Marigold Says...

Random thoughts on travelling and life in general.

Brexit and The Beatles

G Says...

Someone asked me today how many toilet rolls i have stockpiled. How intrusive! Answer, none, but I felt almost ashamed to confess I was not in panic mode over the seemingly limitless conjecture inspired by Brexit. This provoked my unwanted interrogator into a frenzy of instruction aimed at my woeful and inadequately briefed self.

Rather a lot of it.

She went on and on, barely pausing for breath. Such passion, I thought. Why pick on me, i thought. In the face of this verbal assault thoughts were all I had to offer.

The gist of this diatribe was, more or less: If Brexit turns out to be a dystopian nightmare, the polar opposite of a utopian ideal world we were promised but now revealed once and for all as being exclusive to dreamland and a few deluded politicians, what should we do about it?

What indeed?

I confess I didn’t get as far as the conclusion; I’d long since switched my attention span elsewhere. Obviously, I retained my expression of rapt interest and boundless gratitude for her efforts to explain how best I should adapt to inevitable catastrophe. Or triumph. Whichever conclusion she reached.

Assuming she did.

Eventually.

The same woman said, greeting me in the manner of one finding a war zone refugee long since given up as dead by all who knew him, ‘not seen you for a while’. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met the woman before.

‘You’re very zen, aren’t you?’ She added at one point. Accusingly. I must have still been paying attention at that point as I remember it clearly. Well, if by that she meant I have a tendency to appear relaxed and relatively unconcerned about things that I cannot change - surely the essence of ‘zen’ - then I suppose I am.

I try to reserve my capacity for getting actively involved to aspects of life where I have some prospect of actually influencing events. Having one’s attitude to life diminished in such a fashion can be disconcerting. This no doubt well intentioned woman appeared bent in converting me to her point of view and was evidently concerned at my apparent indifference.

A tad harshly, I thought, she’d seen overwhelming evidence of existential nihilism: a belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value where every aspect of humanity is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely ever to change.

All this from a passioned diatribe on the subject of Brexit with minimal imput from me.

Conversing with strangers can be hard work. Enduring a monologue even harder. When what amounts to verbal assault is accompanied by pedantry, one of the many irritants that assail me on a daily basis, I sometimes marvel at my own capacity to avoid spontaneous combustion.

A classic example: this tiresome creature said at one point, ‘I would say I should reiterate, but of course the word iterate is perfectly adequate for the purpose.’ This made me grind my teeth.

Yes, of course, reiterate is merely a hyper correction tagged onto a perfectly adequate word that already means to repeat or perform again an action, but is there any need to point this out other than as a means of demonstrating some imagined intellectual superiority?

A psychologist would term this aspect of human behaviour as the Dunning–Kruger Effect: in essence being ignorant of one’s own failings and offering up a version of oneself at variance with actuality. Most of us fail to acknowledge we’re not as clever as we imagine.

I certainly do.

It’s tiresome when a presumption of self worth is so widely removed from how others view us. I offer in evidence the woman making it her duty to inform and instruct me today on subjects about which her actual knowledge is vastly less than my own.

Sometimes, being ‘British’ and striving to maintain a façade of ‘good manners’ is a curse. I referenced psychology as the woman bending my ear with relentless zeal digressed from Brexit for a moment to tell me she was addicted to painkillers prescribed for MDD. My understanding of MDD, major depressive disorder, is that painkillers would be an unlikely remedy for what is in layman’s term, depression.

Having spent what seemed many days listening to the lady’s various ‘issues’ I suspect anhedonia, a complete inability to experience pleasure while participating in what others regard as pleasurable activities to be a specific diagnosis.

I read about anhedonia earlier this morning in a magazine article and am now expert on the subject. That’s the Dunning–Kruger Effect in action. Fortunately, I have no medical qualifications at all, therefore I am unlikely to offer such insightful diagnosis assistance to everyone I meet.

One has to occupy one’s mind in some way while a complete stranger is sounding off with such vigour. I wished Marigold had been there to witness my monumental fortitude.

‘That’s you told,’ Marigold said as we walked swiftly away. She’d disappeared just after our toilet roll stocks had been questioned, abandoning me to twenty minutes of purgatory. ‘You’re getting better at pretending to look interested though. Didn’t fool me for a minute, but she’s got you down as a convert now, so one of you was happy at least.’

This whole Brexit debate is wearisome. I hold strong opinions on the subject, as I do with many others, but prefer to keep my views to myself. Others with deeply entrenched viewpoints elect to offer up their perceived wisdom to everyone they meet.

The recent EU elections have only increased the level of intensity. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is an amateur psephologist. If only they would refrain from sounding off at me. I must have features that suggest extreme gullibility or an apparent burning desire to learn from others far wiser than myself. In reality, neither of these presumed qualities have ever been present.

