I’m what you might call a second or third generation Beatles fan (I can never quite work out where the line is drawn). By the time I was born, two decades had passed since their break-up. This had one big advantage: it ensured that I would grow up with the internet, which gave me a place to indulge my obsession and connect with like-minded people from around the world. Visiting Beatles fan sites, participating in forums and chatting with others — some my own age, some older — who loved The Beatles as much as me, watching endless clips on YouTube (where else could you watch Paul McCartney making mashed potatoes?) and, of course, writing this blog… the internet has made it easy for us all to come together (pun absolutely intended) and express our shared interest.
In that sense, we are lucky. But I can’t help thinking that if it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have much else. I certainly wouldn’t know most of the Beatles fan friends I’ve met as a result. And that’s hard for me to imagine. In fact, there are a few disadvantages to being a younger fan of The Beatles, at least in my personal experience.
The obvious one is that we can never experience the excitement of The Beatles being ‘current’, the way first generation fans did. They followed the band’s career religiously, bought every new single and album that came out and read magazines to find out what they were up to next. And, crucially, many saw them live. Yes, for us millennials there was a time in our lives when we collected all the albums ourselves, which went some way to replicating that feeling of anticipation. But eventually that was it. We had them all, and we knew there wouldn’t be any more, discounting newly remastered versions, different takes and unearthed live performances. There was the added excitement of discovering each member’s solo material, and in the case of the two surviving Beatles (particularly Paul, being the more prolific) we can still look forward to what comes next. But we also know that it won’t last forever.
Which brings us to that issue of mortality. In some ways, I’m glad that I didn’t live through the horrific event of John’s death as many fans did. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been, especially considering the circumstances. I was around, however, when George passed away, and I remember it being extremely sad. The world had lost another Beatle and for many, life would never be quite the same. Much as I dread to think about it, it’s one of the harsh realities of being a younger fan that we’ll have to face that loss again sooner than we’d like. But it also means that we’ve never taken Paul and Ringo for granted, and we cherish every new experience that comes along as a result of their continued musical activities.
Another experience that many millennial Beatles fans share is feeling like a bit of an outsider among our own generation. We’ve had to do a lot of searching just to find someone else who understands. In my case, trying to find a Beatles fan at school was like trying to win the lottery: bordering on impossible. I never felt I could have that kind of conversation with anyone. It must have been great being a teenager in 1964 whose classmates were also listening to The Beatles. For a while I had a picture of them stuck onto the inside of my locker door at school, which caused some amusement. I could never understand why it seemed so funny to others.
The reaction was not always much better from older people. I remember once walking down the street wearing a Beatles t-shirt when I was about 14 and being stopped by a man who remarked that I shouldn’t be wearing that because I wasn’t old enough to like The Beatles. Another time, when buying a remastered copy of Sgt Pepper, the lady behind the counter smiled patronisingly and said, “Is that for school?” Even now, in adulthood, when people find out I am a Beatles fan they sometimes feel the need to recommend some of the albums to me, as if there’s no way I could possibly own them already. While standing in the queue for Paul McCartney a few years ago, someone asked me if I’d ever heard the song ‘Hey Jude’. I politely replied that I was familiar with it, but what I really wanted to say was, “Do you think I’d be here if I didn’t?”
Sometimes it’s harder to be taken seriously as a fan simply because you weren’t alive in the 1960s, and this is something that really grates on me. Thankfully, though, most Beatles fans I’ve met don’t have this attitude. While I wish many of them lived nearer to me, the connections we’ve made have undoubtedly been the best part of being a younger fan, and have made it much easier to enjoy the experience. We may not have witnessed it all first-hand, but we’re in the lucky position of being able to keep the legend of The Beatles alive and maybe even inspire future generations to listen to them too. What could be better than that?