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Was I ever wrong

In the opening pages of Life As We Know It, I wrote that most of my time with Jamie—that is, when I’m actually with him, doing stuff—is lived pretty much moment by moment.  And I wrote this specific passage just under ten years ago:

Occasionally it will occur to Janet or to me that Jamie will always be “disabled,” that his adult and adolescent years will undoubtedly be more difficult emotionally—for him and for us—than his early childhood, that we will never not worry about his future, his quality of life, whether we’re doing enough for him.  But usually these moments occur in the relative comfort of abstraction, when Janet and I are lying in bed at night and wondering what will become of us all.  When I’m with Jamie, by contrast, I’m almost always fully occupied by taking care of his present needs rather than by worrying about his future.  When he asks to hear the Beatles because he loves their cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” I just play the song, sing along, and watch him dance with delight; I do not concern myself with extraneous questions such as whether he’ll ever distinguish early Beatles from late Beatles, Paul’s songs from John’s, originals from covers.  These questions are now central to Nick’s enjoyment of the Beatles, but that’s Nick for you.  Jamie is entirely sui generis, and as long as I’m with him I can’t think of him as anything but Jamie.

The clear implication here—and you don’t have to be a literature Ph.D. to see it—is that a child with Down syndrome will never have the intellectual capacity to understand the Beatles’ oeuvre, or even to understand that some songs preceded others, were written by different band members, and so forth.

Well, this is long, long overdue, but I owe Jamie one enormous apology: I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Over the past ten years Jamie has become so fascinated with the Beatles that he’s memorized almost the entire songbook.  He still has trouble identifying late Harrisonian ephemera like “The Inner Light,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “Only a Northern Song” (all of which suck, anyway), and he’s not crazy about Abbey Road (with good reason).  But in every other respect, his knowledge of Beatles music verges on the preternatural.

It started a couple of years ago, when he was fascinated with “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “Come Together” (he still gets a kick out of “juju eyeball”), whereupon I explained to him that John had written those songs and that John liked to play games with words.  Well, Jamie was so thrilled with this news that he demanded to know what else John had written.  So I went back over the corpus, so to speak, and found to my surprise that John had written almost three-quarters of the originals on the Beatles’ first four records.  (My tally is twenty-five Lennons, ten McCartneys—though I’m counting “Hard Day’s Night” under John even though Paul wrote the middle eight.  I attribute “I Wanna Be Your Man” to both of them.  As for songs after 1964, I attribute “We Can Work It Out” to Paul even though John wrote the middle eight.  If anyone knows which of them wrote “Tell Me What You See,” let me know—I’m inclined to Paul, because it sounds to me like a rewrite of “Things We Said Today,” but I’m not sure.) I revisited a mess of other things about John’s early work as well, like his fondness for melisma (as in the final verse of “Not a Second Time,” which gets positively silly in this respect) and his felicity with pop musical genres we ordinarily associate more with Paul (not only the remarkable “This Boy” and “Yes It Is,” but the relatively obscure “Ask Me Why,” which is way too complicated for its own good, but a hell of an effort nonetheless).

Before I knew it, Jamie had memorized “the Johns,” as he puts it, and proceeded to master the other three as well (for Ringo, we go by the songs he sang, not just the two he wrote).  Then Jamie wanted to know who wrote “Bad Boy” or “Roll Over Beethoven” or “Anna.” Then he began to understand (as we made him presents of each CD) which records contained which songs.  Then, as he began to ask which came first, I bought him one of my favorite extended pieces of rock criticism, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler’s The Beatles: An Illustrated Record.  By now, Jamie had a sense of the year-by-year, record-by-record trajectory, and an astonishing memory for other things as well.

“Remember when the Beatles were in the Bahamas?” he asked one day.

“Uh,” I said, trying to think of Beatles’ world tours, “I don’t think they ever played in the Bahamas.”

“No, in Help!” he insisted, and proceeded to show me one of the pictures in yet another Beatles coffeetable book we’d gotten him.  Yep, there were the Beatles in the Bahamas.  Score one for Jamie.  Now Jamie has a whole quiver of such questions.  Remember when the Beatles had a pillow fight?  Remember when John disappeared in the bathtub?  Remember when Ringo was combing his hair?

