Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 206
Sun. Aug 5, 2012
I wouldn’t be the devoted Beatles aficionado I am today if it wasn’t for my parents. Specifically, it’s my Papi who introduced my brothers and me to the Fab Four by purchasing a plethora of Beatles LPs when we were kids. I remember my parents playing more American music than our native Colombian rhythms around the house. Who would have known because of my parents’ curiosity of English Rock music, my Papi molded his son to become a classic rock enthusiast with journalistic tendencies?
It wasn’t just the music. My Papi, like me, loved going to the cinema. One of my most beloved memories was when my Papi took our whole familia to see Yellow Submarine at the University of Michigan student center when we lived in Ann Arbor. I remember we all left the theater with contact highs. My Mami was particularly perturbed that students from the U of M were smoking marijuana at the movies in the late seventies. My Papi just laughed it off. Yes, we left the movie theater lifted with excitement for seeing The Fab Four on the big screen.
I do remember coming home and finding an actual cut out felt hole in my pocket; the same kind of fabric that John and Paul held up at the end of Yellow Submarine. When I showed my Papi, he raised his eyebrow and grinned. That was the moment I became a Beatles devotee for life. In that instant I found connection to The Beatles movie that we just saw. Was it fate, kismet or just my Papi sneaky enough to strategically place that link to the Fab Four for me to find? Maybe, I realize now, he wanted me to have dedicated connection with the music and the myth of the Beatles that my father cherished as much as I started to treasure.
Not only was that midnight showing of Yellow Submarine the last time I remember our whole family being united while watching The Fab Four, “Hey Bulldog” was the last song to feature all four Beatles playing on the same song together in the studio; something engineer Geoff Emerick mentioned in his book, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles, when he wrote, “With the trip to India looming, [“Hey Bulldog”] was to be the last time I saw the group before the start of what would be the miserable, tension-filled White Album sessions; the storm clouds were gathering off in the distance. Looking back, that day may well have been the final time all four Beatles were really happy being in the studio together.”
Unfortunately, the storm clouds gathered between my father and I, because the older I grew, something changed and my relationship with my Papi suffered. I liken this to both of us being Gemini’s and the fact that we’re so much alike. We butted heads and the bond that we had nurtured disappeared. He became the bad cop in the house. My Papi was the one who did the disciplining, he became the bad cop in our house and I began to fear him. He had this furious bark and a tenacious spirit, he was a bulldog. You know like those short but fierce European soccer players who appear harmless but once you cross them, they lash out and punish you. My brothers and I came up with a code word for my dad; we’d say is “Hey Bulldog” home yet? Or “Hey Bulldog” is going to kick your butt when he sees what kind of grades you got.
My Papi became the bulldog. For years I would describe my dad as this fuming genius who would explode at a moment’s notice. But when my friends would meet my Papi, he would be the quintessential gentleman. It’s all an act, I would tell them, but looking back I was wrong. I created the persona of “Hey Bulldog” in my head after the Beatles song.
Is my Papi still like the “Hey Bulldog” that I created in my subconscious when I was a teen? When I hear John Lennon bark, it reminds me of how foolish I was to create such a mythical persona of the bulldog. Yes, my Papi may bark at me sometimes, but he is my Dad and I can tell he appreciates it when I stand up for myself and respectfully bark back. My Papi was the one who introduced us to The Beatles and this song reminds me of my Dad.
Peter Doggett described the joyous complexities in the simple pop rhythms of ‘Hey Bulldog” that reminded me of my father when he wrote in The Art and Music of John Lennon, “The band built the song around a rewritten walking-blues riff, which once again harked back to the Fifties R&B songs of Ray Charles. Lennon’s lyrics, which incorporated a rewrite of his home demo, “She Can Talk To Me,” walked a fine line between nonsense and inspired nonsense, and the gusto of the performance, and the sheer chaos of the fade out, made this the warmest, most enjoyable Beatles recordings of the era.”
I’m not the only one who has a bond to “Hey Bulldog.” Former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighter Dave Grohl talked about his favorite deep Beatles cut when we wrote, ““Hey Bulldog” is not one of The Beatles’ greatest hits. It’s what most people would consider a ‘deep cut.’ But it is a quintessential Beatles rocker. The rolling bass line, the trademark Ringo drum fills, the gritty distorted guitar, and that sound that only the back of Lennon’s throat could produce. It stomps. It grooves. It makes your head bob. It makes your hips shake. When Lennon sings, ‘If you’re lonely you can talk to me!’ it soothes your heart, like you’ve finally found something to believe in. It’s so raw and real. It is 100% timeless Rock and Roll…”
The Beatles will always be an influence but the most significant person in my life has been my Papi. I am the one who created the persona of “Hey Bulldog” in my head after the Beatles song. In reality, we finally broke through all the years of anger and animosity we built up between us to see the rhythmic light. Thank you Papi, you are the one who helped me find the perfect Beatles sound that I will always believe in. I will forever be grateful for your eternal guidance and for sharing with me the magic of the Fab Four which still rings true inside of me today.