Mark Lerner, who did such an industrious job of presenting to us “Revolution XLI” or whatever that was in the comments the other day, was the first person to introduce to me the idea of the Beatles Game. I don’t think Mark invented it, but he was its Johnny Appleseed, describing it as something he played with his friends in those dark pre-Internet days of the early 1990s. Then it was played by phone, thusly:
Someone would call you up and say “Beatles Game,” followed by a word or phrase that appears in a Beatles song, like “shady tree” or “ice.” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, was to identify the song.
I bring this up now because it seems like a natural for the Internet age. It would work much better in threaded comments or email than it ever did by phone. I don’t know if it has survived to this point, but it certainly ought to have, even though I see Mark Lerner once every five years, if that often.
The other thing that strikes me about the game is how ideally the Beatles suit it. They have an expansive yet finite catalog, and all of it of such quality that you can assume the person you’re calling is familiar with it. It’s not so sprawling as to make the game impossible to play, nor so limited as to make it too easy. You can’t have a Dylan Game or a Stones Game, because someone might pull out a phrase from Under the Red Sky or Dirty Work, and no one would ever guess it. You can’t have an R.E.M. Game, because no one knows half those words anyway, not even Michael Stipe. You can’t have a Lauryn Hill Game, because you’ve got like one album to pick from. I suppose the closest you could come is a Doors Game, except I don’t like the Doors, so we’ll have none of that.
What we have is a Beatles Game. And it works perfectly.