So when he’s bored, or when we’re trying to kill time in long lines or on long trips, Jamie will now ask me to “do all Pauls,” or whomever, and I will proceed to pick random tunes from here, there, and everywhere.  I’ll sing about two bars—“Close your eyes, and . . . ” and Jamie will immediately jump in and say “With the Beatles.  1963.  Next!” And I’ll say, “let me think,” and he will mock me, and I’ll sing “Martha, my dear . . .” and he’ll say “White Beatles.  1968.  Next!”—and this can go on, as you might imagine, for some time, until my own memory is exhausted.  When we came back from Houston last month, and waited fifteen minutes by the baggage carousel, we got through about sixty or seventy of these, much to the amusement and/or annoyance of our fellow travelers, one of whom asked, “Did you already do ‘Norwegian Wood’?”

What makes this especially curious, to me, is that he’s not just cataloguing information and spewing it back; he’s got everything cross-referenced somehow, and he never fails to name songs I’ve forgotten.  For example, by the time we’d gotten on the shuttle bus to Extremely Remote Parking at BWI, Jamie was chortling in the back seat at the fact that I’d forgotten “Rain,” “Any Time at All,” and even “Don’t Let Me Down” from the list of Johns.  I never, never manage to remember the whole damn songlist, and I always forget different songs each time (though for some reason I have particular trouble with “Paperback Writer” and “Drive My Car” among the Pauls).  And Jamie never fails to catch the omissions.  It’s astonishing.

Equally astonishing is his ability to remember where we’d left off three or four days ago, and to pick up from there.  “More Johns,” he said one day last summer as we were tooling around Paris; “If I fell in love with you . . .” I replied, only to be met with “we did that already.  Next?”

But even more astonishing is his ability to associate specific words with specific songs.  One night we were doing the words on his spelling list, and when he came to “through” he sang, “Through thick and thin she will always be my friend.” The word “you’re” was met with “you’re gonna lose that girl”; “picture” with “picture yourself in a boat on a river.” On certain days he has to use his spelling words in complete sentences, and we’ve told him that he can’t always just place them in Beatles songs, that he has to think up his own sentences.  But if you’d asked me ten years ago whether I imagined that I would ever have to issue Jamie an injunction like that—stop quoting Beatles lyrics in your spelling-word sentences—I probably would have given you a very dirty look.

And so, Jamie, I admit it.  Even when I was trying to represent you to the best of my ability ten years ago, I underestimated you.  I was wrong, and I apologize.  And through thick and thin, I will always be your friend.

Posted by on 04/13 at 11:46 AM
  1. Dammit.  Blogs are not supposed to get me choked up.  Some of us have reputations as callous, heartless pricks to uphold.  Stop this at once.

    Posted by Axis of Evel Knievel  on  04/13  at  01:33 PM
  2. Posted by DocMara  on  04/13  at  01:43 PM
  3. Amazing kid. “Mr. Kite” had the same dramatic effect on me. I became a fanatic after hearing the album and seeing John standing next to the circus poster he lifted the lyrics from.


    But why the bashing of Abbey Road?

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  01:49 PM
  4. Tell Jamie, as I suppose you often do, it’s gonna be all right.  It’s what I tell my kids.  You’re only as good as your dreams.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  01:52 PM
  5. When are you starting him on the Velvet Underground?

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  02:00 PM
  6. Good on you, Jamie, and good on Pops, too. (Your Dad’s REALLY wrong on “Only A Northern Song”. though.) A post as sweet as a Cournoyer breakaway.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  02:08 PM
  7. "So I went back over the corpus, so to speak, and found to my surprise that John had written almost three-quarters of the originals on the Beatles’ first four records.”

    I just heard an interview with George Martin the other day (on XM).  Although he was extolling the virtues of both L&M ‘s songwriting strengths, he clearly stated that if truth be told, Paul was by far the more prolific, and John “profited on Paul’s back so to speak”.

    I’m so confused.  Who’s correct in this regard: The “5th beatle” (not Murry the K) or Michael Berube?

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  03:02 PM
  8. Jamie’s blessings are wonderful.  The Beatles for me are somewhat of a curse.  In my junior year of high school(1964) i contracted mono and then hepatitis (speaking of the lifelong need for regular physicals) which required bed rest for three months.  In a room with no light and nothing to do but listen to LA AM radio and the dawn of the first FM pirate album station, i absorbed the Beatle invasion into the very core of my cerebrum.  At one point they had 30+ songs on the top 100, along with Stones et al.  To this day i can pull out song after song from Meet the Beatles and early singles to their various solo projects.  It is almost all too much.

