We’re Leaving Home

1969 – Nothings Gonna Change My World

In 1969 the Art Collective known as The Beatles imploded; more precisely the “Musical Instrument known as The Beatles”, as Brian Eno would characterise them, no longer had Brian Epstein to care of the business. In 1968 they really had taken care of the music and taken care of business, after a fashion. The Beatles had triumphed musically, but it hadn’t really been recognised; Lennon, left fuming at the end of 1968, shared his pain in a lengthy interview to a student, recently published in New Statesman. They had taken care of Business by launching Apple Corps and Apple Records, but they couldn’t hang on to the money they were making. Despite making the music/business equation work in 1968 it was to tear them apart during 1969. Not least because their work as creators of, and commentators on, the sixties was done. They didn’t fully understand how they had achieved that, and we didn’t get it at the time either. Read the rest of this entry »

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69; In The Court of Abbey Road

Part 7 of Learning…With The Beatles

And in the End their swansong was introduced by a great rock performance as The Beatles did finally Come Together. They returned to their nest at Abbey Road and produced what often sounds like, in the 21st Century, their greatest album, because of the quality of the recordings they captured in Abbey Road Studio 2. Abbey Road was both their spiritual home and their creative playground. It was the very specific place where both their craft in producing music and their accumulated tacit knowledge in playing the studio, produced the universal music we are still listening to today. “Home” had been a key theme of Get Back, for the scousers who had changed the world and had also been our surrogate, provincially English, champions in the class war of the sixties; they needed sanctuary from the forces amassing against them and perhaps became nostalgic for the simple verities of rock n’roll.

Ultimately they did return home; not to Liverpool however but to Abbey Road. They ennobled their prolifically creative craft centre by naming their last album after it. EMI ultimately returned the compliment by renaming their recording studio Abbey Road after the album. It is now simply known as Abbey Road Studios, and remains a key Beatles shrine for their enduring fanbase, a flash mob met there in August 2009 to celebrate the albums 40th anniversary, and the studio has a webcam pointed at the famous crossing where the Fab Four popped outside, as they had done for the rooftop concert, and crossed over into middle age ending their career on a pedestrian crossing. Read the rest of this entry »

Got To Be Free

1969. Groups had caught up with The Beatles, so many of them were releasing albums, and ambitious albums at that; the Sgt Pepper template was having an effect. New labels like Harvest were set up to exploit this and Island was growing its artistic dynasty, supergroups like Blind Faith were creating a new kind of musical offer and groups like The Who were taking Art School to the Opera. And all this after 1968 had seen an extra-ordinary flowering of live music across the UK on the new music circuit of Student Unions. They didn’t want variety they wanted rock. I went regularly to York University where a typical gig had four bands such as, Pink Floyd, Yes, Social Deviants and the Idle Race (Jeff Lynne), all on the same bill. Led Zeppelin picked up from Cream, I was obsessed with Jack Bruce, Jethro Tull had matured, the Moody Blues had gone progressive. Having a world class band on the top of their game encouraged the others, check Marmalade Skies for more info, but the Beatles were surrounded. I had just left school and my music tastes had changed. I now preferred live music, by real authentic musicians, who could play their albums live.

However the Beatles, as ever, scored a coup with the release of Abbey Road. They had it previewed on BBC2, on Late Night Line Up, a kind of suave version of That Was The Week That Was, the aesthete’s response to swingin London. And they had made a special film to accompany Abbey Road, which now seems to have been lost by the Beeb!

In a weird inversion of the first time my family sat down and watched the Beatles on the Royal Variety Show the eighteen year old me sat down and watched it with my Mum and Dad. They knew it was acceptable because it was on the “posh” station. This time my Dad didn’t get angry, he got bored, it was late night TV, pretty rare in those days. Mum faithfully kept me company as I watched the colour film in black and white; didn’t work for Magical Mystery Tour either. Kicking off with Come Together, which seems to get better over the years, Abbey Road would reveal itself as a grower. Read the rest of this entry »