Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Spiritual Side of the Beatles

I have a secret. Shhh. My husband doesn't even know this one. I was and am a Beatles' fan. Shh don't tell anyone. My parents wouldn't let me listen to them growing up. You know they were THE Heathen Rock band from England. Nothing good could come from listening to them. But I always found a way to listen to them. I would get permission to go over to friend's houses that did get to listen to them and we play the 45's and dance and sing. At our spend the night parties we would be listening to them. When I went away to college, I then began buying their records and listening to them whether my parents liked them or not. Sometimes their music still runs through my mind along with their words or at least what I thought they were saying. Okay now you know. And if my church would not faint and fall out in the floor I might preach using some of their music. Its bad enough when I talk about some tv show or recent movie and they just look at me. Well, except for the youth and younger people.

Rock music writer Steve Turner talks about their spiritual side in this article to Bob Carlton, writer for the Birmingham News. Its about the the book "The Gospel according to the Beatles." that Steve Turner has written. I don't have the book yet, although I did give it a look see in the bookstore.

Rock music writer Steve Turner grew up in a Christian home in Daventry, England.

And like other teenagers who came of age in the 1960s, Turner was a huge Beatles fan. (I wasn't a teenager until the late '60's early '70's, but whose counting?)

"At that time, Christians weren't too keen on rock'n'roll music, so people in the church generally weren't too keen on The Beatles," Turner says in a phone call from London.

"Yet, after a few years, The Beatles became interested in religious topics, so there was this interplay between religion and rock music that I became interested in."

Forty years after John Lennon made his infamous and often misunderstood comment that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" - spawning ban-the-Beatles protests, including one launched in August 1966 by Birmingham disc jockeys Tommy Charles and Doug Layton - Turner explores the Fab Four's spiritual quest in his latest book, "The Gospel According to the Beatles" ($19.95, Westminster John Knox Press).

The Beatles weren't banned in Turner's house when he was growing up - in fact, his parents bought him a copy of "Beatles for Sale" for Christmas in 1964 - but they weren't embraced, either.

"I suppose my parents were like most parents at the time," he recalls. "They thought their hair was too long, their heels were too high, their trousers were too tight and their music was too loud."

Long before they became the Fab Four, though, each of The Beatles was influenced by religion - Paul McCartney and George Harrison in the Roman Catholic Church and Lennon and Ringo Starr in the Church of England, Turner says.

As he grew older, Turner embarked on a spiritual odyssey of his own, and he found inspiration in the music of The Beatles.

"They sort of validated the search for God, if you like," he says. "For a long time, it seemed like rock music or pop music was almost like an alternative to religion.

"Religion seemed sort of dull and conformist and rock'n'roll was sort of shiny and exciting, and the two didn't seem to meet at all. Then when The Beatles started asking questions about meaning and singing songs like 'Nowhere Man,' they actually investigated religion.

"You had George Harrison quoting bits of the Bible - 'the kingdom of heaven is within,' and things like that - and I was thinking, 'Hmm, I think I've heard that before.'

"It seemed like The Beatles were suddenly on to something that you've been on to for a long time."

"Nowhere Man," which was off the "Rubber Soul" album was "kind of the beginning of the (spiritual) quest" for The Beatles, Turner says.

"The music up until 'Rubber Soul' had been sort of jaunty, I-love-you, you-love-me type of songs," he says. "Then they started asking questions about the meaning of life, so you get `Nowhere Man,' which is all about not having anything to believe in.

"Then there's 'Let It Be,'" he adds. "That has a reference to Mother Mary. Paul McCartney's mother was called Mary, but he was aware that it had, I think he called it, a quasi-religious sort of gloss to the song."

For The Beatles, and Turner, it was another step along a long and winding road.

"The Beatles were doing such great things," he says. "I thought if you could absorb whatever The Beatles were absorbing, you could probably be as great as they were."

Now I may just have to go ahead and get the book. Go back and listen to some of their music. I think there is another point to be made here. Look back at this part of the article;

As he grew older, Turner embarked on a spiritual odyssey of his own, and he found inspiration in the music of The Beatles.

"They sort of validated the search for God, if you like," he says. "For a long time, it seemed like rock music or pop music was almost like an alternative to religion.

"Religion seemed sort of dull and conformist and rock'n'roll was sort of shiny and exciting, and the two didn't seem to meet at all."

I think we need to pay attention to that. There are a lot of people on a spiritual odyssey, sometimes they find inspiration in music, and sometimes in art or other forms. But I am not sure they are finding it in the church these days. Well, maybe some churches. I wonder how we can help people in their spiritual odyssey to find it in Jesus. There are so many alternatives to religion, and they do often look shinier and more exciting. It is a challenge without selling out the message, by the form and means. You almost have to ask who are the Beatles today, in other words, popular, and what message are they singing to the young people of today? Boy that's a hard one when there are so many forms of music they are listening to today. But we the church, the parents, can't just be saying "you can't listen to that," "that's evil", or burning or breaking the cd's, taking away their i-pods or mp3's. I think we have to find out what it is saying to our young people, and how does it meet with what we are saying. How would Jesus use it to speak to them? If not the flood of youth leaving the church will continue. Okay there is some music with vulgar lyrics, and that does have to be dealt with.

PS, Here is another secret, one of my nick names was Abbey Road. Not sure who started calling me that one.


1-4 Grace said...

I love the Beatles. Also, love the CD where the country stars do Beatles tunes. Willie Nelson rocks on One after 909.
I thin Suzy Boggus and Cet Akins do All My loving and it is beautiful.
I preached to our graduating seniors using All You Need is Love and ahve played aroudn some ideas on Let it Be.
Great music, great lyrics, great stuff! Thanks!
Good grief! What a logn word verification. Maybe I will sue it for my next cat name!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I like the Beatles too and have always thought there was a spiritual dimension to their later work.

Mary Beth said...

I love it! I am a huge Beatles fan!

HeyJules said...

I'm right there with ya, Abi! In fact I now sing 'Hey Jude' as 'Hey Jules". :-)

Seriously, could Paul BE any cuter?

Revem said...

Wonderful post.
I will be buying the book.

I am a diehard beatles fan

Anonymous said...

From Jack Paar's introduction of them to the US audiences, through Ed Sullivan, through the mystic changes of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band....been a Beatles fan from the beginning.

To this day I have to stop the car and listen when George Harrison sings, "My Sweet Lord".

"Stuck in the 60's (and 70's) with you"


zorra said...

I love this! I have been a Beatles fan since the night I saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was only *mumble* years old. So I've loved them nearly all my life. It's nice to be reminded that other people still love them too. Great lyrics, great harmonies.

1-4 Grace, I have GOT to hear Willie Nelson do The One after 909!

Anonymous said...

Another great song that I love that seems to have spiritual (even reference to Jesus could be interpreted) is Fool on the Hill. Here are my top Fav songs:
1. I am the Walrus
2. Hide Your Love Away
3. Blackbird
4. Blue Jay Way (my son's middle name is Jay, so I call him blue jay in reference to the song)
5. Strawberry Fields
6. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
7. A Day in the Life
8. In My Life (wow the best lyrics ever!!)
9. Michelle
10. Norwegian Wood

Thanks Abi for the post.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I shall have to look up that book.