Voltarol - related music

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Me and 'The Lads'

My good friend Mike is a bit of a Beatles fan to say the least and since I’ve started writing this blog he has asked me more than once – “Do you think you’ll be writing anything about ‘The Lads’? Well Mike, the time has come and this has been indirectly prompted by the release yesterday of the complete remastered Beatles’ recordings. I say ‘indirectly’ because I probably wouldn’t be writing this if another Beatle enthusiast friend of mine hadn’t just splashed out on a complete set of the new issues. Big Al (for it was he), knowing that I was fond of their work and only owned two of their albums, has just donated his complete collection of the previous versions to me. Thanks Al! Anyway, it all set me to thinking about the Fab Four and how they affected me.

As I’ve related elsewhere in these pages (see Pop and Me) I was never really a pop music enthusiast, so I was somewhat underwhelmed by the first Beatles singles. I do remember though that I was quite impressed by their TV appearances and thought that there was something a bit different about them. Even though at that time they were including a few show tunes in their stage repertoire, they did not have the cheesiness of Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele and the like. One did not get a sense with The Beatles their music was just a stepping stone to full ‘showbiz’ careers. There were no cries of “I want to become an all-round entertainer” as parodied so wonderfully in the 1950’s Peter Sellers sketch “So little time” written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden.

The first single that actually grabbed my attention was ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. I liked the way the melody developed into an interesting bridge and I liked the harmonies and the riffs – although not enough to actually buy it. But that record put them firmly on my radar and from then on I was a Beatle watcher.

I got a job in a record shop in 1964 (see (High) Street Life) and one of the first albums I promoted was 'A Hard Day's Night'. (I can't give you a link for this. One of the quirks of the Blogger/Wikipedia relationship is the inability of Blogger to make sense of Wiki links that contain apostrophes. Someone might like to investigate that...) This was definitely a musical step forward and the album was frequently on the shop turntable. I also went to see the movie ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hard_Day's_Night_(film) see previous observations about apostrophes!) and found it hugely enjoyable. No Summer Holiday this: it felt quite real and unshowbizzy, and the black and white cinematography gave it a great atmosphere. I watched it again recently and still found it highly likeable some 45 years later.

Beatles for Sale, Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver followed - each better than its predecessor. The film of Help itself was poor by comparison with ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and certainly didn’t stand the test of time for me when I tried to watch it again recently. I kicked it into touch after about 40 minutes. But then came the masterwork – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Cub Band.

By June 1967 I was in a band myself and working regularly (see Music in a jugular vein). All four band members assembled at Muff (the jug player)’s house and listened to the album together. Muff owned a better hi fi system than the rest of us – a Bang and Olufsen turntable and amplifier with a pair of Radford speakers – and we sat on the sofa in a row, like an audience in a theatre whilst we listened awestruck to the album. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I now think that ‘Revolver’ has the edge on ‘Pepper’ as far as the music goes, but the record-making process was completely reinvented by that album.

Those for me were the ‘Glory Days’. Their remaining output was never quite in the same class as the music from 'Rubber Soul' onwards, although it still stood head and shoulders above everything else that was happening at that time – or at least, that’s how I felt about it then. Thanks to Big Al I am now about to embark on a marathon revisit to their material and I shall be writing about it in the very near future. Now, where did I put that Beatle jacket?