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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

I Felt Fine (In 2006)

I’ve made money, in varying, modest piles, playing four different instruments at one time or another. I never learned to play any of them properly. Funny that; the topic of playing them properly never came up — it was mostly rock music. I’ve been paid to show up and own the instruments occasionally. It ain’t rocket surgery.

My older brother can play properly. He’s a scholar, and a performer, and a teacher. That’s the correct formulation for any endeavour, by the way: learn, do, teach.

Anyway, I told him, a long time ago, that I wanted to learn to play the guitar. He said fine, and plopped The Compleat Beatles down in front of me. It’s two very heavy books of sheet music of all the Beatles’ songs. It’s in there, he said; just learn it. (It’s out of print now. Figures.)

I remember how he had painstakingly learned to play Beatles and Stones and assorted pop songs in our parents’ living room by implacably picking up and dropping the needle on the scratchy records and listening to little bits of it over and over and over, and pecking them out on his guitar. And then he would perform them with his friends and get girls mooning over him like a Beatle.

He was eight years older than me, and I got interesting looks from some of my teachers in high school, of the female eight-years-older-than-me variety: You’re Garrett’s brother? He didn’t… ahem — er, mention me, did he?

I got away with murder, I’m tellin’ ya.

Well, he’d figured it all out a long time ago, the hard way, and so could point you right to the right place, right away. And he’s right, of course, the distillation of the american country blues and pop song and the british music hall ballad is all in there. The Beatles dug it all out of there for you.

All that’s left is for you to go and get it.

Lennon flubs the lyrics halfway through. Like it matters.

4 Responses

  1. When I was eight years old in 1966 me and my pals would cut out cardboard guitars, gather in our cul-de-sac and lip-sync Beatle's records on a small 45 player. The neighborhood girls would chase you around just like in the movies if you asserted yourself and insisted on being John or Paul. We ran like they had scatter guns. George would get a courtesy chase before they peeled off and went after the "cute" ones. Play Ringo and you might as well have been channeling Buddy Rich.
    I didn't learn anything about music that summer but I found out other things.

  2. Those guys were the absolute masters of pop music. Assuming people are still around, they'll be playing and listening to that 1000 years from now.

  3. I saw the Beatles at Heathrow airport in '64 (I think. I was a little kid – b). My airplane had a slight mechanical issue – the pilot apologized, said we'd have to go back to the gate, but he had heard from air traffic control that the Beatles plane was arriving. I remember people going beserk running towards the gate they were walking through. ps. I learned to play the guitar like your brother did. (You didn't mention turning the record player to 16 1/2 to learn difficult solos…)

  4. A man whose opinion I value highly used to say that George Harrison would have been known as a world-class guitarist if he hadn't gotten mixed up with a band called the Beatles.

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