This week my OH and I toddled off to the flicks to see Yesterday – making full use of our Meerkat Movies concession, which is one we don’t use that often as there are so few films that we both seem to want to see. However, once we saw the director was Danny Boyle and the screenplay was by Richard Curtis, to be honest we were sold before you threw in the Beatles. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s based on the premise that struggling singer songwriter Jack Malik is the only one who remembers the Beatles. This is achieved my means of a mysterious global blackout which results in Jack being knocked off his bike in freak bus accident. When he wakes up, he gradually comes to realise that when no-one understands his cultural references, or worse still, have never heard the song Yesterday when he performs it. Realising he can perform the work of one, (if not THE), greatest band in the world to an audience that is eagerly lapping up his ‘output’ makes him consider exactly what he wants from life. The fame and fortune that beckons, or the love and friendship he’d be giving up by following what he believed was his dream.
I’ve seen mixed reviews of the film, some claiming it didn’t really fully explore the science fantasy aspect of it, or questioned whether a modern world would happily take to the Beatles nearly 50 years on. Quite frankly, I think the fact that Richard Curtis wrote the screenplay tells me all I need to know. Essentially it’s a rom-com, just look at the poster, does it suggest anything else? As a medium for performing the music of the Beatles, it works. I don’t really care that the time slip/global memory wiping wasn’t explored, or that the film questioned the relevance, or not, of Please Please Me. Though try telling me that Eleanor Rigby hasn’t stood the test of time lyrically and that’s a different matter. The whole concept is just fantastic anyway, so sit back, enjoy and for 2 hours just ignore the whole chaotic mess that is playing out on the global, and national level stage right now. It’s a piece of joyous escapism and there is nothing wrong with that. Without giving any spoilers there is also a controversial scene which plays upon the alternative universe aspect. I was happy to accept it and it really brought a lump to my throat. For someone who grew up with the Beatles it was a wonderful trip down memory lane and reminded me just what fabulous music they produced and how both collectively and individually they played a part in my life. So thank you Yesterday and the Beatles – you really were ‘fab’.
My earliest memories go back to 1963. I have distinct memories of visiting Edinburgh with my parents as we’d been visiting my Dad’s wider family in Kincardine Bridge. We were looking in a shop window when from somewhere (possibly the shop) the sounds of Please Please Me filled the air and I recognised it as the Beatles. Prior to this my big music love had been Frank Ifield (I could, if pushed, probably still sing (if not yodel) songs that most people haven’t heard of). But 1963 was the year that the Beatles hit the big time. If they’d reached me in Hull, they must have been big. For my birthday that year the only thing I wanted was a Beatles guitar badge. I’d seen them in a shop when I’d been out with my mum, and for my birthday my dad took me to buy one – I probably got something else as well but who knows? Those were the days when you largely got what you were given – a rule that applied to food, clothes and presents, liking or actually wanting them was a bonus. There were 5 badges in the set, each containing either a picture of the group, or individual Beatles. We went in the shop and the woman behind the counter got the box off the shelf and asked me which one I wanted, or did I want them all. I now understand she was asking me whether I wanted an individual Beatle badge or the group, but I didn’t understand then. I thought she meant all 5 badges. I knew I couldn’t have them all, but the question had thrown me and I didn’t know what to say – I was only five, just! Cue one impatient dad as I then got flustered, dithered and couldn’t decide between John Lennon or Paul McCartney – probably a life long dilemma. Any way I picked John and I still have my little plastic badge (sans pin) languishing in a drawer.
In the same year, I also acquired a copy of Meet the Beatles, a Star Special magazine. That too is packed safely away in one of the myriad boxes that never seemed to be unpacked when we moved here nearly 29 years ago. As a matter of curiosity, before I sat down to write this, I had a quick Google to see what my treasures are worth, needless to say I won’t be retiring any day soon. A pristine badge with card attached fetches circa £30 and a copy of the magazine can be bought on ebay for £4. That copy also doesn’t have my name scribbled through it to further detract from it’s value.
Surprisingly I didn’t have any singles at the time – not sure we even possessed a record player if I’m honest, I don’t remember music being played until a few years later. I suspect because much of the music we played was bought by my dad and until I was 6/7 he was still in the Royal Navy so not at home that often.
I was obviously fickle as a child, because when The Monkees appeared, the Beatles were toast. Not even John or Paul could compete with Davy Jones. Beside which they were becoming a little less clean cut. The ‘fab four’ were starting to experiment musically and otherwise, and I’m not sure that my parents were so keen for my 8 year old self to be following them so keenly anyway.