    My dad would get home and turn it off to play jazz or opera or his favorite classical composers.  At the time i don’t know which irritated me more.  If it hadn’t been for legally laced kool-aid i might have avoided them, Rubber Soul through to the end, but seeing the premier of Magical Mystery Tour was so well worth it.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  03:26 PM
  9. Beautiful. I’m glad I read it, and I’m going to give my own son a few extra hugs tonight.

    Posted by Terrance  on  04/13  at  03:37 PM
  10. Great piece, Michael. Sound like now’s the time to introduce Jamie to The Rutles, if he doesn’t already have their whole catalogue committed to memory.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  04/13  at  03:46 PM
  11. Fokkin’ made me cry.

    You just earned an enormous amount of respect, Mr. Bérubé.

    Posted by paradox  on  04/13  at  03:50 PM
  12. William J. Dowlding, in _Beatlesongs_ (an indispensable book if you’re serious about the Fabs) attributes “Tell Me What You See” completely to Paul.

    He presents a couple of fascinating graphs in the end-matter that illustrate the arc of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership/rivalry. You’re right that Lennon was very much in the lead in the early days ("A Hard Day’s Night” has 12.95 Lennon songs, to only 3.05 McCartneys) but Paul pulled out in front in the late period when Lennon was probably suffering from depression, drug dependency and creative block.

    Through “Beatles for Sale,” the tally is 29.05 Lennons, 15.95 McCartneys.

    The final tally after Abbey Road: Lennon 84.55 songs, McCartney 73.65. Harrison contributed 22.15.

    Give Jamie a hug for me.

    Posted by Neddie Jingo  on  04/13  at  03:52 PM
  13. Why can’t you just let me lose my faith in humanity in peace?  I recently realized that people have a huge capacity to repeatedly do evil things to people they claim to care about (perhaps even because they care about them) and then I have to off and read some crap like this which totally restores my faith in humanity.  BLAH!  Next time just let me wallow!

    Posted by emil  on  04/13  at  03:53 PM
  14. Greetings Michael, I read your blog once in a while although have yet to make a comment. I have been an educator for most of my professional life and have worked mostly in the field of special education. I read with great interest your apology, although I would bet that Jamie didn’t need it! The underlying humility that comes through your writing must certainly be “part of” a wonderful foundation that Jamie has received from you for his on-going and future development. After spending a great many years working with individuals who have received physical instruments that might not be “perfectly” tuned, I now know it is I who have been the receiver! I have shared my time with individuals who are far greater beings than I can ever wish to be. I would like to share the link below with you. Please contact me if you have any further interest. By the way, you wrote“and he’s not crazy about Abbey Road (with good reason)” Why? I have always loved it! Warm regards, Alan Booker.
    Extraordinary Lives: Disability and Destiny in a Technological Age

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  04:06 PM
  15. This post made this life-long Beatle fan’s day (well, I was 13 when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was released in the U.S.  My life hasn’t been the same since) Thanks, Michael

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  04:10 PM
  16. Jamie is very, very lucky—everyone should have a dad like you!

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  04:13 PM
  17. As someone going through the staying-awake-at-night phase, thank you.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  04:13 PM
  18. get that boy a guitar man ... (open tunings are easy to start with)

    even though i’m a grown man i still get giddy when i watch hard days night ... a friend and i were talking about how the beatles seem like family somehow…

    Posted by a-train  on  04/13  at  04:55 PM
  19. Michael, have you contemplated a follow up or new edition for Life as We Know It?  It is such a beautiful book that it cries out for a new afterward (at least) every decade. Just a thought in response to this post today.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  05:07 PM
  20. Definitely introduce Jamie to The Rutles. My son liked “Yellow Submarine” when he was little. He was singing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” when he was 4 years old. Now, he’s taken on my taste in trance and techno. I’m proud of him.  wink

    Posted by Trish Wilson  on  04/13  at  05:24 PM
  21. Very touching! Thanks for sharing, Michael.

