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‘BTL MOM’: The Fab Four helped nation heal
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Susan Selman of Martinsville has been a Beatles fan since the band appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” 50 years ago today. Above, she wears a Beatles shirt and shows some of her memorabilia. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Susan Selman doesn’t consider herself Martinsville/Henry County’s biggest Beatles fan — although she confesses that she hasn’t met any bigger ones in the area.

Selman, 59, is a nursing and health career adviser at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC). To find out if she’s on campus, just check the staff parking lot for the car with the license plate “BTL MOM.”

Selman’s first experience with The Beatles was 50 years ago today, when the Fab Four performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Selman was in third grade at the time, watching the show with a childhood friend. She fell in love with the band, and The Beatles became her rock.

Her father, the late Thomas Mullane, was a destroyer captain in the Navy, she said, and the family traveled up and down the East Coast during her childhood. They lived everywhere from Arlington to Washington to Norfolk to Newport, R.I., and Annapolis, Md.

On Feb. 9, 1964, Selman said, the family was living in Arlington. They also had been living in Arlington just a few months earlier, when John F. Kennedy was buried in the National Cemetery there after his Nov. 22, 1963, assassination.

“I remember sitting in the living room watching the funeral procession on TV and hearing the firing of the gun salute,” she said, both coming through the window and also through the TV.

For baby boomers, she said, the sound of The Beatles was a welcome respite from the horror of Kennedy’s assassination.

“It was healing to have such happy sounds,” Selman said. “It was love and peace and such good stuff after such a tragedy.”

Watching The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” she said, she thought it was silly that the girls in the audience were screaming and becoming hysterical.

“I still think it’s kind of goofy,” she said. “It’s all about the music, which is why they stopped touring. It wasn’t about the music anymore. It was about the whole mania of it. I like the music, and I’m big on lyrics. I think lyrics are poetry.”

For that reason, Selman said, she prefers The Beatles’ more challenging later work. “There’s not much poetry to ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,’” she pointed out.

Her favorite Beatles album is “Revolver,” often considered the transition point between The Beatles’ early bubble gum pop and their later, more personal work.

“The thing about Beatles albums is you’ll go back and listen to them and hear something different,” Selman said. “It’ll mean something different to you at a different time.”

Part of the early success of The Beatles, Selman believes, was the easy, joking friendship they shared.

“I think we’re all attracted to camaraderie,” Selman said. “We look at TV shows like ‘Friends’ or ‘Cheers.’ Everyone wants to belong. I think the reason The Beatles caught on so much was that ... they had that bond of friendship that we all are looking for.”

Paul McCartney, Selman said, is her favorite Beatle, and she believes he’s had the best solo career of the four if for no other reason than the length of time he’s been consistently performing. His most recent album, conveniently titled “New,” is fantastic, she said.

“John accused Paul of writing ‘silly love songs,”’ Selman said. “His rebuttal was, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ There’s a time to be serious, and there’s a time to be light-hearted. I think you can find both of those elements in Beatles music: provocative lyrics, and then just fun lyrics.”

Over the years, Selman has collected her fair share of Beatles memorabilia, including programs from the Paul McCartney concerts she has been to. Without even trying, she also has shared her love of The Beatles with her children, Johnny, Megan and Jennifer, she said.

In 2008, she said, she went with her children and her husband, Dr. John Selman, on a trip to Las Vegas to see the newly opened Beatles-themed Cirque de Soleil show “LOVE.”

The show still is running, perhaps proof that, as Selman believes, the legacy of The Beatles remains relevant.

“It’s about the message,” she said, of love and hope. “It’s a message that transcends time. We need to be more loving to each other. We do get by ‘with a little help from our friends.’”


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