Please Please Me is a mostly sweet and dull album that came out 50 years ago today or yesterday or tomorrow or whatever. It’s by the Beatles, so it’s fucking amazing.
I was born in the year 1985. Two of the Beatles are dead. There are 14 songs on Please Please Me: four of them are brilliant, two are great, and the rest are sweet and dull. This week I told a bunch of people I’m writing a thing about how Please Please Me came out 50 years ago and everybody acted so weirdly flabbergasted by it—they “absolutely” “couldn’t” “believe” Please Please Me’s turning 50. I wanted to ask them, “Have you listened to Please Please Me recently?” I guess I could lie and try to make some moving point about how “I Saw Her Standing There” is timeless and sounds as exciting today as it did then and always will forever, but it’s hard to get too jazzed about a song you know better than the National Anthem. It’s one of the brilliant ones and I extra-love it because I have a joke where every time I hear Paul McCartney sing “She was just 17/You know what I mean” I make a jerking-off hand gesture or at least imagine myself making one and I get a real kick out of it. But it still sounds really old-timey, and I’m just like, how many years ago do you jokers think 1963 was? Stop making bland points about the passage of time and start doing some very basic addition.
The Beatles are fucking amazing, but they’re not timeless. They’re dated. The Beatles sound like the ‘60s, and people born in the ‘90s and beyond don’t think the ‘60s sound as cool as people born in the ‘70s and ‘80s do. They don’t think the ‘60s sound cool at all! Teenagers today probably think the Beatles sound like “Mairzy Doats” sounded to me when I was 17 (are any teenagers reading this? If yes, they’re probably all, “Ummm what’s Mairzy… like, Doats?” and I barely even know how to answer that question. Some viscerally embarrassing song from a thousand years ago featuring the word “lambsy” in the lyric?), so let’s Beatles-obsessives just call a spade a spade, allow the Beatles to die a noble death and hope they at very least end up a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and not a Merry Macs (the Merry Macs are the band that sang “Mairzy Doats”). There’ll probably be brief resurgence in interest come 2050, when the 2050 equivalent of Martin Scorsese directs a dazzingly middlebrow Beatles biopic starring the 2050 equivalents of James Franco, grown-up kid from About A Boy, Andrew Garfield, and dude from Hunger Games as John, Paul, George and Ringo respectively, and maybe in 2050 Paul McCartney will be ninety-eight and show up to the premiere in a wheelchair and I’ll be like, “Whoa, I’m 65,” die 10 years later and then 300 years pass and Let It Be is Ode To Joy, Ode To Joy is obsolete, and we’ll all learn a valuable lesson in mortality.
But today is today and everything’s as weird and fine as ever. I used to listen to Beatles albums and wish I could hear them for the first time, hear them the way they sounded the day they came out—I wished I could spend 45 cents on this “groovy” new LP by four babies in drainies without knowing their Christian names let alone that John would grow up to be murdered by a fat nerd with cool taste in Todd Rundgren albums or that the fine-boned baby bird singing “Do You Want To Know A Secret” would find God and teach the whole world about it four years later, that Ringo would (ADORABLY) acquaint himself with a generation of children by (ADORABLY) starring on Shining Time Station, that Paul’s daughter would become a famous fashion designer or that Linda would die too young or that Paul would meet Linda and there would be Wings, Abbey Road, Billy Preston, Yoko, Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton and the Maharishi, Apple Records or the Travelling Wilburys or Rishikesh or LSD or even plain old Beatlemania at all! But why, I wonder? I guess I’d have argued it would have been a purer way to hear them, but I don’t know why I would have claimed to care about that. Purity’s never really been a huge priority of mine.
I’m older, it’s the future, and I’m grateful I get to hear the Beatles the way I do; it’s what makes those sweet and dull songs fucking amazing. I think it’s cool that I got to fall in love with “Love Me Do” the same week I fell in love with “Hey Jude,” that I got to find out the ending without it spoiling the beginning. The Please Please Me Beatles at their best are full of hope: it’s palpable, it radiates, and I can see how in 1963 it would have made me feel hopeful about my own life. But in 2013, as much as I can hear it, there’s no point in letting myself feel it: the Summer of Love was a fever dream.
The Beatles broke up on terrible terms, Heather Mills hustled Paul, phones aren’t phones, and all we have is, I don’t know, Solange. Solange Knowles wore some very cute outfits in the “Losing You” video and seems pretty down-to-earth compared to Beyonce. The other night I said, “It seems like cauliflower’s really having a moment.” The last three dudes I slept with were gluten-intolerant. The Beatles said “Tomorrow Never Knows,” but we know now. Today I Snapchatted my shadow.