Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Measured out my life with Beatles songs

It was fifty years ago today.  Well, last Friday to be exact. 

Love Me Do came out on 5 October 1962, and briefly charted.  If I heard it at all, I probably wrote it off as a discountable Bruce Channell copy (which it was).  The closing down of my life in Leeds, the closing down of my university career, of tenuous or endurable friendships and red-hot or chilly loves, the strange sense of loss – music had to wait in the queue once again, for a while.  But a head was building up, not just in me but everywhere.

I Saw Her Standing There.  When I got back to Southbourne in June, Beatles were everywhere, and so was a music explosion, which gleefully grabbed me, shook me up, spun me till I was dizzy, and tipped me out.   I just bummed around.  It was great.  I went to the beach – sometimes the far end of Southbourne towards Hengistbury Head; occasionally on car trips (having passed my test and annexed my mother’s side-valve 850cc red leather seated Morris Minor for my own use) to Shell Bay, across the Sandbanks ferry, where whole days could be easily, indolently wasted on beach life.  June and July and a bit of August 1963 slipped away.  Eventually, I got a job on the buses.

If I Fell.  My first band, the Trackmarks, wanted to be the Beatles.  Well, everybody did.  ‘Mania’ says it: every so often, something takes over.  I remember us leaping around on Sandbanks beach one evening as if we were in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, bothered that there were five of us because four was the only right family size.  And me feeling jealous – I wanted to have invented those chords!

Tomorrow Never Knows.  I think ‘Revolver’ coincided with my first joint, but I don’t remember this track as any kind of psychedelic experience.  In fact I remember it only for two reasons: being intrigued at the time as to how they’d managed to expend so much effort on this boring dirge; and wondering now how I managed to play it to my girlfriend in the back seat of the Morris Minor in Bedford’s Beach car park.

Strawberry Fields Forever.  Now here I did succumb to druggedness.  It had both of the elements of music I was looking for at the time, melody and sound.  And words.  That’s three.  Well, who's counting?   Right at the end of the fade, John says something.  ‘Them freaks’, as he later called them, claimed that it was ‘I buried Paul’, which was obviously nonsense.  The authorities insist that he says ‘cranberry sauce.’  I persist in my belief that what he says is ‘I’m very bored’, which he was.

Penny Lane.  1967: a long argument in the street outside the Piper club in Milan with Maurizio, the lead singer of Italy’s top group L’Equipe 84, about whether it was a piccolo trumpet or a speeded-up normal one.  I was right.  Happy days!

Let It Be.  The only Beatles song I actively hated when I heard it.
I have more ...!


  1. The Beatles punctuated my life too. I left a staid England in 1956 to go to Africa. I returned in 1960 when there were stirrings. I went to sea just as the Beatles exploded on the world. All the voyages were undertaken to Beatles music. It pervaded every ship. And things were NOT staid! What a different decade. I try to describe the sudden change in society to my children but I don't think they can comprehend it. A very meaningful blog.

  2. Nicely charted chapters, set to a Beatles soundtrack, Tim.

  3. I enjoyed reading that and look forward to reading more. This reminds be a bit of that song challenge thing that I did, only much more personal.
    I have often thought it would have been nice to have been born early enough to have know Beatle Mania. I think they split up the year I was born.
    Have you heard of this ‘People’s Songs’ thing that BBC Radio 2 are doing? click here I bet you’d have some memories to share for some of the selected tracks.

  4. Sorry, link no worky due to rogue space. For Peoples Songs click here

  5. A superb memoir, brilliant.

    I'd forgotten the red leather seats. Do you remember its registration? NLH 744. I also learned to drive in it and liberated it from mother. Whirlies in the snow on Holmsley aerodrome. Shame I wrote it off on my way to watch the Trackmarks in Southampton.

    Beatles have certainly also been the principal soundtrack to my life. I first heard Love Me Do on 208 when I used to write down the playlists in an exercise book; I think it was 15 October. Fading in and out as 208 did, I got the song title right but thought they were called the Beesles. It made an impact at the time, and ever since. Half a century - a twentieth of a millenium ~~~ crikey.

  6. I remember vividly purchasing "Hard Day's Night" LP in Woolworths*. And hearing "Day in the Life" for the first time on Radio London at 11.00 pm one night from my bed. I quite liked playing the harmonica intro for "Love me Do".
    Other than that I was totally a Stones man.
    (*LP and Woolworths - sadly missed from the lexicon today)

  7. Glad it rang some bells (even vicarious ones - Richard, I remember you remarking years ago on your kids' capacity for "vicarious nostalgia").

    I was worried after posting that I'd got the cranberry sauce bit wrong - was it in 'Walrus' rather than 'Strawberry Fields'? Would you believe that you can google 'paul mcc dead' and there's a wikipedia page?? (I was right btw - about the location that is, not necc the words - might have to listen to it again for that...)

  8. We borrowed the Morris to take us on our honeymoon in 1962. I remember we had drunk so much at the wedding that we couldn't find our way out of our home town - how times change. I came to the Beatles later as for a few years I was bogged down with screaming infants and nappies but I was always an Elvis girl in the early days.

  9. You've really hit the note again, Tim. So many memories that are punctuated with Beatles songs.