The Familial Connections That Bind Us – A Beatles Story
For as long as I can remember, my father has regaled us with stories of music and bands, their rise to fame and what they had learnt along the way. In a way, that learning aspect and how you grow and develop together along the journey, adding dimensionality and awareness to your being in every step you take, has been the very allegory and inspiration for our own journey as a family. This journey, which has thus far seen us travel the world constantly for the last five years, visiting 34 countries on six continents, is in one respect akin to a rock band’s world tour. From my Dad’s stories, I couldn’t help but somehow see the parallels of these bands’ experiences with our very own journey. It has greatly influenced my love of music and my understanding of just how powerfully an emotion can be expressed or felt through a single chord, or even just one note. How music itself is its very own language, no, more than this, a mode of communication that can transcend expression and translate it to pure emotion and feeling.
Without fail, though, Dad’s inspirational stories would always start with the quintessential fact that his formative experience with popular music was with this band called The Beatles. Even though they had unofficially broken up in the year that he was born, he spoke of their music as if it were a living legacy of energy and inspiration that formed his vision of the world and what it could be.
What interested me most, however, was the way in which he would speak so passionately about their story, their journey as individuals, but mostly as a family out on the great adventurous road of life.
For me, while I really enjoyed the stories he told, they never really burst to life or captured me so completely and touched me so poignantly, as the day I had the opportunity to visit Liverpool and live The Beatles Story. With the greatest respect to John, Paul, George, Ringo and their families, I have felt that today they have all become part of our family and its journey and we a part of theirs, in the overall journey that humanity calls life. This is why I can express with the greatest sincerity, that The Beatles Story in Liverpool has touched me in a way that no museum, castle, or historical experience has ever done, because it has brought to life a set of emotions and feelings that has allowed me to glimpse, even if for just a second, what it was like for these four young men, not much older than I, to travel their wondrous journey together and touch so many lives.
While many museums today offer interactive self-guided tours, it was the compelling and personal nature of the stories here at The Beatles Story that from the very start drew me in. Hearing John’s sister, Julia, welcome us as only an admiring younger sister could, lowered my guard down and allowed me to take the first steps of our experience with a warm feeling of invitation, beckoning me to want to know more. Often, in these situations, as we have travelled the world, we seem to skip through places as if it is a race to get to the next exhibit and hit the next number on the audio guide, but I never felt this here. In fact, for some inexplicable reason, I wanted to take the opportunity to slow down and take in every piece of information that was on display. I looked around to my parents and my brother and saw immediately that we shared this common feeling. There was no rushed energy for us to get through this.
What stood out for me from the start of the experience was the sense of family and how vital a theme this was in the formation of their story. It has been a theme that we as a family have been exploring throughout our own journey. Asking the questions of what constitutes family, not just of our family ties into which we are born, but of the ties we experience that are so familial in this journey of life, that we cannot help but recognise the significance of the need to act on them, to foster them, even perhaps with a dedication and love that equals, if not surpasses, that of some of our biological family.
What I was hearing in my ears had me asking the question – Was this the very compelling reason behind John and Paul bonding so completely – their deeply felt and shared feelings of loss? I stared intently at the picture on the wall of The Quarrymen until it became pixelated, and projected myself back to that moment. I could not help but feel that there was something predestined in their meeting as if they had arranged it in another moment, in another place and allowed each other to play their roles.
As we moved onwards, I couldn’t help but see just how completely these young men, through their very presence of being, contributed to the transcendence of conventions of behaviour and just how transformational their effect was on how societal laws were enforced. They seemed to shine light on a choking and congested haze of smog of rules and behaviours, which at the time, were the very foundations on which “good society” was based. These were the seemingly immutable standards, or rather, the double standards of privilege, class, gender, racial and age-based discrimination, which were considered to be the norm. It was exactly the behaviours that just ‘weren’t the done thing’ along with perceptions of entitlement and superiority that The Beatles openly challenged with their rye, unique and disarming humour. It would be hard for many young people of my age to imagine that merely the thought of a hairdo’s length could so shock and challenge the establishment in such a way as to rock it to its core.
