ABOUT THE ABBEY
In which we establish our credentials to speak on All Things Fab. Fair enough. I will tell you about the Listening Chair.
I am eleven years old. In my childhood 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. Those 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. I buy music that’s popular. I’d buy the other music, too, but I don’t need to, because we have most of it already.
One day, I ask about the Beatles. He smiles. I can tell he’s been waiting.
He takes me to the Wall of Records, sits me down in his Listening Chair and pulls down Sgt. Pepper. Slips the record out and hands me the sleeve. He doesn’t say anything. We sit, me in the chair and him on the floor, and listen to the album. When it finishes, he leaves it stuck on the album groove. I have nightmares. I learn that music can be dangerous.
I study the Sgt. Pepper cover. My father is also a history teacher, so he fills in the blanks. This is before the Internet.
This is my introduction to the most important music ever recorded.
I’m a smart kid. I’m music savvy. 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 Capitol “Rock and Roll Music” complication. This is not supposed to be the music of our youth. It was made before we were born. But it is. 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.. Four is an especially good for ‘Twist and Shout.” I’m the only one who can hit the high notes, so I take Paul’s parts. We wear out the cassettes and buy new ones. We obsess.
I’m bored in class so 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 what the lyric actually says) 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 connected. It’s still first generation, if barely — “I saw them at the Cavern.” “I saw them at the Fete.” “I went to school with Paul at the Inny.” But more and more, it’s second and third generation. “My dad knew...” “My grandmother once...”
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 what it was. For what it is. For what’s slipping away.
Sixty years on, the magic endures, but it’s also in danger. There’s Something Special here. Something singular. Something mysterious and utterly unrepeatable. We all know it. It’s why everyone who tells me their story talks in a hushed voice, with an intensity that signals that they’re yearning to get across how special their story is, their connection. How magical in a way they can’t find words for.
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. Mainstream Beatles writing and scholarship has become sterile. Flat. Petty. Divisive. Held hostage by the “click bait” internet culture of lists and rankings and division in the name of getting attention. “John or Paul?” “Revolver or Pepper?” “Mop tops or psychadelic sages?” The answer is Both/And. Always Both/And.
And through it all, the magic seems buried under volumes of trivia. I recently
argued with had a polite British discussion with a tour guide on Penny Lane who grew up in Liverpool in the '50s. I wanted to talk about the magic. He wanted to quiz me on trivia. I don’t care that Paul and Ivan Vaughan shared 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.
Beyond this, we are shackled with a “standard narrative” of their story that reads like it was cobbled-together using insane troll logic. Even a cursory look reveals huge gaps of logic and faulty cause/effect. A fundamental lack of understanding of even the basics of human psychology. We tend to see what we expect to see. We expect that the story makes sense because it’s always been there. But the truth is, it doesn’t.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the magic. The Beatles haven’t lost it. The music hasn’t lost it. We’ve done it to ourselves.
And this, this is why The Abbey.
My personal goal as founding editor is simple: I want the magic back. I want to be part of reclaiming the extraordinary beauty of what these four remarkable, complex, brilliant men gave to all of us, at great personal costs to themselves.
I think this the greatest story ever told. I also think John was right minus the nonsensical backpedal about televisions. The Beatles are most important cultural event in modern history. And I think their story is a sacred story. A foundational text of contemporary western civilization. We are all living in the world the Beatles created.
Getting it right matters, if we’re to understand ourselves.
Fortunately for all of us, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Slowlly, quietly, out of sight of the mainstream, a growing group of New Beatles thinkers have been doing the work of making sense of the story, reclaiming the magic. The Abbey was founded out of an urgent need for a credible, mainstream platform for these New Beatles thinkers to share their best work.
We get emotionally attached to narratives, even when they don’t hold together. As such, the work of constructing a new, more accurate and hopefully more magical narrative is not without its risks, hence the labeling of this journal as subversive. Questioning doctrine means uncovering narratives that threaten many people’s beloved sacred cows. With all respect to cows, it’s time to herd them out of the barn. Or something. You know what I mean.
We believe it’s worth the risk. We believe that the best of their story has yet to be told.
Finally, though I’m at the helm, this won’t be the Faith Current show. The Abbey is curated by a small, diverse group of provocative, iconoclastic, passionate New Beatles thinkers. Our goal is to offer a serious, credible and … and this is important, beautiful platform that welcomes the thoughts of the best writers in New Beatledom. We intend for The Abbey to be something of a combination of a scholarly journal and a literary magazine. Because I believe that the truth of the Beatles can only be found 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 specializing 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 of and writer of Beatles speculative fiction.
More things that she is: a mythologist, psychological profiler, the daughter of a passionate 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’s currently at work on an in-depth book about John and Paul, as well as a memoir about her journeys to Liverpool and Hamburg.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Stefani Nellen
Stefani Nellen, Dipl. Psych, M.Sc., M.F.A., is not the first German whose curiosity has been sparked by the Beatles, and she won’t be the last. Her formal training as a psychologist paid off when she threw it all over for her real passion of fiction writing, and realized that the skills required to understand real life humans serve equally well to create and understand fictional characters (and possibly vice versa.). She is an award-winning writer of short fiction about obsessive friendships, the legendary collaboration of two mathematicians, and the lure of competition. It hasn't escaped her notice that this just might have prepared her perfectly for writing and thinking about the cultural phenomenon that once was a noisy bar band in Hamburg. She has just completed her first novel as a BookEnds fellow. You can read her fiction at https://www.stefaninellen.com/.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Cara Weston
Cara Weston MA has a master’s degree in English literature, which essentially means she guesses at the meaning of “I Am the Walrus” at a higher level than the rest of us. She’s also an accomplished and popular Beatles fic writer. Most importantly, like George making it very clear that the band will under no circumstances be doing a concert in Tripoli in front of two thousand torchlit Arabs, she is our voice of reason when the rest of us sail our cruise ship into the tumultuous seas of speculative psychological fancy. Also she doesn’t like your tie.