JOHN LENNON, PAUL McCARTNEY. RINGO STARR. GEORGE HARRISON. STOP. DON'T DO IT. STOP. LISTEN. STOP. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET. STOP. IN THE DECADE YOU'VE BEEN GONE WE'VE CHANGED. YOU'VE CHANGED. STOP. GETTING OLDER. LOSING OUR HAIR. STOP. SPEAKING WORDS OF WISDOM. STOP. LET IT BE. STOP. SIGNED. I BELIEVE IN YESTERDAY. STOP.

All of us were dreamers. Most of us were fools. Sitting on the living room floor of a two-bedroom walk-up in Johnson City, N.Y., a couple of miles north of Binghamton, 10,000 light years from home, listening to John sing, "Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall." (Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.) It was the fifth time around that night for "Sgt. Pepper," and by now all the hash was gone and Danny and Philly Jo were fighting over the last Lorna Doone.

"I should get it because I'm a philosophy major, and that makes me worthy," Danny said. "I deal in metaphysical conceits, the alpha and the omega. Without sufficient sustenance my intellect will de-oxify."

"Take gas," Philly Jo said. "If you know so much about metaphysics, try sublimating your hunger. Fasting purifies the soul. Kant said that."

"He did not."

"Okay, Plato said it. And if he didn't he should have."

Kathy said she would settle it.

"I'm eating the Lorna Doone," she said.

And she did.

"John would have wanted me to have it," she said.

At the precise moment the last piano chord struck on "A Day in the Life," Kathy popped the cookie into her mouth, and so elegant was her timing that she did not finish swallowing until the chord ended, more than one minute later.

Everything in concert with the Beatles.

And why not? In 1967, at the height of their fame and influence, the Beatles were the spiritual gurus of a generation, a set of pop apostles come to give us the word -- and the music.

Us, and not Them. You knew Us by the way we looked. We had long hair, mainly because the Beatles had long hair. We followed them through long hair, pot, acid, TM, all you need is love and Yoko. All through the '60s, until the only people under 25 years old with short hair were either bankers or soldiers. We needed to be different -- the Beatles showed Us how.

And then, in the first months of 1970, just as We lined up in the cold to buy tickets for "Let It Be," The Beatles broke up. They had nowhere left to go. So they went away. Separately. They didn't retire, didn't quit, didn't declare themselves irrelevant and commit suicide. They just stopped making music together, leaving the rest of Us to our own devices. Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da.

Now, almost 10 years later, there are reports that the Beatles are considering getting back together to give a benefit concert for the Boat People.

The fool on the hill sees the sun going down.

Nothing becomes a legend less than a comeback.

How many years ago was it when Old Blue Eyes was back? I remember going to my parents' house on Long Island and warning my mother not to watch some over-the-hill crooner devalue her past:

"It's gonna hurt. It's over for the guy. He's close to 60 years old, and he couldn't hit a high note if he stood on a ladder. He's gonna come out there and start out strong, but by the end of the show he's gonna be a tired, old man trading on memories."

"But it's Frankie-boy," she said. She had gone to see him in the '30s, at the Paramount, bobby-soxed, and squealed. You couldn't shake her from that tree. This was her Frankie-boy.

"It's something I just have to see," she said.

"Believe me, it'll hurt. You're not going to be able to sit there and imagine yourself young again because every moment he's on that screen you'll be looking into a mirror and seeing gray hair and jowls. It's gone now. Even if he's just as good as he ever was, it won't matter. This is now. He was then. You're better off watching an old movie."

"You don't understand."

So we sat there, my mother, my father and I, watching Sinatra fall from grace, making a fool of himself trying to do "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," straining to finesse his way through "Violets for Her Furs." When it was over I knew there was nothing I could say that wouldn't sound like gloating, so I put on my coat and left.

"You were right," my mother said. "But I had to see it anyway."

We don't.

The same things that applied to Old Blue Eyes apply to the Beatles. No matter how good they may be, they won't matter as much this time. Sure, you'd want to see them again; you might even stand on line in the rain for it. But isn't it a dreadful thought to imagine the Beatles on the same level as the Four Seasons or Chubby Checker or any of the others who make the rounds on the Rock Revivial Circuit? It doesn't matter if The Beatles only do it once -- once is enough. No matter what you think you see, they will be four men in their late 30s impersonating the Beatles. At worst it could be just like "Beatlemania." Without the slides.

To reduce the Beatles to the level of nostalgia is to make their concert into an old-timers' game. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Oh, selling Mr. Coffee, huh? Hey, that's great. Joe, remember when you used to hit 'em out? Remember when you used to chase 'em down in centerfield? Sure been great to see you, Joe. You're looking great. Geez, Joe, you don't look a day over 50.

So what happens if they videotape the Beatles' concert and play it on television? Let's say they do all the good stuff. Let's say they do "A Hard Day's Night" and "She Loves You" and "Ticket to Ride" and all the songs from "Sgt. Pepper" and "Abbey Road." Let's say they even do new stuff, and you're sitting there getting off on it, because it's such a kick just seeing them, and then your kid, your 8-year-old, looks up and says, "Daddy, they're pretty good. They sound just like 'the Knack.'"

What do you say then?

It's been almost 10 years. Most of Us are now most of Them. The reunion of the Beatles is a wonderful tease, but if it happens, and we all go down the long and winding road together, the only thing we'll get is older.

Get back, Loretta.

Your mama's calling you.