Tuesday 24th January
Adrian used to go on and on about this song, and played it enough to make me slightly sick of it. It was The Beatles, of course; or to be more specific John Lennon, one of his undoubted heroes. It was from the album that came to define them in many ways, Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. To be honest it had passed me by, well almost. Even I in my self-imposed seclusion was not totally immune to the currents that swirled around me in the late sixties. But I had never bought any Beatles records; maybe it had never occurred to me that they had anything particular to say to me. I did like Yesterday, with its nice string quartet backing, but not much else caught my ear back in the sixties. Adrian played them incessantly, especially ‘A day in the life’, which he insisted was the key to understanding their later music.
I had almost forgotten all about them, despite hardly a month passing without some reference to them in the news itself, which at one time was so full of them. The press and the public they serve has largely moved on, and the pop-stars one reads of now I have never heard of at all. It might as well be a foreign language. And this is of course as it should be; the young push in and shout to be heard, and shove us oldies out of the way. I wonder how many under thirties can even name the Beatles, let alone know their songs.
Radio 2, not my first choice for listening, but often Radio 3 or 4 become a tad boring and I listen in to 2 for a change, and I heard that chilling plaintive and weary and sad voice calling out across the years. “I read the news today, oh boy” and it is that simple but so important “oh boy” that makes the sentence memorable. The line “I read the news today” on its own means nothing, but the refrain “oh boy” tells us all about the mood of the singer, and that you the listener are being set up for something. It took just the couple of seconds of those words to take me back to that little flat in Hackney, the drawings on the wall, the Biba wallpaper, the pine table and the sad but wonderful few months of my first love. It was all there large as life as soon as John started singing those words.
And it will be whenever I next happen to hear them I am sure. And they always catch you by surprise, these familiar but half forgotten memories, all it takes is those few words “I read the news today, oh boy” and you are caught again, unawares and unbidden, and taken back to the days of your youth.