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Beatlemania gone wild

Julie Bender | Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I can remember my middle school days very well. Like most kids, I was desperately seeking my own identity. There were the popular kids, the nerds, the athletes … I was tucked nicely in the middle of these groups, not quite sure where I belonged yet. In sixth grade, I remember donning green Converse sneakers and listening to Weezer’s blue album, thinking that maybe, in all my awkwardness, I’d become a post-grunge punk.This worked for a little while, but I was still too nerdy, and I played too many sports to fit that role perfectly. I floundered around for a bit among the groups, and then one day my destiny became clear. I remember driving home one night in my family’s wood-paneled mini-van. My younger siblings were being annoying as usual, so I began to listen to the music my parents were playing on the van’s tape deck. I’d heard the songs many times growing up but had never really listened to them. As I sat there in the car, before I knew what was happening, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album exploded in my head and blew me away. From that moment on, the deal was sealed. I was to be a Beatlemaniac for the rest of my life, only three decades too late.Now, I would like to say I was a Beatle fan of the standard, respectable variety. Someone who appreciated the band’s music and influence on culture and society, but who also maintained a normal lifestyle while doing so. Normal, however, will never be a word associated with what I became after first hearing Sgt. Pepper. Perhaps it was my desperation of seeking some sort of sixth grade identity, but things quickly spiraled into a rock ‘n’ roll obsession that haunts me to this day. I began buying all the Beatle albums I could afford with my meager weekly allowance. I checked out every single Beatle-related book in my local library. I began making Beatle mixed tapes off the radio from the Oldies station, and I started a scrapbook of every Beatle photo or article I found in the newspaper. And this was only the beginning.My Beatles obsession spread to the clothing I wore, to the Scouse accent I adopted … it even infiltrated my schoolwork. I can remember interpreting Beatle lyrics for my English classes and giving presentations on the life of John Lennon. I had my school band play “Yellow Submarine” for a concert. After school each day, I’d put on a Beatles album and play air guitar until dinnertime. Looking back, perhaps the strangest and most embarrassing aspect of my Beatle obsession was that I actually used to bake cupcakes on the Beatles’ birthdays. John, Paul, George and Ringo each had baked goods made in their honor, which I would bring to school and pass out at my locker. I can only imagine what my teachers must have thought. If an identity was what I was seeking, I had certainly found one. By seventh grade I was well known around school as a Beatlefreak, and I didn’t care. Even if I lacked all elements of middle school coolness, I loved the Beatles and I loved rock ‘n’ roll. That’s all that mattered to me.I think it was when I baked cupcakes for Paul McCartney’s birthday and neglected my own father’s birthday a few days later that my parents realized maybe things were getting out of control. They sat me down and told me that the Beatles were well and good, but perhaps I should try and explore some other interests. I, of course, defended my Beatle obsession by stating that I couldn’t help it that the Beatles were so amazing. Besides, I did have other emerging interests. My love of the Beatles was leading me to discover other great artists like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones.Now that I am in college, I can look back on my middle school days and smile, knowing I have matured somewhat in the past eight years.My after-school air guitar has turned into a real guitar, which I play any spare chance I can, much to the dismay of my napping roommate. My music collection has a bit more variety in it now, and I no longer resort to baked good for Beatle birthdays. (My apologies to those who were excited that George’s birthday is only a week away.) Despite this slight maturing, however, my love for the Beatles has remained in tact. In fact, just last semester a life-long dream of mine came true. While studying abroad in France, I was able to make the pilgrimage to my personal rock ‘n’ roll Mecca: Liverpool. I took the Chunnel to the motherland of my favorite mop tops and, with a very patient friend in tow, was able to ride on a Magical Mystery Tour Bus all around the hometown of those loveable lads. Although Liverpool might not get as many pages in a tourism book as London or Paris, for me it was the greatest sight my eyes had seen. Not only was it incredible to see the houses, schools and parks where the lads grew up, but to be in the company of other Beatlemaniacs was a homecoming experience in itself. The atmosphere on the bus was all Beatle, from the music playing to the chatter among the bus riders to the trivia questions of our tour guide. Riding that Magical Mystery Tour bus, I thought I’d died and gone to rock ‘n’ roll heaven. Now that I’m back to reality at school, I can only play my guitar, hum Beatle tunes and daydream wistfully of my time in Liverpool.At least I now know that it’s okay to love the Beatles as much as I do; I’m not alone in my obsession. Even 40 years after their music hit American shores, it is never too late to be a Beatlemaniac.Contact Julie Bender at jbender@nd.edu