My Music Lexicon: B is for Beatles (and Beefheart)

C’mon now: I was born and grew up on Merseyside. My age reached double figures in the early sixties. The B in my Music Lexicon could only possibly be The Beatles. There again, it’s pretty much beyond me how anyone could fail to pick out The Beatles in any review of their popular musical tastes and influences.

However, almost 48 years since their final live performance on that roof in Savile Row, I suppose it’s understandable that the Fab Four no longer grip the imagination of popular culture as they did with those of us of a certain age and – dare I say it – outlook. And isn’t that just bloody typical of the youth of today, harumph.

If I hadn’t ‘got’ The Beatles from the very outset – which in my case was seeing their first ever TV appearance, performing ‘Love Me Do’ on a local North West early evening TV show in October 1962 – then I have no doubt that my musical tastes would have developed quite differently. Indeed, I think I would be a very different person altogether: which, since I think I’m reasonably okay as I am, is something for which I will always be grateful.

Throughout the rest of the sixties, I grew up both literally and figuratively with The Beatles as my soundtrack. From the ‘pop’ beginnings – all those perfectly turned out and irresistibly catchy Number Ones like ‘Please Please Me’ and the matchless ‘She Loves You’ – we matured together to the deeper, more radical innovations, seeded by what was going on in the US in 1967 and 1968.

It’s difficult to mark a specific turning point – always assuming there even is one – but perhaps the closest you can get to any kind of fulcrum in this story is the double A-side that paired the cheery and nostalgic ‘Penny Lane’ with the utterly different, in both sound and subject matter, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. I do believe you can make a case that whichever one of those you preferred, and listened to more, would determine where you went, musically, from then on.

For me there was never any doubt: ‘Strawberry Fields’ every time:

[NB: This is not the released version but a – fairly well advanced – work-in-progress]

Honourable Mentions

The problem I have with B in terms of this musical lexicon is that it’s one of those letters where there’s so much to choose from. Two of the obvious candidates – David Bowie and the Beach Boys – I’ve already drawn on in my contributions to Song Lyric Sunday, although they are both more than worthy of honourable mentions in this context. And I’ve also seen them live, albeit Bowie when he was still a mime artist and a supporting act for – well, you’ll have to wait until we get to T to find that out.

But I know that my own brother would never forgive me if I left out this particular gentleman: no less than the illustrious Captain Beefheart.

‘And now for something completely different’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. About twenty years ago, I came across my old school English Dictionary (so in use from 1963 to 1970). On one of the endpapers I had written “Captain Beefheart Electricity Insanity’. I have absolutely no recollection of writing this (although it’s definitely in my hand), but it sums it up pretty well.

As with so many of my music heroes, my introduction to the strange but compelling world of the Captain came from radio, courtesy of the late great John Peel. I also saw the great man with The Magic Band twice within a few months (so probably on the same tour): firstly at the old Liverpool Stadium, then in my University’s Sports Hall.

This is one you may not be familiar with, but it’s not too late. Prepare to be booglarized.

 

 

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