JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, RINGO and, er, me…..
This month's essay fills me with no small amount of trepidation because I'm going all mop-topped, groovy and writing about The Beatles. Why the nervousness you might ask? Surely scribbling a quick piece about the Fabs is one of the easiest things you could ever do, given the vast expanse of stuff we know about them? Well, yeah, and that's the problem really. Their every move has been so well documented and often in the most forensic detail that anything I write is mere piffle by comparison.
Then again, maybe I'm over-analyzing this, let's give it a shot anyway and see what happens….
Me and The Beatles go back a long way. My late aunt would have been aged 20 or 21 when Beatlemania first hit so she was well placed to experience the thrill of it all, and she did too although I think they lost her somewhere between "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver". Whatever, she taught me the words to "All my loving" when I was about two and a half or maybe three years old and while I was more than happy to sing it back the only catch was that I couldn't do it with anybody watching me. I'd sit on the stairs in my grandparents' house, supposedly alone, while my aunt and my mother would listen out of sight in the kitchen with the door slightly ajar. I was too young to retain any memory of this but I do clearly recall various songs as markers on the way through the 1960s and into the 70s. "Eleanor Rigby" for instance, when I hear it now reminds me of walking through the park heading to school on a dreary winter's morning. As it was released in August 1966 the song would have been on the radio quite a bit in the following months and so this would fit the memory. "The long and winding road"? Summertime in Tramore at my grandparents' holiday chalet. Why? Because it was released in May 1970. Fun this, isn't it? My mother staked her claim for "Coolest parent of the year" when she took me to see one of The Beatles movies at the old Savoy Cinema in Waterford and while she remembers this she can't quite recall which film it was, nor can I, though by a process of elimination I believe it was "Help!".
Right then, I think I've established my fandom and while I wouldn't claim to be an authority on the Fab Four, far from it, I've always prided myself on being fairly up to speed. This notion quickly fell apart a few months back when I stumbled upon a website called "Something about The Beatles". Run by writers Richard Buskin (he's English) and Robert Rodriguez (he's American), both of them authors of books about The Beatles among others, they produce podcasted shows every week or two which take the form of the two of them discussing every conceivable aspect of the Fabs, their lives, recordings, relationships within the band and with those in their orbit. For example, a recent three parter dealt with the infamous Get Back/Let it Be sessions at Twickenham which, for a trivia hound like me, was an absolute feast. Each episode they do will usually run anywhere from an hour to almost two in some cases and when I mentioned the word "forensic" a bit further back, well Richard and Robert do that with great gusto without coming across as fussy or professorial, more as the fans they so clearly are. I can't recommend them highly enough and you really should check them out. Since I've been following them it's led me to the conclusion that there's so much about The Beatles I just don't know in spite of what I previously thought, which in turn has set me off on some mighty voyages of discovery. Revisiting the "Revolver" album for instance, listening to it properly this time and realising somewhat belatedly what a masterpiece it is and how it practically re-invented the concept of the pop song and album as it was understood in 1966. Or how about "Hey Bulldog" from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack? What a song, and yet I'd never heard it up until about four months ago.
The boys did me a favour and saved me some money too. I'd been planning to shell out on Philip Norman's new McCartney biography but after they gave it the once over in a recent podcast I've thought better of it. I'll save my cash for Mark Lewisohn's comprehensive and exhaustive "Tune In : The Beatles : All These Years Volume 1"which charts the lads' progress up to 1962, with two further blockbuster volumes still to come. By the time Lewisohn gets to the end you'd expect that there'll be little else left to be said or written about The Beatles but I somehow doubt it. Any of my friends would tell you that I'm an Uber Springsteen fan but when some say to me, "CK I just can't stand him" I'm fine with that. He's not to everyone's tastes. But if I hear someone say they don't like or rate The Beatles? That's just beyond my comprehension. Put simply they rewrote the rule book. For all that John Lennon claimed not to know what all the fuss was about when they called it a day, saying "It's only a rock group that's split up, it's nothing important", I do think he was being disingenuous. They were far more than that and he knew it better than anybody.
More of the same next month, talk then!!