The other day in Port Orange, the library made an announcement advertising my presentation over the PA system: "Please join us for a free program titled THE BEATLES: BAND OF THE SIXTIES by Beatles scholar Aaron Krerowicz in the auditorium starting in ten minutes."
As soon as the announcement ended, a man to my left turned to me and asked if I knew anything about the band or if I was too young. "No," I said. "Too young." I was joking, but he thought I was serious. A moment later I confessed, "I'm actually giving the talk." This time I was serious, but he thought I was joking.
It's quite common for audiences to be skeptical of my authority on a band that broke up a decade and a half before my birth, especially when those audiences lived through the time period on which I'm speaking. However, I actually find my age to be one of my biggest advantages when studying the Beatles. Not having lived during the Beatle years, I have a certain historical objectivity.
By contrast, David Bowie just died a few weeks ago. I don't know much about him, but I do understand that he peaked in popularity in the mid-80s, right around the time I was born. Consequently, at the time I was growing up in the 90s and into the early 00s, Bowie was the kind of artist many new musicians were reacting against. The same can be said for Michael Jackson, who I grew up knowing as an accused child molester rather than one of the leading artists of his time. (I have a vivid memory of an elementary school friend telling me this joke: What does Michael Jackson have in common with WalMart? Boys underwear half off!) This inevitably inspires an inherent dislike of their music - not because it's "bad" music, but because my coming of age was too close chronologically to their periods of success. Watching news coverage of both Jackson's death in 2009 and Bowie's death in 2016 (both of which featured ample video recordings of their performances), I consistently thought to myself, "This reeks of the 80s!" I simply cannot be objective with David Bowie, Michael Jackson, or any number of other recording artists from the same time.
Conversely, there are artists for whom I maintain affection entirely for nostalgic purposes rather than for their musical quality. I discovered the band Barenaked Ladies, for example, while in middle school. I remember receiving their album Stunt for my birthday one year, and to this day I still really like the music (in fact, it's in my car right now - it's perfect driving music). But for all my fondness of that album, I recognize it's not great music. Its appeal is based on the fact that I encountered their music as an adolescent (the point in life when I started to hone and develop my own musical tastes) rather than for any specifically musical merit. That album symbolizes and documents the beginning of my maturation and independence not only specifically as a musician, but also as a person in general. Thus, I can never be truly objective with the Barenaked Ladies, either. And the same goes for bands like the Goo Goo Dolls, Creed, Limp Bizkit, and countless other recording artists who were popular around the turn of the millennium.
Of course, a lack of objectivity does not mean I cannot study this music, it just means that I can never be impartial - personal opinions (both good and bad) will inevitably influence my perception and color my analysis.
With the Beatles, however, enough time had passed between the band's career and my own coming of age that I am able to maintain historical objectivity - and in a way that almost no other Beatles fan/author/scholar can since the vast majority of experts are those who lived through it. This is also why my career as a touring Beatles scholar and lecturer could not have been done any earlier. Ten years ago I was still an undergrad in college. There's no way I could have done this type of research and analysis in 2006 - I had to gain more experience as a musician and music theorist before I could conduct truly original analysis and yield historically objective insight. All of this means that we're now in a golden age for the Beatles because they've been around long enough to be taken seriously as a significant historical event, but simultaneously they're still young enough to be solidly in living memory.
My tour continues this afternoon with my Tampa debut at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library at 2pm, and tomorrow in Ruskin:
Monday, 22 February 2016, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin, FL
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.