Nowhere Man

There’s a scene in the original cut of Pulp Fiction in which Mia Wallace interviews Vincent Vega from behind a video camera before the two embark on their dinner date. Mia asks Vincent a number of important questions, but it’s her example, comparing “Beatles people” and “Elvis people,” that has stuck with me ever since I read the original screenplay almost twenty years ago.

My theory is that when it comes to important subjects, there are only two ways a person can answer. Which way they choose tells you who that person is. For instance, there are only two kinds of people in the world: Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis, and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice, and that choice tells you who you are.

Like Vincent Vega. I’m definitely an Elvis man. But can I also like the Beatles? Until recently I was pretty confident the answer was “no.”

After a screening of the Beatles documentary Let It Be in a college course on “rock films” (yes, I took a course in college called “Rock Film,” and yes, it was about as great as you would imagine it to be), instructor and raconteurThomas Crone asked everyone to jot down their top-five favorite Beatles songs and the name of the first Beatles album they owned.

I had nothing to write. As I relayed when called upon in class, and as I’ve tried to explain to countless incredulous friends and acquaintances, I’ve never liked the Beatles. I don’t have any favorite songs, and I’ve never owned a Beatles record. My reaction to hearing their music has always been largely ambivalent, and the widespread reverence for the band only distanced me further (surely something this popular can’t be good…).

The more I was exposed to that reverence over the years, the more my distaste grew. Whenever I heard Joe Strummer rasp, “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust!” I would pump my fist a little harder.

But something changed late last year. Through another of my head-shaking diatribes about the band, it occurred to me that I’ve never really known the foursome as just “the Beatles” — it’s always been THE BEATLES. But what if it had been the other way? What if I’d experienced the band through the music first rather than the phenomenon? Would my opinion differ?

That’s how I got to what I’m calling Project Liverpool. Never being one to shy away from questionable recreational activities, throughout 2013 I’m making my way through the Beatles’ existence chronologically, album by album, supplemented by whatever contextual cues or historical information I happen across.*

I won’t say I want a revolution — I don’t expect to ever to be a “Beatles man” — but maybe the next time someone brings up the Beatles around me we can all finally come together.

*If you happen to be a Beatles man or woman and know of valuable sources for such material, please do shoot them my way.