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.
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.
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.