Ah the 70’s definitely a different time. When Ringo released You’re Sixteen in 1973, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid about the appropriateness of singing those lyrics in his 30’s! I didn’t buy that one though, I bought Photograph, which I didn’t realise until much later was co-written with George. The 70’s saw Paul and John take different paths musically and attractively. While I might have nodded sagely and agreed with John’s stance on things politically, in 1973 I was 15. I was in love with David Cassidy and Paul McCartney was also pretty hot so Paul beat John hands down. For Christmas 1973 I got Band on the Run and couldn’t have been happier. Prior to that, unwrapping an LP was fraught with danger as there was always the possibility it was one of those hideous Top of the Pops cover compilations. Cue rictus grin and knowing you’d have to show willing and listen to the damn thing. But no, Band on the Run was ‘the’ LP to have and had the added bonus of an image of John Conteh on the cover – those raging teenage hormones had to have an outlet somewhere. Christmas 1976 and my parents were on a roll and got it right again with Wings over America. Around this time I also acquired my first Beatles LP when I bought Rubber Soul. I’d like to tell you it was because I was starting to appreciate the finer points of music and appreciating the poetry of Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics. That however would be a lie, I bought it because David Cassidy said it was his favourite LP!
OK this is the time to admit it, in 1977 I bought Mull of Kintyre and still hear it with fondness, if not sometimes a few tears. In the 70’s we used to go on holiday to the same place in Argyll, Scotland. My dad had Scottish ancestry, so we were brought up with strong reminders of that. When England played Scotland at anything, we always supported Scotland, dad was learning to play the bagpipes and I was getting into Scottish folk music. I’ve always been partial to bagpipes anyway, just like I’m a sucker for a brass band. I think it’s something deep in the psyche that comes to the surface and leaves me with goosebumps when you hear them. Anyway Campbeltown was one of the places we used to visit when on holiday (always on the look out for Paul – just in case, as he lived in nearby Machrihanish) so when Mull of Kintyre was released, featuring the Campbeltown Pipe Band it ticked all the boxes. Now that dad is no longer with us, and those holidays are a distant memory it stirs up a jumble of memories and emotions and whatever it’s musical merits, I won’t have a word said against it.
In February 1976 The Beatles 9 year contract with EMI came to an end. EMI had retained the right to reissue anything they wanted from the back catalogue and they promptly released 23 singles. Amazingly all 23 singles charted and in the charts for Sunday 4 April all were in together. A piece of pop trivia for you now, Yesterday was never previously released as single in the UK. In April that year, I turned 18 and my then boyfriend bought me the singles, which for the most part are still in pristine condition as I doubt most of them were ever actually played.
I suspect for all Beatles fans the date that will always be uppermost in the mind is 8th December 1980. At the time I was in my first year as a student at Stirling University. I’d gone as a mature student having not gone at 18 – largely due to not wanting to leave the aforementioned boyfriend. Not such a bad decision as it turned out. When I finally went, I went for all the right reasons and not just because it was the next ‘step’. I was much more confident and ready to go. It was also where I met my OH (aforementioned boyfriend had long since bit the dust) so I guess it was destiny! But back to 8th December. I remember putting on the radio and was stunned into silence by the news that John Lennon was dead. Not only dead, but murdered having been shot, by someone we were later to learn just wanted his twisted 5 minutes of fame. It seemed unbelievable and I went up the corridor to see my then friend. When she opened the door I all I could say was “he’s dead, John Lennon’s dead”. What she said was as shocking to me, as the news – her response was “Who’s John Lennon?”. Well the world was in do doubt as to John’s contribution to music and the world by the end of that day.
I guess the 1980’s also have to be remembered for a less momentous reason, the release in 1984 of We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus. I think that finally marked the parting of the ways between Paul and me and we’ve never made it up.
Bringing things back up to date. The film’s credits played out to Hey Jude, and we both had a little moment, as this has another personal connection. We lost my father in law in 2012, and he was called Jude. The night before the funeral, the family, both close and from further afield were gathered at the hotel and in true Irish fashion someone started the singing. After several Irish favourites, inevitably Hey Jude was sung.
Sitting through the credits and thinking about the film and the music, stirred up so many memories (as you can see). Sometimes, you just forget what an impact people or places or music has had on your life. The film was not only a nostalgic reminder of how good the Beatles were, but also made me remember aspects of my life. So to quote another famous super group “thank you for the music”. To close here’s my five favourite Beatles tracks – in no particular order (you know I like doing things in Fives!). What’s your favourite.
And I Love Her (A Hard Day’s Night) 1964
In My Life (Rubber Soul) 1965
Eleanor Rigby (Revolver + single) 1966
For No One (Revolver) 1966
She’s Leaving Home (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) 1967