It’s June the 18th. The birthday of two very special people in my life. One of them my best friend, my soul sister and confidante, and the other my first, and most enduring true love. It was 70 years ago today that the ‘Cute One’ was born.
Liverpool’s the birthplace of three other amazing men who have been instrumental in shaping my life. I’ve written before of my love affair with The Beatles, of how I love them and why. Of stereo systems and trying to figure out who was whom.
Initially, I couldn’t differentiate whose voice was which, but the album covers had Paul on them, but Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2, and The Beatles 1967-1970, two of the first albums we had at home, had pictures, the former in the little booklets that are beneath CD covers. My childhood crushes, as a weird little kid, were Paul McCartney and this amazing guy named Shah Rukh Khan. (Suave, intelligent, ridiculously talented men.. now if only those were real, yes?) My mother often embarrassed me with stories of how I’d blush if I saw photos or video of them. [Which, in hindsight, are probably very, very true.]
Paul never had a particularly easy life, losing his mum very young, at fourteen.[This also strengthened his friendship with his songwriting partner, who lost his own mum at seventeen.]
He met The Quarrymen, fronted by a certain John Winston Lennon, in 1957, and a guy named George Harrison joined the group a year later. The beginnings of something extraordinary were already taking shape, something that would become part of history forevermore. After trying out several names like Johnny and the Moondogs andThe Silver Beetles,The Beatles were born in 1960.
And things would never be the same.
They started off playing at various clubs in Germany, got discovered by the genius Brian Epstein, and Beatlemania swept across the world and took control of it completely. Screaming girls were all over the place, and really, who blames them? I behave exactly the same even when I see them on TV. [I watched the Jubilee Concert live – it was 3 a.m here, I think, and I was screaming my head off, tremendously excited because Paul was due to come on. I sat through the Black Eyed Peas, Cheryl, and host of other people who call themselves musicians but really aren’t, just to watch Paul.]
More has been said about the Beatles as a band than you’ll ever read in your lifetime, and more than I’ll ever be able to summarize succinctly. I thought I’d try to highlight the relationship between John and Paul, so I trawled the internet to assimilate information to cobble together, and couldn’t get through it, as I was in tears halfway through reading.
In several interviews with John, years after The Beatles broke up, and just a few years before his death, he spoke very fondly of Paul, saying that they were like brothers, that he thought Paul was ‘absolutely wonderful’ and a ‘brilliant man’. And I don’t think a single person in the world thinks otherwise.
Women wanted him, men wanted to be him, and the public at the time didn’t seem to like the fact that he was seeing (and would later marry and have a family with) an American divorcee who already had a child.
Linda Eastman was, quite simply, the love of Paul’s life. Probably still is. You may think it’s presumptuous to say so, but it’s apparent to anybody who has heard the songs he wrote for her, or has ever seen pictures of the two together, some of which have been printed out and put up on my corkboard, and have now turned yellow, being there for so long.
You know those times when you’re lying around, playing music off your sound system or mp3 player, and you just close your eyes, and in that moment, you can imagine yourself sitting on the floor at Abbey Road studios, just watching these 4 geniuses (genii?) in action? I’ve always felt like that. Sometimes, when I just lie back and close my eyes, I can hear and see Paul twanging his bass and, in typical Paul fashion, bossing the others around, shaking his head; John, grumbling and staring wistfully; George, quiet, his eyes on his guitar, trying to and Ringo, bobbing about. I can smell the marijuana (no, I swear it’s not mine!), feel the fibres in the carpet, and generally just imagine myself as part of that wonderful, wonderful era (musically, at least). Kind of makes it annoying to have to come back to the real world.
Then again, that’s just a testament to the fact that their music spans space and time (quite literally, too- NASA launched “Across the Universe” into deep space four years ago).
Some fans have a favourite Beatle, some do not. I belong to the ‘do not’ category, because I’m in love with each of them in so many different ways. I always had a crush on Paul, which later, (entirely in my head of course), became true love. True love in a gorgeous, chocolate, perfect-exterior, true love that wrote songs that touched and melted a million hearts spontaneously. The Power of Paul.
The cute one broke a ton of hearts when he got married, but millions more shattered when, in 1970, the Beatles (unofficially) ceased to exist. [Officially, they dissolved in 1975.]
Post-Beatles, Paul proved how brilliant he really is, whether as part of a songwriting team or by himself. If you haven’t already, I would suggest listening to as much Wings as you can (LOVE them), and as for specific Paul McCartney albums, I highly recommend Ram (Paul and Linda’s first album after the Beatles broke up) and Flaming Pie, which I’m biased towards- it’s my favourite solo Paul album. On there you will find some serene, mellow, amazing guitar and vocal work that will transport you to the meadows and glens and foggy green hills where Paul probably wrote all this music. If you can’t physically travel there, it’s the next best thing. Sometimes even better.
