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.

25 Comments on “Music and Memory”

  1. Yrret says:

    I read elsewhere that Peter was quoted as saying “Tomorrow Never Knows” the final track on the 1966 Beatles LP “Revolver was a major influence on his composing.

  2. Peter Pyser says:

    Peter, we need a Pawn Hearts box set with more outtakes, all realted bbc sessions and a big book with plenty of that period pictures!!

  3. Giovanni Arturo says:

    by coincidence, I was 13 when I heard a song on the radio – it was a program called “Per Voi Giovani”, and the song was “Lemmings”… a breathtaking discovery, to say the least

    that must be a very receptive age, in particular for musical imprinting…

    (this, as usual, inspiring post made me also thinking about the evolutionary path from “Love Me Do” to “Lemmings”… nine well spent years, I would say)

  4. Laurie Parsons says:

    Remembering the Beatles must be some sort of worthy cliché. My recollections of the 1960’s are centred around Kennedy, Aberfan and Hey Jude ~ no link just memories. Sitting in the park waiting to hear the new number one ~ Hey Jude, finding it was more than 3 minutes long and then Radio One played the “b” side ~ what a surprise ! Fast forward to 1970 when VDGG were due to play at the school dance. We had had Black Sabbath the year before. For some reason the line up was changed and we had Uriah Heep and Caravan, but by this time I had borrowed H to He ~ I must have bought 4 or 5 copies over the years (LP’s and CD’s) ~ and got sucked it (between the balls of steel) A start of a long appreciation ~ Still My Favourite album though. And I’ve even got “Theme One” as my ringtone.
    Thanks Peter for all the excitement and pleasure you have brought over the years ~ this years gig at the Barbican was one of the best ever, as was…….well never mind !!!!

  5. Great post! Although a church organist, it was my dad who introduced me to the Beatles. He wanted me to know what young people at the office where worked listened to. So he brought me two EPs when I was nine years old. That must have been around 1964. On Swiss radio one could only listen to light music, Swiss folklore yodeling music and classical music. Classical was ok, the rest I dreaded. It was a revelation when the Beatles arrived in my world. I also listened to Radio Luxembourg at night in my bed on medium wave with the music and statics fading in and out. Another revelation was of course when I for the first time listened to Darkness, Refugees etc in 1970. I was immediately hooked. I saw VdGG five times this year in Germany and Italy and the music still touches me. Thanks Peter!

  6. John Luijten says:

    I had a simular experience… I was 14 when i read a review of the album “Over” by Peter Hammill, written by Bert van der Kamp, a legendary music writer. I bought the album, and after playing it 9, 10 times I was completely blown away… I will always remember the first time I heard it.
    Crying wolf, a guitar solo… Later I found out that it was one of the rare moments in your music, guitar solos…Meurglyss III, of course…
    I bought everything from PH and VDGG, a lifelong love for their music. And “Over” is still My Favorite, how lucky can any man be.
    (Sorry for my bad English, to quote Goldmember from Austin Powers: “I’m from Holland, isn’t that weird?”)

  7. Ólafur Auðunsson (Iceland) says:

    ..and we are lucky to have you.Thanks Peter.

  8. Yrret says:

    I would have thought “Man of Mystery” by the Shadows a more likely candidate for Peter’s 1960s eureka moment.

  9. klink9 says:

    Ah, Beatle memories. I was aware of them in earlier days but they only really reached me at age 9 (early 1967) with Strawberry Fields Forever. Much has been written about it’s real meaning, but it connected with me because I missed my father who traveled a lot. From one 9 year old to another perhaps

  10. Steve says:

    Isn’t it nice when we choose a fulfilling career? Yes, we choose and it chooses us. I’ve been lucky, too, with what I do. And if mistakes are made, in our careers or elsewhere, well it all comes out in the wash (hmmm…looked up the origin of that saying: see…shades of “Last Frame” here).

    Thanks for choosing the musical career that you did and for all the good stuff that’s been created.

    Wow…Martha & The Vandellas.

    Steve / USA

  11. miguel muzquiz says:

    I enjoyed this.Though I would have thought Mr. Hammill more of a Stones fan.

  12. Erez says:

    That was a great read!
    Alot of my life experiences are etched with musical background,
    One of my first memories ever is Beatles oriented-
    I was about 3-4, playing Lego and listening to the White Album (well, actually my sister listened to it, but it sure did register).
    For some reason the most memorable song from this memory is Ob La Di Ob La Da, which is not one of my favourites, but oh well, I cant re-write my first memory 🙂

  13. Andrea says:

    Beautiful writing, “we are written” ! isn’t it ? : )

  14. Baudouin Le Charlier says:

    Peter, nous avons presque le même âge. Et moi, je suis encore jeune, tu sais. Et, je me souviens très bien de “Elle m’aime, yé yé yé !” par Jacky Moulière sur une radio pourrie. Le lendemain, elle ne fonctionnait plus.


  15. Gareth Price says:

    Great remembrances Peter. Although I can go back to Little White Bull by Tommy Steele, the first LP I personally owned was The Shadows Greatest Hits. My moment of epiphany came though the first time I heard I Can’t Explain by The Who, followed a few years later by hearing Killer by some group whose name escapes me at the moment…….whatever happened to them? 😀

    @ Robert Drower. Horace Batchelor lives on!

  16. Mikayel says:

    I believe each of us has his or her own story of coming into the World of Music. All of them would be equally warm and beautiful. Now, knowing how it happened to the man who was later to open new pages in the Book of the World Music and to become part of our Inner Worlds, enriches those and makes our relation to the Music even more vivid. Thank you, Peter!

  17. Alejandro Torres Melo says:

    Great piece of writing, Peter.
    Saludos from Mexico City.

  18. Robert Drower says:

    A fascinating post! Much will be familiar to many of us of a certain age.
    I used to smuggle my mother’s Sky Queen radio up to my bedroom at night, and first heard Love Me Do on Luxembourg too.
    Through all that fading in and out of the signal, I recall the DJ saying ‘That was the Beatles, spelt B E A T L E S.’ I was listening in K E Y N S H A M!

  19. Anonymous says:

    A fascinating post! Much will be familiar to many of us of a certain age.
    I used to smuggle my mother’s Sky Queen radio up to my bedroom at night, and first heard Love Me Do on Luxembourg too.
    Through all that fading in and out of the signal, I recall the DJ saying ‘That was the Beatles, spelt B E A T L E S.’ I was listening in K E Y N S H A M!

  20. Larry says:

    A surprising glimpse into the mind of Mr. Hammill, and right on the money for catching the moment. Good one, Peter.

  21. Peter, this was so wonderful to read, this is a side of you that we don’t really see, I love it / we love it.

    Still play your music every week ! I don’t remember the exact date but it was 1979 when I heard The Old School Tie blasting through the speakers in a music store in Melbourne and I was hooked.


  22. Richard says:

    Yes, I was another listener to radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes! I especially remember ‘Hey Joe’, and had it on the day it was released! But then I’ve been a Hendrix fan ever since, and a Peter Ham mill/VDGG fan for only a few years less.

  23. Scott says:

    So evocative. Lovely writing, Peter.

  24. c says:

    Beautiful post! i’m another one of the many people who also listened to the radio under the bed clothes as a kid, and those moments stick with you forever, don’t they? Choosing music and viceversa ❤ thank you!!

  25. Cor Melse says:

    Well Peter, We love You, Do!

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