 

 

There’s more...

I read in the paper today, in one of those ‘on this day’ sections commonly used to pad out newspaper content, that The Beatles Album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was released 52 years ago on 26 May 1967.

Fifty-two years!

Not an early offering either, their eighth album in fact, and Beatles had long since become a world wide phenomenon by the time Sergeant Pepper came along.

Even so, fifty two years is a very long time. I put down the newspaper and went rummaging.

I kept a diary for two years in that period of adolescence where irrational and pointless acts were the norm. That was a very long time ago. I found them while clearing out my dad’s loft, dating back to 1961 and 1962. After a quick glance, they were put on one side. I just found them again.

Pure gold!

We’re in Newquay today. We lived here in the far off 1960s. Life was very different then. I had long hair, a spectacular moustache and a view of the world best described as relaxed. Marigold was the same, only without the moustache.

On Towan Headland, with the Atlantic Hotel as a backdrop, is a plaque commemorating the visit to Newquay of The Beatles in 1967. They were filming what I remember as a pretty dreadful and self indulgent film, Magical Mystery Tour and spent several days in the area.

We met a couple recently who were ‘extras’ in the film, only their mothers would have even noticed them, who told us about a hilarious segment involving Ivor Cutler only a very small section of which ever made the final cut.

I would class Ivor Cutler among the most idiosyncratic people I ever met. At that time I was playing Sunday League football for a pub team in Twickenham and surrounded by very odd people. Eric Sykes, Jimmy Edwards and Bill Oddie were pub ‘regulars’ and Ivor Cutler made occasional appearances, especially on Burns Night as the landlord was a fellow Scot.

For many years Marigold and I quoted some of his sayings. ‘Never knowingly understood’ was a favourite and for many years I kept a sticky label handed to me in the bar one night bearing the legend ‘to remove this label take it off.’

Okay, maybe you had to be there.

Our goalkeeper, when not off on the road touring, was Jake Thackray. As a goalkeeper he was a very fine poet and songwriter! If you get the chance to read the words of a Jake Thackray song you may appreciate the influence he had on an entire generation of songwriters. As a writer of verse or prose he broke all known ‘rules’ and yet the end result was nothing short of genius.

Far later in life, as a writer myself by then, I was told I ‘broke too many rules’ by the esteemed Literary Editor of a major publishing house. I disregarded her advice and never regretted it. What did a mere Editor know compared to the wisdom of a not very good goalkeeper?

My first public snog with a complete stranger was in Liverpool. In the Cavern Club, no less. She was a fair bit older than me, 25 or so and I would have been 15, she was well supplied with alcohol, it was very crowded, hot, smoky and very, very loud. Matters did not progress as the main attractions were just coming on stage and not even snogging a 15 year old could compete with the Beatles.

I remember that night so well. December 23rd 1961 as recorded in my diary, an ‘All-Nighter’ at the Cavern Club, the original one not the recent mock-up, in Matthew Street, Liverpool. I was still at school, stayed until dawn was about to break, had to walk home as there were no buses running and had spent all my money anyway, got into massive trouble when I finally got back.

It was worth it.

The Cavern Club was mainly a jazz club in those days, but there were a couple of guest bands that the whole city was talking about. The jazz was dire, old people’s music, but there were these other bands who were LOUD and exciting. The place was packed, it always was, and I can’t remember anything that had happened in my life until then that even came close to those nights.

The bands – we’d only just started to use the word ‘groups’ – oh yeah, there were Gerry and the Pacemakers, Johnny Sandon and the Searchers and a scruffy bunch who’d recently changed their name to The Beatles.

I worshipped John Winston Lennon from the start, as did everybody else in my class at school. Paul McCartney looked young enough to still be in my class, Stuart Sutcliffe was the epitome of cool and all the girls screamed over Pete Best.

Gerry Marsden was a proper singer, even then I remember thinking he had a great voice, while Johnny Sandon – always Johnny Sandon AND the Searchers – was a tosser. He left the Searchers shortly before they went on to fame and fortune.

I saw the Beatles several times in those early days, still well before they achieved global fame. At New Brighton Tower Ballroom and at the Cavern Club. During this time Stu Sutcliffe died of a brain haemorrhage and Ringo replaced Pete Best as drummer. Both events were major talking points in Liverpool even if the wider world remained largely disinterested.

Stu Sutcliffe wasn’t destined to be a musician and had already returned to his first love, art, by the time if his untimely death, but I can still remember how well audiences reacted when he sang Love me Tender, Elvis reborn with a Scouse accent. As for Pete Best, lets just say Ringo’s arrival as his replacement wasn’t well received and the chants for ‘Pete’ were still ringing out months after Ringo took his place behind the drum kit.

