In my little world, a Beatle could do no wrong. Nobody could boss a Beatle around. I wasn’t alone then in these beliefs….”
by mike morgan
In late1963, our household’s album was called “With The Beatles,” and listening to it then I was one of millions of kids internationally whose universe was immediately turned on its head. Instead of shooting to be a cowboy in Cheyenne, or a fireman, or a fighter pilot ace with a handlebar moustache babbling on about bandits in the sun, or a secret agent with a trench coat and a cocked Mauser, or a sanctimonious priest (that one didn’t last too long), I wanted to be a Beatle. I longed to crack wise and mug it up in front of thousands of screaming fans, play the guitar, write songs, make rhymes, bang away like Ringo, and grow my hair long. In my little world, a Beatle could do no wrong. Nobody could boss a Beatle around. I wasn’t alone then in these beliefs. Some months further on, my older sisters took me in tow with them to the screening of “A Hard Day’s Night” at the Twentieth Century Fox Theatre on Smith Street, Durban, South Africa. The audience at the film that night mimicked the audience in the film that night. Young nubile Catholic gals, whom I’d previously only gawked at from the pews of Holy Trinity Church as they waltzed up to the altar to receive holy communion, were yelling, getting their knickers in knots, whilst passing out in the aisles of the cinema. I’ll never forget that experience. I was eight years of age.
American kids got “Meet The Beatles” instead in early 1964. It was the first release of a Beatles record in the United States. Later by my criteria, the kids in this country received the short end of the record company stick (fourteen songs versus twelve), but that’s neither here nor there. Whether it was meeting them or being with them, most peoples’ introduction to The Beatles was memorable. Seven years later, with all those great records under their belts, their career as a group was over. Now that’s trail blazing for you. Even the nay-sayers and peanut gallery wisenheimer critics would have to fess up to that. The Beatles set some hefty, almost impossible standards to live up to. What they created in that relatively short period of time still astounds me to this day.
Thus it was not without a certain amount of childhood glee revisited that I journeyed last week to the local music emporium to purchase a copy of the new “Meet The Smithereens” cd. The Smithereens, a New Jersey roots rock combo around since the mid-80s, have always made steady, not necessarily groundbreaking, but decent quality music. Well, they’ve finally gone ahead and done it. In “Meet The Smithereens” they have paid homage to “Meet The Beatles.” The Smithereens version replicates the Beatles original lp, song for song in the same order. The instrumentation is eerily exact, it’s only the voices that are somewhat different. The liner notes proclaim the following, “The Jersey beat meets the Mersey beat.”
My dear friend Charlie spent the better part of a recent drinking session spelling out the raw deal that the youngsters today have inherited. His better half (by his age almost) carps on incessantly about how the younger ones’ opinions about the stupendous music of the old days are dismissed because they weren’t there, and therefore they don’t have a context for them. I sympathize with this position, but The Smithereens have come up with a cure. That’s where the magic of their latest effort lies, namely that they’re educating the next generation and giving us older farts a blast from the past. Talk about an elixir of youth!
It’s not that The Smithereens have produced another tribute album, any number of qualified musicians might be able to pull that off. It’s that they have produced the mother of all tribute albums, showing the recording the respect it deserves. Stuff like this always has a dizzying effect on me. Firstly, I revisit all of the old albums, then I take a trip down memory lane or Penny Lane, and finally I stack it up against what we’re landed with today. I usually come out of the whole thing feeling refreshed not bitter and, above all, lucky and grateful that I was around to experience the original phenomenon. Get this record. Not since the Flamin’ Groovies drank at the same well, albeit haphazardly, have we been offered such a treat. Age no longer becomes a discriminatory factor. We all benefit. God bless The Smithereens.
A native of South Africa, Mike Morgan has lived and written in Brooklyn, NY for the last 20 years. He is a founding member of Lurch Magazine and serves as one of its Senior Editors and Contributors. In addition to these duties, he has been and continues to be at the heart of a thriving literary, art and music scene and is a regular at Freddy’s Bar, where he is often found discussing global and local affairs, rock and roll, various New York sports teams, and whatever books he happens to be reading at the time. More from Mike Morgan can be found in the Vault of Smoke.