I can’t pinpoint the precise date in which the paramount event that changed my life took place but I know it happened during the summer of 1994 in between the releases of U2's “Zooropa” and “Passengers: Original Soundtracks I”. I am not amazed (or maybe I am) that 26 years after it happened I am here writing this text for what I call the 3rd incarnation of this project, because the power that event had on me was so strong that I knew it would remain with me for the rest of my life, and here I am, this third time around feeling a little wiser, more balanced, not too identified with success or failure, completely pleased with just being congruent with myself and with continuing to communicate what I believe should be communicated, and also completely pleased with the solidity of the questions I am attempting to raise.
It had all started that fateful summer in 1994.
Juan Raydan (charming guy opening up the video with that amazing Sgt. Pepper badge in his shirt), was born in the city of El Tigre, Venezuela. A family best friend, and surely the greatest Beatles fan that ever lived in that country. He used to stop by our house every time he visited Caracas. Our families are still close. Jeannette, his wife at the time, was my Mother’s best friend from Psychology School. We frequently visited them at their Hacienda in El Tigre, both families doing many trips together.
My first lasting memory of The Beatles (I was 10 years old) happened in Juan’s red Toyota Samurai 4 wheel drive when he pressed the button in the cassette player and his sons Juan Isaac and Jan Isaias, 6 and 4 at the time, started singing every word to every Beatles song, one coming after the other; I was delighted and mesmerized.
Twelve years later, as a natural progression of two friends who enjoyed talking about their favorite Rock and Roll bands, in that 1994 summer, Juan offered to relate to me the whole history of The Beatles, and I excitedly offered to do the same with U2.
In the late seventies my Mother had bought The Beatles Collection, a dark blue box set with all the Beatles LP Vinyl releases (British version) and it laid in the library's top shelf rarely being used or touched. I am thinking now that Juan’s offering was probably an excuse for him to take out those Beatles vinyls, touch them, and smell them; for sure a mystical (fetishistic) experience that would take him back to his Fan years.
I learned Rock n’ Roll through the lens of U2. If U2 pointed to The Clash, The Ramones, or Patty Smith, I learned that. If they pointed to Lou Reed I learned Lou Reed, if it was Bowie I learned Bowie. But I never thought U2 could point to the Beatles in such a stark manner until that day.
In the family room couch at our house Juan opened the gorgeous Beatles Collection box and ordered the albums chronologically laying them in his lap, then started his tale both a history of The Beatles and his own history as a Beatles fan. Today I clearly remember several moments:
Juan: “Sgt. Pepper marked the beginning of the Hippie era, a very powerful moment in history with this powerful spreading of eastern influence (Juan loves George) into the western world that was enhanced by psychedelics…they adopted a Persona different from themselves, they became a band with a different name, The Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band...you see here? It was even suggested that these flowers [spelling The Beatles] are coffin flowers as if the real Beatles were dead and they were reborn as Sgt. Pepper. Have you heard about the Paul is Dead phenomenon?...”
My side of the agreement followed and related U2's story to Juan, but more importantly, without knowing Juan had planted a seed in very fertile soil and it will soon start growing.
The next day Juan had left and I was alone at home. I sat in my bed startled by the similarity between Sgt. Pepper and Achtung Baby. What Juan related about The Beatles in that phase was what I was going through as a fan of U2 at that very moment:
So I pulled Seargent's and Achtung's album covers from their respective stacks which were left untouched from the previous day. I laid in my bed and started observing every detail. As I was detailing each quadrant of the Achtung Baby cover (I had done this many times before but not with this intention) I noticed that in the quadrant at the upper right corner there were the four members of U2 at the center of a crowd, and it was the same as The Beatles being in the center of a crowd in the Sgt. Pepper cover. I then compared the tonality of the colors, the yellow, the red, the blue, and they were very similar if not the same. And then within one of those everlasting milliseconds...this came to me...
"a cycle that happened with The Beatles happened again with U2"
Is U2 copying The Beatles? asked my resisting mind...within a millisecond I answered to myself what I knew to be true, not with a sequence of words but with a vision:
Achtung Baby is too unique to be a plain imitation of Sgt. Pepper because it was a combination of exterior circumstances working in tandem with the will, the capacity, and the vision of U2, that produced the possibility of a genuinely authentic 2nd Sgt. Pepper manifesting again into the world of Rock and Roll.
Within this sequence that lasted seconds I knew with all my being all that I have rationally discovered in the 26 years that passed since then.
It is with this level of excitement, sensibility, and my heart beating a lot faster than normal that I stood up from the bed and placed each stack in the mattress, side by side, when the sight in front of me increased my altered state further. In black and white, The Beatles were looking at me with the same shockingly innocent stare than the Boy in U2's cover while some sort of new "album-cover-similarity-detection-organ" tantalizingly awoke inside of me.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
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