Thursday, July 06, 2017

It Was Sixty Years Ago Today

It was only the beginning of the greatest artistic collaboration in Western culture in the last century or three. Attention must be paid. 

July 6 fell on a Sunday 60 years ago. A church in the northern port city of Liverpool, England had an afternoon outdoor party, where they let the young folk play their skiffle music — a kind of rocked-up country sound that was all the rage in England at a time when New York and Los Angeles media didn’t yet possess the means to dictate taste and fashion to every corner of the world. A 15-year old boy mulling around the audience looked up and saw these kids on the stage, looking just as they do in the photo below, taken at that very event. The bandleader was 16-year-old John Lennon (that’s him in the middle, ten long years away from the mutton-chop sideburns and granny glasses of Sgt. Pepper), who lived in the nicer side of town with his aunt because of some family issues. Paul wanted in on the band, so he borrowed a guitar from someone and played “20-Flight Rock” for John. The two got along well enough, so Paul was in, and the most momentous Sunday outdoor church party in modern history came to pass. Sixty years ago today....
So much began right here among these children.

Later, Paul would suggest this kid he rode with on the schoolbus to come in — yeah, he’s only 14 years old, but listen, he plays a mean guitar. John was skeptical, but George Harrison played a notoriously difficult instrumental piece called “Raunchy,” and not only earned his place in the band, but as lead guitarist, as he was demonstrably more skilled and confident in his playing than either John or Paul. (Paul later got stuck playing bass because George was too good not to be on guitar, and bandleader John wasn’t giving up his ax. So Paul took up the bass, developed his own style of playing, and set the example for bass-playing frontmen for half a century on forward.)

I mention all this because one thing all the documentaries and TV specials and retrospectives always fail to get across is how young they were when they all met. They were mere boys, from the not-so-great areas of a not-so-great town, who, running on nothing more than their enthusiasm for playing and singing would go on to become the most influential singers and songwriters of the 20th century, and beyond. And it all started at this church party. Sixty years ago today.