Those records that I tended to overplay were usually the tapes I played repeatedly in my bedroom and on my walkman as a teenager. The most potent of these, the most wallowed in, was The Beatles Rubber Soul. I’m still waiting for the instant when only “I’m Looking Through You” or “Think For Yourself” will meet the requirements of the moment. It will come and those songs will soothe me. The Beatles came to me when terribly needy, and few things in this world have met the needs of that pimply teenager quite so gracefully as The Beatles did.
The long affair that follows to this day is tempered by not being so needy and having far greater resources to meet those needs but the reliability of The Beatles in helping me feel better is undiminished. For that reason I have no urge to acquire more Beatles material but a rather dubious curiosity to see if the ‘new’ material is able to serve the same function as those releases contemporaneous with The Beatles career. That curiosity has waxed and waned with my finances but I bought all three volumes of the Beatles Anthology, happily received the whole TV series on video, plus I bought the BBC sessions some years ago, as well as the un-Spectored version of Let It Be and, of course, Love.
None of these has made me as happy as that first rush of Beatle adoration. Some of that rush can be attributed to the terra nullius of a teenage boy’s brain. If the paradigms were all wrong, The Beatles righted them. When hope felt lost The Beatles revived it. When sorrow was all The Beatles balanced it. When loneliness reigned The Beatles unseated it.
As a young man no cultural artefacts had the authority that Beatles records did because no artefact or product could do for me what Beatle records did. In the process of maturation my Beatle fandom intensified, no doubt because the bigger I became the bigger my needs became, until for a while there The Beatles were the only thing worth listening to and the only thing I did listen to.
The Beatles were the site of so much wallowing and musical overindulgence that I do not play any of those albums much anymore. I can’t have a casual fling with those albums, it is intensity or nothing. I can’t dip into Abbey Road, I can’t flirt with the White Album, I don’t want to rendezvous with Revolver. I only want the deep stretched fulfilment of being bonded: welded to The Beatles, connected so strongly that a tearing wound would result from the separation.
Love is not any of these albums. It is a collection of fine tracks merged and tweaked to resemble a kind of shiny newness. The tracks are torn from their context, ripped from their moorings and shackled together by ribbons of riff. To a fair extent those shackles hold true, patch working into a bricolage adhesion, each track supports the next. This is familiar territory for those in the habit of purchasing remixed or remastered material. It sounds different, it feels different and it is different. It is a new product but it is not new music. There is no problem with this. It is what it is. But it is not something I can love. This appears as a tragedy to me, but possibly only for me. There is so much in the Beatles catalogue to love.