I put stars around 1st July 1962, it marked the date the music world was finally handed over to my generation; the first night at the Cavern Club without a jazz element. The Beatles, The Swinging Blue Jeans (I drew a turd next to their name – its recognisable nature serving as both critical opinion of their performance and precursor of the ‘surely there has been some mistake’ O Level Art qualification I would gain within the next year) were the performers on stage along with Sounds Incorporated about whom I remember nothing and, oh joy, the one man who out-shone even John Lennon for an impressionable youth, Gene Vincent.

Clad in black leather, mike stand swinging around within inches of the audience, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Magical and I’m feeling the goose bumps as I write this.

 

 

Yes,  there’s even more...

We drove along the promenade at New Brighton a while ago, so much a part of my youth, along with so many of my generation. The magnificent art deco outdoor baths, where I’d learnt to swim and first plucked up the courage to hurl myself into space from the high board, have long since gone, along with the outdoor fun fair. Fort Perch Rock still looks impressive, but the other crowning glory, the pier, is no more.

Amongst the clutter abandoned in my dad’s loft was a scruffy programme, dated 21st June 1962, from the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton. In its heyday, long before my time, the Tower Ballroom was a real landmark as it originally featured a huge Tower modelled on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, completed in 1900. The Tower, at that time, was the highest structure in Britain, 567 feet high. NB. I looked this up – not even my ability to retain vast numbers of useless facts is up to the task of remembering the precise details of high buildings. I do have a faint recollection that George Harrison’s grandfather had been employed as a doorman at the original Tower, but don’t quote me on that!

One of the largest ballroom facilities on Merseyside, able to accommodate many thousands, I knew The Tower Ballroom best as a venue for that new phenomenon of the early sixties, ‘groups.’

Brian Epstein was the promoter of the event on 21 June 1962. Top of the bill was Bruce Channel – ‘Hey Baby’ for those with long memories – backed by Delbert McLinton and the Barons. The Beatles, second billing in those early days, were advertised as ‘Parlophone recording artistes.’

A Bolton group,The Statesmen were next on the bill, followed by the Big Three and the Four Jays. I remember The Big Three very well – until that point they’d ranked just below Rory Storm & the Hurricanes as my second favourite group; The Beatles having been my favourites from the first day I saw them at The Cavern Club.

The Big Three were terrible that night. I know this because I wrote ‘rubbish’ next to their name in the programme. Nothing else, just that one word – ‘rubbish.’ Sad, really. They may have had an off night, perhaps the equipment was playing up, all that remains is my verdict, ‘rubbish.’ I was very evidently a stern critic, inclined to brevity.

Many years later I read that Delbert McLinton encouraged John Lennon to play the harmonica by teaching him the passage from ‘Hey Baby.’ When the Beatles came to record ‘Love Me Do’, their first record to hit the charts, John Lennon played the harmonica riff. The harmonica lesson must have happened that evening.

History in the making.

I was there.

The bus to the Pier Head, the ferry cross the Mersey -to coin a phrase – the excitement mounting with every step along New Brighton Pier, then the bright lights of the Tower ballroom, the milling crowds. I remember it all so well.

It’s all gone now. TheTower Ballroom burnt down in 1969, the outdoor funfair I remembered chiefly for the Ghost Train, Hall of Mirrors and lime green cream soda in a glass bottle sealed with a marble gone too, replaced by a housing estate.

End of an era. Gone, but not forgotten.

There’s a commemorative stone on Tower Promenade which celebrates the fact that they played at the Tower Ballroom on 27 occasions in the early 1960’s but it’s so insignificant as to be easily ignored by visitors.

As for Sergeant Pepper, no I hadn’t forgotten, I still have a copy. One of three albums, we called them LPs back then, I kept for posterity, including another Beatles album, Please Please Me. I used to have the White Album too, but it’s vanished.

I’m not trendy enough to have reverted to vinyl and bought a turntable so the actual records are useless. What prompted the retention of Sergeant Pepper for over 52 years was the cover. It was the most expensive album cover ever. The final cost for the artwork was nearly £3,000, a huge sum back in 1967 when the average cost of artwork was around £75.

The figures chosen for the cover are a weird mix. Of musicians, Bob Dylan is the only contemporary. I was pleased to see Stu Sutcliffe made it, just about and was baffled by the inclusion of Sonny Liston, but not Mohammed Ali who the Beatles met on several occasions.

Anyway, life’s too short to count how many people I recognise. Maybe, one rainy day, I’ll have a go at naming them all.

 

The 5th Beatle? Sadly not. I had the hair, but not the musical talent.

Watergate Bay, Cornwall in the 60s. Most of us looked like this back then

Me and my sister outside the New Brighton Tower Ballroom circa 1950. Pretty stylish.