John Hinton Notebook
As we are in the middle of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Beatles, a Notebook from someone of their era from Merseyside might be appropriate. It has not, of course, been bashed out on an old manual typewriter because we all we move on – though not as fast as the John, Paul, George and Ringo did in the mid-1960s.
I touched the mantle of the Fab Four when the Liverpool group I was keyboard player with had a gig as a support band to them at the Cavern Club. This was in 1963 before the great ship Beatles sailed for London and international fame.
We’d only just finished our rather nervous set when fans started screaming as the band they’d really come to see started setting up. And when the Beatles started singing and playing – the sound slamming around the Cavern walls – here was a fresh, new sound that wouldn’t be denied. They were brimming with confidence and enjoying every minute.
At the time I was a young reporter and feature writer on the Liverpool Daily Post and cho and among my colleagues was Ray Connolly, who went on to become a novelist and among the key chroniclers of the Beatles story.
I know he and millions of others would agree – notwithstanding John Lennon’s flippant claim they’d become “more popular than Jesus” – that the band and their songs brought a lot of good into the world.
Talent will out, helped by Brian Epstein and George Martin. And while we and other Merseyside groups listened in astonishment came songs like “Eleanor Rigby”, old and lonely whose only friend, Fr Mackenzie, buried her at a funeral to which nobody came. “Michelle” was another haunting song with a continental flavour of their early days in Hamburg. And “Yesterday”, a lament for a young love snuffed out.
For a brief time, the salty wit of Liverpool – a very Irish Catholic city – was in focus. “Paddy’s Wigwam” had already been been completed and the huge Anglican cathedral was still rising, stone by stone, at the other end of aptly named Hope Street.
Later came “Let it Be”. I and many others believe that God is in that song, as well as in the compelling “All You Need is Love”. “Back in the USSR” let everyone breathe a sigh of relief after the Cold War. We were blown away by McCartney’s invention and view of the world.
And there are so many more examples. I am not alone in believing that in their short reign at the pinnacle of pop they helped to end the Vietnam War by stirring up student unrest here, in the United States and internationally. As they did, the Peace Movement became much more potent than a passing cloud of cannabis.
And though John and George have gone (and Ringo remains happily obscure) Paul is still living in England – in fine voice and singing these important and ageless songs. His performance at Camden’s Roundhouse in 2007 was screened by the BBC as part of the recurring roundabout of media coverage in recent weeks; a rare treat for late-night viewers.
The songs provide fixpoints in the memory. And the odd thing for succeeding generations is that we become proprietorial about our Beatles memories. When I went to New York in 1965 the city was still trying to recover from the mass hysteria provoked by the concert at Shea Stadium the previous year.
A decade later I was in Edinburgh and my son was cutting his musical teeth on their songs. And then in 1979, the first 10-year anniversary of the break-up came around.
The ground may seem parched; we’ve been over it before. But few can gainsay that God gave us the Beatles and gave them the talent to rise to the challenge of keeping everyone on their tip-toes.
What a party. And happily the beat goes on.