From the pages of

John, Paul, George and.... Al?!
by Martin Lewis
(First published November 06, 2000)

In the last few months, the two principal candidates for President have revealed more about their personal tastes and predilections than most of us really want to know. All in the name of humanizing themselves and swaying those undecided voters.

For example we know that Al Gore prefers his lady in lace rather than leather. And that one of George W. Bush's favorite recreational activities is shooting a couple of doves (feathered variety) and grilling them with bacon and jalepeņo.

The problem with all this information is that it is of little value in making comparisons. It's all apples and oranges. (Or lace and doves.)

What we need is a single recreational issue on which both candidates have offered opinions - so that we can make the tough comparisons between the two.

Fortunately - I have discovered such a topic. And as befits the first presidential election between two baby-boomers - it's about the cultural touchstone of that generation - the ever-popular Beatles.

Both Bush and Gore have declared that they liked the music of the Beatles. In fact both of them have been using Beatles-related language in the final few days of the campaign - though one of them perhaps unwittingly.

Last Monday - with just 8 days to go before the election - Gore told a Michigan crowd that he was reminded of a Beatles tune: "There's eight days a week right now!" he quipped. And Bush has added a new mantra to his stump speech - the famous promotional slogan for the Beatles' second movie - "Help is on the way!"

So how can one decide between the two erstwhile Beatles-lovers?

Well Beatles fans are fond of noting that perhaps the most unique aspect of the Fab Four was their evolution from lovable teen pop group (they were the very first boy-band) to rock music pioneers who expanded the cultural boundaries and impacted the social and political climate with their lyrics.

It's easy enough to find baby-boomers who liked the early-period (1963-1965) Beatles. Their music was simple, catchy and infectious... their personalities cheeky. They were universally loved. The litmus test in Beatles circles is whether one then evolved with the Beatles in late 1965 when they set sail on their voyage into the unchartered waters of progressive music - a journey which led from "Rubber Soul and "Revolver" through to the landmark "Sgt. Pepper" album. And when they grew from cheeky entertainers into outspoken critics of the political and social status quo - including the wars in Vietnam and Biafra.

A surprisingly large number of their teen fans made the transition. Inevitably some fans found the journey beyond their grasp and transferred their affections - finding comfort in artists with an ersatz early-Beatles style (such as the Monkees) who had few creative aspirations and whose music required no political consciousness - just a desire to party.

Well the candidates have spoken about the Beatles - and their views are crystal clear.

Al Gore it turns out was (and still is) a huge Beatles fan. In speaking with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner recently - he describes them as his favorite group. "There was not only a new sound, there was something else that was new. A new sensibility... that incredible gestalt that they had." And were his preferred albums from the early Moptop days or the later progressive era?

"Rubber Soul is my favorite album. I just think that it's an amazing album. I loved Sgt. Pepper, the White Album. Sgt. Pepper was a real tour de force."

Al Gore is certainly not alone in being a Beatles fan. George W. Bush also claims to be a big admirer of the Fab Four - though I could find no quotes from him describing their gestalt. He enthuses about how much he enjoyed their music in his youth. (Which as we now know stretched past his 30th birthday.) However Bush does add a caveat to his appreciation. "I liked their early stuff. They did some good records. But then they got a bit weird. I didn't like all that later stuff when they got strange."

(Perhaps he felt uncomfortable with all those subliminable messages. That one at the end of "Strawberry Fields" where John clearly mutters "I buried Dole..." the "Day In The Life" reference to someone being out of his mind in a car - and finally of course the Abbey Road album jacket which has a car license plate that reads "28IF" - a clear reference to the fact that if Bush had been 28 rather than 30 his DUI would have been more youthful.)

Well Ralph Nader can rail on about how Bush and Gore are identical on the issues and how there's no difference between them. But now voters have a clear-cut choice.

If you think that the summit of the Beatles output was their frat-party covers of "Twist And Shout" and "Money" - then George W. Bush is the man for you. But if you feel that music from what Bush calls their "weird" period - such as "Strawberry Fields" and "Hey Jude" was a greater achievement in the prolific Beatles ouevre - then All You Need Is Gore.

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