Meet the Beatles (again) in 8 short essays

Read on denverpost.com

The lawsuits are settled, the egos soothed and, finally, the Beatles have come to iTunes. For music fans – of all ages – the long and winding wait for history’s greatest rock band to hook up with the digital age’s most prominent music distributor ended Tuesday. And no doubt millions of ear buds are now channeling contemporary pop’s fab forefathers. Suddenly, the Beatles are new again, revived for loyalists’ playlists, reinvented for the download-only generation. The moment seemed right for some insight, in hindsight, about how the music played, and plays, four-plus decades later

Wander into any college dorm room, say, Farrand Hall at CU-Boulder, and odds are you’ll find at least one piece of Beatles memorabilia. Most common is the Abbey Road posterall grainy and precious and filled with fabled symbolism — the perfect fodder for stoned college conversation.

Or maybe it’s the “Sgt. Pepper” album cover, or a black-and-white shot of John in his sleeveless “New York City” T-shirt. Maybe it’s a crumbling album sleeve of “Rubber Soul” tacked to the ceiling, the actual record nowhere in sight, never to spin on a turntable. (You say you want a revolution? Run your thumb around that iPod clickwheel.)

The iconography of the world’s most famous band continues to transcend the generation gap, as it has for half a century.

The music, not so much.

Most millennials probably don’t actively listen to the Beatles, though they like “the Beatles.” For young people, liking the Beatles is akin to liking “Family Guy,” “Catcher in the Rye” and vegetarian food. You like it because you’re supposed to like it; because of the cachet that comes with liking something with the slightest hint of intellectualism.

As an organism, “the Beatles” is a symbol of a free-thinking, politely rebellious era. It’s the patch on your backpack that your mom was kind enough to sew, the bumper sticker on your locker, the pilfered street sign on your bedroom door. Throw a piece of Beatles schwag in a corner of your personal space, and suddenly, being cool isn’t so hard.

When you like the Beatles in your youth, you make sure that everyone knows it. More important, liking the Beatles enrolls you in the club that has found its music independent of the radio, MTV or YouTube. Until now.

The Fab Four continue to serve us in ways outside of our headphones and Hi-Fis. And now, as they compete with Gaga and Rhianna for iTunes downloads, they’re making it a little easier for all of us to feel, well, young and hip.