The beatles

Nowhere near as miserable as I remember it: The Beatles – Let It Be reviewed

Beatles lore has long held that the film Let It Be was a depressing portrait of the band falling apart. According to the same lore, that’s why Peter Jackson’s Get Back was such a revelation. Revisiting Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s footage of the group at work in January 1969, Jackson discovered there was far more joy around than anyone suspected – including the surviving Beatles. Yoko remains a darkly brooding presence (the revisionism that sees her as benign needs its own revision) All of which, it now turns out, only goes to prove the ever-reliable power of suggestion. I vaguely remember seeing Let It Be on TV in the 1970s, before it

How Liverpool soon outgrew the Beatles

‘If any journalist asks you about the Beatles because you’re from Liverpool, say you hate them and you don’t listen to that old crap.’ Such was the advice that the DJ Roger Eagle, promoter and founder of the legendary (and there really is no other word for it) Merseyside punk club Eric’s, dispensed to a young Ian Broudie in the late 1970s. Little could either have imagined that almost simultaneously John Lennon, over in New York in the Dakota Building, was busy demo-ing ‘Now and Then’. It was a song which would resurface as the final Beatles single and top the charts some 40-odd years later, aided by a form

In the dark early 1960s, at least we had the Beatles

‘These things start on my birthday – like the Warsaw Uprising – and spoil my day,’ wrote the understandably self-pitying Barking housewife Pat Scott in her diary on the first day of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. ‘And then to spoil it more, Ted [her husband] took his driving test for the second time and failed.’ It is clashes like these, of the personal and humdrum against the political and global, that make David Kynaston’s close surveys of Britain in the second half of the 20th century such fascinating and lively documents. Yes, the world might be about to end, but that was no excuse to spoil Pat’s

What happened to the supermodels of the 1990s?

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ has become a popular question in interviews in recent years. It’s meant to generate something profound but, musing privately, I always find it a puzzler. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much of my twenties talking nonsense in pubs, but on the other hand I really enjoyed it. So I usually settle on: ‘Don’t buy a sofa bed, especially not the kind with a concealed metal frame that you pull out.’ Unbelievably, I’ve done this twice. These vast, unwieldy contraptions cost a bomb, weigh a ton, make a terrible sofa and an uncomfortable bed. If you’re 16

The phoney mystics who fooled the West

In recent years when we’ve talked about the relations between India and the West, we’ve gone back to stressing the impossibility of interchange. A hundred years ago, E.M. Forster ended A Passage to India with the certainty that Aziz and Fielding could not be friends. Forster thought things would be different after Indian independence, but the spectres of cultural appropriation and the assertion of ongoing imperialist guilt have discouraged equal exchange.  Meher’s spiritual energy was soon devoted to persuading Hollywood to make a massive movie about his life That may explain why the excellent story Mick Brown tells in The Nirvana Express has hardly been covered in the past. How

My childhood Cold War fears are back

On the day before my seventh birthday, which I spent at my grandma’s in Yorkshire, a young man named Raymond Jones walked into North End Music Stores in Liverpool and asked the guy behind the counter for a record on which an obscure local group called the Beatles provided the backing track for a song titled ‘My Bonnie’. The guy behind the counter was the shop’s manager and the son of its owner. His name was Brian Epstein, and as a restless budding entrepreneur he felt he should be alert to what was going on around him. Because of young Raymond’s evident enthusiasm, Brian made a note on a piece

More mesmerising than it should be – Disney+’s The Beatles: Get Back reviewed

My late friend Alexander Nekrassov loathed the Beatles, which I used to think was a wantonly contrary position akin to hating kittens or blue skies or Christmas carols. What could there possibly be not to like, love and admire about the band that gave us ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘A Day In the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’? Since then I’ve encountered so many Beatles sceptics that it has given me pause for thought. Some think that the Beatles were just mediocre and not nearly as talented as, say, the Kinks; some even claim that they were as manufactured as the Monkees, that like their bad-guy opposites the Stones they were a

