The iconic Abbey Road lyric fills the theater-in-the-round where 2,000 Beatlemaniacs are gathered for Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles Love. It’s no Mirage. Love is in the air tonight, super thick. It’s February 9, 2014, the golden anniversary. My cells are celebrating.
Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back?
If you were the four lads from Liverpool who landed on American soil 50 years ago, the answer to that question would be affirmative. Why? Because I was born on February 9, 1964, the day the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan show.
Let me clarify, my biological birthday is July 29, 1956. But I have no memory, no prenatal anecdotes prior to pop culture’s big bang. “All My Loving” was the slap on the ass. My lungs filled with this remarkable amniotic elixir called music. John, Paul, George and Ringo became my teachers, shamans and best friends. Their songs are attached to the mental Polaroids of my life. Mowing lawns and babysitting for cash, I bought every slab of vinyl as soon as it hit stores—from Meet the Beatles the day after Sullivan to 1970’s Let it Be when the band (and innocence) evaporated.
Since then, I’ve hit countless potholes en route from rock-loving kid to rock-chronicling journalist to midlife mystic. When George Harrison died in 2001, I was in Miami doing yoga on my friend Les Garland’s (one of the founders of MTV) back lawn. Throughout it all, I have always kept February 9 sacred. But the golden anniversary required something special. So I went to see The Beatles Love at The Mirage. Love on the 50th. Let it Be. Why? Because I believe in yesterday. And today.
Cirque’s interpretation of “Drive My Car” motors me back to my Chevy Malibu—high school free wheeling, faux chrome-plated automotive chaos. The scene onstage is insane, the hook of the song indelible. Plasticine porters with looking-glass ties. Oh, if Lucy could see me now, swaddled in this dreamscape of airborne gypsies and costumed crazies.
As Cirque magicians and maidens bend into lotus and dance among candles and sparkles during the hypnotic “Here Comes the Sun,” I’m Tao for the count—fully present, watery eyed and worry free.
In December 1967, when Mr. Lambert’s sixth-grade class hit the asphalt at Chandler Elementary in Sherman Oaks, California, for recess the Friday after the release of Magical Mystery Tour, I had a spontaneous idea. Get everyone to sing the final chanting verse of “Hello, Goodbye.” I’d listened to the album a hundred times in three days. If there’d been a girl in school named Penny, I would’ve asked her to marry me, never mind I was still years from my first pubic hair. Hela heba helloa. Tiny voices rose skyward. We were silly and symphonic.
Walking home from school that week, I actually saw an “I Am the Walrus” lyric: yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye. Poor pup was hit by a car and just lying there, its right peeper bulging from the socket. Why do I remember this so clearly? Because long before I could envision cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over my head, my head and heart were full of song. Their song.
The doll-like, gravity-defying redhead swirls in sorrowful ballet. While her guitar gently weeps, I’m ecstatic in the presence of Love’s ineffable brilliance. The pain, confusion, depression, spiritual madness, acute anxiety and all other self-created shadows that have kept my rubber soul bouncing for however many years—disappear like the fog upon L.A.’s “Blue Jay Way.” The audience rises in voice and vibration to join the cast in the triumphant finale. “All you need is love!” the manta repeats, and I’m waving my arms in my seat like the pimpled punk on the playground. And once again, all the kids joined in.
What’s your Beatles memory? Tell us in the comments below.
Lonn M. Friend is the former editor of RIP magazine, author of Life on Planet Rock and Sweet Demotion, and host of Energize: the Lonn Friend podcast on iTunes. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Friend has recently relocated back to Las Vegas where he hopes to pen his first novel … about a middle-aged man who falls for a Cirque du Soleil dancer.