The Fab Four become the common ground a father and young son need to light a fire under their relationship in this winning memoir from journalist/novelist Smith (A Good Family, 1996, etc.).
Dad was overworked and underattentive to his seven-year-old: “As Sam got older, I seemed to be mummifying before his eyes . . . my posture defensive, my voice thinner and higher than usual.” One day when Sam was mooning around the house, Peter figured it was time for a new obsession and, not unaware of the inroads popular music was making into the boy’s life, thought the Beatles might make a suitable fixation. And how: from the first taste of Abbey Road, Sam was a goner. And why not? Peter rightly asks. “Nearly a half-century has defanged the group, reducing its innovations and iconoclasms to something warmer and fuzzier,” though the author found upon extensive re-listening that the lads still had their edge of wit and exoticism, still possessed their ability to be smart-assed without being boors. The band’s “boyhood friendships and grownup squabbles, its rivalries, love affairs, submarines, octopuses, silver hammers, newspaper taxis, piggies, raccoons, meter maids” were also pluses. Having grown up with the Beatles, Peter loved them every bit as much as Sam, and it is a small pleasure to watch as the two Smiths discover a vehicle of mutual transit to places they surely never expected to visit just weeks earlier: the politics of Vietnam, death and grief, privacy, Eastern religion, drugs. This occasionally seems overedited, with the author smoothing what had to have been some pregnant moments, but that small fault pales before the joy he conveys at the heaven-sent gift of togetherness he and Sam got from a pop group. You’ve got to love the Beatles, if only for having this kind of impact on the common man and boy, and Smith, whose motives in letting four other men loose in his son’s heart were pure.
Sweet as pie.