Mozart has been pushed out, a revolver jammed in his face and muscled out of the room.
My daughters got some bad press in a column that ran a few weeks ago, an unintentional and unfortunate mistake. And while their taste in music remains wretched, in the aggregate, they have shown a glimpse of good
As I said then, at night they were Mozart fiends. But during the day they were immersed in music made by cartoon characters, anime pull-off tattoos, bound to finally wash away with the next bath.
Early last week, however, I pulled the Mozart and put on The Beatles (the “T” in “The” always in caps — as opposed to the New York Dolls or the Knack or the Town Council) — Revolver, because it was handy.
With the first notes of “Taxman” (and some giggles over the distorted, “One, two, three...”) the girls were not dissatisfied. So much so that, when I replaced the go-to-bed selection with Sgt. Pepper’s a few nights later, they complained. “It’s too busy, daddy,” they said.
The same thing with The White Album, “Too angry, daddy,” Meet the Beatles (“I think they’re better than the Jonas Brothers, and it’s pretty busy for bedtime”) returning, night after night, to Revolver. “We like to go to sleep to it.”
They don’t think so. They sing all the songs, often, as they did after they’d watched “Mama Mia” (I endured months – MONTHS – of that extraordinary rendition), some “Good Day Sunshine” in the morning, maybe “Got To Get You Into My Life” in the afternoon, “Eleanor Rigby” in the evening (of course), and “Yellow Submarine” before shower time or while brushing their teeth.
It’s safe to say that they love The Beatles in the way that I did, but at a higher level.
“Who was better? Elvis or The Beatles?” Mister Man, as always, looking for King of Something, the superhero, the god of rock.
I looked at my girls look at their brother and scowl. He doesn’t know anything they think, he’s a bay bee, he doesn’t like anything good except Scooby-Doo.
Mister looked for an answer while the girls percolated up, effervesced, ebullient. “The Beatles!” they shouted, without prompt, shouting down their little brother.
He wasn’t interested in their opinion; neither were they in his. In the meantime, six sets of eyes watched me, expecting the wisdom of Solomon, wondering when I’d render The Decision.
“Well,” I said, weaseling, “The Beatles would tell you that Elvis was better than them.”
Then, considering John Lennon’s comment about Jesus Christ, I decided to hold my tongue, keep the argument to the facts at hand.
“You’d have to ask Elvis, I guess.”
“Well, he’s dead,” said Eldest, “What did he say?”
They looked at each other. Isn’t Elvis just Elvis? Like an archangel or something?
“Listen. It’s not up to me to tell you who’s better. Listen and you tell me.”
They looked at each other again, looking like they did when they planned to build their own potato cannon right before Homeland Security walked in and started monitoring their Internet access.
“But you say the Jonas Brothers suck,” said Miss Middle. “And they don’t.”
“Like I said, it’s up to you. You decide. You don’t have to listen to me.’
I reconsidered my stand. “Well you don’t have to listen to me about what music you want to listen to.”
“What about TV? We always have to watch news.”
“We’re back on The Beatles v. Elvis, I think.”
The girls huddled, whispered, clung to the wall like a couple of moths, wings not quite still, the vibrations almost imperceptible.
“We think The Beatles were better,” they announced.
“Well, sing me a song.”
Mister started to sing “All You Need Is Love” but the girls shouted him down, “This is our song! Stop singing!”
They whispered some more, commiserated, then came back to me. “What song do you want us to sing?”
Hmmmm. “Dr. Robert,” I said.
“We don’t know that one!”
“You go to bed to the album it’s on almost every night,” I responded.
“That’s not one we know,” Eldest said, looking at her feet, her voice low and distant.
“Sing me one you know.”
“Jonas Brothers or The Beatles?”
“I think I’ve heard you sing every Jonas Brothers song there is.”
“No you haven’t.”
“Well, sing a Beatles song… for me.”
They took to their aside again, stood in the shadows slightly off stage left and planned their show.
When they were ready, they sang “Help!” and giggled as they made up lyrics, an 11- and 8-year-old’s stab at bawdiness, snot and farts and sniggering endlessly, laughing in hand, hissing and then, like a firecracker, exploding with laughter.
They ended their “Help!” show with a “cha-cha cha,” and then fell down into each other’s arms, laughing hysterically.
“Well, that one’s not from Revolver,” I said, giving them points for at least picking a song from the same timeframe. Within a year’s time (between 1965-66), The Beatles released Beatles For Sale, Rubber Soul and Revolver, an amazing feat that will (I write with all certainty) never be repeated. In an era when bands often take years to produce an album, The Beatles released three albums within one year, any of which would have a made another band’s fortunes (and reputation) to the end of time.
“You didn’t say it had to be a song from Revolver,” Miss Middle said, never far from pointing out why dad’s vague instructions could be twisted to suit her needs.
“So, sing me one, now. One that is your recent favorite.”
“They’re all our favorites,” Eldest insisted, looking for an out.
Then, suddenly, surprisingly, she started singing “Here, There and Everywhere.”
Her sister joining in with some futile stab at harmony. Their acapella rendition imperfect, humming over words or phrases they had not yet memorized, laughing out loud as they collided with disparate memory of how the song should go. A heavenly choir would not have sounded so good, even if the rendition’s lyrics degraded into “To be there and underwear,” and “Mister says he likes eating cowpies.”
My son protests but the girls are giddy. In a few short weeks, they’ve discovered Revolver and for them, something transformed. It is a change that will continue with them well past the time I’ve gone into the ground. It is something they will, no doubt, pass onto their own children, a legacy of joy and sorrow, a universal statement about our shared journey.
Revolver has that effect; a sound that stays with us to the end. And although Mozart will eventually be invited back into the room, my girls will never stray far from Revolver. Other Beatle’s albums will likewise enter into the picture but if it was Revolver that usurped the primacy of the Jonas Brothers, it was a starting point well chosen.