    Posted by Mikhail Capone  on  04/13  at  05:42 PM
  22. Well, Mr. Sieser, clearly this Martin fellow—is that his name?—doesn’t know very much about the Beatles.  Thanks for the backup, Neddie Jingo, and I agree with your account of Late John.  Basically (and here I’m just parroting the standard line), after Epstein’s death and Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles became Paul’s band, and John wrote fewer and fewer songs—to the point at which he really only contributed one serious effort to Abbey Road, which is why, together with Paul’s pair of cheeseballs on side one, I don’t care for the record—though I’ve always liked the suites on side two, and George’s dreamy pair of songs are two of his best.  (And no, “I Want You / She’s So Heavy,” “Because,” and “Polythene Pam” are not serious efforts.) What’s interesting to me, in retrospect, is that you can practically hear the influence of various drugs on John’s late work, song by song:  LSD gives you the twisted soundscapes of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “I Am the Walrus,” whereas heroin gives you some seriously lugubrious, almost turgid stuff.  Now, it’s true that some of Late John is still incandescent even when it’s incredibly slow—“Julia,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I’m So Tired”—but man, are we talking slow.  “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me and My Monkey” is a great hard slab of rock, sure, but for the most part, John’s late material gets really sluggish, and by the time we get to “She’s So Heavy” and “Because” we’re nearly at a standstill.  Play those tunes back to back with a song that just flies at you, like “And Your Bird Can Sing” or “Tell Me Why,” and you’ll see what I mean.

    I love the Rutles.  Not only their songs (which will last a lunchtime), but Eric Idle’s intro, which I quote all the time:  their first album was made in twenty minutes—the second took even longer.  The EP and LP I made in 1984-85 with Baby Opaque were recorded in two and six hours, respectively.  I asked for a retake on one song and was treated as if I were the voice of Steely Dan.  That’s punk DIY for you.

    And thanks, everyone, for all the kind words.  I’ve wanted to update Life As We Know It, yeah, but I think this will have to do for now. . . .

    Posted by Michael  on  04/13  at  05:59 PM
  23. Well thanks for putting me in touch with your family and with my own.  My parents were in the Bahamas when the movie “Help” was being filmed.  That was back in the long ago when British Airways was BOAC- British OverSeas Air.  I remember my mother talking excitedly about the trip and walking on the beach and coming on the final scene being shot in the movie.  The one with the eight armed statue in the waves, Kali, Vishnu or some such great gold greatness in that aquamarine water. 
    So my mother was excited, something I would rarely see.  The Beatles, the Beatles.  They have this moveie coming out.  Eight arms to hold you.  Tell Jamie that was the original title.  My mother had a wonderful dry sense of humor, but to see her like this was to see the little girl in her. 
    Thanks for connecting me to my mom as you connect me to your Jamie.

    May a kind wind caress your faces this evening, may a fair moon send you onto dreams both.  Thanks.

    Posted by The Heretik  on  04/13  at  06:19 PM
  24. Wow, what a refreshing thing it is to have tears brought to one’s eyes while reading a blog mid-afternoon. When you talk about these experiences I’m often reminded of a Zygmunt Bauman sentence (I think it’s in Postmodernity and its Discontents): “it is proper to the ethical subject always to worry that s/he is not being ethical enough.” Or something to that effect. That’s what strikes me about your practice, as an intellectual, a writer, a father: even though your ethical standards are miles above the average, miles above most everyone else, you’re always worried you could be doing better. Congrats and thanks, please give Jamie a big hug for me, I miss hanging out with him.

    Posted by Idelber  on  04/13  at  06:26 PM
  25. Hey, Michael, has Jamie expressed an opinion on Yoko by now? There’s certainly a wealth of post-Beatific John to be had, Attica State and Bloody Sunday and the other left-wing marginally listenable stuff. (I like it, but even I have to admit some things.)

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  04/13  at  06:31 PM
  26. Old Brown Shoe does not either suck. Doesn’t, doesn’t, doesn’t.


    Doesn’t is apparently one of those words that starts to look as if it’s spelled wrong if you see it too many times.

    Does not.

    Posted by julia  on  04/13  at  06:36 PM
  27. In my early years I helped run a social club for mildly handicapped teens and young adults (and also worked in group homes, but that was a different kettle o fish), and our dances, once every couple of months, were always a hit, especially when the Beatles played. I never thought of it as a disabled/non-disabled thing, but rather a universality; here was one of many things that showed just how much all of us have in common.

