It was a real shock. I’d never really met one before, or, at least, if I had, I didn’t know it.
This was approximately three years ago; a lazy, sunny Sunday morning after a party at a friend’s house. A few people who’d stayed the night were recovering after a reviving breakfast, when the conversation got around to music. Somebody mentioned The Beatles. A woman wrinkled her nose.
“Ooo. I don’t like The Beatles,” she claimed.
I stared at her world-weary face in complete shock.
“Sorry,” I chuckled, “for a minute there, I thought you said you didn’t like The Beatles.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“Yes,” she said, pursing her lips, “that’s exactly what I said. I don’t like The Beatles.”
She meant it. I couldn’t believe it. How could you not like The Beatles? I immediately assumed the role of persuader, a missionary for all things Fab Four. I illustrated the depth and breadth of their musical genre, from rock to folk to jazz to vaudeville to Asian, but, with a rebuttal.
“Nope. Don’t like ‘em,” said bitchy resting face, which she’d become to me by this time.
But I felt justified in my judgement. To not like The Beatles is like not liking life itself. It’s like saying ‘I don’t like breathing’ or ‘I hate fluffy kittens and sunrises and tickles on my back’. It’s an oxymoron. My claim on a smaller scale is: If you can’t stick the four loveable mop tops, you are incapable of enjoying music.
My love for The Beatles started at an early age. I shared a bedroom with my sister, 12 years my senior, in the 1960s. Being a 1960’s teenager, she was a massive fan of The Beatles; actually, a massive ‘fan’ of Paul McCartney, then The Beatles; I’m not sure if the Paul McCartney part had anything to do with music.
Anyway, she had the standard issue ‘Danset” portable record player, which allowed you to stack your 7” records onto the central pole and play one after the other. Janet never bothered with this with the single “Help”. She just played it repeatedly until my dad decided to tell her to ‘leave it out’ and ‘give it a rest’. I loved it. Along with ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.
By 1969, Janet was married and living in her own house, where I could spend some of my summer holidays. No doubt I’d heard it earlier, but I can remember spending much of 1970 listening to ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. I was nearly 10 years old, but this album blew me away. If that’s an appropriate term to use for a 10-year-old. Of course, now I know more about Sgt Pepper, I can see why it was so significant. Sgt Pepper could possibly be the greatest album ever made, which sounds a bit dramatic, until you realise that Rolling Stone magazine has decided that it is.
As I grew older, I found kindred spirits. I remember as a student sitting in the back of a broken-down car in Worthing with my American friend. We had to wait for the break down services to arrive, so amused ourselves by singing ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’ – not the song, the album. We knew the track listing and all the lyrics, mainly because Sgt Pepper was the first to print the lyrics (or ‘words’ as we called them) on the record sleeve.
In teenage years, I followed McCartney and Wings, even when I was a punk. Listening to ‘Working Class Hero’ by John Lennon and realising he was the original punk. Knowing where I was when hearing that he’d died. Being told that he’d been shot as I shaved in our flat in Brighton, the tears streaming down my face, unsolicited and surprising at the time, since it was the first of many signals of my own and others mortality.
Then, a couple of months ago, Lady Barton St Mary, Steeley, the Tinkers’ Friend, She-lah!, Pen, Nancy Cuticles and I went to Colston Hall in Bristol to see Paul Weller. Steeley, Nancy and I made our way to the bar after a friendly chat with a couple of Stranglers fans to get a soothing ale. Discussion turned to Paul Weller and his influences and the obvious subject arose.
“Oh, I’m not keen on The Beatles,” said Steeley. Thank goodness he said ‘not keen’, otherwise I may have had to ex-communicate him as a friend. I assumed The Beatles missionary position, if you’ll pardon the expression.
“How can you not be keen on The Beatles?” I enquired.
“Well, I don’t think they were that good,” he replied.
“But they’ve influenced almost every band that followed them,” I offered.
He thought for a moment.
“Yeah, well, I prefer other bands that didn’t follow the Beatles,” he replied.
“Like who?” I asked.
“Siouxsie and the Banshees,” he said, with a big smug grin on his face.
I gave it a moment as I stared into his eyes, savouring the moment. It only took two words.
“Dear Prudence,” I offered.
His eyes widened as he looked at me.
“Erm, yeah, but they did it much better,” he retorted, but he knew he’d already admitted his mistake.
Don’t like The Beatles, don’t like life.
Want more? Live in the UK? Follow this link to watch ‘Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution with Howard Goodall.