[Another big Beatles anniversary? Here’s one from deep in the Oldies Vault...]
The 16-year-old bounced into the room with the show already in progress, four young men making music in ancient black and white.
From at least one corner of the couch, the awful scent of reverence, so the 16-year-old glanced at the TV and said the only thing she could possibly say under the circumstances:
"They're dorks." And then one more time, just to make sure she'd been heard: "They're dorks."
The adults in the room refused to take the bait. It couldn't have been easy; she wasn't dissing just anyone, she was dissing legends, icons, touchstones.
It's flashback time again, another installment in the great unending Boomer Wallow, brought to you by...
Which was more disconcerting? The ad for a Disney "Cinderella" video? (A generation of children with children of their own.) Or the ad for Pepcid AC? (A generation of children with stomach acid.)
Whichever – or was it the Muzak Beatles at the supermarket that very afternoon?
The signs were everywhere: It had been a while since the young men in question – let alone the grown-ups watching them so intently – were anywhere near as young as the 16-year-old and her 14-year-old sister.
"They all look alike!" the 14-year-old complained, as three of the four squeezed around a single microphone in their matching suits and shoes and hair and grins, while the fourth, identically turned out, tended to the drums behind them.
He wanted to object, to explain that these lookalikes were an entire era's great non-conformists, rule-breakers and nose-thumbers without equal. But it would have taken too long to make the case, and they'd miss all that music.
Besides, from 30 years away, they did all look alike.
It was too bad the girls had wandered in during a ballad, he decided. If only they'd arrived during one of the rockers, with those heads in full wag and the crowd going crazy (the girls in the crowd going crazy, girls exactly as old as these two were now!), they'd have had a better sense of the whole thing, the electricity, the fun, the –
"Which one is dead?"
This from the 16-year-old, so they pointed out the Beatle with the pudgy cheeks and the clever tongue. At least she'd heard that much about them; it was a start. Then the 14-year-old had a question of her own.
"Why are they such a big deal?" Her tone was part dismissal, but part genuine curiosity, and he stumbled as he tried to respond: He answered her question with a question.
"Do you mean, 'Why are they such a big deal now?' Or, 'What made them such a big deal to begin with?’"
She hadn't known exactly what she'd meant; her body language made that clear. She had just wanted some small handhold on the phenomenon playing out on that screen, in that room.
But now, as he hurried to say something meaningful about musical impact and cultural influence, about lifestyle and fashion (and sales – don't forget sales), he could see that the moment had passed. She went back to doing whatever she'd been doing.
He'd have to make another attempt at it, he decided – after the show, or even the next morning, if that's what it took. It had become important to him, somehow, that she understand. And this time, he'd try to keep it simple.
"They did lots of good tunes," he'd say.
If she was still with him, he could start to tell her about the other stuff.