- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Memories of the Beatles from fans across the globe were revealed Monday in a major study reflecting the impact the legendary British group had on people worldwide.

About 3,000 people from 69 countries submitted accounts of their most vivid memory associated with a Beatles song, concert, film or band member to the Magical Memory Tour, a six-month study that began in March.

Contributors to the online survey, created by scientists at the University of Leeds in northern England, ranged in age from 17 to 87, but the vast majority were teenagers when the band - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - was in its heyday between 1960 and 1970.

One woman recalled how, while working as an usher at a venue in Leeds where the Beatles were playing, the manager came over and mentioned that guitarist Harrison wanted her to go backstage after the show.

“In my innocence, I had no idea about the possible outcomes of such an encounter,” she wrote.

“All I could think was that my boyfriend was in the audience, as well as which I could not risk the wrath of my mother if I wasn’t on the last bus home.

“The strange thing is that I didn’t get excited about it. It’s only now that I wonder if I would have taken the chance had it been John [Lennon].”

The song that came up time and again among English contributors was “She Loves You,” while for Americans, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was most likely to spark their memories.

Yet the feelings invoked and the situations recalled were surprisingly similar in people across the world. They also were overwhelmingly positive with the exception of those associated with Mr. Lennon’s tragic death in 1980.

“What’s interesting is that the majority of memories cluster in the early teenage years,” says Catriona Morrison, one of the researchers who devised the study to help understand how memories are formed and change through life.

“The early teenage years are the years during which you are making your musical decisions. By the age of about 14, most people have made up their mind, and that’s the age when music makes the most powerful impression on us.”

One man remembered serving in the British army in 1965 in Borneo, where radio was the only entertainment.

The children he met spoke almost no English, so while walking through a jungle clearing one day, “I was amazed to see and hear a group of children [sitting] in a circle holding hands, singing ‘I Should Have Known Better’,” he wrote.

“We stopped to listen, and when they had finished, we clapped them; they smiled at us and said one word - ‘Beatles!’ I was astonished and moved then and still am whenever I recall this memory.”

The research results are scheduled to be released at the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool, the northwestern English city where the Fab Four originated.

Which Beatles song triggers memories for you? Share your thoughts and feelings below.

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