Wednesday, 9 September 2009

If I fell...

"While remnants of our once-stable core of religious faith survive, few are very edifying. Till the hard drugs are legalised, the old world will retain some moral hold on us; but when they are, as the dictates of vulgar pragmatism predict, the last ties will be cut with our former way of life, far away from us on the other side of the sun-flooded chasm of the Sixties - where courtesy of scientific technology, the Beatles can still be heard singing their bouyant, poignant, hopeful, love-advocating songs."

Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head

It was 1974 when I fell. Or maybe 1975. It's a Tuesday morning somewhere in the middle of one of those long drawn-out summer holidays where time seems to crawl and decades seem to pass in a shimmering heat haze and then, all of a sudden it's a gloomy Sunday in September and you're experiencing that terrible sinking of the guts as you realise that tomorrow you'll be back in class. The BBC are showing A Hard Day's Night the following day and they preview it by playing a 30 second blast of this. So now you have, somehow, to endure the next 36 or so hours before you can hear that exquisite sound again, see those cheery monochrome faces and those lovely guitars again. Why does it go so slow? And how do you even begin to fill all that time? Probably by playing along to your copy of A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies) by beating the crap out of an old leather armchair with a pair of knitting needles. Later, you'll have learned how to improvise a Rickenbacker out of a badminton racket into the handle of which you'll have implanted a dozen or so map pins, having already stripped out the lateral strings for added verisimilitude. But for now you're Ringo, not George, patiently beating away as hour after hour slowly peels away bringing you snail-like towards that butterfly stomached reunion.

So that's how you fell in love for the first time. Because it really is love that this music excites. That's why grown men, my age and older, will no doubt have queued up outside the Virgin Megastore or HMV last night, waiting for the magic hour of midnight when that painfully slow atomic clock will finally have ticked over into tomorrow and the long-awaited 9.9.09 will be upon us. They'll file up towards the counter where kids young enough to be their grandchildren will hand them a ready-bagged box set containing the complete works of the greatest pop band that ever lived and the lovesick will hand over their Gold Amex or Platinum Visa cards and have the £169 (stereo) or £199 (mono) added to next month's unread statement. There'll be no hysteria or, if there is, it'll be a far-off echo of the original version - perhaps a gaggle of over-excitable Japanese students still high from their octopedal procession across Abbey Road. They'll all file back out, into the night and the seconds will limp all the way through the car journey or night bus ride until finally they can be alone with their loved ones again, settling into the comfiest chair with the wireless headphones set to loud waiting for that eager "1,2,3, FAAWWW!" to send a gunpowder trail of pleasure soaring up the spine.

So, here for the lovesick, a little gift from across that "sun-flooded chasm". This is my copy - a 1964 first pressing:

Side one (YEX.126-1) comes off stamper number 29, side two (YEX.127-1) is off stamper number 4; so this is one of the first 10,000 stereo copies pressed.

Of course, it won't compare with the shiny new remasters; they'll blow you away and make you feel as if you're hearing the band for the first time, apparently. But this is the music as you were meant to hear it - with nothing added and nothing taken away. This is how it really did sound when you first fell in love, when it first blew you away.



  1. I bought mine in Woolworths for 37 shillings and sixpence. I'd been working like a dog.

  2. Rog: 37 shillings and sixpence - what's that in old money?

    Aye (Comma) LTV: ithangyou.

    Tone: [holds diminished minor 6th note...] ...yeeeeaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!