    And now my 6-year-old is a Beatles fan. Fun to watch.

    Thanks for the wonderful piece, Michael. Not only do you have a good kid there, he has a good dad.


    Posted by Murph  on  04/13  at  06:49 PM
  28. You know, Michael, it’s never too late to start your son on the journey through Sonic Youth’s discography, to see if Kim Gordon’s songs really stand the test of time.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  06:51 PM
  29. Michael,

    You forgot one!  “Here Comes the Sun King”—how could you even *dream* that that’s not a serious effort!!!!  (That’s a rhetorical exclamation.) (And yes, I’m kidding.) (Though the fake Spanish is kind of charming—who else but the Beatles would do that?) (And I looove “I Want You/She’s So Heavy”—John’s obsessive minimalism, or minimalist obsessiveness, played out at leeeeennggggth, with bonus so-John unorthodox rhythm-a-ning in the “I Want You” section—yeah!  Though agreed, Ab Rd not a fave in gen.) (Enough parentheticals.)

    You brought tears to my eyes.  And you know, the word is love.  Thank you.

    Posted by John S.  on  04/13  at  07:06 PM
  30. See, John S., what did I tell you?  I always forget something.  Though with “Here Comes the Sun King” I just elide that song with “Because” into one long turgid set of scales, “Because Here Comes the Sun King.” Of course, I don’t mean to pass judgment on whether Lennon was really trying—I just mean that the pop-music genius who wrote “I’ll Be Back” and “It’s Only Love” could write that later stuff in his (heroin-induced) sleep.  And yes, that’s the word I’m thinking of. . . .

    Julia, the really interesting thing about “Old Brown Shoe” is that the drumming is crisp and decisive.  Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of?  Because otherwise it’s a two-note song with embarrassing lyrics (and the production is baffling, Mr. Martin, sir).  Just my opinion, of course.

    And Chris, if we find a spare copy of Some Time in New York City lying on the street, we’ll pick it up.  But no, no opinion on Yoko as yet.  Nor does he have an opinion on Sonic Youth, but (thanks to Nick) he thinks the Walkmen and Ted Leo, among others, rock. 

    Posted by Michael  on  04/13  at  08:28 PM
  31. Beautiful.

    But I love Abbey Road; it’s probably second-most-played disc after Revolver.  (That’s overall, not just for The Beatles.  And I was born in 1971.) John could actually be very good when he wasn’t being serious.

    Posted by Mac Thomason  on  04/13  at  08:29 PM
  32. sniff.

    Posted by julia  on  04/13  at  08:43 PM
  33. Excellent stuff as usual, Michael.  But....

    “The Inner Light,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “Only a Northern Song” (all of which suck, anyway)

    Nah, I’m going to have to stand up for George’s Indian-centric songs here.  I *LOVE* Within You, Without You, which has a top-class melody and lovely words.  The Inner Light is wonderful too, and I just love the line “Arrive without travelling”.

    Forget The Velvets and Sonic Yoof for Jamie.  Get Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks and I’m pretty sure Jamie would love it.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  09:08 PM
  34. Somehow this didn’t make me tear up, but it did make me smile a lot.  Cool.

    Posted by bitchphd  on  04/13  at  09:10 PM
  35. Perhaps you should get him started on the great Beatles/Stones debate. Though, truth be told, no one these days gets into the Stones until after their Beatles phase subsides a bit.

    Does Jamie have a favorite album? Is he into the solo stuff at all? “Plastic Ono Band” or “Imagine”?

    (And—I’m with Jamie on this one—how could you forget “Rain”??? Falls into the lugubrious-John phase, perhaps, but damn if it ain’t one of the best b-sides ever released)

    Posted by Alex  on  04/13  at  09:12 PM
  36. Also, I second “Village Green Preservation Society.”

    Posted by Alex  on  04/13  at  09:12 PM
  37. I kinda liked the Monkees in that “crush on Davey Jones” kinda way, although Michael Nesmith did have some great tunes hidden in there (Papa Gene’s Blues and What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ Round).  I still crank ‘em up on Winamp.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  09:21 PM
  38. I forgot “Rain” for the same reason I forget “Paperback Writer”—you know, because that’s the interstitial single.  And I don’t think the song is lugubrious; compared to, say, “I Dig A Pony” or “Dear Prudence,” it’s almost sprightly.  This drummer officially calls it “medium.”

