In this crazy carousel of a world, it’s nice to know that some things will always stay the same. Politicians will always lie, we will pay taxes, we will die, Phil Collins will always be shite.
Oh yes, and the Beatles will always be the hugest thing ever. Bigger than Elvis. Bigger than the Rolling Stones, Beyonce, Justin, Britney, Madge and Xtina morphed together in what I can only imagine would be an intensely grotesque medical experiment. I wouldn’t say they’re bigger than Jesus, cos the last time someone said that, some idiots in the Deep South went and burned a bunch of records they could’ve kept for 40 years and made a killing on via eBay.
The thing about the Beatles is that it can’t ever happen like this again. There will never be four individuals as perfect for each other blessed with such talent in the right place at the right time. It won’t happen again.
I’ve always adored the Beatles. I remember the 30th anniversary of ‘Love Me Do’ and singing along to it. I remember loving ‘Yellow Submarine’, because it’s a total kids song, sung by the then-voice of Thomas the Tank Engine. As a very, very small child, I remember seeing the name Ringo Starr come up on the opening credits to Thomas The Tank Engine and my mother telling me that he was a Beatle. I had no real concept of what this meant at the age of five, but I knew it was Something Very Special Indeed.
I’m getting close to ten years’ true love. For me, the right age for becoming a real Beatlemaniac (mid-teens, I’ve found) coincided roughly with ‘Free As A Bird’ and the Anthology that followed. I remember watching the last episode the night it was shown, New Years Eve, while waiting for the big New Years tv special. My mum told me tidbits of information that she remembered.
The thing I remember most was her telling me that Something was about George’s girlfriend Patti Boyd when the ‘Something’ promo was on (in full glorious colour). I remember this especially well because it wasn’t ever so long after this conversation that I read my books and discovered that by the time Something came along, Patti had been Mrs Harrison for some years and thus, my mummy was wrong.
The exact timing falls somewhere between ‘Free As A Bird’, which I don’t have as a single, and ‘Real Love’, which I do. A summer holiday where I bought a book called The Beatles: A Celebration by Geoffrey Giuliani and read it in the car on the way home, me and my brother giggling over a picture of Rishikesh/White Album era George, saying that if he didn’t have a moustache he’d really look like a girl. I devoured this book, literally devoured it. I still have it somewhere, still treasured for being the first, but discarded since discovering that Geoffrey Giuliani is not a good writer, and one who allows his personal biases to get far too much in the way of reportage and who values style over content.
My Beatles ‘thing’ has changed over the years. In that first flush, I’d listen to anything and everything I could get my hands on, including cheapo CDs of the Hamburg years that were utter shite. I’d read anything, even Giuliani books that were pants and cheapo books pubilshed only to make money off the Beatles legend.
Of course, I got a little more discerning as time went on. I listened to theBig Thirteen incessantly but soon learned which ones I really loved (Revolver, White Album, Abbey Road) and the ones I liked least (Beatles For Sale, Please Please Me, Yellow ‘Bit Of A Cop Out’ Submarine) and tailored my listening accordingly. I listened to the Anthology CDs so much that the alternate takes of some songs are more familiar to me now than the finished product (particularly McCartney’s ‘Junk’… I will always hear John’s joking voiceover whenever I hear it. Take your pardner and dosy doe, and when you’ve got it, jump up.).
For quite some time, I listened to little else. For quite some time they consumed my mind so thoroughly that I remember spending a guitar lesson with the line “Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass” in my head because I’d read it in a book twenty minutes before.
Mind you, even a band as great as the Beatles can get tiresome after nothing else but them for so long. They also turned me onto other great artists- first of all Dylan, then Clapton, Hendrix, the Stones, the Who and the rest. I consider the exchange of ideas between the greats in the late 60s the reason they were all at the height of their powers: quite aside from the ideas, they were also inspired to do better than the rest, to go one further.
So, you might say I’ve drifted off the path a little. This isn’t by any measure a bad thing, because the Beatles themselves loved all kinds of music and that openmindedness more than anything else made them great. Who elsebefore the Beatles would’ve thought to combine the kind of influences they had? There is music before the Beatles: Elvis, Connie Francis, Chuck Berry. There is music after the Beatles: Everything else.
I’m not saying they were perfect. I still find ‘Revolution #9’ more or less unlistenable, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ mostly stupid. Beatles For Sale is an album by a tired band coasting. Let It Be is a tired band who hate each other.
But you know what? The worst Beatles album ever is still a thousand times greater than most bands will ever achieve on their worst day. I mean, I’d probably listen to Led Zeppelin II over Beatles For Sale, but I’d listen to Beatles For Sale instead of Presence or Coda or most of In Through The Out Door any day of the week. And as for Oasis, I’d happily make ‘Revolution #9’ the soundtrack to my life than listen to that derivative uninspired money-making bollocks at all.
