Two Beatles albums (from iTunes!) stir assorted memories


David Letterman, noting Yoko Ono’s 78th birthday last week, joked that she celebrated by breaking up The Jonas Brothers.

Back in the twilight of sixties, perhaps early seventies, a much-appreciated Christmas gift (namely for my older brother Craig but which the rest of us took full advantage of) was a record player. Not just any record player, either. This was stereophonic, which as far as we could tell just meant there were two speakers – left and right – with enough spare cord to separate them by a couple of feet or so. We later learned (of course Craig already knew) that cool things happened in one speaker, then the other, sometimes back and forth.

It wasn’t in a big coffin-sized cabinet like my aunt’s. It was very slim. The record player dropped down from inside like a Murphy bed and it had a spindle maybe six inches long where you could pile records one on top of the other and they would drop down, individually, as the one before it finished – very cool. This also worked for 45s (single songs, double-sided). An arm swung over from the corner and held the records in place up top until they were ready to hit the turntable.

It’s hardly a surprise, thinking back, that it was green – my mother’s favourite colour – kind of the same shade of green as the fridge and stove.

If I remember correctly, that Christmas Mom and Dad played it pretty safe (for them anyway) with gifts to us of the greatest hits albums of Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the latter being a Christmas album some of which I now have in mp3 format for old times sake.

I’ll try to think of a list of many of the albums which eventually flopped down onto that stereo turntable but meanwhile, as I enjoy the remastered Beatles iTunes in my ears, I’ll share a few memories of them.

I remember seeing them on one of their Ed Sullivan Show appearances. I remember the black suits and ties, white shirts and the scandalous mops of black hair which they all shook at various times as they performed. I must admit my appreciation only grew for them after they broke up, I was quite young, probably allowed to stay up to see them because the mouse was on with Ed, or promise for later that night.

Craig had both Let It Be and Abbey Road, the two I’m listening to now, if not more.

I almost owned a late hit single of theirs – at least I was late trying to get it, which I didn’t. My first and last shop-lifting attempt was, among a couple of other things (pipe-smoking equipment well beyond my age), the single “Revolution”. Never did get it, but will never forget the reason why.

As I was heading for the mall exit at Woolco (that dates it right there) a man hooked me under my right arm, very discreetly, and asked me to “vide tes poches” – empty my pockets. Well, amateur that I was, hoping to impress my peers and yet flying woefully solo, he very nearly had a few extra lumps from the back of my pants!

I was red-faced, nearly crying I’m guessing by then, certainly panicked. His office was back between the washrooms and the shipping room. Long story short, he eventually told me that he wasn’t going to involve the police nor my parents. Good thing, too, because as I explained to him I was just a few months away from a once-in-a-lifetime school trip to London (so I must have been 15 or 16).

Other than being later than expected home that night, I escaped unscathed.

Happier memories just floating by come from a diner in the Bellerive district of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, where I grew up. It was called Le Fricot (The Stew) best-known, by me, for its nice, brown french fries (second only to the chip van which parked near the tracks on Maden Street most summer evenings). The Fricot was a one-storey building, modern, cube-shaped (it might be mistaken for a bank nowadays) and was built on a corner of an otherwise older neighbourhood so I suspect one of our annual major winter fires probably cleared a spot for it. Inside, diner-style, were booths separated by faux wood just above elbow height and mini jukeboxes dangled over the partitions between booths. I’d guess the going rate was three songs for a quarter. I distinctly remember that opening yelp from The Beatles’ “Oh Darlin’” there!

Song titles – and picture me singing the background sopranos at the top of my lungs in the basement – included The (soaring) Long and Winding Road, the hammer instrumentation of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, the guitar opening and brass-in-bass line of Because, the simple, descending, repetitious bass clef piano line in Let It Be, and the lyrics alone from She Came Through The Bathroom Window were hilarious enough for this kid!