Magazine article The Spectator

Exemplary Taste

Magazine article The Spectator

Exemplary Taste

Article excerpt

I've been writing this column for two-and-a-half years now, and am uneasily aware that I have only ever mentioned the Beatles, the greatest of all pop groups, en passant. The reason isn't hard to find. Though I have almost all their albums on CD, plus the essential red and blue greatest hits packages, I hardly ever listen to them.

I think I might have played Rubber Soul a year or two ago, and, when it was released in 2000, I tried to turn my son on to their work with the 1 album, which packed 27 of their number ones on to a single CD. He was seven at the time and blithely dismissed the music as 'childish'. I need hardly add that he was lucky to live.

My problem with the Beatles - and I think it must afflict others of similar age (49, since you ask) - is that I discovered pop through the Beatles when I first heard 'From Me To You' in 1963, aged eight. After that I religiously bought every single as it came out, and, if the pocket money ran to it, every album. And I played them and played them and played them.

Unlike any other act, I suspect I know every lyric to every Beatles song, every middle eight, every vocal harmony, every guitar lick. The result is that when I play the records it seems pointless. I've worn them out. There's no mystery left to uncover. I still love them but I don't need them. I've played them to death.

Or so I thought. The Sunday before last there was a piece in the Observer which revealed that John Lennon's portable jukebox had been discovered, listing, in his own spidery handwriting, the 40 singles it contained. What's more, its contents were being made available on a double CD. I knew I had to have it, and was in the shop first thing on Monday morning. Then, last Sunday, The South Bank Show devoted itself to the jukebox and I found myself watching Melvyn for the first time in yonks. My word, his barnet really is a wonder to behold, more lustrous, prolific, beautifully styled and gleamingly chestnut brown than seems decent on a man of 64. You would need a heart of stone not to laugh at such vanity, and I duly had a very good chuckle indeed, though I couldn't help noticing that Mrs Spencer was regarding my own thinning, unkempt thatch with a peculiar expression redolent of both regret and contempt.

Anyway, Bragg didn't detain us long. …

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