Meet the Beatles
A digression ...
I was working in TV news back when George Harrison died in November of 2001, and I remember the newsroom scurrying to find some sort of local connection to the Beatles (as you know, local TV news is about nothing if not tenuous links to national and international news). At any rate, I stopped dead in my tracks, astonished, when a twentysomething show producer piped up with: "Who's George Harrison?"
"Um, one of the Beatles. You really don't know who George Harrison is?" The expression on my face, I suspect, belied my disgust. You would have thought he had taken a crap on the floor.
"I'm not old," the kid barked defensively. And then with insolent pride he added, "I wouldn't be able to name any of the Beatles for you!"
At the time I wrote him off as an idiot, but in retrospect I was the foolish one for thinking he was an anomaly. Increasingly I find that a lot of people in their twenties -- and even early thirties -- cannot name all four Beatles. The enlightened ones can at least name Paul and John. But all four? If you are under 35 and can do so, you might just be in the minority.
Who are these people?
Your mother should know -- and so should you
Speaking as someone born in that demographic DMZ between Baby Boomer and Generation X, I can say it nearly boggles my mind that so many people do not know all four Beatles.
The dismay doesn't solely stem from the fact that I grew up nourished on the Fab Four, albeit secondhand. As the youngest (by far) of five children, I inherited -- or stole, depending on how much of a stickler you are about such things -- from my older siblings a stack of sacred Beatles albums that included Meet the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's and Let It Be. I worked hard to memorize the words to "Penny Lane." The song "Eight Days a Week" severely hampered my comprehension of the number of days in a week. "Revolution" likely impacted my political awareness for years to come. I loved the animated flick Yellow Submarine long before I knew you were supposed to be stoned to appreciate it.
No, the dismay goes deeper than all that. Surely the Beatles' imprint on popular culture, an influence still very prevalent today, is profound enough to warrant everyone at least knowing the names of all four members. It is why schools teach kids about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is why kids learn about friggin' George Washington. At the very least, it is about understanding what has shaped our world and respecting those precursors of change.
Consider it the fundamentals of rock 'n' roll literacy. Kids ought to know who Elvis was and where Graceland is. They ought to possess rudimentary knowledge of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. They should at least be able to name two Rolling Stones (guess which two) and they should understand the phrase "British invasion" in terms that have nothing to do with Paul Revere (or the Raiders, for that matter).
So, there. I got it off my chest. Thanks for indulging me.