silly. It was an arena show with crazy LCD screen projections and pyrotechnics. It dwarfed the music, and certainly the man, who at age 64 still had charisma and stage presence but was showing his age. I walked away from the 2005 show wondering what Lennon would have turned out to be, had he lived: would he have been like Mick Jagger, touring old songs he vowed never to play again but making a fortune, or would he have been a Bono, involved in more social causes than musical ones? [But let's save that for another blog post]

When Sir Paul announced his tour this summer, I was reluctant to buy tickets again; but this show was at Fenway Park, where baseball players like David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis normally take center stage. Instead, Macca would be in center field, playing to a crowd of 85,000. I invited my parents, since they have always encouraged my interests, especially those having to do with music.

My father could not make the trip because a certain presidential figure decided to drop by his place of work for an event... a few hours late... with fanfare.... I'm not bitter.... But my mother and I had a fantastic time. She recalled her experience at The Beatles' first American concert at Shea Stadium, when The Beatles played a ~30 minute set without theatrics. Surrounding us on this night, though, were middle aged nostalgic fans and families, not screaming teenagers.

I must say that the performance renewed my faith in Macca. The staging, set list and energy were much improved, as was Sir Paul himself. He proved he's still got it, performing almost flawlessly with the kind of charisma that made it clear how he got to be so famous.

As the crowd sang along to "Hey Jude," it felt nice to be a part of something so big, all of us shouting out those " NA-NA-NA-NAHHHH!"s together. I could see that I was not the only one who was so affected by Sir Paul or The Beatles, or music in general.

"This is Heaven," said my friend Adam, who stood next to me at the concert, grinning the whole time. And if that's true, we should all be so lucky as to see it.

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