Macca fans celebrate here, there . . . and everywhere!

Signing the birthday card

In 1967, the Beatles released “When I’m Sixty Four” with Paul McCartney asking if he would still be needed as he approached his golden years. Well, Paul turns 70 today and I think fans worldwide will answer his question posed in those lyrics with a resounding, “YES!”

It’s hard to believe that the “cute” Beatle who sported a mop top and a smile when the Fab Four took America by storm is 70 years old. After all, he still manages to keep a staggering tour schedule as well as being a newlywed. A couple of weeks ago, he headlined a star-studded concert for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and will close the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. He stayed On The Run, taking his tour to Mexico, South America and Europe.

We’ve been lucky enough to see him twice and are amazed at his energy and stamina, playing 3-hour sets with no intermission. And you can tell he still does it for the love of the music.

And the music is why so many of us connect to Paul on more than just a celebrity level. I like to think of Paul’s music as the soundtrack of my life. It soothes me when I’m sad, makes me smile thinking of a sweet memory and makes me just want to get up and dance and sing to the top of my lungs, even though I’m tone deaf and have no rhythm.

As we were planning a trip to Cleveland this week, my co-worker, Karie, told me that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was hosting a Magical Mystery Weekend featuring a new exhibit of Beatles memorabilia in honor of Paul’s big day. The real selling point was getting to sign a giant birthday card being mailed to Paul after the weekend. It took very little to convince my husband, who is almost as big a McCartney fan as me, to make the side trip.

We had intended to get there when the museum opened, but got caught in traffic and made it an hour and a half after the doors opened. We made a beeline for Paul’s card, only to find it had been almost entirely filled already with well wishes. We asked the attendant if there was any hope of additional space, but he said there was only going to be one card for each day, so we decided to send our love to Paul in the ‘A’ of the birthday section of the message.

There wasn’t enough room to write everything that I wanted. No space to tell him how much of an impact his music has made in my life and that I can’t imagine a world without his musical influence. But, I settled for a Happy Birthday! heart, my name.

As we walked toward the exhibit hall, I took in the atmosphere. Baby Boomers and teens bopped together to the beat of the Beatles music on the way down the escalators. Lines of parents and children waited for their turn to peer behind the thick glass protecting pencil-scrawled cardboard containing the lyrics to some of the most beautiful songs ever written. It was the perfect example of how Paul’s music has brought joy to the lives of so many fans.

So, best wishes and happy birthday to the one and only Macca! May your Hofner bass never be packed away!

And P.S. I Love You!

An Incomplete Legacy of Rock & Roll

A trip to Cleveland is not at the top of the list of romantic getaways for most girls. Thankfully, my wife isn’t most girls. We went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum this weekend for an early celebration of our six-year anniversary and Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday. During our visit, we made some observations that were kind of disturbing, or at the very least, intriguing.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum

It started as a simple observation by my wife, “Abba is in the Hall of Fame?”.

I replied with a befuddled, “Carly Simon isn’t?”

We then went through a list of musical geniuses who’ve been overlooked by this exclusive club that surely should have made it long before some others, whom I won’t discredit by naming. If you look through the list of inductees, you will find many who would rank much lower on the list of their contribution to artistry and performance, much less talent.

For an artist or band to be considered, they must have 25 years under their belt. That’s the reason why The Beatles weren’t inducted in the first class, I’m assuming. They went in on the class of ’87, a year after Elvis was honored.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation began in 1983 and now has specific categories of inductions, which makes the process all the more debatable. For instance, there is a “Performers” category and a category for non-performers called the “Ahmet Ertegun Award”. The bad thing is, Carole King is in the Hall of Fame as a “Non-Performer”. Not only that, she didn’t receive induction on her individual merits, rather as a duo with Gerry Goffin (her ex-husband).

Harry Nilsson, one of the greatest songwriters of all time and arguably the greatest male vocalist of all time, not to mention a favorite singer of The Beatles, is not in the Hall of Fame. I challenge anyone to find a more perfect album than “Nilsson Schmilsson” by an individual artist. He was also one of the first rock artists to take the leap into standards with orchestra accompanying his incredible voice.

