Never had I sat in a movie theater as the end credits rolled and felt the need — except the sensation was in fact much closer to a compulsion — to call somebody and try to explain why the film I had just watched affected me so profoundly.
Then I went and saw “Yesterday.”
And as soon as I got home from the Eltrym — before I had even washed the popcorn grease from my fingers or relieved the inevitable pressure after sucking down soda from a container big enough to slop pigs — I dialed my dad.
He introduced me to The Beatles, is the thing.
There is no one else I would have considered phoning first.
Had I grown up in a home where Haggard and Jennings were revered, or Bach and Chopin, rather than Lennon and McCartney, things might well have turned out another way.
My dad had acquired a considerable number of vinyl albums during the 1960s, and when I was a boy I whiled away hours sitting in front of the piece of antique wooden furniture — I have no idea what to call it, except hulking — where he stored the LPs.
It’s an eclectic collection, ranging from girl groups such as The Shirelles to garage rock (The Kingsmen) to psychedelia (The Doors) to folk rock (The Mamas & Papas).
But from my earliest memory of examining these artifacts — as indeed they always seemed to me, born in 1970 — I fixated on The Beatles.
I memorized every facet of their records — the iconic cover photo of “Meet The Beatles,” with the right side of all four lads’ faces in shadow, the strangely elongated picture on “Rubber Soul,” the inexplicable, to my innocent eyes, conglomeration of images on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
(My dad, alas, was saddled with the inferior American albums put out by Capitol, which plucked tracks from multiple original British releases to create concoctions such as “Yesterday... and Today” and “Beatles ’65.” Not until Sgt. Pepper’s, release in June 1967, the month my parents were married, was the band able to exert its control and mandate that its records would henceforth be identical on both sides of the Atlantic.)
But of course it is the music that matters most.
Those songs — all those songs.
No repertoire is so known or so beloved.
Like many millions of others — many of whom didn’t share my experience of growing up in a home where The Beatles were ubiquitous — these tunes are so familiar to my ears, so ingrained, that it is all but impossible to imagine things were ever different.
I would not have believed that a movie could heighten my appreciation of, and love for, the music that John, Paul, George and Ringo created during a period -— 1962 to 1970 — that today seems inconceivably brief.
Then I went and saw the film “Yesterday.”
Its conceit is so simple, and so compelling, that it surprises me, in retrospect, that the film debuted in 2019.
Jack Malik, an English musician of decidedly modest talent, is hit by a bus while riding his bicycle during a brief power outage that, inexplicably, affects the entire Earth.
After recovering in a hospital, Malik joins a group of friends who give him a guitar to replace the instrument smashed in the crash.
They ask him to play a song.
He begins to pluck the chords to McCartney’s most famous composition, “Yesterday” from 1965.
Malik’s friends are impressed, but not for the expected reason, which is that he has competently reproduced somebody else’s tune.
So far as they know he wrote it, and it far surpasses the quality of his previous work that they’ve all heard.
When he responds to their praise by pointing out what he knows but they don’t — that he didn’t write the song — Malik’s friends are nonplussed by his mention of McCartney and The Beatles.
Malik assumes, as surely anybody would in his place, that his friends are playing a prank.
But when he gets home, having pondered the matter, he also does what anybody would do who is nagged by a question.
He Googles it.
And no matter how many times Malik types “The Beatles” into the search bar his computer, obstinate as only an inanimate object can be, insists on showing him a photograph of an insect.
Malik comes to realize that he alone remembers The Beatles — that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, the band never existed.
Malik, though, not only remembers The Beatles, but as a musician he can perform most of their songs.
(In one of the film’s amusing recurring bits, Malik struggles mightily with another McCartney masterpiece, “Eleanor Rigby” from 1966’s “Revolver” album.)
Malik’s unique access to the greatest songbook of the 20th century has predictably beneficial effects on his career. Much of the rest of the film follows this trajectory.
There’s also a relatively rote romantic comedy plot revolving around Malik’s relationship with his friend and former manager, Ellie.
Since watching the movie I have read multiple reviews of “Yesterday” and listened to several podcast reviews that give the film a poor rating.
Several commentators complained that “Yesterday” leaves too many questions unanswered, such as the cause of the worldwide power outage, and that the plot skims over the issue of whether The Beatles’ music, performed by an individual, would have a similarly profound effect on the culture.
I’m not nearly well-acquainted enough with the art of filmmaking to comment on such matters.
And I feel fortunate to be so ignorant.
Because “Yesterday” struck me as purely an homage to The Beatles — an unabashed celebration of this music and the joy it continues to bring to so many people, half a century and more after it was recorded.
To parse the movie’s production elements seems to me a pitiful exercise, a willful refusal to accept the simplicity of its purpose.
I was entranced.
The film reminded me of something I already knew — that The Beatles are a singular band, a phenomenon that is unlikely to ever be repeated and thus, like other irreplaceable things, precious beyond measure.
What I didn’t expect is how deeply this would affect me.
I had, before those two hours in the cool, shady theater, time that passed as effortlessly as a dandelion seed slips across your palm in a breeze, believed that my feelings about The Beatles were fixed. I figured I would continue to listen to their music, always with appreciation and frequently with something like bliss, for the rest of my days.
What I didn’t anticipate was watching a film that elevated this accumulation of art beyond its previous plateau — that made me understand, as if for the first time, what an incredible gift music can be, not just to the individual listener but to the world.
J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.