    Jim, I like “Within You Without You.” I can even listen to “Love You To.” And “arrive without travelling” is a decent line.  But ick, the song as a whole—and the other two I named aren’t Indian-centric anyway.  (Though how Charles Pierce can listen to “It’s Only a Northern Song” escapes me.  At least “It’s All Too Much” has a tune!  Next I’ll be hearing that “Blue Jay Way” is an undiscovered gem.)

    As for the Stones, I introduced Jamie to the first record, and to my delight he fixed immediately on “Route 66,” “Carol” (a blistering version, no?), and “Walking the Dog.” He knows a fair number of pre-1966 songs, but I haven’t yet broached the subject of the Great Middle Period.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/13  at  09:28 PM
  39. This is the sweetest post!

    I followed my husband (a serious amateur Professor of Rock) around the house reading it out loud to him. We loved it!

    Has Jamie seen the four Ed Sullivan shows (the complete shows—with commercials—now on DVD)? I just got it for my 50th. What a gas.

    PS—I’ll pass your post on. My sister works with disabled very little kids. My older brother and brother-in-law work with kids transitioning from school to work. Beatles fans all.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  09:57 PM
  40. Your post brought to mind that Transcendentalist notion of capacities, different for every individual, the idea being to fulfill one’s capacities & to help create conditions in which others can do the same. Jamie & you, professor, seem to be living up to those Emersonian ideals. Lovely.

    Posted by chujoe  on  04/13  at  10:23 PM
  41. "This Boy,” not “That Boy,” you darn lefty. And Jimmy Page, of all people, adored Blue Jay Way.

    Posted by  on  04/13  at  11:58 PM
  42. Oh what a wonder you show us! So warm, loving, and beautiful. The joy, the sadness, the worry, and most of all the sweet pride you have in your son. What a truly blessed man you are and what an amazingly lucky child you have.

    Stories like this make me question the wisdom of my well reasoned, ethical decision, made oh those many years ago, to forego having children. What a world I am missing! Thank you so very much for sharing your part of it.

    Posted by handdrummer  on  04/14  at  12:39 AM
  43. Right, Patrick, “This Boy.” My bad.  I’m also quite bad at distinguishing hic from ille, and the Latin fans of this blog (who started following my posts back when I declined cornu) can tell you that the one failing follows from the other.

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  01:20 AM
  44. I know we’ve gone to the mat on this issue before, but I still think declining cornu was a mistake, what with the relative current scarcity of cornu. I’d have accepted the cornu, myself. You never know when the cornu cart will come around again.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  04/14  at  01:31 AM
  45. Naw, I just have something in my eye…

    Two things:  the Idle quote was swiped from George, I think.  And while “Tell Me What You See” is officially on the Paul list--he offered it to Dick Lester for Help and was turned down--it sure channels John; there’s more than a little “Thank You Girl” and “Ask Me Why” in there, doncha think?

    Posted by Doghouse Riley  on  04/14  at  03:00 AM
  46. Touching post.Do you have The Beatles Anthology? My son (who was mistakenly diagnosed as autistic and had special schooling up until the second grade)became obsessed with the Anthology shown on ABC in 95 or 96.He knows every word and every harmony and can hear and sing these harmonies immediately which causes untoward jealousy and run-on sentences.

    Posted by jim  on  04/14  at  03:06 AM
  47. MB, this humble blog rocks so hard, I can hardly stand it!  And you aren’t quite a boomer, right?

    It’s easy: all you need is love.  We on the political port side have been far too quiescent in allowing the starboarders to seize that faux “family values” turf. 

    Gimme a break: dis is da kine.

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  03:24 AM
  48. I’m totally crying at my desk at work.  What a beautiful story.  Our little guy loves his Daddy’s old Beatles beach towel so much that he stands on it each evening after his bath exclaiming each Beatles’ name and singing one of his songs. What does it say that multiple generations have come together (pun intended) to this music.

    Thanks for the story!

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  08:45 AM
  49. My 8 year autistic daughter loves the Stones.  She has an unfortunate behaviour pathology of blurting out lines at random moments.  She often looks at me and says “What a drag it is getting old”.

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  09:31 AM
  50. Lovely, touching post, Mr. Berube.

