I’ve loved them with every cell of my being for more than forty years.
Ever since I heard the Beatles on the radio. Ever since those first twangling guitar chords reverberated against my eager ear drums.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t live in Liverpool. I didn’t even live in England, and can’t claim the credential of being one of the first to purchase their music, or of seeing them in the Cavern Club. I didn’t go to school with John, Paul, George or Ringo. I couldn’t have done – I lived on entirely another continent. But the fab four were as much as part of my life as were my next door neighbours. Music gets inside your head and permeates your whole being, and that’s closer than any neighbour could ever be. The Beatles were inside my head as often as I could put them there. Via the means of my transistor radio, my dad’s gramophone, or my HMV portable record player. Even on the streets my friends and I would chant in three part harmony, ‘Love, Love Me Do’.
It’s a cliché to say it but their music really was the soundtrack to my early years – and has never left me. Instead it led me directly here to this place on this day. Not to Liverpool’s Beatles museum, but to St John’s Wood tube station in London. In England. On the other side of the world.
I can almost analyse your personality based on your favourite Beatles album. Many claim they prefer the white album. It’s minimalist. Stylish. Elegant. Some say ‘Revolver’ because they claim it’s edgy. It’s probably just down to the title and the gun cover image, because the music isn’t. Well, not to me. To me it’s sweet and epitomised by ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. Many fans like ‘Sergeant Pepper’ the best because of the huge, sweeping psychedelic orchestration. But most of the purist fans prefer the band’s earliest two.
I can’t agree. Other albums take my top spot on the hit parade. ‘Let it Be’ is up there on the prize winners’ podium for me. ‘Long and Winding Road’, ‘I Got a Feeling’ and ‘Across the Universe’ – these tracks in particular have consistently gifted me joy, though in other ways I’ve changed so much over the years. When I was a kid I loved the wild and wacky John. Then my puritanical phase appreciated the down to earth, unpretentious Ringo. Later, through my introspective years, it was George and his gentle contemplation who spoke to me. But now, in my older years, it’s Paul. And for some reason I think there’s more of Paul on ‘Let it Be’ than the others. It’s gentler. More traditional. Sweeter. Without as much of John’s darkness.
I am like ‘Let it Be’. I’m a sweet old lady whose previous sharp corners have been gradually eroded and rounded out. I no longer possess my previous edge, and I don’t know if I should be sad or glad at the fact.
London always means walking. That’s what people always say. From hotel to tube. Down to tube. Back up to reality. Then the final stretch. At least I got a sit down between times.
The walk’s not so easy. But we get there. Me, my friend Sal, my daughter Emily, her boyfriend Eric, and my son Joe. As we get closer, Joe pokes me in the ribs and says ‘Nearly there. How you feeling?’
‘Excited,’ I say. ‘Can we slow down though?’
And then I saw it. Oh my God, I saw it. This defining place. This beautiful place. This touristy, and ridiculously popular place. My steps hastened towards it, and my gorgeous Joe turned to his sister. ‘Emily, who’s who?’ She reeled off a list. But I knew. I had always known my role in these proceedings.
I reached down and removed my sandals, watching as Eric pressed the crossing button.
Along with one other excited little quartet we stood in place. First was Sal in her white trouser suit, then Emily, hesitant, self-conscious and uncomfortable. Next I stood, jubilant and giddy, and behind me was Joe fluffing out his curls.
The lights changed and the four of us took our planned steps. Finally, after all these years, we were doing the ‘Abbey Road’ walk across the most iconic black and white zebra crossing in the universe. ‘Abbey Road’ – my top album of all time. I sang out loud ‘Something in the Way She Moves…’ as Eric snapped our fab four poses over and over and over!