SPX Spotlight 2018: "I Grew Up Right Along with Them" --In Conversation with Carol Tyler on the Fab Four and Memoir

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Carol Tyler, from her Twitter
Carol and my Mom are about the same age. I remember how Mom would talk about the Beatles. Even though she didn't embrace their ethos in the way that Carol did, my Mom's eyes always lit up when she'd hear them on the radio. I'll never forget the time we were driving up to an outlet mall and Mom and I perfectly harmonized along with Nowhere Man. We hadn't even planned it--the music just took hold and away we went as the countryside rolled past.

That's the Beatles for you.

Carol understands this well, and has since she was a teen. She was lucky enough to see the Beatles live, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was jealous. Like many people her age, Carol kept a series of journals back in the day--one of which was dedicated to her trip to see the Fab 4. Carol used her notebook to create a new book for Fantagraphics, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with her at their booth during San Diego Comic-Con. Here's what we discussed:

Rob McMonigal: What made you decide to start looking at looking into your time that you saw the Beatles. Why was now the time to start this story?

Carol Tyler: Well, the 50th anniversary of actually seeing them had come up, and it coincided with a time in my life when I was going through stuff and I came across the original little journal that I kept. And I was like, “yeah, the 50th anniversary.” First it was of the Ed Sullivan show, I would have been 14. And then I saw them in in 1965. So the 50th anniversary of me seeing them was 2015. And you know, I was love love love love love, love so much for—well, it’s in the book, you can see. There was so much.

[Carol asks to finish a sketch. After polishing off the drawing, she continued.]

When I was thirteen, the nuns said, any time you have anything of any value or importance, you should make a little booklet about it. So of course I made my Vatican 2 booklet, I made one of being in the 8th grade, and then of course I had tickets to see the Beatles so you bet I was going to make a booklet about that, which I did.

I went to the concert. I wrote down the song list. When I got home, I dutifully wrote down all the things I could remember, all the details. I kept thinking “I’m going to make this booklet, I have to remember as much as I can.”Details like what were vendors like, some of the people I saw—it was like doing the Con here. Something phenomenal. I went home and I made a nice construction paper cover for it and stapled it onto my nice booklet. And like a spaz, I put it in a plastic bag, and I kept it for years. Anytime I would move—college or anything like that, all of the husbands I had—I dragged that box of memories. That and many other boxes of stuff. I have a lot of stuff. Dragged it around, taking it here, there and everywhere. Then, like I said, when the 50th anniversary came up, “Wait a minute, I’ve got that booklet. I should do something with it.”

It started out as a blog. I got the booklet, which was really about the week before the concert and then the concert details. I felt like I needed to do the backstory to get people to understand the person who was going to the concert and the times we lived in. Because it ain’t like today.

Rob: No.

Carol: No. So I felt like I had to fill in the blanks. I started it as a blog. Then my friend Linda said, “Why did you do it as a blog? No one is going to buy it. If you’re going to make a book out of it, why don’t you just do it as a book?” I said, “You’re supposed to build a fan following!”

Rob: *laughs*

Carol: I decided then I’d post and pull things. I put them up, let people read them, and then take them down. This is what? 2018? I started the blog in 2015. But I never posted the part about the actual concert. So I got it done last year. You know when you get a book done, it takes another six to eight months for the book to come out. I had the book done last year. It was one of the quickest books I’ve ever done, because one of the things I didn’t do was break the story down into panel panel panel. I didn’t want to do that. I had done that with Soldier’s Heart, and that book took ten years. If you haven’t seen that book, you need to take a look at that book. It’s not just about soldiers. It’s about a time and a place. About missed opportunities and relationships that don’t work. The motiff is my Dad can’t remember stuff and I can’t connect with him.

Rob: Most of your stuff is like that. A story, but there’s a larger world that goes around the story. 

Carol: Yes.

Rob: So that people can kind of understand this is why some things happened the way that they did.

Carol: Right, right.

Rob: And I think that’s important when you are doing something like [memoir.] Dare to Disappoint is like that. It’s about her growing up in Turkey, and not only does she provide her own personal anecdotes, but she also provides what was going on with the culture and politics, so that [readers] can understand what’s happening.

Carol: Putting it in context.

Rob: Exactly. So speaking of context, the Beatles started radically changing after their first several years. As a fan at the time, how did you feel about that?

Carol: Oh, I grew up right along with them!

They helped to define the times, they provided the soundtrack, they led the way—they did all of those things. So I mean, in the most turbulent era of our history, we had the best music. We had the greatest band, and the best music ever. [Carol then tries to get another comics figure to agree with her, but he was engaged with a fan and didn’t hear us.]

Anyway, the Beatles really signified—their changes helped to us to find our way. They were a part of the culture, yet they also made the culture. I had no problem because you can’t stay a screaming girl forever, right? Nor would anybody want to be stuck being thirteen forever, ya know? You have to evolve and change and grow. I loved it!

Rob: In terms of the cultural scene: Is there anything you’ve noticed that’s a change?

Carol: You mean today?

Rob: Yeah.

Carol: Well, there’s no good music! Excuse me, there is good music, there’s some bold statements. But it’s not the equivalent scene. We were much more monolithic. Is that the right term?

Rob: Yes.

Carol: Our dads went to World War II, that was a common experience. They’d come out of the Depression. What roles women took and what was expected. Everything today is fractured. There’s the internet, and you’ve got subgroups.  And they feed each other. It was more of a monoculture [in my day.] So that’s how you got thousands of screaming girls—we all watched Ed Sullivan. It was beaming down in every house. So you don’t get that—well, maybe you do with politics. Those people are all collectively outraged all the time. But I would say that it’s really hard to have any kind of phenomenon that would break through the way that the Beatles did.

Rob: That makes sense to me. There’s so many more options now. Even the difference between when I grew up and today is significant. When I was growing up, less than half the kids I knew had cable—we were all watching the same four channels. And now? We don’t even have the same streaming services.

Carol: I’m not into that. “What show are you binging this weekend?” Oh, I’m not gonna watch that. We’re not on the same page.

Rob: Not like it was.

Carol: No.

Rob: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

Carol: I did want to say one more thing.

Rob: Sure! Go right ahead.

Carol: Well, some people have been critical of my book, because it lacks depth, and I said, “thank you!” You know why? We didn’t have depth back then. When I was thirteen, I was sheltered and protected from the world because it just wasn’t on our plate the way it is for kids today. It was such a different world. When I was doing this book, I had to be really carefully that I didn’t take my sensibilities from today and project it onto back then. I could have made it a compelling story—taken all the details and transformed it into something, but then it wouldn’t be like what it was.

I wanted to say, “Hey! This is what a girl who was thirteen and screamed at the Beatles was like.”

Rob: Yeah. It’s a snapshot of that era. It’s not meant to be a retrospective. It’s more of a time capsule.

Carol: You wanna know who that girl who was screaming is? She’s probably a Catholic girl who lived with her family. Nothing much dramatic. That’s baffling to a lot of people.

The other thing that was funny—I had a lot of people have trouble with the blog because they don’t read cursive.

Rob: Nope!

Carol: So I had to back up and go back and hand-letter all the pages with lettering. What I did was built in the cursive elements here and there, because the actual account of the concert—I did do that in cursive, and I wasn’t going to back away from that.

Rob: That’s how you wrote it.

Carol: Yeah.

Rob: I know my Mom was always very proud of her handwriting. She was a Catholic girl, too.

Carol: Okay! [Carol smiles knowingly.]

Rob: Alright, let’s try this again—thank you for doing this!

Carol: Thank you for interviewing me!

Fab 4 is out now from Fantagraphics.