    Is it possible that both George Martin and Michael are correct about the John/Paul output question? John, of course, did dominate the early Beatles albums, as Michael accurately pointed out, yet McCartney was probably the more prolific songwriter even then. Something like “When I’m 64,” after all, was written years before it turned up on Sgt. Pepper’s. That’s one data point. And most of the Lennon/McCartney songs that were given away to other Brit singers and bands—“A World Without Love,” “Step Inside Love,” etc.—were more than likely (at least majority) Macca compositions.

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  12:43 PM
  51. Another wonderful post!

    Hey, if you think Jamie might be interested, and if you have the time/inclination, there’s a wonderful show on Sunday mornings from 9-11 CST called “Breakfast With the Beatles.

    The dj, Terri Hemmert, finds obscure Beatles music and interviews, along with more popular Beatles music and covers by other bands. It’s really great, and you can hear it over the net.


    Posted by flea  on  04/14  at  02:11 PM
  52. Every single freakin’ day you refuel the guttering flame of philanthropy in my heart.  Clearly, I need to either embrace your generosity of spirit or stop coming to this blog. Tough call.

    Posted by  on  04/14  at  03:23 PM
  53. OK, Michael, so now you and Janet and Susan and I and Jamie need to get together for a drink and nostalgia and I’ll tell Jamie about when I saw the Beatles in concert. Fifth row center. Pittsburgh. Nick can come too.


    Posted by  on  04/14  at  03:58 PM
  54. Wonderful post. But Abbey Road is a great album precisely because of its playfulness, even if that playfulness was accidental or an otherwise unintended consequence of lazy songwriting. “Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt / She’s killer-diller when she’s dressed to the hilt.” Come on, professor. That’s just plain fun.

    Posted by paul  on  04/14  at  04:02 PM
  55. Thank you for the moment. I will consider this a birthday present.

    And the mind is a very beautiful thing, is it not?

    Posted by KathyF  on  04/14  at  04:36 PM
  56. "I’m also quite bad at distinguishing hic from ille,”

    Michael: here’s a little poem I wrote
    to help you remember:

    Langued’oil and Langued’oc
    Each one had a different talk:
    They had two ways of saying “yes”
    both from “hoc ille"--what a mess!

    In Languedoil they took “ille”
    And made it “oil” (oui oui! how silly!)
    But “yes” for those in Languedoc
    was a de-aspirated “hoc.”

    Posted by David Ross McIrvine  on  04/14  at  05:03 PM
  57. Wonderful!  I’m a music therapist and though Jamie seems to be just as fascinated with the cataloguing as with the music itself, it’s great to see he’s started with the classics! grin I’m forwarding this to all my music therapy colleagues—they’ll love it.

    Posted by Opus  on  04/14  at  06:47 PM
  58. Awesome story, Michael.  Music is very important in our household, too. 

    Ethan is a singer and a whistler (which blows my mind—I can’t whistle but he taught himself at the age of two) and does both all the freaking time.  Sometimes so much that I wish I had earplugs.

    We have our own songs, E has theme songs, etc.  His favorites are the old funky disco songs that involve a lot of grunts and “yeah!"s.

    Posted by Lauren  on  04/14  at  07:59 PM
  59. Reading this is like being given a lovely gift.

    Bravo to Jamie. Or maybe that isn’t appropriate.
    He is doing what kids do, growing up, getting smarter, surprising his parents, and making pieces of the world his own, in his own distinctive and specific way. Still, it’s lovely to know, especially having met him at a younger age in “Life As We Know It,” that he’s growing up so splendidly.

    Posted by Leah A  on  04/14  at  08:13 PM
  60. Thanks, M.B.

    Now I gotta go all the way back over to Toad Suck and bail out “Eugene the Clean” so he can read this post…

    For many reasons...Kids seem to make the “Great Leap Forward” when they experience the Beatles…

    Mine own Roscoe did...And, yeah, he moved on to the Stones/Kinks/Animals, etc...Even played Bass in a band called “Gripweed"…

    You ain’t nearly done with bein’ amazed at/by your Jamie…

    Posted by  on  04/15  at  12:01 AM
  61. "The clear implication here – and you don’t have to be a literature Ph.D. to see it – is that Jamie will never have the intellectual capacity to"…
    Beatles shmeatles.
    When you apologise to him about the Marine Biologist bit, I’ll pay that.