For a long time now, the Beatles have taken something of a back seat during my voyage of musical discovery, and I suspect they’d be happy about it. I’ve travelled through space and time, I’ve found things like Bootsy Collins and Rick James, Julie London, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and the rest since the first sunny days of my love affair with the Beatles. Not to mention of course, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. Without the Beatles, I’d never have found them.
So I’ve not listened to the Beatles much for awhile, or even indeed the solo records I’ve got. John’s records got to be quite painful to listen to in the end and as for George- I’d overplayed All Things Must Pass before he’d even died!
It’s not that my tastes have changed, but they’ve broadened. I mean, on my MP3 player I’ve got the following in a playlist:
Killer On The Loose – Thin Lizzy
One Way Or Another – Blondie
I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You – Tom Waits
Snot Rap – Kenny Everett
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Tell Her Tonight – Franz Ferdinand.
And that’s only part of a playlist and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of putting my records onto the machine. I couldn’t have hoped to find all this without the Beatles. Most of the people on the list were themselves influenced by the Beatles.
It’s hard now to understand that the Beatles changed everything. Even I can’t truly understand it because I live in the post-Beatles world. Moreover, I live in a post-Lennon world. Before the Beatles, rock and roll was dying on its arse. Elvis was making poor movies, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran were dead and Jerry Lee was disgraced. Little Richard was already a caricature of himself and the rest were dealing with their addictions. Rock and roll was meant to be dead and wasn’t the Establishment pleased! Then along came these working class scroats from Liverpool of all places! The Beatles didn’t just revive rock and roll music, they made it immortal! Sitting in our Post-Beatles world it’s hard to believe maybe that ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ was in fact rock music, or ‘She Loves You’. Maybe compared to Marilyn Manson or Slipknot or even Led Zep it doesn’t sound rock, but without ‘She Loves You’, you simply don’t get Marilyn Manson.
Imagine, without the Beatles, we might still be listening to Pat Boone, Fabio and Frankie Valli. Anyway, I’m really getting off the point a lot here. Basically, I’ve strayed from the path of Righteous Beatleness and had a great time. However, the Prodigal Fan always has to return home some time, and I know I’m getting into another visit home, and all sorts of little things are pointing me in the right direction.
First off, I snagged Revolver to shove on my MP3 player along with the ‘Real Love’ single. Bear in mind that all my records and cds are in boxes at the moment, waiting for me to repaint the bookcase they’re kept on, so it’s actually very hard for me to find things at the moment. I sought out Revolver and found ‘Real Love’ along with it- a single I’ve not heard for literally years… and I once listened to it so much that I still know all the words to Ringo’s spoken intro to ‘Yellow Submarine’ and all the words to John’s live intro to ‘Baby’s In Black’: “It’s a slow number, and it’s a waltz for all of you over ten.”
Then a few other little things. I found the necklace I’ve associated with George since I dreamed he gave it to me (it was actually given to me by someone else a few weeks before, but that doesn’t matter). I wore said necklace for the first time in ages and when I got home I found that had had a dream about him. Something in the way she described it was so unutterly beautiful that I had my own dream come back to me in glorious technicolour. The only way I’ve found to deal with the death of George is George himself (which I think is bitterly ironic and thinks makes sense) so I downloaded a bunch of stuff, including some videos I’ve never seen- notably ‘All Those Years Ago’ and something else live for Bob Dylan of ‘My Back Pages’ featuring several Wilburys and Neil sodding Young. The ‘My Back Pages’ bit was great- I got all upset that George wasn’t actually there, then caught a glimpse of someone towards the back of the stage. I may not have the best eyesight in the world, but nobody stands like George or holds his guitar quite like George. And nobody else on that stage dared to wear a bright purple blazer. Then there was the clip of Paul Simon on Saturday Night Live in the late 70s. He was singing ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, and he had George help out. They really do sound beautiful.
Then sometime last week I got linked to REVOLVED, which is Revolver mashed-up with other songs and is proof positive that mash-ups done well are truly stupendous creations that can put a whole new spin on something a little worn out.
Then I went online to find some guitar tab for other stuff, and ended up getting a ton of Beatle stuff- notably ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’, ‘Your Mother Should Know’ and ‘Wait’.
Then yesterday, I switched on the TV and watched some Richard And Judy. Now I have been known to watch this, but not for ages and ages. I was going to switch off and just sod off to sleep, but thought I should leave it on and see who was going to be on in the rest of the show.
The final guest was one Mr Richard Starkey, MBE. He was charming and adorable and funny as. Moreover, he also cut Richard Madeley down to size, which I LOVE to see happen. He was talking about Postcards from the Boys, which I don’t have yet but find to be beautiful and fabulous.
All of this leads me to one conclusion: I’m meant to come home for awhile. My boys are calling me back to remind me why I love them so. My boys, my everlasting boys, seem to have tired of my flirtations with the rest and are pulling me back to them, at least for awhile. Because this is rock and roll at its very, very best. Nobody understood it better than those four, and nobody did it better. Time to go home- they’re waiting for me.