"And who is this?" The question came from Dorothy, a 40something Chinese woman I've become pals with after she helped me with a communication problem at the Beijing airport a few months ago. She was at my apartment scrutinizing my coffee table swamp of CDs, DVDs, books, New Yorkers, empty beer cans, dirty cups and used dental floss. After examining CDs by Nirvana, Metallica, PJ Harvey and an old kickass Boulder bluegrass group, Town and Country Review, Dorothy focused on the Beatles' Revolver.
"Beatles, you know - the band? Rock and roll. English band?" I said. "Very famous." She looked a little puzzled. I pointed to a framed photo on my wall of me interviewing Yoko Ono in Denver circa late '80s. "Her? You know her. Yoko Ono. She was his..." I pointed to the John drawing on Revolver, "Japanese wife."
"Oh!" she said. "I know. So sad. Yes, he is dead, yes?."
"Yeah, unfortunately. But this was the band he was in before." Then she made the connection, (apparently the phonetic translation of Beatles in Chinese means "messy hair", though I'm not gonna swear to that) and asked me to play the disc. John, Paul, George and Ringo aren't exactly well-known here as many of their potential audience would've been trying to make revolution as Red Guards rather than singing it at the time. And the Beatles were decidedly not among the first western pop artists officially sanctioned in China - John Denver and the Carpenters have that honor.
I can't remember the last time I turned someone on to the Beatles, other than my son when he was about 4 and even then he preferred George Thorogood's Bad to the Bone, the Byrds' Chestnut Mare and Mr Tambourine Man and Aretha Franklin's Respect over virtually anything by the Fabs. (Last summer a 22-year old American intern informed me that he'd "recently decided that the Beatles were actually pretty good" - a remark which had me supressing the urge to tear his lungs out through his sphincter.)
Listening to Revolver's 14 tracks - long since taken for granted - with a novice was almost like hearing it the first time in 1966 at my friend Chris's home on Columbine street in Boulder. Ehh, well, maybe not that great but hearing it through her ears and what she was picking up on was very fresh.
Song by song - Taxman through Tomorrow Never Knows - she was praising harmonies, solo vocals, instruments and themes (I'm Only Sleeping, Good Day Sunshine, Got to Get You Into My Life, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, And Your Bird Can Sing in particular) and asked me if she could borrow it to copy, along with the sleeve. "That's John, that's Ringo, Paul, that's George..."
She left my place clutching Revolver and singing Good Day Sunshine kinda off key but with some decided verve, even though it was dark and about 9-degrees Farenheit. Maybe next time we'll take a drive on Abby Road.
3/5/2010 4:13:13 PM