It’s amazing how little insight Paul McCartney has into the Beatles’ genius

The Paul people are out in force these days. A New Yorker profile, a book and a new documentary have put the Beatles, and particularly Paul, back in the papers. Not that they, or he, ever left. I should admit a bias. I have the same first name as John, and being a man of straightforward loyalties I took him as my favourite early on. Even now I find him the most interesting of the four: vain, sardonic, nasty, boyish, thoughtful, wounded; bright-eyed and pugilistic and blessed with an undermining cleverness that left him bored by whatever he came across. The even-tempered Paul just doesn’t entrance me in quite the

The nearest thing to Paul McCartney’s autobiography: his guide to the Beatles’ songbook

Whatever your favourite theory of creativity, Paul McCartney has a cheery thumbs-up to offer. You think the secret is putting in the hours? ‘We played nearly 300 times in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962.’ Or could it be a wide range of cultural inputs to assimilate and remix? The Arty Beatle hoovered up Shakespeare, Dryden, not just Desmond but Thomas Dekker, Berio and Cage and rock’n’roll and light jazz, and sublimated them all. In one of the great missed opportunities, when it came to arranging ‘Yesterday’, his first thought was Delia Derbyshire. Some people credit childhood trauma: McCartney recalls how his father Jim would weep alone in a neighbouring room

James Bond and the Beatles herald a new Britain

The word ‘magisterial’ consistently attaches itself to the work of David Kynaston. His eye-wateringly exhaustive four-volume history of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street established him as a historian with a confident command of a huge body of information, as bloodless and dry as the subject was. Embarking on Tales of a New Jerusalem, a history of Britain from 1945 to 1979, he has undertaken another marathon and earned magisterial rank. Yet, from the first, Kynaston has shown that he is prepared to leave the bench to sweep the Ealing and Islington Local History Centres, Wandsworth Library, the East Riding Archives and especially that extraordinary resource, the Mass Observation Archive,

As pretty as anything he’s written in four decades: McCartney III reviewed

Grade: A- The greatest songwriter of the 20th century, or just one of the top two or three? Who else would you have up there? Kern, Gershwin, Ray Charles, maybe. Dylan for the words along with the music. But not, I think, John Lennon. It’s McCartney’s melodic imagination that captivates and sometimes staggers — ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. The Beatle it was not OK to like, and yet who, today, would prefer to hear the overwrought ‘Strawberry Fields’ to the easy, loping chime of ‘Penny Lane’? Yes, Wings were the naffest band imaginable. But even then I would take their worst album (Red Rose Speedway) over Lennon’s

No one ‘got’ the Sixties better than David Bailey

What caught my eye towards the end of Look Again was this conversation between David Bailey and the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. They are talking about a brief golden age, a perfect moment in their lives: Blahnik: So sometimes I just have to sit down and say: ‘God, did all this happen?’ All the excitement, it doesn’t exist any more, maybe because I’m old.Bailey: It’s not because you’re old. It doesn’t exist. This is the autobiography of David Bailey, as told to James Fox (‘my collaborator’). It starts with Bailey as a child in the East End, and ends with Bailey returning there as an old man. But the real

From cheeky mop tops to long-haired holy men: The Beatles come of age in America

In his latest book, the veteran pop commentator David Hepworth is concerned with satisfaction, its acquisition and maintenance. On record, satisfaction was something the Rolling Stones found notoriously hard to get — ‘an itch you could never quite scratch’. In reality, it was a commodity the groups spearheading the British invasion of the 1960s — the Stones, the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and others — discovered to be plentiful in the USA. And as Hepworth notes, it was ‘Satisfaction’ itself, a huge hit in America, which delivered the very thing Mick Jagger bemoaned the lack of in the song. In the recollection of Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone: We

