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February 11, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Photo by Jonathan Stephanoff
When I was 8 years old, I fell in love with Eleanor Rigby. She, along with a group of her closest friends, taught me how to love music.
I knew it was love from the first second. She was lonely; I was young and naïve. As we lay in bed together, my older brother resting quietly beneath us in the confines of the lower bunk, her mysterious past was revealed to me. I heard about how she waits at a window, keeping her face in a jar by the door. She doesn’t know who its for. I heard about how she picked up rice in a church where a wedding had been. Utterly entranced by her tale, I sat silently beneath my Lion King quilt. She lived a life full of pain, and her story tore at my heart. I longed to hear more.
Then, only minutes later, I was introduced to Eleanor’s friends. Our intimate relationship exploded into an “orgy” of love. I was first introduced to Father Mackenzie, a man whose loneliness rivaled Eleanor’s. Then a taxman barged into the room. I had met him before, and I thought he was a real bastard. I later learned to love him. Next came the successful young doctor Robert who everyone seemed to love. At one point, there was even a bird in the mix.
About a half hour after, I met the taxman and his crew. My mom came in to kiss me goodnight. Despite my pleas that they stay a little longer, Eleanor and her friends were forced to leave. Thoughts of my new friends left me restless in the night. I tossed and turned. I could see their faces and hear their voices. I longed to see and touch them. I had to get these people into my life, and I had to keep them there. I struggled to sleep. My mother woke me early in the morning and asked me why my boom box was on my bed. Still yawning as I lifted my head, I didn’t know what to say. A Revolver went off in the evening. The bullet struck me, and it now rested near my heart.
In 1997, I heard The Beatles’ Revolver for the first time. The CD, a gift from my godfather, a Beatles fan so devoted that he named his fourth child Lennon, instantly became the physical representation of not only my love for The Beatles but music in general.
The following day as I made my way to school on the bus, Revolver traveled with me. For the next few years the CD rarely left my Discman. Running around the safe suburban streets of Wheaton, Ill. when my friends and I would play together, the Discman would rest comfortably in my cargo pockets. The music transported me to a different place and time. Instead of playing on the streets of Wheaton, I was playing in London or maybe riding my bike on the fabled Abbey Road.
I always knew where the disc was. I knew the order of the four member’s faces on the cover. I knew whose face was whose. I knew that when I opened the case, I had to hold the left side because the little knob that kept the top connected to the bottom was broken. I knew that midway through “And Your Bird Can Sing” the disc was going to skip. I loved that CD. I still love all it stood for.
Revolver changed how I felt about music. I never wanted to be without music again. I stopped listening to Kid Rock. All right, I listened to “Bawitdaba” on occasion and that one song where Joe-C rapped because Joe-C rocked (rest his soul), but I knew the distinction between The Beatles and Kid Rock. I discovered that Kiss FM wasn’t where the music hid; it didn’t hang out on TRL with Carson Daily. In fact, it didn’t hang out on MTV at all. The “real music,” music that I felt was symbolic, often layered and metaphorical, was elusive, sometimes hard to find. As I grew older, I learned that there were other people on the same hunt as me. I surrounded myself with those people.
Almost 10 years later, on the evening of my graduation from high school, I cruised the familiar streets of Wheaton with a group of those friends. Citizen Cope’s The Clarence Greenwood Recording boomed through the speakers as we made our way to a party. The next morning I awoke and rallied the troops. I made my way to the car. I reached in the glove compartment to grab Revolver from its usual resting area, which was sandwiched comfortably between White Blood Cells and a “mix-tape” from the old “gf,” but something was horribly wrong. Searching desperately for my old friend, I fumbled around the glove compartment. I found it. It had been halved. I sat in silence for a while. My closest friends were in the car with me. They knew what the CD had meant to me. They sat in silence, too.