Thought y’all might be interested in this item in The Guardian today (over breakfast at our B&B in Oxford, my wife was reading The Times and I had The Guardian — which I had run next door to the off-licence to get — but she never gave up The Times).
We never got around to visiting the Abbey Road crossing in London, even though it wasn’t far from where we were staying. I sort of lost interest after reading that the local council had moved the zebra crossing so that it wasn’t the real one. But I’ve been bemused at how they do go on about The Beatles here. I had sort of thought they had faded from memory here, rather the way one never saw much about Elvis in Memphis until after he died (I know, I lived there then).
That’s mostly because there have been two recent news items. The first was that the Abbey Road crossing was recently given Grade II historic status — even though it’s the wrong place. The second was that a Tory minister wants to protect Ringo Starr’s birthplace in Liverpool from demolition.
So today’s columnist wrote a piece headlined, “I am a Beatles obsessive. But let’s cut the Fabs-worship.” And quite right he is, even though I love the Beatles. As he wrote,
Such, anyway, is yet another episode in a story that has long since ballooned into absurdity: the transformation of the Beatles into a national religion – arguably bigger than Jesus, as John Lennon infamously put it. X Factor contestants must, by law, deliver warblesome readings of Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road; each time Sir Paul McCartney ventures out to hack out his versions of the hits, the public is encouraged to think something miraculous is afoot; Yoko Ono, bless her, keeps the posthumous Lennon machine grinding on.
In Liverpool, meanwhile, delusions of post-industrialism have reached their apogee in the idea that Beatledom can be a substitute for a lost mercantile past. It’s all there: John Lennon international airport, the Hard Day’s Night Hotel, the “Magical Mystery Tour” that wends around the city, even a Fabs-themed Starbucks — though judging by the forlorn atmosphere of too many of the surrounding streets, Beatles-driven regeneration really isn’t working. Funny, that.
Yes, isn’t it? He goes on to note that not ALL Beatles music is iconic:
Moreover, the idea of the Beatles as all-dominating titans had yet to take root: well away from their legacy, music developed on its own terms. These days, by contrast, they use up so much of the cultural air that we seem little able to breathe. There must be more to life than nodding-dog piano ballads of the Hey Jude variety, but there are times when they seem to define a good 50% of the mainstream. For all their inventive wonderment, one would imagine that I Am the Walrus, Happiness Is a Warm Gun and Helter Skelter left at least some of rock’s more creative possibilities unexplored, though listening to the bulk of even supposedly cutting-edge music, you’d never know.
Indeed. Then, he ends,
In 1970, John Lennon said this: “It’s just a rock group that split up, it’s nothing important – you can have all the records if you want to reminisce.” The words crumble next to his group’s myth, but they also speak an undeniable truth — which is why the 72% of local people who are reportedly OK with the Madryn Street demolition ought to have their wishes respected, and life should go on. And one other thing: Ringo was the drummer, remember.
I’m not sure what he meant by that last bit. As “Paul’s grandfather,” the clean old man, observed in “A Hard Day’s Night,” where would they be without his steady beat. But I thought the piece was food for thought.