Meet Dion, one of the last living links to the earliest days of rock ’n’ roll

Only two of the Beatles’ pop contemporaries are depicted on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One is Bob Dylan. The other is Dion DiMucci. In a pleasing third-act twist, Dylan contributes the liner notes to Dion’s new album Blues With Friends — an act of deference that the recipient is still processing. ‘I asked him, I didn’t know if he had the time, but he sent me back those paragraphs and said that I knew how to write a song.’ He whistles. ‘That’s from a Nobel Prize winner. I thought, I’ll take it, I’ll take it!’ So he should. Dion — like Kylie, a single moniker

The musical benefits of not playing live

Glenn Gould considered audiences ‘a force of evil’. ‘Not in their individual segments but en masse, I detest audiences.’ He retired from public performance on 10 April 1964, at the age of 31, having given fewer than 200 public recitals. The Canadian classical pianist had longstanding philosophical objections to the ritual of performing live. He found applause automatic and insincere, and often asked spectators not to bother. He even wrote a (partly) tongue-in-cheek manifesto, the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds, in which he called for clapping to be banned. Gould believed that the most useful and honest response to music came following a

Letters: The ban on public worship has enabled more of us to experience spiritual riches

Divine works Sir: Luke Coppen writes that livestreamed services ‘lack the vital communal dimension of worship’ and ‘are, at times, excruciatingly dull’ (‘Risen again’, 11 April). I would beg to differ. Catholics, at least, have had the rare opportunity to tune in to some beautifully sung Latin Masses in the Extraordinary Form which they would otherwise struggle to attend. As a Hampshire resident, for example, I have greatly appreciated the Birmingham Oratory’s livestreams. When celebrated well, these Masses are divine works of art in themselves, but are also highly prayer-focused and God-centred, with the celebrant facing the same way as the congregation — towards the altar. If anything, this pandemic

The last great purveyors of a vanishing art form: Green Day’s Fathers of All… reviewed

Grade: B+ It is an eternal mystery to me why Britain has never had much time for power pop, seeing as we gave this often charming genre to the world through the Beatles and, to a lesser extent, Badfinger. But we never really swung for it, post-Abbey Road. When power pop had its mild renaissance in late ’78, we looked away, bored, tugged by disco on the one hand and po-faced boring angular post-punk on the other. The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ — the epitome of power pop — got in the charts, sure. But there was no groundswell. In the USA it was different. Almost everything labelled punk that wasn’t

Did Radio 2 really need to give us four days of the Beatles to celebrate Abbey Road?

This Changeling Self, Radio 4’s lead drama this week, clearly ought to have gone out in August. It’s set — and was recorded — at the Edinburgh Festival and would have been a gift to marketing. ‘I love the festival!’ coos She. ‘All these millions of conversations, listen, listen, oh and stories, lots of stories, the different ways of telling…!’ No one in the real world speaks like this. But it’s just about OK, because she isn’t quite real either. She is a Fairy Queen, come to Edinburgh to spirit away a young pianist named Tam, as in Tamlin, who is a bit wet but really rather nice. The story

Distress signals

It’s an increasingly common lament that computers have ruined everything, and a longing for the days before Google and Twitter, when everything was somehow more organic and authentic, is on the rise. As someone who can remember writing early reviews on an electric typewriter and then going to the library to fax them to a literary journal, I’m partial to this kind of unplugged nostalgia myself. But it can get out of hand. So it does in this book — ambitiously titled to evoke John Berger’s classic of art criticism, Ways of Seeing — which explains that computers have wrecked music along with everything else. Early on, Damon Krukowski rails against

All you need is love | 27 June 2019

Yesterday is the latest comedy (with sad bits) from Richard Curtis, directed by Danny Boyle, about an unsuccessful singer-songwriter, Jack, who wakes up to discover that he’s the only one who remembers the Beatles so can now steal all their tunes, if he’s of that mind. Unusually for Curtis, the lead is an Asian and there is no Bill Nighy (not a sign, not a whiff), which is an advance. And there are some funny moments — when Jack first plays ‘Yesterday’ to some friends, one sniffs: ‘It’s not exactly Coldplay, is it?’ But. It’s all intertwined with a romance that is not just generic but also intolerable. Strangely, I’ve