    Posted by Chris B  on  04/15  at  12:23 AM
  62. Macca’s own words on the “Tell Me What You See” question:

    “I seem to remember it as mine.  I would claim it as 60-40 but it might have been totally mine.  Not awfully memorable.  Not one of the better songs but they did the job, they were very handy for albums or B sides. You need those kind of sides” (p. 200). 

    Source: Miles, B. (1997) Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.  NY: Henry Holt.

    Posted by  on  04/15  at  04:12 AM
  63. Actually, Chris B., I say he should go as far toward becoming a marine biologist as he possibly can.  He was aware of the distinction between fish and mammals when he was eight, and he knows what a pinniped is.  No reason to stop now.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/15  at  08:36 AM
  64. Can card counting be far behind?

    I have to respectfully disagree with Jamie as it relates to Abbey Road.  Side 2’s medley of McCartney’s(?) tunes from You Never Give Me Your Money to Her Majesty is an excellent finale growing from penseive regret to climatic joy with epilogue.  Come Together still reaches new audiences (anyway, my kids like it) and its hard to underestimate how much people loved Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun when it came out.  Perhaps Jaime instinctively realizes that it was over rated when it came out but that’s no reason for him to underrate it now.  What does he think of Magical Mystery Tour and my favorite Beatles ‘65 or the better British version <i>Beatles For Sale<>.

    Posted by  on  04/15  at  09:53 AM
  65. There is something about the Beatles that leads to obsessive list-making and categorizing among otherwise normal people. (see http://www.beatlesgear.com).  I remember in college making a tape of all the George songs in alphabetical order. Great tape.  Old Brown Shoe rocks as good as anything on Mars Audio Quintet, and Blue Jay Way is the most awesomely double-splanged tune evar.  So shut up!

    There was a regular customer at the Philadelphia deli I where I used to work who could tell you the label and year for any song.  I had to dig into obscure garage singles to stump him.  The mind is a pretty flexible organ.


    Posted by John I  on  04/15  at  04:01 PM
  66. When I was a kid, I was awe-inspired by the medley on side 2 of “Abbey Road.” And I still am today--- although it occurs to me now that I am (more or less) grown up that John & Paul were just gathering together all the songs they never finished.

    Posted by Tim Horrigan  on  04/15  at  04:08 PM
  67. Count me in as an Abbey Road fan; some of its songs are good enough to elevate well past the weak and I personally like it better than any other.

    As to the real point of your post, I think we should count this as one of the required miracles towards the Beatles’ canonization. And it reminds us all that every kid can surprise and surpass him-or-her self, though far more often in homes where they’re well-fertilized with love* such as yours.

    (*off the hockey rink, of course)

    Posted by Kevin Hayden  on  04/15  at  04:51 PM
  68. Michael, all parents have looked upon their children at some point in wonder and amazement that each had shown some remarkable gift that could not have been imagined in earlier days.  Thank you for letting us know that this particular joy has come to you by way of Jamie.

    We all underestimate our kids.  So you don’t really owe Jamie an apology, you’re just another really, really good dad who called it wrong long long ago.  It’s a pretty big club you belong to.  Jamie sounds like the kind of guy who knows that sometimes fathers make mistakes, but if you just keep loving them anyway it will all work out.

    When my son was born in 1965 I rocked him to sleep to Beatles tunes, and we danced to the Beatles after breakfast.  And all these years later the Beatles is something that binds us. It’s an enduring gift—I’m glad you have it in your life.

    Posted by  on  04/16  at  12:06 AM
  69. Eh, you were trying to face something head-on back when.  The future can look fairly scary when parenting a young disabled kid (as I know, b/c your book helped me).  I’m always balancing b/c expecting too much/autocratically imposing my normative standards and underestimating my daughter.  Bipolar business, parenting.  But Abbey Road?  Does not suck.

    Back to lurking, and thanks for the lovely post.

    Posted by  on  04/18  at  12:51 AM
  70. ohh.. Michael, you’re so sweet.. smile

    Posted by guitar lessons  on  10/20  at  03:39 AM
  71. Jamie’s amazing. Learning all that stuff about Beatles! I even have a hard time memorizing the lyrics of my favorite songs. Sometimes our kids just surprise us with what they know and what they can do.

    Posted by Shine  on  11/12  at  02:56 AM
  72. That is so amazing to hear after ten years how things have changed-I will consider it your afterword

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