For some people, at some times, it’s the same time all over the world. Or something. You think you’re a geek and nobody else has noticed… but, of course, when it comes to The Beatles, there are a million geeks. A footnote in a book about the fabs has been on my mind for years. Then its author came to town. By Alan O’Hare.
I was sat at a Q&A inside The Beatles Story last night. It was cold outside, with lights everywhere around Albert Dock, and the Irish Sea was biting hard. The kind of night when collars are up and heads are down. Winter, I suppose, and everybody’s simply having a wonderful Christmas time (two words, Paul). It was apt. Because, to me, The Beatles are like Christmas.
Let me explain… if you grew-up in the eighties and saw that film ‘Santa Claus’, the one with Dudley Moore and John Lithgow, then I guess you were told the same thing that I was as a kid: the fella’ playing Father Christmas in the film was the real deal. I still can remember the magical feeling in my stomach when he came on screen. I get the same feeling (still) when The Beatles appear on my screen or in my ears. And it’s a feeling I never want to lose… because those Fabs are magical.
They really are. So, and this is particularly hard in Liverpool, I keep them magical. I don’t listen to them on a Tuesday night. I don’t have them on my iPod for journeys. I don’t visit the tourist traps (well, I walk by Penny Lane every day, but I live there). I make time for them… you know? They’re like Christmas because I listen to them, properly listen to them, once a year. I always have. It starts with a late night writing session and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Then we go through the catalogue over a week or so, take in the solo stuff and best ofs, and finish with that ‘Love’ album (it’s great that you know, honest, Ringo’s drums… go ‘ead). I don’t listen to ‘Let It Be Naked‘, like, I’m not that strange.
Anyway… magic. It’s a tough ingredient to find in music and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve read that much about Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, I know more about them than their shrinks. I know where the bass amp was on every session for ‘Definitely Maybe’. I could tell you the serial number of the Fairlight CMI synthesizer Kate Bush used throughout the eighties. And did you know Smokey Robinson’s mum’s nan’s dog’s… you get it. But John, Paul, George and Ringo have never lost their intrigue for me. Apple and the likes of Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono, Olivia and Dhani Harrison have all done a great job of what is now known as ‘brand protection’. In short, they’re just on the right side of not putting too much shite out (‘Let It Be Naked‘ aside). They look after their own very well.
But this is where it gets interesting. The Q&A I was at last night was with the author Mark Lewisohn and was essentially a PR thing to plug his latest book. Very interesting it was, too, and he remains an awesome authority on all things Fab, as we already know. By the way, expect the final volume of his three-set ‘All These Years’ Beatles anthology in around 2030… honest. He revealed he’s only now starting to write volume two after collating material since the publication of the inaugural book, ‘Tune In’, back in 2013. It’s that first book I want to talk about, though…
Turn to page 130 and look at the footnote insert. It’s always bothered me and last night Lewisohn acknowledged the reveal and told the few dozen of us gathered that it eats away at him as well. The addendum in question is entitled ‘Was Woolton fete the first time John met Paul? A riddle in two paragraphs’. Basically, Lewisohn reveals a scenario where Paul McCartney met John Lennon way before Woolton etc. and the two actually spoke (unlike McCartney’s foggy memories of perhaps, maybe, once, seeing Lennon on the bus). It was at 166 Aigburth Road and a shop called ‘Abbas’, where Macca (maybe) had a paper round. “There’s merely the possibility to digest… ” the note ends. It’s tantalising and has remained lodged in the minds of a couple of mates and I since publication. The author told us last night that McCartney will often give friends and family private tours of his old haunts when he comes to the city and this is probably where the story was first muted. Lewisohn also told us that when he brought it up to Paul, the bass player ignored him. What does it all mean?
You might be reading this and thinking I’ve lost my marbles. You might be thinking ‘who gives a shit’. I suspect not, though, as The Beatles remain magical to us in this most magical of places and the idea that Paul, the McCartneys, The Beatles, Apple and whoever else have stayed ‘on message’ all these years is tantalising. If they did meet, gab and make plans, why the secrecy? And, if they didn’t, why is it given credence in ‘Tune In’ – by far the most authoritative and exhausting of all Beatles research (written by an ex-employee of both EMI and MPL) – and why is Macca mentioning it to those he loves as he drives his car around town?
It’s a mystery. It’s magical. And it was born on a tour. Now, where are those records…
‘The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night: A Private Archive’ is out now
Pic courtesy Charles Hawtrey