The music of a brave generation
I have just made an exciting conclusion why the Beatles captivated the songsphere of my youth. It was the ’60s — times were changing.
We were tired of Pat Boone writing “love letters in the sand,” Neil Sedaka climbing his “stairway to heaven,” or Tony Bennett flying to the moon and promising that if we really wanted the moon he’d get it for us. Seriously.
No more of those sweet nothings. We wanted songs that rhymed with reality: down to earth, ordinary, and personal.
We wanted songs that would show us whatever was right in front of our noses and how to deal with our inadequacies: “What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?”
We were still in our teens, yet we sketched the future and grappled with the problem of aging: “When I get older losing my hair… when I’m sixty-four.”
We wanted songs that proclaimed what we valued most: “In my life, I loved you more” and that “to lead a better life, I need my love to be here… there… and everywhere.”
We wanted songs that prepared us for how life was going to be, teaching us that life wouldn’t be like it had always been for us, protected and secure. “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, …Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be.” We wanted to be prepared for what falling in love would really be, that it was not “an easy game to play,” and that we could find ourselves lost in a “Norwegian woods” of our making.
We wanted songs that we could pray with. “I’ll follow the sun” when we felt confused; “Eleanore Rigby” whenever we felt lonely; “Nowhere Man” whenever we felt lost; “Hey, Jude” or “A hard day’s night” whenever we felt exhausted.
We knew that at some point in our young lives we would wish to be on our own. We needed songs that would express our determination to work hard “eight days a week” with “a little help from my friends.” And when life’s issues became too heavy to carry, we needed a song that could console us, to “Let it be” or, if necessary, to ask for “Help.”
The Beatles were very popular in the ‘60s. Their songs declared our drive to rebel and be different. The girls cut away the lower half of their skirts and wore body-hugging banlon shirts and jeans to the dismay of our elders. The boys wore their hair long and let their sideburns grow nearly all the way down to their chins. We marched for academic freedom, and rallied against police brutality and American imperialism. While the folk songs of Joan Baez soothed our frustrations with “We shall overcome,” the Beatles did not mince words and regarded the changes as a “Revolution.”
More than change though, we wanted the freedom to decide what to do with our lives, like the Wednesday girl in “She’s leaving home,” and venture into the unfamiliar. Just “Follow the sun” and be part of a whole new world which included the excluded like “Eleanor Rigby,” even as we kicked our shoes off and played out the fantasy of “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”
Even now, years beyond … “sixty-four…,” we remain a brave generation, unafraid to change, unfazed by the challenges of the theres, elsewheres, and wherefores of life.
* * *
Bibbet Palo, 75, is a retired teacher.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.