WHERE do you start with the Beatles?
Well, August 18, 1962 might do. That's when the four members of the band as we know and revere them played their first public gig together.
The venue? Hulme Hall in the village of Port Sunlight, Wirral. The occasion? The local horticultural society's 17th annual dance.
Fifty years on, the Beatles remain probably the most popular pop band in history. Of course, "pop band" doesn't do them justice. Musicologists chew over their every note. Classical musicians worship them, just like ordinary, kazoo-playing people do.
The insightful American commentator Adam Gopnik points out that the first photo of the Fab Four was taken on the same date as their last, exactly seven years later: August 22, 1962 and 1969. It's spooky and, as Gopnik notes in an essay well worth reading on the BBC Magazine website, "[there] is something eerie, fated, cosmic about the Beatles".
You needn't worry about any of that. You can just hum along to their tunes. But it's kind of awesome, as the young people say, to think that tunes I hummed in childhood will still mean something to me when I'm snuggled up in my deathbed.
I was lucky having a childhood in the 1960s. Everything was hopeful, colourful, elvish. Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane filled our heads with magic, despite their inspiration being ordinary places in Liverpool. The Beatles provided the decade's soundtrack. Others helped: the Rolling Stones; the Monkees; the Dave Clark Five.
The 1960s began with the Beatles in 1962 and ended with them in 1969.Everything went wrong in 1970. It was as if a beautiful song had ended. As we celebrate 50 years of the Beatles, we might catch at least an echo of it.
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