“On The Beatles and the Concept of ‘Foci’”

  • Pronounced “Folk-Eye.”

I’m not sure what exactly it was but something about the Whole Foods store on 86th Street in Indianapolis triggered this grand, holistic feeling of happiness in me. It must have been the friendliness of the cute Whole Body team leader combined with, generally, a day that didn’t come with a lot of drama. At some point in the day, around 11 a.m. (which is scientifically a time of day when a person typically has a lot of energy) I reached what could almost be described as a Nirvana-like state and I felt like I were in a perfect position for giving and receiving positive, hopeful gestures and ignoring the negative ones. 

And I’m not sure if I’m weird or whatever but, almost immediately, my mind turned to music, namely The Beatles and the line from “Within You without You”: “We were talking / About the love that’s grown so cold”. That seemed like the type of thing I’d all of a sudden stumbled on, when, yes, I’d least expect, on a day in fact when earlier I’d thought I were too tired to even get through the da** thing. To this day, this Beatles song, to me, stands as the absolute best illustration of this ideal, and its stead — a concept of general mirth and good favor which is both so simple and also, obviously, so elusive. 

This brings me to the aforementioned concept of “foci.” It’s actually not as obnoxious of a word as you might think: it’s in fact just the plural of “focus,” in the simplest sense, the “Something (sic) to which activity, attention or interest is primarily directed.” Epochally, The Beatles made “love” their focus for their album that dropped in May 1967 — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — right at the onset of the iconic “summer of love,” of that same year, which stands, if nothing else, as a lasting piece of hippie mythology. 

Now, you get people who claim to not like The Beatles, which I find pretty absurd, particularly in the case of anybody who listens to any rock music whatsoever. Soundgarden will make a proud reference point here. They are a band typically adored by the “roughnecks,” so to speak, the type of guys likely to work in kitchens, work construction, or in factories. They are embraced by the blue collar of 2024, generally, in other words, while, typically, The Beatles are disdained. The irony is that, as is widely diagrammed in the Chris Cornell biography by Corbin Reiff, Total F*cking Godhead, Chris Cornell was an ardent Beatles fan, making a regular practice of holing himself up in his room and listening to their records for hours on end. Indeed, the Beatles influence did eventually emerge in his songwriting with Soundgarden, as this enterprise would naturally pare down to succinct, verse/chorus exercises (“Burden in My Hand”; “Fell on Black Days”; “Pretty Noose”), perhaps coming to a head with the masterful “Like a Stone”; which he penned for the band Audioslave, of course. 

A reason why I mention this is that it’s somewhat disconcerting to consider the Beatles’ overall body of work, for this reason: their multiplicity of “foci,” or, to be rough, general cultural objectives to be hewn via music. One counterargument against their versatility, theoretically, or an indictment of its authenticity, could be the claim of a certain lack of identity. Well, the truth is, before Sgt. Pepper’s, they’d already mastered and lassoed radio pop, with, among other things, “Yellow Submarine”; “Nowhere Man”; “I Feel Fine” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” With these, that is, we’re embarking back on that period when they were spawning some seriously unnatural occurrences in their female concertgoers. To contrast, by the time of Sgt. Pepper’s, they’d stopped touring entirely, as Google hath faithfully proclaimed, “following a controversial tour” and “due to being fed up with touring.” 

Does this mean they were catering to a different audience? It, at least, anyway, seems to signify that they were not enslaved to their prior audience, hence enabling the kind of artistic shift that did happen, or a transition in “foci.” And the fact of them having climbed multiple mountains as a band (the last of which, I’d argue, being the tender, psychedelic rock showcased in “Across the Universe”; replete with treated, warbly guitar and cosmic, literally otherworldly-leaning vocals) might rub some people the wrong way, but, simultaneously, it should be effective in obliterating the ephemeral notion that, as a band, you have to pick one objective and stick to it for your whole career. I mean, nothing against the Green Days of the world, or anything. 


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