the breakout of the beatles marked the first time for many things in pop culture -- actually it was because of the Beatles that the term pop culture was coined in the first place. But what I remember in my life is that Beatlemania marketers made it officially OK, by mainstream standards, for girls to collect cards. The guys had baseball cards, hockey cards and football cards -- and now we had Fab Four collectibles. We didn't toss them or flip them to win our favourites. We just bought them in quantity and traded shrewdly. The ones featuring the whole band weren't nearly as desirable as cards of individual members.
You could predict a girl's future relationship patterns based on which cards she wanted to collect. The straightest girls, the ones who liked their boys cute and cuddly, wanted Paul; the ones who liked them stupid and compliant wanted Ringo; the ones who liked to get pushed around by smart guys they thought they could change liked John. And those of us who didn't go for that macho thing went for George.
Later on, you could do a similar taste test with guys. The arty ones who were trouble admired John; the dumb boys were relieved by the existence of Ringo; none of the guys could stand Paul; and it was always easy to spot the ones with soul. You just had to look at the second side of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The sensitive guys did not have a giant gouge after the first track, a tell-tale rut signalling someone who repeatedly dropped the needle onto the second song to avoid George's meditation on eastern philosophy, Within You And Without You.
With that five-minute track, George made it obvious that he wasn't interested in mainstream stardom. He thumbed his nose at the 2-minute-57-second pop song that dominates Sgt. Pepper. He urged us to bridge the space between us all and dismissed the ego drive that so obviously preoccupied John, Paul and Ringo -- and by extension, just about every teenage boy I knew.
He was the kind of musician who complained that his songs didn't get enough attention, but he also knew his limitations. He understood that he couldn't always get the sound he wanted out of his guitar and so got Eric Clapton to play the searing solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
His collaboration with Clapton may be a well-known fact now, but by knowing about it then, I won a huge bet with my brother, which was a big deal because he's my older brother and he thought he knew everything and he just couldn't believe a Beatle wouldn't play his own solo.
Now I don't stereotype people as much as I used to, though Paul remains user-friendly and Ringo's still dumb enough to play Casino Rama.
But I cried, as I always did, when I listened to While My Guitar Gently Weeps last week after I heard that George, as all things do, had passed.