Gentle cabrones:Since this is perhaps the only time people are asking me about the Beatles and not bring up the fact that I’m Mexican — in other words, people are treating me as a fan and not a Mexican fan — I’m going to take this chance to just drop a whole bunch of random facts about my favorite group of all time, in somewhat chronological order:
*Earliest song I remember from them: “Twist and Shout.” Heard it on Born in East L.A. when the film came out, and also a snippet of it for a commercial for 93.1 FM back when it went by KODJ and NOT Jack FM.
*Next songs I remember hearing from them: “She Loves You,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” and “A Hard Day’s Night” and whatever poppier songs K-Earth played from their canon. But I didn’t really care for them because KRLA, the station I listened to religiously, didn’t play any Beatles whatsoever — strangel because the station introduced them when they played at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
*I truly began getting into the Fab Four gracias to “Breakfast with the Beatles” on KLSX-FM 97.1 hosted by the late, great Deidre O’Donoghue. And that would’ve never happened if I hadn’t gotten into Howard Stern in 8th grade, 1993. F Jackie.
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*I used to buy my Beatles CDs at the late, great Music Plus in Fullerton. I bought every official release through the Anthology series except Let it Be, which I somehow got as a vinyl despite vinyl not being cool in the 1990s, and Yellow Submarine because I didn’t see the reason to buy an album filled with instrumentals. How silly was I…
*The Beatles’ best album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, of course. My favorite album: Beatles for Sale, an album of maturation and sadness. “No Reply” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” bruh — and the latter song, I always sing the opening line as “No quisiera ir al baile, s’il vous plait” for some bizarre reason.
*I lied. There was another Beatles album I didn’t buy: Past Masters Vol. 2. That’s because I stole it, but it was an honest steal! One time, my mami and I went to an indoor swap meet in Fullerton that she liked where I bought the best Chucks ever. I accidentally — no, honest! — walked into an employees-only section, where I saw the collection of Beatles singles. When I realized there was no way I’d be able to buy it, I stuffed it into my baggy shorts and walked out. One of three things I’ve ever stolen in my life.
*I liked the Beatles so much that in 1996, I used the album cover for Help! to make a political cartoon about the Dole-Kemp campaign for my senior politics class. My teacher didn’t care for it; I recently found it and thought it rather sharp. I also did a term paper in Orange Coast College declaring them the greatest band of all time; I got an A for that.
*In that latter paper, I led off with an Allen Ginsberg poem titled “Thoughts on Hearing the Beatles for the First Time” that I have been looking for online forever, but that doesn’t exist in its entirety. After going through my archives (now THAT’S a future canto), I finally found it, which I first read in the contents section of Rolling Stone published the week of Ginsberg’s death. “I began dancing in public for the first time in my life — complete delight and abandon, no self-conscious wallflower anxiety,” he wrote. Got an A for that paper.
*The first academic book I ever read was Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, a song-by-song analysis of the Beatles. Bought it from the late, great Borders in Brea. Incredible tome, and one of maybe eight Beatles books I own, none of them particularly valuable, because I don’t do collectibles.
*I learned only two Beatles songs on the guitar: “Blackbird” and “Julia.” I can probably still play the former, but definitely not the latter.
*For years, my dad would tell me the story of how when the first time he sneaked into the United States through the San Ysidro crossing, in the trunk of a Chevy, there was an English-language song that went, “Tony, in San Antonio” that he was able to hear. One day, we were driving and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” played on my iPod. “¡Esa es la canción!” he said excitedly. To not hear something for 40 years, then hear it and experience a rush of memories is something else. It’s something I’ll be experiencing in about three years, since my memories mostly start in kindergarten.
*The last Beatles thing I bought was Revolver on vinyl, like in 2006 — and only because it was like $20. I think the Beatles empire is like Scientology nowadays, always making the faithful pay for more and more stuff that is already out there. I should get the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album, tho, because that’s one I never understood why it wasn’t released, always wished it would be — and then didn’t buy it when it was released because I was too busy to notice.
*I won my wife’s heart once and for all due to a drunken Beatles karaoke session where a guy played an acoustic guitar. I took requests from the audience, and we somehow played for two hours nonstop. This was actually the second time I had done that — persistence, bruh.
*I just got 164 out of the 192 songs of the Beatles’ album tracks correct on a Sporcle quiz despite being about a quarter of a bottle of Panamanian rum in, after a day of recording two interviews for the podcast and writing three columnas AND doing revisions on two others and doing this columna. That’s what I get for not buying Yellow Submarine — and Rubber Soul and “Little Child” always trips me up for some reason.
*My Beatles summation, as posted on FB back in 2017: “Paul REALLY loved music hall tunes, but that was no different than Chicano musicians learning how to play son jarocho or always doing a cumbia. Music critics are simply too snobby to accept this, and don’t know what the fuck son jarocho, cumbia, or music hall is. John was one angry, insecure motherfucker before Yoko. But he’s the biggest musical proof that pain creates humor, even if it never really popped up in his songs. George couldn’t wait to get out of the Beatles since the days of “Don’t Bother Me.” Dave Grohl was not being fake-nice when he said Ringo was an amazing drummer—hear “Rain” or “What You’re Doing” for proof. Billy Preston’s keyboards were SAVAGE AF.”
