The revelation came early

It started with George.  I was sitting on the floor of my sister’s bedroom when I discovered the album and saw his picture for the first time.  It was sometime in the late sixties, when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  My sister was 15 or 16; preening in front of the bathroom mirror with curlers and Dippity-do, boy-crazed, she had little tolerance for me in those days, and I indulged her definition of brat by inviting myself to prowl around her bedroom when she wasn’t around.  Her collection of LPs, stored in a rack underneath her record player, was always a focal point of these forays.  My own records–readings of Aesop’s fables, Danny Kaye singing on the soundtrack to Hans Christian Andersen—seemed dull in comparison.  Rummaging one day among selections by the Monkees, the Doors and Iron Butterfly, I pulled out Beatles ’65 and there was George.

Front cover of Beatles '65 LP jacket
The start of something.

There were four photographs on the album’s sage-colored cover.  The largest showed the band members seated side by side holding open umbrellas; underneath it were three smaller shots.  In the one in the middle, John and Paul flash open-mouthed smiles and Ringo appears to be laughing.  George was different; from beneath the edge of low-cut bangs, his eyes met the camera without a smile.  I can’t say what was in that gaze that engaged me, indeed mesmerized me there on the purple carpet, hugging scraped knees to my chest.  I think I must have sensed a point of calm, a kindred spirit.  I was his.  (Readers who attended my piano recital in May of 2011 may remember that I acknowledged Harrison on the Thank You page of the program).

George’s face was an invitation to listen to the album, which I did over and over.  I have no memory of the lyrics striking me in any particular way, but the vocal harmonies in the first three songs on the first side—‘No Reply’, ‘I’m a Loser’, and ‘Baby’s In Black’—were a revelation, beautiful in a way that, to this day, is difficult to explain.   The record is mine now.  At some point I liberated it from my sister’s bedroom and wrote my name in black Magic Marker on the jacket; it was a time when I was still putting bars across the tops of my J’s.  As I write this, it hangs, framed, on the den wall behind me.

And so the first musical moment I’ll share is courtesy of the Beatles, that moment in ‘No Reply’ when they sing the word ‘light’ for the first time, a mere 16 seconds into the song.  The gorgeous harmony repeats five times, again on the word ‘light’ and four more times on ‘died’.

This happened once before,
When I came to your door,
No reply.
They said it wasn’t you,
But I saw you peep through your window.
I saw the light, I saw the light.
I know that you saw me,
‘Cause I looked up to see your face.

I tried to telephone,
They said you were not home,
That’s a lie.
‘Cause I know where you’ve been,
And I saw you walk in your door.
I nearly died, I nearly died,
‘Cause you walked hand in hand
With another man in my place.

If I were you I’d realize that I
Love you more than any other guy.
And I’ll forgive the lies that I
Heard before when you gave me no reply.

I’ve tried to telephone,
They said you were not home,
That’s a lie.
‘Cause I know where you’ve been
And I saw you walk in your door.
I nearly died, I nearly died,
‘Cause you walked hand in hand
With another man in my place.

No reply, no reply

Do you have a ‘Beatles moment’?

7 comments

  • No major Beatles moments, but I do recall listening to a Mama Cass album over and over in the 70s. Loved her. And I probably shouldn’t admit what a big Manilow fan I was back then. :/

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    • Melanie: You’re not alone in having been a Manilow fan back in the day…I can think of several great moments in his songs!

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  • There is not enough space here to chronicle all my ‘Beatles moments.’ “No Reply” has always reminded me of Herman’s Hermits “Silhouettes” – only much darker. No happy ending … hurt … deception…
    I have all these original vinyls as well. You think they will be worth something someday to my kids?

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    • Thanks so much for stopping by for a look, Derrik. “No Reply” definitely is dark in tone, especially when compared to other early songs of theirs. I read somewhere that some people considered it a bit risky to have the first song on the first side of a new album be so downbeat, especially when it was immediately followed by two other downers, “I’m A Loser” and “Baby’s In Black”…making a trio of tunes about lost love.

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  • So, I interrupted reading about George and Eric (or Eric and George) to fill in a blank space.

    This was posted two months before the first Vinyl Connection offering, so of course I missed it (nothing exists before yourself, right?). My loss. It is a lovely vignette.

    Now, back to the present/past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 Bruce, this was my first post (after the introductory, “Why Augenblick”?, that is.) The pebble that was tossed during that foray into my sister’s albums is still generating ripples.

      Liked by 1 person

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