This one is peculiar. Bon Jovi is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Others that may surprise you, and keep in mind who IS in before you discount those who are not; Journey is not. Now, I know you can’t have every band inducted at once. I know it takes years for many of these bands to receive their accolades. There’s just a lack of comprehension that Alice Cooper’s band would be included in 2011 and KISS would not have been included at all. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, mind you, it’s just odd to think about.

Kansas, The Cars, Joan Jett, Wings and Peter Frampton are nowhere to be seen. The Zombies are only on AMC’s Walking Dead. The Monkees incorporated television and music long before MTV. The Big Bopper was in the same airplane as inductees Richie Valens and Buddy Holley, yet he’s overlooked year after year.

The one that angers me the most is Blood, Sweat & Tears. There’s absolutely no reason why they wouldn’t be in there. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “Spinning Wheel” and nearly a dozen singles charted and about 20 albums, yet no nod. Maybe they just don’t like bands with a great horn section, because Chicago isn’t there either.

One of my favorite albums of all time is “Eldorado, A Symphony” by the Electric Light Orchestra. They’re not in. Neither is Bachman-Turner Overdrive, so no, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Apparently, the Hall of Fame hasn’t been takin’ care of business.

Does Black Sabbath (2006 inductee) deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Yes, but not until Deep Purple is inducted. Lastly, why is Rush not in there? The greatest drummer in the history of rock and roll is overlooked. Not a broad enough appeal? Nonsense! Iggy and the Stooges are in there, and they didn’t sell a thousand albums.

I don’t mean to take away from any of the artists in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, this entire blog is based on my opinion. The problem isn’t with who’s in, it’s with the fact that The Association hasn’t been considered by The Foundation, but Abba’s in the Hall of Fame?

"It was a pleasure to burn."

I haven’t read all of Ray Bradbury’s books. Come to think of it, I’ve only read one. I’ve never read any of his famed short stories. I love “The Twilight Zone,” but if I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the episodes he penned. I never met the man, never exchanged letters with him.

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought about Bradbury much in recent years, not until I saw on Twitter that he died Tuesday at his California home. He was 91.

No, my interaction with Mr. Bradbury was brief. I was probably 13 years old. The summer between my eighth- and ninth-grade years, I purchased a mass market paperback copy of “Fahrenheit 451” at Walden Books in the Kanawha Mall. It cost me $6.99, plus tax, according to the fading price tag on the back.

I pulled my copy of “Fahrenheit 451” off my bookshelf this morning. My bookmark (made of a car magazine subscription card) is still in its back pages. Standing in my living room, I flipped through its pages and read a few passages. I remember nothing of this book.

I don’t remember the teenage girl who “told him of a past when people were not afraid,” as the back cover says. I didn’t even remember the main character’s name (Guy Montag). It’s amazing how little I can recall from this book that I’ve claimed for years “changed my life.”

Ray Bradbury/Associated Press photo

But it’s still the truth. Reading “Fahrenheit 451” was an experience that changed me forever.

I might not have become a writer, if not for Mr. Bradbury.

There’s one scene, which came at the very end of the book, that’s stuck with me. Montag has lost everything for his new-found love of books. He joins up with a band of hobos who memorize books to keep them alive. They tell Montag there are thousands more like them.

“And when the war’s over, someday, some year, the books can be written again, the people will be called in, one by one, to recite what they know and we’ll set it up in type until another Dark Age, when we might have to do the whole damn thing over again.”

That passage, along with the rest of “Fahrenheit 451,” helped establish in my young teenage mind the value of the written word. It let me know that words and the messages they convey are to be protected.  They deserve preservation.

Soon, I started writing words of my own. Terrible, precocious essays in English classes. But I relished my freedom to write those words, and got my hackles up anytime I learned that someone else’s words were being restricted.

I discovered journalism when I was a senior. I still believe no other form of writing can better illustrate the importance of the written word. Politicians can do terrible things if a reporter’s not there, watching. A short article today can have big implications tomorrow.

Because of my brief encounter with Mr. Bradbury, I love words. I’ll love them until the day I die.

Hopefully I’ll follow the author’s example and write until the very end. But even if I don’t, even if age silences my voice or stops my hands, I know words will live on without me.

To further quote the hobo, “that’s the wonderful thing about man.  He never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing.”

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.