From about the age of 16, I was a Beatles maniac. And I mean maniac: I could have gone on the Einstein factor with my obsessive knowledge of the chronology of the Beatles rise and demise (with special reference to John Lennon.) I had every Beatles book in publication, every poster I could afford, and a second-hand box of the Beatles tapes (yes, tapes). I learned the guitar for the sole purpose of playing Beatles songs (until I figured out that nobody can cover any Beatles repertoire well, except George Harrison’s songs, which don’t really count.) I was desperately jealous of my mother, who had been in the fourth row of the Beatles concert at Festival Hall in Melbourne in 1964, and of my Dad’s Scouse mates, one of whom had been to the Cavern Club and heard the Beatles before they hit the big time. (Just imagine how obsessive I could have been if the Internet had been around!)
As a result of all this, I listened to a lot of early 60s Britpop, and, of course, to their rivals the Stones. But the music of the later 60s didn’t work for me: I skipped straight from the Beatles to the still awesome David Bowie (although I didn’t mind a bit of Procol Harum, and I can still sing Hair in its entirety after a bottle of wine.) I was particularly baffled by people raving about Bob Dylan. His voice grated, he didn’t do witty soundbites like John Lennon, and his songs seemed whiney and old and all the same. I didn’t get it.
Well, now I do. Now, I think that he’s the Shakespeare of the modern age. Now, I don’t know how I lived without him for so long. Now, I wish that I’d had the sense to overlook the folksiness that used to drive me mad and listen, just listen, to the words. Like:
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.
My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful,
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can’t buy her.
Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters.
I am so glad I’ve lived long enough to realise this. The joy of getting older is that, if you’re doing it properly, your mind opens up. It’s a beautiful thing.