I can tell you just when I first heard of the Beatles — it was when I was in school in Edinburgh, Scotland. A buddy dragged me over to his flat at lunchtime, saying, “You’ve got to hear these guys!” I forfeited my usual Scotch egg, which at 1 shilling and 8 pence was just about all I could afford and traipsed over to his flat with a handful of other students.
It was February 4, 1963 — the last luncheon show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It was being televised. I think they played a couple of cover songs first, one of them being a blistering Twist and Shout. Other contenders are “My Bonnie,” “Money” and “And Then there was You.” Then they launched into a couple of newly released songs –Love Me Do and PS I Love You. When I heard their original music, I stood in complete shock for a few moments. I could hardly believe my ears. “Where did they get those chords?” I asked. Just about all rock and roll music at that time only used I, IV and V chords. These songs were more complex. “Nothing will ever be the same,” I muttered to myself.
And so it all began.
It wasn’t long before I was hearing their music everywhere I turned. At Charities Week, that April, where students go on ‘border raids’ during the day and party at night, just about the only songs played by the cover bands were theirs. I quickly learned their names — Paul, John, George and Ringo. It wasn’t long before I decided John was my favorite. Incredibly cute with a great voice. I began to see the others as wonderful backup for him.
And so, I let their music speak into my life. I watched them evolve and make some questionable choices and stepped back somewhat when there seemed to be focus on drugs, which I did not do. When John claimed the Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus’ I cringed. You just don’t do that, I thought.
I happened to be back in Edinburgh, walking up the back of Arthur’s Seat with a buddy when I heard “Hey Jude” for the first time. I had a sinking feeling that their days as a group might be numbered. It felt like the bottom was falling out. And Yoko — who knew what to make of her? I did my best to be accommodating…
I was saddened to hear of John’s excessive drug use, and startled by the changes in his appearance. He seemed to be a walking dead person. When he and Yoko came to New York I kind of rolled my eyes. They seemed to think they were doing something of value, but I couldn’t tell if it was all just for publicity or not.
Then came the night when I heard he had been killed. A senseless act. By an unhinged disappointed fan. I found myself in a state of shock that lasted almost a week. I could not understand why. Gradually, I came to accept it. Then I made a trip to New York. I went to the Dakota. I talked with a garage attendant who had been there during the afternoon, when John signed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman, and in the evening, when John was shot. He pointed out the private Dakota courtyard pointed to Yoko’s boxy orangish car. “If the limo had pulled into the courtyard, John would have been safe that day,” he said. The words haunted me. Such a simple thing.
So I carried the sorrow with me. I found a ‘Complete Beatles’ piano songbook. Well, it was not complete. It left out Piggies. But that is not the point. I began playing their songs just about every day, on flute and keyboard, and that has helped a lot — to experience their chord progressions, and the simple yet elegant beauty of their melody lines. Paul and John, for the most part — the sweetness and the edginess made for amazing music.
And then there was Imagine. Simple yet breathtaking. Other performers may come and go, but New Years at Times Square in New York City belongs to John and Imagine. It was then I decided to do a reimagining of Imagine as un hommage to John. For his greatness, his flaws, his search for truth, his becoming a target both in the UK and the US.
This track was originally intended as a working track for a course I am taking in Music Production. But the minute I recorded it, it seemed the Mozart vortex went electric. Waves of energy flowed through, along with a lot of music — songs I had heard, music I had never heard before, rained down on me. If only I could capture it all, I thought…
So here it is, on this night when Imagine is played in his honor…
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