Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Remember Him?

     He was born on June 18, 1942, in the very hospital where his mother was a nurse and midwife. His father was not present at the birth because he was fighting fires during World War II. His mother was Catholic, and he was baptized Roman Catholic; but his father was a non-practicing Protestant and in the end he grew up with little religious faith.

     He was a smart kid, one of only three out of the 90 students who took an exam to get into high school at age 11. Still, he was more interested in music than academics. His father was a trumpet player, and they had a piano in the house. His father offered to hire a piano teacher; but the boy insisted on learning how to play on his own. When he was 14, his dad gave him a trumpet. But he soon traded it in for an acoustic guitar, since he wanted to sing as well as play music.

     It's almost a cliche that many also-ran musicians are more popular in Europe or England than they are in the United States. In this case, later in his career, he did have a song that barely registered in the U.S, but ran up the charts to hit number one in England. It's a song called the Mull of Kintyre, which he co-wrote with a member of his band and sang with his first wife and a crowd of children. The song also featured bagpipes -- which may explain why it was popular in the U.K. but did not strike much of a chord here in the U.S.

     In 1969 he married his first wife, a photographer from New York, and although she was not a professional musician, she joined his band, sang with him, toured with him. Tragically, she died of breast cancer in 1998, at age 56. He went on to marry again in 2002, but he and his new wife were not nearly so compatible, and they separated in 2006. Then in 2011 he took his third wife, the daughter of a New York transportation magnate. He has four kids with his first wife, and one with his second.

     But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Back in 1954, when he went to high school, he met a boy on the bus named George, and they became fast friends, even though, as he later admitted, "I tended to talk down to him because he was a year younger."

     When he was 15 he met another fellow named John, who was playing with a band in a church hall. Soon after, John asked him to join his band as a rhythm guitar player. The band, called The Quarrymen, played a mix of rock and roll, skiffle and other popular music. Skiffle is a style of music that came out of the American black tradition, and featured instruments such as washboards, jugs and kazoos -- like an old jug band. The style experienced a wave of popularity in post-war England, where it was estimated there were as many as 50,000 skiffle bands.

     His friend George joined the band a year later, as the group was casting about for a catchy name. They tried Johnny and the Moondogs, the Silver Beetles, and finally settled simply on The Beatles. They hired Pete Best on drums, and our man Paul switched to bass guitar when John's art-school friend, bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, left the band. Ringo Starr replaced Best as the drummer in 1962, as the band was writing bigger hits and gaining popularity.

    And of course, by now you know we are talking about Paul McCartney, who gained fame and fortune with The Beatles, the most popular band in history. Fifty years ago, in 1964, they had six number one hits in the U.S.:

     I Want to Hold Your Hand
     She Loves You
     Can't Buy Me Love
     Love Me Do
     A Hard Day's Night
     I Feel Fine

     The rest, as they say, is history. McCartney's 1965 song "Yesterday" is credited as the most covered popular song in music history. And "Hey Jude", a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon's son Julian during his parents' divorce, is according to Billboard the longest-running No. 1 record ever -- and has many times been voted best song in the history of popular music. Even their album cover art was iconic.

The most famous album cover ever?
Or is it this?
     What's your favorite Beatles song? It's hard to pick. My favorite album is Abbey Road (which, in a way, is just one long song). Or maybe it's A Day in the Life from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

     In any case, McCartney left the Beatles in 1970, later formed a new band called Wings, with Denny Laine and his wife Linda, and still tours and records to this day. He sold out two concerts in Yankee Stadium in 2011, and was recently on tour in Asia (which he had to cut short due to a virus). His latest venture is a campaign calling for a moratorium on fracking.

     So here's his Number One British hit from 1977:

     But for most of us, we still remember McCartney as singer and bass player for The Beatles.

     The proof? I was at a dance last weekend, held at a local golf club, with perhaps 300 other people, mostly older couples, but plenty of middle-age singles and a few families dancing with their three-year-old daughters. The band covered the usual hits from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. There was a dance floor, and people were sprinkled around dancing to one song and another.

     Then a familiar tune broke out. Immediately, everyone crowded onto the dance floor. The energy level in the hall went up several notches. And the song that still gets people going, more than 50 years later:


Stephen Hayes said...

It's hard to believe fifty years has gone by sine the Beatles wrote "I Saw Her Standing There." Where did all that time go?

Tabor said...

I think Europe and England have better standards for their art than we do. We embrace fads and like pomp and show first.

Anonymous said...

I so loved sir Paul, was in a talent contest in a tiny town in the middle of Lewis County and won it with my sister and brother dressed as the beatles first place $50.00 in 1964! Have always loved that extraordinary genious, the songs, what they seemed to me in such turbulent times in this country, have the sgt. peppers lonely hearts club band album and many more, my bestie was the fan club president she adored them all..Won't be another chap like him ever, makes me feel young not old, those times were great, I made little money but happy as a lark, now young people don't have in my opinion happy happy times, a wedding costs over $25,000 & up and a honeymoon more, they don't stay married very long, we just celebrated our 40th and we feel like teenagers again, only have enough to go to the movies $5.00 Tuesdays and for a mini dinner elsewhere, we walk almost most places and ride the bus for nearly free..we are living simply and happily..in 1964 we were juniors in high school and by the time we graduate in 1966 we both had jobs that paid almost #2.00 an hour, we were rich in our minds living at home and saved every dime, helped our folks out a lot we both came from big families and I went to California and my hubs to the army and war..married in early 1974 and enjoyed our lives and still do..ciao

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

During the Beatlemania in the early '60's I was not interested but later when I was in my later twenties I began to appreciate their music. I actually became aquatinted with a lovely chap who now lives in Oakville and once shared a flat with one of the Beatles in Liverpool when they were teens. I do believe the pub scene and actually the arts culture was stronger in Europe back then but that trend is slowly moving to be worldwide faster thanks to instant media, live streaming!

DJan said...

I had a hard time deciding what might be my favorite Beatles song. I loved the entire White Album and I guess I would pick "Imagine" by John. Or maybe "Strawberry Fields Forever." Or...

#1Nana said...

The Beatles are the soundtrack of my youth. My favorite is "I Will." I used to play it over and over on my record player.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I loved the Beatles, too. I also was intrigued by John and Yoko's romance and have their Double Fantasy album, released after John's death.

Anonymous said...

Too bad I can't hear the song. Blogger is crap. Why don't you come over to Wordpress? I love it.
PS. I did not know there was anyone else who tried eating flowers as a chil. Anyway, I posted moe about the fowler today. Although you are probably at another dance.
Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Beatles. I am not a BB as you know, but I remember the day the music died.

Tom Sightings said...

Gee whiz, I figure if it plays for me, then it will play for everyone else. Not so?

And Dianne, I know you're not a Baby Boomer. But I figure we're all in this together.