I looked at the name on my concert ticket: Paul McCartney.
I sat and waited, along with 42,000 other people in Vancouver’s B.C. Stadium, for McCartney to take the stage. I was part of a group of 17 and we had talked about our expectations and the songs we wanted to hear. Every song mentioned was a Beatles song. Every one.
It wasn’t a knock McCartney’s solo career. He had written and recorded lots of good songs since the Beatles. But every person in our group was a Baby Boomer. The ticket got us in to see McCartney. But the ride we really wanted to go on was the Magical Mystery Tour.
The Beatles provided the soundtrack of our youth. Our formative years. The years when emotions, and sometimes youthful arrogance, informed our thoughts and actions. We were carefree and, maybe, even a little careless.
The cultural impact of the Beatles will be debated for as long as there is music, but clearly they influenced the way tens of millions of people dressed, wore their hair, and how they thought: politically, philosophically, about drugs, and many other important aspects of life. I know they didn’t set out to accomplish that, but it happened. That the effects have been so long lasting is astounding. Just a little more astounding than a 77-year-old rock star selling out stadiums around the world.
As McCartney played each Beatles song, memories rewound and played from the middle: From the part where that song helped me get by with a little help from my friends. From the part where love fell apart and I longed for yesterday. From the part where I tried to take a sad song and make it better. Sad, melancholy, happy… Beatles songs made me feel all those things deeply. Not for the first or last time, but in way that I remember every time I hear the music.
When McCartney wrote “When I’m 64,” and when we all heard it back then, 64 seemed as far off as Mars. Yet whenever he sings that song now (although he didn’t tonight), it probably still seems far off to McCartney, even though he now sees it in the review mirror.
But the man looked good. Maybe even better than when he was 64.
McCartney’s voice was not as strong or as smooth as it was back then. Yet for as ragged as it sometimes sounded, we filled in the rough spots with memories of the voice we had heard thousands of times. It was this specific voice that we’ve heard for more than 50 years and will hear every time those songs are played for the rest of our lives. And though other singers might sing them more proficiently, no one will ever sing them better.
As I looked around B.C Stadium, as our group of 17 sang as one, occasionally out of tune, we all looked pretty good too. Didn’t seem quite as old.
People look younger when they smile.
And they feel younger when they sing.