For me, however, it was learning of their conscious decision to insist they will never play to segregated crowds in their Gator Bowl concert in Florida on the 11th of September 1964, that changed it all. While their decision may have been indulged, mainly due to the greedy promoters’ hungrily grubbing-for-cash, rather than their belief in racial equality, this defining act of unity, instigated by these lads, indelibly left a mark on the way people started to see each other around the world.
As we walked on and took in the visual and audio stimuli, I was swept up in wave after wave of emotion. I finally made all the lightbulb-like ‘aha’ connections one gets when they live the experience of stories they have only been told. I was captured by the journey of these young men on an adventure of a lifetime. Their stories sparked to life in every turn of the page, every turn of the corner of this living museum. I couldn’t help but chuckle somewhat when I got to Sgt. Peppers and The Magical Mystery Tour at some of the parallels our journey as a family took over this last five years. I am in no way making a direct comparison or trying to hijack a piece of The Beatles Story as our own, but I cannot help but wonder at just how much our journey is relational to getting on a bus, travelling without a destination and just seeing what happens. I have to say that literally doing this with my family has thus far, produced some of the most blessed eye-opening, soul-widening, prolific growth related experiences, through the people, places and stories we have encountered.
While we had given ourselves three hours to visit, we were rapidly starting to notice that we had left ourselves short of time. We had just come to the individual displays for each of these men, now no longer those young lads who had started their journey together in Liverpool years before. The world and their journey had shaped them, just as much as they had shaped it. Their vision for the world and the way in which they lived in it, touched every corner of the globe and in some way, everyone who has lived.
I felt that connection with Paul, now stepping out with his Mul of Kintyre. Just the week before, I had set foot on Scottish soil for the first time, to be so completely captured by its beauty and the deep kinship I had felt by being there. George was there too, reminding me of our experiences with the modern proponents of Indian Devotional Music, such as The Guru Ganesha Band and Snatam Kaur, the likes of whom were undoubtedly influenced by the pioneering contributions George had made. With Ringo, it was his solo hit – It Don’t Come Easy, that brought to the forefront my experience of having my book published, the experience living in the words of his number one hit. Then I turned the final corner of the museum and I got to Imagine. Believe it or not, I had somehow never made the connection that the John who wrote Imagine was John Lennon. Tears welled up in my eyes, as each word I read touched my soul, in the expression of a living vision of the world that is to come.
After all this, a wonderful emotional rollercoaster, I take stock of what I have experienced. When asked on many occasions by the media why it was that so many people acted the way they did and felt the way they felt about The Beatles, their answer was often ‘Honestly, we don’t know why.’
I draw on my feelings in a vain attempt to try to offer my interpretation of why The Beatles’ story will never evanesce and why it shaped and continues to shape the world so captivatingly. The profundity of their ability to touch people so deeply transcended the essence of their music through a combined familial energetic convergence. This awakened in the people touched by them, a glimpse, for just the briefest of moments, the nature of their own infinite divinity and how they are all connected as one big family. How can that not be so electrifying that it doesn’t result in a collective hysteria, amplified by the people around them?
This is what The Beatles gifted us with… the ability for us to see the very best in ourselves, the familial connections that bind us, the greatest potential for us as humanity and that all of this is fully attainable for all of us as a global family of people. How then can we not like what we see? I am not saying that this is what you will see when you visit The Beatles Story, but I would invite you to visit if you get the chance, for I feel there is a compelling story behind the stories of these four lads from Liverpool, which potentially holds the key to all of our stories. It’s just waiting for you to unlock it!
I want to thank the staff, management and all the contributors and supporters of The Beatles Story for allowing my family and I to experience this living journey. Represented through the lives of these four people and their friends and families, it is the very allegory for the potential of all humanity as a family to dream, to tell their stories and live their wildest dreams to the fullest.