At a small girls' boarding school in the south of France, the dominant popular music in the early '60s was, of course, French. Among the polyglotinous student body -- a mix of cosmopolitan foreigners, chic, bourgeoises, the unblossomed daughters of foreign-service officers and jet-set parasites -- Gallic imitations of Elvis Presley were what was in. I remember Johnny Holiday records played on the tiny battery-powered record players much coveted in a boarding school.

At that point I disdained rock 'n' roll as a cliche of adolescence, and that included Johnny Holiday and his ilk. But then came the Beatles, or Les Be-ahtles, as the French pronounced it. Holiday was trounced. I fell in love, with all four Beatles in succession, and finally submitted to the fact that I was a teen-ager. The French girls learned the lyrics to their songs, learned phonetically of course, and sung in heavy accents.

Even more surprising, during the next few years my father, the dean of music in our family, actually agreed that the Beatles were brilliant, and that John Lennon was in fact inventive and talented. We in the younger generation felt agreeably smug, especially my younger brothers, who I suspect thought this meant their father would now approve of their long hair.

It was strange, last Christmas, when we started singing songs after dinner.

We don't all know the words to many of the same songs. Then my brother Eric, a musician, started to play Beatles songs. And, so many years after having heard many of them, we all, both generations, knew the words.