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Blog: Still On About The Beatles

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I'm still reading that Beatles book - well, obviously I am, it's MASSIVE - and it's doing something I thought would be mathematically impossible i.e. making me love The Beatles EVEN MORE.

The reason for this is that I'd never realised how RUBBISH they were when they started out. The bit I read this morning had them going up to Scotland as Johnny Gentle's backing band. It's a story that appears in ALL Beatles biographies, but usually only as a paragraph right at the very start. This time around it's a whole CHAPTER nearly 400 pages in, so you get the full sense of the YEARS they spent hovering around the edges of other bands beforehand, being CRAP. Ringo's band, Rory Storm And The Hurricanes, are really GOOD, so get paid properly and have just got booked to play at Butlins. The Beatles (who have just finally decided to call themselves that) are STILL scrabbling around looking for a drummer, STILL don't have enough amps so have to keep borrowing them, are STILL having to lug everything on the bus to what few gigs they can manage to get, and appear to STILL be TERRIBLE.

And all the while that this is going on George is at work, Paul's revising for his A Levels, and John and Stu are living in squalor in a bedsit... which George and Paul come and stay in, FOUR to a room, at weekends, freezing cold and hungry, while their PARENTS (what parents they're in touch with anyway - George is the only one with both parents at home) worry about them. I'm sure ANYONE who's ever been in a band will remember that bit, the DREARY STRUGGLE of trying to get gigs and then being crap when you DO do them, especially compared to The Popular Local Band who practice, have proper gear, and who people LIKE.

There's other lovely bits, like the terrible letters Paul and Stu write to promoters to try and get gigs - the same terrible letters that local bands now send as emails, talking about their competence and growing reputation. I also love the fact that they do STUPID things, like walk out of regular gigs and just not turn UP for others, in the way that only idiotic cocky teenagers do that MYSTIFIES anyone over 20 (including Mark Lewisohn). Best of all is the image of Paul and George, a year younger than the other two, being allowed to go to STUDENT PARTIES, and Paul thinking it's a good idea to PRETEND TO BE FRENCH as a way of getting girls to talk to him. There's a beautiful description of him sitting in a corner in a black polo neck, smoking a PIPE, strumming a song with some made up french words on a guitar in a corner. It's something that STILL happens all around the country, although usually the daft song DOESN'T turn out to be "Michelle" a few years later and be covered a zillion times all over the world.

To be honest, that's probably what's making me happiest, the fact that they went through EXACTLY the same sort of stuff we did in the band Voon EXCEPT that a) we used a shopping trolley to lug gear around instead of the bus and b) they went on to become the biggest band on the planet. Otherwise we were the SAME!

Because that's the big thing - from other biographies there's a sense that it was all ALWAYS going to happen, that there was something special and unusual about them right from the start, and all they had to do was follow their destiny. This made it seem WEIRD when, interviewed later, ALL of them said "we were just a band", but this book's finally made me realise they WERE. They started off the lowest of the low, with no hope whatsoever of even getting a Butlin's booking, no money to get gear, and nobody helping them, and that's what makes the story all the more amazing, and that's why it's made me love them even more.

I'm not even halfway through the book yet - expect MORE!

posted 1/11/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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ACE! There's also a bit in Outliers about the Hamburg Beatles. 10,000 hours, baby!
posted 4/11/2013 by Charlie

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