The Beatles

I had to go into town today and buy myself the newly-remastered Beatles CDs.

I was just the right age to catch the mania; I turned 15 in 1963. The first song I heard of theirs was Please Please Me, and I remember where: in the sixth form room in Mountjoy School, on a tinny transistor radio. I was interested to hear a variant on ‘do-re-mi-fa’ as a bridge to the subdominant. Pop music was utterly stuck in formulas at the time. American pop meant Elvis, plus Dion and the Belmonts and Bobby Darin, and English pop meant Cliff, plus Billy Fury and Adam Faith.

I couldn’t believe on that first hearing that the Beatles were English, white, only four, playing their own backing, and writing their own songs. I was learning piano and had decided to educate myself by listening to bass lines, and suddenly here were bass lines from Paul McCartney that went somewhere. In all other bands the bass just plodded, but Paul took it by the scruff and twirled it around a bit.

Coming up to the next Valentine’s Day I wrote amorous doggerel in prep, as we did:

My name isn’t Ringo, or John, George, or Paul
And I’m not the swingingest guy of them all
But if you will love me the way I love you
My heart it will beat and the beat’ll be true

In vain to you I whispered
Please please me, love me do
In vain I sent you letters
With love from me to you
Then someone said ‘She loves you’
That made me twist and shout
And now I want to hold your hand
Whenever we go out

To think I have remembered those. Well well.

It would be decades before it struck me that the Beatles’ name refers to Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets.

13 Responses to “The Beatles”

  1. malo Says:

    ..but it does go to the subdominant… was it the absence of the “bum bum bum” on the way there that was remakable, or is there something more surprising that I never noticed?

  2. recumbentman Says:

    Yes, that was it. All other bands went ‘bum bum bum bum’ (do re mi fa) but the Beatles went do-do do’-do’ so-so fa to get to the same place. Caught my attention.

  3. malo Says:

    less is more

  4. recumbentman Says:

    In this case more was less hackneyed

  5. malo Says:

    don’t you mean less was less hackneyed? If no one had ever gone do-re-mi- to fa, it would have been really GIFT

  6. recumbentman Says:

    That’s a big if. Guido went do-re-mi-fa in the eleventh century and he can’t have been the first . . . though he called it ut-re-mi-fa.

  7. recumbentman Says:

    I remember being taken with the gutsy sound of She Loves You and totally won over by Twist and Shout which entered the charts after Brian Poole and the Tremoloes’ version and beat them up to the top.

    The Beatles were the first white singers to come anywhere near the intensity of Little Richard.

  8. malo Says:

    indeed. But you know, I never understood your dislike of Elvis… in terms of guts, Elvis had it for sure. The lyrics are mostly crap, but then so is Twist and Shout. We have an ongoing debate: Elvis or Ella? We can never come to a conclusion but I reckon Elvis may have been the more gifted.

  9. recumbentman Says:

    Elvis gave me the creeps; such overt sexuality just wasn’t on in 1950s Ireland, if you weren’t willing to be a rebel. I listened to ‘Fever’ several times over on an LP of Peter’s, to learn it off while alone at home, and felt slightly guilty. Now I can see it as good clean fun but then it was loaded.

    In Europe Elvis would have been an opera singer. He had terrific range and vocal quality. Ella probably had more smarts.

  10. malo Says:

    yep she had more brains alright. Opera would have ruined Elvis… you can’t teach or learn what he just DID. Mind you opera would have saved him too.

  11. samwell Says:

    how quickly the anoraks move in to turn a nice story into a debate on who it was that invebted ut-re-fa.

  12. recumbentman Says:

    Objection. You can’t blame the anoraks for your own silence.

  13. samwell Says:

    hey, i’ve only just got back online. anyway, I reckon it wouldn’t have taken you all much time to start on about the “subdominant” even if i had got my comment in first.

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