Incidentally, in addition to lead and harmony vocals, Paul plays bass [most Beatles songs], acoustic guitar [Michelle, Blackbird], electric guitar [Drive My Car, Helter Skelter], piano and keyboards [Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road].
He couldn’t read music, and played everything by ear.
I guess some people just have music in their blood. That and the innate ability to make people happier than they ever thought they could be. People at the ends of the earth, people whose existence they are not even aware of.
Paul’s life has rarely seemed particularly rosy. Losing your mum at an early age, losing one of the closest friends you’ve ever had, then your wife, the love of your life (no, I did not mean for that to rhyme), and going through a terrible divorce from what I can only describe as an evil, money-grubbing leech can’t be easy, can it? But somehow, he’s managed to keep writing and performing like the damn live wire he’s always been, getting every single person to sing along; 8 years old or 80. And being an animal-rights activist. And an amazing dad.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Paul McCartney comes to me. We walk down the Long and Winding Road, and he tells me to Let it Be, to take my broken wings and learn to fly. [I’d go on with the references, but I think you get the picture ;) ]
Someday, Paul, when I’m in my own little villa in the English countryside with my many, many dogs, I’ll still be listening to your breathtaking voice and your lyrics that make me laugh and cry and feel carefree and elated all at the same time. I WILL still need you when I’m 64.
Thanks, Sir Paul, for just being. [For the benefit of everybody out there.] And to the songwriting friendship of James Paul McCartney Jr and John Winston Ono Lennon, the most timeless one of all. In the midst of the shitstorm of musicians that really aren’t, ones who need garish clothing and autotune and computers to be noticed, I’m so glad, nay, relieved that Paul’s music has endured.
Here’s to 70 years of the coolest, most phenomenal existence, and many more to come.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite solo Paul songs as I kiss my Paul poster goodnight.
Let me tell you how it will be.
George ‘the Quiet One’ Harrison is one of those people in the world that means more to me than any real person I’ve ever known, even myself. He’s like family to me, even though I never knew the man personally.
But when I listen to him play and sing and speak, it really feels like I do. I’ve ‘known’ George since I was a little baby, so 21 years and counting now. Back then, of course, I had no idea which Beatle was which on the record, so I just enjoyed listening to them rather indifferently.
George songs always sounded ‘different’, though. They had a very otherworldly feel to them, while still being about the human condition (and sometimes very, very scary indeed).
One of the first Beatles songs I ever heard, one that was on the 1967-1970 album (the first Beatles album I ever owned, also called the Blue Album), was Disc 2, Track 8 – a.k.a Here Comes the Sun. Ever since then, it’s always been my cheer-up song, one I played and sang along to when I felt down and out, lonely in a world full of people who hated me [As a victim of bullying, I hated school with a vengeance.]
The tears would always come, but these were tears of happiness, and me realising I was there for me. As was George. As a teen, like all other teens, part of me was supremely, idiotically mushy, played ‘Something’ all the time in the background whilst dreaming of the endless list of random idiots I’d ‘liked’ that had never reciprocated, and moped around, waiting for love as it had been described by Mr. Harrison.
Come December 2000, and my mother (the person who began my love affair with four of my husbands) took a 9-year-old me to the multiplex to watch a film with her, a re-release of an old 1960s movie. Of course, I had no idea what it was, and the fact that it was in black-and-white only served to put me off wanting to go, but I ended up going nevertheless.
Back then, I was even smaller than I am now, and the seat barely stayed down (it doesn’t go all the way down even now, funnily enough), so mum shoved her (insanely heavy) purse into the gap between a possibly 3-and-a-half-foot tall me (at 21, I’m just over 5 feet tall, so that’s very possible) and the seat.
Mum didn’t trust me with my own ticket stub then, because I lost stuff at the drop of a hat, and 9-year-olds are generally rather clumsy anyway, so I didn’t know until we finally got to our screen at the multiplex that we were going to be watching A Hard Day’s Night. I’d heard the song, of course, but had no idea there was a film, and certainly not one that starred the Beatles themselves.
Much to my mother’s relief, I stopped grumbling, and began to giggle at Paul’s grandfather. (He was a clean old man.) Much to the annoyance of the handful of other people at the screening, however, I sang along with a few songs while my mum shot daggers at me and tried to get me to shut up. I secretly think she wanted to sing along too.
Even though the film, and, to some extent, the band, was the John and Paul show, there were moments, even back then, much before Rubber Soul, Revolver, the White Album and Abbey Road (you could see George’s genius shine through, even then.)
The first George scene I remember is when he’s being interviewed by a reporter, who asks him ‘What do you call that hairstyle you’re wearing?’