*Now my nephew listens to the Beatles, and my sister saw Love in Vegas, which is weird because I always figured my siblings never got anything from me because I’m a crancho supreme — and if you don’t know what a crancho is, you’re gonna have to ask me at Alta Baja.
*No Reply is just 33 minutes, yet encapsulates ennui better than most anything. Listening to it as I finish this canto, even though I’m not ennui but definitely cheugy.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
I feel like society and the powers that be are trying to do to the word “wokeness” what they did to the word “feminist” and “environmentalist.” I feel like they are trying to turn it into a dirty word. After all, there is nothing more terrifying to white America than a bunch of woke minorities. Am I right, or am I wrong on that?
You’re definitely right on the latter part, although those folks previously went by “uppity.” And you’re also right on the former — but woke folks also try to demonize terms like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “freedom,” “individualism” and “personal responsibility.” Not everything wrong in society is the fault of privilege and structural something; not everything right in society comes from disruptors and liberty. And the beat goes on…
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Got my coronavirus booster this week — other than a sore arm for a day, a feeling of loginess for about two days (but that was probably due more to the fact that I ate half a pound of See’s candies in one sitting), and my arm turning into a microchip, I’m good! Get your shots, and don’t be a PANDEJO.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The way you bring down Hitler and his ideology is not by getting on a soap box with him, but if you can reduce him to something laughable, you win.”
LISTENING:“Band of Gold,” Freda Payne. For over 20 years, I wondered why a certain group of oldies recorded by different artists sounded alike — and not just studio alike ala Stax or Sun, but like producer-alike. Just recently, I found out why: the legendary team of Holland-Dozier-Holland DID have a life after mysteriously leaving Motown in the late 1960s. The soulful “Want Ads,” “Gimme Just a Little More Time” — those were theirs, and so is this enigmatic song, which just drives. Imagine Diana singing this one?
READING: “Ramadas, Cunques & Coi: Dialects of the Southwest Borderlands”: Regional etymology at its finest — and an answer to a hotel trivia quiz!
SHOUTOUT TO: Iliana, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! “Hope Border Institute, an independent community organization based in El Paso, Texas, addresses migration along the Mexico–U.S. border. The group is involved in everything from examining why so many migrants have flocked to the border regardless of who is in office to helping those in need of emergency assistance once they are able to request asylum.”
Dec. 7, 7 p.m.: I’ll be moderating “How do We Begin Again?” a panel for Zócalo Public Square about the issue at hand. It’s going to be in-person at their headquarters in downtown Los Angeles (in the old Herald-Examiner building, for you Angeleno boomers), or you can catch it online for FREE. Details here.
Gustavo in the News
“‘Lens of the West Coast’: Inside the L.A. Times’ new head of audio’s plan to focus the publisher’s podcasts”: My new audio jefa Jazmín Aguilera shouts out my podcasting abilities, so yay?
“TimesOC: Controversial board challenges Newsom in court”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Latinx Files: The NFL needs to make the ‘Mexican American Super Bowl’ an annual tradition”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“California Book Club’s Three Winter Selections”: Alta Journal shouts out my columna, as well they should — I’m a contributing editor for them, after all!
“California Playbook”: Politico’s Golden State newsletter shouts out my columna.
Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“Lowriders. Cruising. A Southern California ritual returns”: My colleague Faith Pinho talks to my colleague Daniel Hernandez about the issue at hand.
“Cycling while Latino in L.A. County is tough”: Yet another reason to distrust L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“College degrees for incarcerated folks”: Cal State L.A., step on up!
“David Chang gets very honest with us”: I talk to my famous compa.
“A Chinese tennis star disappears”: The strange case of Peng Shuai.
“Grítale a Guti in EXILE, Ep. 2.4? ”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all…except on YouTube because Zuck has a CONSPIRACY against me yet again.
“Anaheim High ‘Colonists’ vote to keep mascot name, despite criticism”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about my alma mater.
“Where are all the jobs?”: My latest KCRW “Left, Right & Center” appearance talks about the dignity of work, Liz Cheney, and my Donald Trump piñata head.
“Unions vs. Amazon: Harold Meyerson; Omicron & Inequality: Gregg Gonsalves; Beatles: Gustavo Arellano”: I talk with Jon Wiener, the best-ever chronicler of the radical John Lennon, about the Beatles.
“How much Beatles is too much? Our experts gorge on the new docuseries ‘Get Back’”: I talk with my colleagues Randall Roberts and Mikael Wood about the Beatles!
“Mexicans have fought for a better California for 171 years. These books show how”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna is my annual Christmas book-shopping list. KEY QUOTE: “We’ve been usually overmatched against and underestimated by the powers that be — but our indomitable will has earned us hard-fought victories that can serve as inspiration to all during these trying times.”
“‘Why does Mater Dei protect bullies?’ A school and Orange County diocese have lots to answer for”: My next latest LA Times columna is about one of my ultimate bête noires. KEY QUOTE: “To those left incredulous by all this, I say: Forget it, Jake. It’s Mater Dei.”
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