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The Beatles are a band
I've been doing some research
I had drinks at the local pub with my pal Makoto last night. When I realized the depths of his lack of knowledge surrounding the Beatles, I had a comically long jawed expression on my face. That moment came when I told him how sad it was that the group essentially disbanded after a major legal skirmish over copyrights and representation, and he said:
Wait. The Beatles didn’t just break up because John died? You mean they broke up before he died?
I actually felt my face relax, in reaction to Makoto’s ignorance. Like the shock was acupunctual. Pick! zzzzzz “How does this person who is my age and lives in America and works with musicians and artists all the time, not know this?”
We surmised that actually half the people in the bar probably didn’t know this detail, or other details about the Beatles. Between changing generational guards and distance from the facts, it would be a logical assumption to make. No one under 30 hangs on for the social details of a band whose heyday peaked 50+ years ago.
Our conversation was made the more curious by the presence of a NLCS baseball game—Arizona at Phillies, game 1—playing in the background. Everyone, including myself, would occasionally stop to wince or clap or boo a call together even if it meant interrupting deep conversation. p.s. I love baseball. In one especially surreal moment, Makoto shared his experiences as a performing arts leader who advocates for Asian Americans, and demonstrated some vulnerability and sadness at the friction of shifting strategies in our field, despaired white supremacist thinking permeating the symbolic theater. And as he came to the summit of his emotional pyre, the crux of his frustrations with the field, I noticed in my peripheral vision along with the other bar patrons, a game clinching double play unfolding. Six Four Three. We erupted with glee and I felt like I was running up a down escalator as I held Makoto’s psychic hand through his story. It turned out he doesn’t know much about baseball either. I apologized to Makoto for the cognitive break. My attention was divided but I was right there with him for this personal story, and the group sports moment.
This made me think further about the subject I am most preoccupied with at my work at the moment—the responsibilities of an audience.
So I think about the Beatles again. What were the responsibilities of the audiences of that band. The alacrity of their popular culture, their individual popular cultures as players (Paul the hero, John the antihero, George the hippie and Ringo the pet terrier). How could such a young group of men wield so much audience? This reminds me that a few days prior, my pal Mark invoked Tony Conrad in a conversation about genre as a marketing ploy. Conrad, who was so willfully anti-popularity, always makes me think about the word “responsibility.”
We are all trying to be good advocates. We think this is the responsible thing to do. But I’m sometimes incredulous that “responsibility” is a declension of “response”—as if the ethics implied in a “responsibility” have to be a reaction to a source event. Responsibility is a shadow play, a “I’ll do something once I see something. I’ll say something once I hear something.” IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING, as the MTA reminds us. The responsibility begins with the very notion of a listener.
You tell me we need to be responsible.
I am listening. I promise. I am paying attention to every single thing you do. I am the Beatlemania, the Phanatic. I want you to know I can be responsible, in this way, too.