Music and Memory

I’m not generally a big fan of biographies of musicians or of bands but one upcoming one has caught my attention: “Tune In”, Volume 1 of Mark Lewisohn’s evidently exhaustive account of the Beatles’ story, which is coming out in a few days. Ahead of its publication certain snippets (showing how deep is the research…) have emerged, among which is the fact that “Love Me Do” received *no* UK radio play on release.

Well, I suppose it wouldn’t have done, would it? At the time the only BBC radio station which might have played it would have been the Light Programme. Light, as in Family Entertainment, as in Don’t Scare the Horses.

But *I* remember hearing it on the radio. Of course, it was Radio Luxembourg and I was listening, under the bedclothes, on my transistor radio. I have a clear, clear memory of this. I knew, instantly, that this was something else. I also knew that the DJ was 100% wrong when he announced it as some kind of UK answer to the Everly Brothers. No, please, (I muttered, in my memory) there’s evidently some kind of other edge here….

I was already – at 13 – a complete music fan. And it was purely for the music, as there was little other, going on no, media coverage of artists at the time. And of course I can’t remember how I’d even stumbled on to Radio Lux in the first place. But I *do* remember thinking that this music was MINE.

Now I find out that actually that the play of “Love Me Do” I heard was one of six paid for by EMI on their sponsored shows on Radio Luxembourg. Every record played on the station was paid for by one record company or another…. Like so much that went on back then, it wasn’t exactly clean and pure in a business sense.

Nonetheless, since the memory has stuck with me it’s clear that I knew something else was going on, something had changed.

Yes, the Beatles couldn’t get on the Light Programme in 1962. By 1963 they had their own tea-time half-hour show and I can also clearly remember hearing an outstanding version of “Money” on that, which knocked the subsequent recorded version (on “With the Beatles”) into a cocked hat. Maybe (he remembers) it was the fact that the radio version was guitars only, while the one on the album had piano as well, in some strange way mirroring (I thought) George Martin’s gtr/pno setting on the Dakota’s “The Cruel Sea”…. (OK, it didn’t track in exactly the same way; ok, spot the nascent music geek…or was that, already, someone wo *really* cared about this stuff?)

There again, “With the Beatles” is pinned in my memory for other reasons.

Release date: 22/11/1963. I got my copy on the 23rd. (Yes, advance mail order really worked even in those days, though doubtless paid for by a postal order or two.)

And yes, it was on the morning of the 23rd that we heard of JFK’s assassination on the 22nd, so that the two or three times in succession that I played the album were also burned into my brain in connection with that “Oh, whoops, the world has shifted” moment.

I had quite a few other, later, immediate responses to music. I’ve often spoken about hearing the “Dancing in the Streets” snare sound coming out of a record shop in Derby (‘64), hitting me right between the eyes, the soul, the heart.

Equally, “Hey Joe” grabbed me (‘66) by the throat *purely* as music before I had any idea of The Hendrixness.

These things are, perhaps, hard to credit in the modern world of blanket – and controlled – coverage, be it through mainstream media or viral creep. Back then it was all still stuff of minority interest – although, wow, was that minority interested!

I’m sure everyone can do the timelines of this incredible period. 1962, no Beatles on BBC radio…by 1966, the whole Group explosion been and gone and *already* Hendrix…1967, well, y’know….

And by 1968 this particular music fan, here, who’d begun by getting a harmonica, scratching a “song” together, plunking a tune on a piano, noodling on an acoustic guitar, was, actually, heading for (what some might call) a career in music.

And, along with every other musican who’s ever sparked off on stage, going….

Please, love me. Do.

I’ve been, as I’ve often said, a lucky guy. I chose It and It chose me.

Under the bedclothes, 1962, aged 13.