June 27, 2009

Good day Sunshine

June and sunny. So unless you're reading Summer Moonshine by PG Wodehouse (in which case go back to it immediately) get your old copy of Sergeant Pepper out, put Side 2 on the turntable (if you don't know what a turntable is, stop reading now, there's no hope for you) and read this extract from my forthcoming novel Rubber Soul.

Lennon-McCartney wrote some of the most revolutionary music ever written. And the happiest. And, with Harrison, the loveliest. Love songs. They all believed in it, devoutly composed in it, still do on the quiet, the two that are left. Love as a political liberation (“say the word and you’ll be free”), love as personal revelation (“the movement you need is on your shoulder”) love as a mystical force (“with our love we could save the world”.) Pope John-Paul-George, the accidental divines. John’s direct hits, Paul’s plucked heartstrings, George’s blaze of inner Light worried from dark grumbles. Ringo’s floor spot at the steelworker’s social that was good enough to join the band.

They did not set out to be Shakespeare. But then neither did Shakespeare. They set out with a popular instrument in their hands, to make great popular culture for their own time. But Beatle Studies will replace Shakespeare as the definitive English heritage–high art for generations of school children. Shakespeare will move upstairs into Chaucer’s position as the Father of English Literature (and finally stop tormenting fourteen year olds who can hardly read modern pidgin with his sophisticated Elizabethan verse.) And Chaucer will move further upstairs to become the timeless classic of an earlier civilisation and language, like Homer. And Homer will stay where he is, like God.

They set out to be the toppermost of the poppermost. And they were. They made peerless end of the pier entertainment for their peers.

Yet there is a hole at the heart of even the happiest Beatles record. In the end, it was the bullet hole that found Lennon’s heart. And it was there long before that. It was there on I Am The Walrus, the B side of a McCartney carol John’s raspberrying backing vocal and rhythm helped rasp into irresistibility on 8 December 1967. It was there through all the late head-down Lennon B sides – Rain, Revolution, Don’t Let Me Down, Come Together – as obscure as any Beatle millions seller could be. It was even there at the ultimate orgasm: that windblown peak of the Summer of Love, the climax of their great signature album, which ends… after all the fuss …in a crescendo of nothing. A space ship storming an Albert Hall sized Black Hole. A hole. It was there at the end; it was there at the beginning.

It was always there.

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