ABOUT THE ABBEY
In which I establish my credentials to speak on All Things Fab. Fair enough. I will tell you about the Listening Chair.
I am twelve years old. In our home, there is a wall of records. Floor to ceiling. My father is a music historian. He specialises in the cultural impact of popular music in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He gets foundation grants to study this topic. These grants are used to buy records. He buys a lot of records, hence the wall. I buy a lot of records with these grants, too, although this is technically in violation of the grants because I buy music that’s new. I’d buy the other music, too, but I don’t need to, because we have most of it already.
One day, I ask my father about the Beatles. He smiles. I can tell he’s been waiting.
He takes me to the Wall of Records, seats me in his Listening Chair and pulls down Sgt. Pepper. He slips the record out and hands me the sleeve. I study the Sgt. Pepper cover. I’ve never seen an album cover like this before. My father tells who the people on the cover are. We sit, me in the chair and him on the floor, and listen to the album. When it finishes, he leaves the needle stuck on the hidden track in the album groove. I have nightmares about maniacal voices repeating endlessly. I learn that music can be dangerous.
This is my introduction to the most important music ever recorded. I’m a smart kid. I’m music savvy. How could I be otherwise, living in a house with a Wall of Records. I get it. At least as much as a kid, however precocious, can get it.
Here’s another story.
I am fifteen years old. My best friend on the debate team buys the two-volume Capitol “Rock and Roll Music” compilation. This is not supposed to be the music of our youth. It was made before we were born. But it is the music of our youth. We are the first generation to care more about our parents’ music than our own. We play it on the bus to tournaments. Pretty soon we play only “Rock and Roll Music” on the bus to tournaments. We learn the harmonies. There are four of us, so it works. I’m the only one who can hit the high notes, so I take Paul’s parts. Our debate coach is delighted. She tells us her Beatles stories. We wear out the cassettes and buy new ones. We obsess.
I learn about the White Album. I’m bored in class. Instead of the Daily Howl, I write poems about Desmond and Molly.
I fight with my debate partner and make an apology mix tape that opens with “We Can Work It Out.” (never mind that the lyric actually says, “do it my way or else”) He sends me one back that opens with “Getting Better.” We aren’t good at talking about hard things, so Lennon/McCartney becomes the language of our intimacy.
In Liverpool, everyone has a story, too, but theirs are different. Their stories are about how they’re directly connected to Them. It’s still first generation, if barely — “I saw them at the Cavern.” “I was at the Fete.” “I went to school with Paul and George at the Inny.” But more and more, it’s second and third generation. “My dad knew...” “My grandmother once...” This is both good and bad.
In Liverpool, I lose myself in the ecstatic mystery cult of the Cavern. I touch the gate at Strawberry Fields. I stand in the exact spot at St. Peters Church Hall where John and Paul met and I weep. For the miracle of it. For what it was. For what it is. For what’s slipping away.
There’s something singular in all of this. Something mysterious and utterly unrepeatable. We all feel it. It’s why most everyone who tells me their story talks in a hushed voice, struggling to find words to get across with sufficient intensity how important, how magical their individual experience is.
Sometimes they stop, frustrated, and look at me expectantly. I’m the Writer after all. Finding the words for transcendent experience is in my job description. To express what non-writers can’t express for themselves, so they can point to a line or a paragraph or a chapter and say, “This. This is how their music feels for me, why it matters. This.”
We… Beatles writers, thinkers, scholars… are failing them in “this.” Sixty years on, the magic endures, but it’s also in danger. Mainstream Beatles writing and scholarship has become sterile. Flat. Petty. Divisive. Smug. Held hostage by the “click bait” internet culture of lists and rankings and rivalry in the name of getting page views. “John or Paul?” “Revolver or Pepper?” “Mop tops or psychedelic sages?” The answer is Both/And. Always Both/And.
The magic is still there, but it’s buried under rancid piles of irrelevency. I recently
argued had a polite British difference of opinion with a Beatles tour guide who grew up in Liverpool in the '50s. I wanted to talk about the magic. He wanted to prove he was the superior expert by quizzing me on trivia. I don’t care that Paul and Ivan Vaughan share the same birthday. I care about why people from all over the world, including me, get chills at the thought of standing at the roundabout on Penny Lane.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the magic.
And this… this is why The Abbey.
My goal is simple: I want the magic back. I want to be part of reclaiming the extraordinary, breathtaking miracle of what these four remarkable, complex, brilliant men gave to all of us, at staggeringly high personal cost to themselves and those around them.
I think this is the greatest story ever told. I think John was right, minus the nonsensical backpedal about televisions, that the Beatles are the most important cultural event in modern history. I think their story is a sacred mythology. A contemporary origin story for our culture. A foundational text of Western civilization. We are all living in the world the Beatles created. Getting it right matters, if we’re to understand ourselves.
My goal at the Abbey is to offer a serious, substantive and … and this is important… beautiful platform that welcomes the thoughts of the best writers in new Beatle studies. We intend for The Abbey to be something of a combination of a scholarly journal, a literary magazine and exegesis. Because we believe that the truth of the Beatles can only be found in mystery and in magic.
Yours in Fab,
WHO WE ARE
FOUNDING EDITOR: Faith Current
“Faith Current is one of the most interesting, perceptive and provocative Beatles writers I’ve had the pleasure to know. Highly recommended.” — Michael Gerber, founder/editor, HeyDullBlog
Faith Current is a Beatles writer/scholar specialising in the study of the creative/personal relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. She’s a regular contributor to HeyDullblog, the (currently on hiatus) most trafficked Beatles studies site on the web, and a passionate supporter/writer of Beatles speculative fiction as a legitimate literary form and a uniquely powerful tool for understanding their story and their music. She travels frequently on research trips to Liverpool, London and Hamburg and is the proud bearer in good standing of a Liverpool Central Library card and Merseyside Transit pass.
More things that she is: a mythologist, a working (well, usually) Hollywood screenwriter, the daughter of a rock music historian, and a singer/songwriter who’d be serious about her music if she’d come of age before the music died. She was named after a Beatles’ song, though it’s hard to tell just now.
She’s currently at work on an in-depth podcast/book about Lennon/McCartney, as well as a memoir about her multiple journeys to Liverpool and Hamburg.