Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Taking me back to where I once belonged


Image My brother routinely forgets family birthdays, but randomly sends me stuff like a license plate from our home state featuring a beloved Beatles song. I proudly display this on the white board in my office.

When the familiar chords of "Get Back" kicked into full, crystal-clear surround sound accompanied by the visual magic of "Cirque du Soleil," tears welled in my eyes.

I can't explain fully why the opening of "The Beatles Love" moved me so deeply Monday night, but there's something in the way music moves us across the universe. By the time the Vegas show concluded with streamers and performers filling the air as the audience joined in singing "Hey, Jude," I was thinking this must be as close as we can get to heaven on Earth.

As the lights came up, I gushed to Paula that I could see "Love" every night for the rest of my life and never tire of it. She laughed, gave me one of those looks meant to humor her goofy husband, and said she liked the show, too. Liked?!? In her defense, when she grew up, Air Supply had a string of hits.

The Fab Four's music is the enduring soundtrack to my youth, but I had never heard it as vividly as I did inside the Mirage showroom. An Audioholics review explains the technical details of the 360-degree surround sound from the master recordings, but I understood none of that as I settled into my seat before the show. Compared with my older brother, who can make his guitar gently weep, I am an audio ignoramus. I tend to focus most on the lyrics, which explains why the Beatles are the perfect harmonic blend for the two of us.

The show's pure, perfect sound overwhelmed even my tin ear. I need more help from my friends than Ringo to carry a tune, but even one of my least-favorite Beatles' songs, "Octopus's Garden," lifted me to the heights of the ocean floor. During "Come Together," I had no idea I'd hear the backup vocals as if John, Paul and George were singing for no one but me.

The music took me back to the hours my brother and I spent in our room creating our own personal ratings of every Beatles song and album. Why we did this remains our own magical mystery tour. I guess we did it because. Because we were young. Because we loved the music. Because we couldn't believe every song on every album was so good.

While other artists, then and now, routinely tossed out throwaway songs along with their hits, the Beatles pleased, pleased us with every effort. Somehow, we eventually settled on "Help!" as our pick as the best album, which was a remarkable feat given our many other brotherly differences.

Also an anguished artist, my brother was a Lennon man. I argued in favor of the more melodic McCartney. I was the wannabe paperback writer. My brother's life was so helter-skelter we found little common ground as adults. He played the fool on the hill, lamenting more than once how he wished he had been born the young George who fell into playing guitar for the Beatles. Ever the practical son, I told him he needed to quit day trippin'.

When the phone rang on the evening of my brother's 53rd birthday last month, I thought he might be impatient with me for not calling earlier. Instead, he told me had learned earlier that day he had leukemia. "What? And they told you this on your birthday?" was about all I could say.

Ever the researcher, I read to him what I could find on the Mayo Clinic's website about chronic myelogenous leukemia, its three stages and improved treatment options. No matter how you much you arm yourself with information, though, nothing can stop the emotional punch of cancer.

A few weeks later, my brother was a house guest for the weekend between visits to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He's been accepted into a clinical trial for a drug that has shown great success in treating patients in Stage 1 like my brother.

We spent the weekend watching bad movies, going to the park and, of course, talking about the Beatles. On "Beatles Rock Band," my brother played guitar, naturally, while my son, Paul, hammered out some mean drums. I did my best Ringo on the easy vocal level of "Yellow Submarine," but completely whiffed, as usual, as John on "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

My brother talked about how much he likes to collect Beatles recordings and memorabilia, going on interminably about "Let It Be" stripped of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound production and noting he had the bootleg copy long before the Beatles released their new version. The music just makes him feel good, he said.

Tell me why.