Good Morning Good Morning

Sergeant Pepper is easy for me to write about. It came out twelve days before my sixteenth birthday in 1967 and, thanks to Mum, my birthday present was a stereo copy of the album AND a Philips stereo record player. To let you know just how rare and cool this was at the time I was at Windsor Boys School Hamm with 650 other boys and I was the first to get a stereo record player and the first to get Sgt. Peppers; boy was I lucky.

In the weeks leading up to its release the album was widely promoted in the press and without the distractions of an England World Cup win like the year before, there was no chance of overlooking it. Living in Germany the album took a little longer to reach the shops so when my parents turned up at Boarding School on my birthday it felt like there had already been weeks of hype, then down went the needle and up went my popularity.

The track that grabbed me straight away was Good Morning Good Morning, because of the stereo effects and it also sounded recognisably Beatles. Stereo was such a novelty that lots of friends, neighbours and others came to my dorm to hear the album just to “hear the stereo effects, please.” Good Morning Good Morning ends with a great circular dog eats cat sequence where Lennon asked for each animal sound effect to be followed by one of an animal which would eat it! We teenagers lapped it up. Tally Ho!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Where do they all come from?

Revolver is tough for me to write about it as it is my favourite Beatles album; how do you deconstruct perfection without going gushingly giggly? To me it is the first time they went into a studio having mastered their craft as recording artists, thanks to George Martin, and with Paul’s musical expression having broadened, John’s lyrics having deepened and George’s playing, and confidence, developing rapidly the available palette was riotously colourful; no wonder the sleeve was in black and white. And, after his tour de force on Rain, don’t ignore Ringo’s ego-less contribution throughout the album.

Revolver came out less than one week after England won the the Football World Cup in 1966 and my story is about how Yellow Submarine became a football chant that summer. It was also released a month after my birthday, making the album too expensive to buy out of pocket money, so I had to wait to the Autumn to hear it on Billy’s record player. 1966 was also a great summer for English Pop Music and I was finally picking up a range of Pirate Radio stations, which had suddenly blossomed across Europe, on my transistor, the ipod of its day. The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, Yardbirds were in their Pop Pomp and skidding across the dial in search of the latest trogglodyte amphetamine blast was a glorious pastime; and cheap. Music always thrives when the distribution costs drop.

A sign of the collaboratively creative democracy that had broken out in the Beatles was that George got to open the album with the much misunderstood Taxman. Ringo singing the single and George kicking off the album; you say they wanted evolution well, you know, they are doing what they can! This YouTube video of Taxman is made by someone (Tony Martinger) who rates Revolver as the “bands greatest album”. And there is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album. Enjoy and return!  Read the rest of this entry »

The Word is Love

Nostalgia, the pinpricks of precise memories, can be triggered by certain smells, sensations or sounds. I have my fair share of these and also experience the ghostly effects of deja vu from time-to-time. But I always have strong images associated with pretty much everything in the Beatles catalogue, because they came out when I was young and impressionable. Day Tripper reminds me of the sudden hush descending on the queue I was waiting in for a haircut at Boarding School the day after it was released and we finally got to hear it. We Can Work It Out reminds me of chipping my brother Dave whilst playing football in the garden with him.

Rubber Soul simultaneously reminds me  of being in Boarding School, where I heard it, and of escaping from there, where it pointed; Signpost and direction. Rubber Soul was the first Beatles album I bought and so was the first I took to heart and spent time decoding the unknown world it was revealing to me.  Unlike the couple of other albums I had at the time it didn’t seem to be offering me a bunch of catchy songs for entertainment, but rather to be grappling with the malleable human condition; Rubber Soul indeed. When The Beatles had sung Please Please Me they were actually trying to please us. However, with Unbutchered remaining unreleased,  Rubber Soul was the first album that said, hey we are different and we have something original to say. This time their artistry, and that alchemy which was typical of the Beatles studio work, had something to work on and the quality to realise it. A defining characteristic of the Beatles was anticipating trends and this time the Byrds lookalikes on the sleeve were ahead of the hippie revolution. Consequently for me The Word (Love) is the exemplar track. My story is about hearing it and the actions it inspired.  Read the rest of this entry »

Eight Arms to Hold You

HELP! is a great mid-period Beatles album, they must have had a lot of free time to work on the songs as they hold up so well. This is Rubber Soul; the Prequel with some terrific songs. This time Lennon didn’t hide his personal problems on the album like he did seven months earlier on Beatles for Sale; his cry for HELP! was the single AND the title of the film. In his own write Lennon produced another single overnight. How many classics like this did he knock off when he wasn’t working? Unfortunately for me back then my family had moved to Germany between the release of the single in July 1965 and the release of the album and film in August, so it took me some months before I heard one and saw the other. My story is about the first time I saw HELP! the movie.

I was 14 and I had to go to an British Army Boarding School in Germany (see story) where my dorm was fairly rough and had no record player. We had just one transistor radio between us and, over the British Forces Broadcasting Service heard the Top Twenty chart once a week. Singles remained the best way of hearing what was still called Pop Music. The only way I heard any albums was through Billy, a lad in my year, who was in another house, in a separate building and who had that all important record player. We were highly regimented at school and kept busy doing loads of stuff, especially sport, so it took time to make friends outside of your house. Billy, like Danny in the story, was a bit of a contrarian, but he loved Dylan, Them and I’m A Loser, the B-side of HELP! Luckily he loved HELP! the album too, as he saw it as Dylan influenced and so could assert his primus inter pares. Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles in Black

Ah, so Beatles for Sale is the album that seemed to find the Fabs in Midas in reverse mode. Not even the 10,000 hours of hard graft in learning their craft could save them. Malcolm Galdwell’s claim that they had “outlier” genius looked like it was being put on hold. They may have had nothing to declare but their genius, but they were knackered mate. Where had my happy chappies gone?

Well I have to confess that I have never heard the Beatles for Sale album, ever. Even now, no-one has sat me down and said listen to this. Tony would have done so of course, but his family had recently moved and we had lost our oracle of all things Beatle. Just when the Beatles suffered a dip we lost the one true-hearted fan who would have played it endlessly and explained it to us weaker hearts. When I finally heard What You’re Doing on Love my first thought was that it must have been an outtake they hadn’t even bothered to include on Anthology.

It being 1964 and Beatles for Sale being a Christmas release it was, remarkably, the best selling album of 1964. However at the time singles were outselling albums by 4 to 1 and I had finally been able to save up the money to buy I Feel Fine on the day it came out. I was broke after that and could only afford Beatles albums as presents anyway. Somehow my first bike seem more exciting than the glumsome foursome. For a year we had thought they were glib cheeky chappies cheering up our black and white Britain but now they had gone monochrome; Beatles in Black. Read the rest of this entry »