I have no idea why I found that as funny as I did, but even replaying the scene in my head as I write this, I’m laughing. George-Hair jokes have always been hilarious to me, but one dialogue from that film, funny as it may have seemed then, breaks my heart into tiny little pieces when I think about it now.
“What’s this about an annual illness, George?”
— ” I get cancer every year.”
It’s not like anybody had any way to know, but it’s heartbreaking nevertheless.
Anyway, obviously only good things happened on set for Georgie; the man met his future wife, Pattie Boyd, there.
The legend of the Beatles and how they came together amazes me every time I read about it (and I’ve read about it enough times to do an entire doctoral thesis on it).
Though George studied at the same primary school as John Lennon, just a few years below, he met a certain Paul McCartney, one year his senior, at the Liverpool Institute. Lennon asked McCartney to join his skiffle group, the Quarrymen, and McCartney subsequently recruited a certain young boy named George Harrison who could play Raunchy on his guitar. [To anybody who’s reading this and hasn’t watched Nowhere Boy yet, it’s rather a lovely film. Go watch!]
I apologise in advance for using the cliché , but the rest, as they say, is history. And what a very amazing history it was.
Through A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour (the films, I mean, not the albums), you got to see Georgie. And through the albums, you got to know him. His songs started out as fluffy, fun, light tracks, and then they morphed into something else altogether, something incongruous with the fun-but-quiet George that the public saw. (There is one pretty early track however, off Rubber Soul, 1965 – see If I Needed Someone if you haven’t already heard it.)
He became not just ‘insanely talented guitarist’ George, but pensive, moody, brooding and deeply-in-love songwriter George Harrison.
As time passed, the songs got far more intense than they’d ever been, some of them considerably darker. It was during this time that George had been introduced to Pandit Ravi Shankar and began playing the sitar, a skill he first displayed while playing on Norwegian Wood.
If you really want to listen to George on sitar, here is a lovely little track to get you started. A George composition on Revolver (a year after he first met Ravi Shankar), Love You To has a sort of sitar ‘solo’, if you will. Pretty damn brilliant indeed.
’68, the White Album and Hari Georgeson gave us the musical masterpiece known as While My Guitar Gently Weeps, a terribly heartbreaking, poignant song- with a solo by a certain Mr. Clapton, who would go on to have an affair with, move in with, and marry Ms. Pattie Boyd, in spite of which the two remained close until Harrison’s death – they called one another ‘husbands-in-law’.
This whole broody song streak sort of continued until Abbey Road, which happens to contain two of my favourite Harrison compositions and favourite songs ever – Something, which, as I have previously mentioned, I consider one of the most romantic songs ever written, and Here Comes the Sun, which made the world a wonderful, beautiful place, full of rainbows, flowers, love and laughter.
George became somewhat of a mystic, and got involved with ISKCON during his visit to India. (As I am not the biggest fan of religion per se, I shall refrain from passing any form of judgement whatsoever.) He did a whole lot of philanthropic work, however.
The world and I saw George evolve, but perhaps he had always been that way – Ringo, in an interview, said that they were just four young boys who went through all this crazy stuff together, and even with the world at their feet and the swankiest facilities at their disposal, all they did was sit in the bathroom and talk to one another.
They were like a weird, loving, dysfunctional family that ended up breaking up in 1970, but probably loved one another to death.
George, in particular, was known to be extremely forgiving – to the point that until he died, his best friend was the same man who had had an affair with and married his wife Pattie.
Clapton would go on to arrange the Concert for George, organised by George’s second wife and widow, Olivia (who also saved him from a crazed, knife-wielding attacker), and Dhani, his son, who happens to be a doppelganger of his dad. Paul McCartney once said that with Dhani up on stage, it was as if George stayed young and they all got old.
I suppose that IS what happens when you die young – you stay young and are remembered for all eternity as such, which, in its own way, is rather beautiful, and much what happened to John Lennon as well.
Like every other Beatlemaniac, I can never really have a favourite Beatle (it’s seriously impossible), but John and George were always the two I identified with the most, because I saw bits and pieces of myself in them, somehow. [Now if only I had an ounce of their talent, I’d be happy.]
Hari Georgeson, it will always be your voice and music I seek comfort in when all the troubles of the world are upon me, it seems like there’s no way out, and all I can see is darkness. Life may go on within you and without you, but you are missed every single day.
To one of the most talented, criminally underrated, beautiful musicians that has ever lived – Happy Birthday, George Harold Harrison.
To conclude, here’s a poignant glimpse of the legendary Sir George Martin with Dhani, who not only looks like, but also sounds identical to his dad. (It will not fail to get you emotional.)
“You’ve got it too. You’re just like your father.”