An internet scrapbook with a shuffle button. (They're the best things...!!)
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With Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finished, the group left Abbey Road at dawn bearing an acetate and drove to ‘Mama’ Cass Elliott’s flat off the King’s Road where, at six in the morning, they threw open the windows, put speakers on the ledge, and played the album full blast over the rooftops of Chelsea. According to Derek Taylor, ‘all the windows around us opened and people leaned out, wondering. It was obvious who it was on the record. Nobody complained. A lovely spring morning. People were smiling and giving us the thumbs up’.
Such is the remarkable pace of a story that has been told by scores of writers, a story about four young musicians but no end of other things: the cities of Liverpool, Hamburg and London; class, and the shaking of English hierarchies; pop’s transmutation into a global culture; and the western world’s passage from a world still defined by the second world war and its aftermath, to the accelerated modernity we know today. Everything in the tale pulses with significance and drama. It seems barely believable, and in the best Beatles books, it still burns.
Philip Norman’s Shout! was first published in 1981, and remains a glorious example of how to write about music, while also writing about much more. Of the Beatles in the mid-1960s, and their phenomenal success a mere three years or so after “Love Me Do” appeared, he wrote this:
“Only in ancient times, when boy emperors and pharaohs were clothed, even fed with pure gold, had very young men commanded an equivalent adoration, fascination and constant, expectant scrutiny. Nor could anyone suppose that to be thus – to have such youth, and wealth, such clothes and cars and servants and cars – made for any state other than inconceivable happiness. For no one since the boy pharoahs … had known, as the Beatles now knew, how it felt to have felt everything, done everything, tasted everything, had a surfeit of everything; to live on that blinding, deadening, numbing surfeit which made each, on bad days, think he was ageing at twice the usual rate.”
This article’s author, John Harris, owns 67 books on the Beatles.