Monday, 11 October 2010

Working Class Hero from Weybridge

John Lennon would have been seventy this weekend, and I'm getting to like him more and more. Alistair at "Crivens, jings and help ma bob" blog, observed that he too wasn't that keen on Lennon during his lifetime. As a kid, I followed pop music, and was sucked into the media's battle of the bands between The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I was only young and loved the Beatles songs, but wasn't that keen on their image. Firstly they had those Italian suits and I've always been averse to dressing up smart. Secondly, the Beatles were promoted as wholesome, whereas the Stones were ruffians. Even at a young age I responded to pop music as something rebellious and an antidote to the bland "family entertainment" that was served up by the BBC for our enjoyment - that black and white minstrel show could have damaged me permanently, and sent me off in various directions.

And I had something else against the Beatles. All we ever heard about was that they were working class lads from Liverpool, yet as soon as they made loads of money they moved to my home town, but didn't sing any songs about it. Lennon and Starr lived at St George's Hill estate in Weybridge, and McCartney and Harrison were also living in Surrey. The Rolling Stones came from my neck of the woods too. But I can't pretend I had ever seen, let alone be on nodding terms with Bill, Keith, Charlie, Mick or Brian, despite them being based in nearby towns familiar to me from maps and traffic signs.

Lennon's solo career seemed patchy, and it was so easy to sneer when the multi millionaire sang "imagine no possessions". Yoko's influence and Fluxus art ideas took John in other directions, to the dismay of those who wanted more Beatles stuff. Yet now and then he would produce something that moved me, and "working class hero" knocked me out the first (and subsequent) times I heard it. At the time his sleep-ins for peace seemed ridiculous to the unworldly me, but of course he and Yoko knew what they were doing to raise awareness of the issues.

As time went on I met many overseas visitors, students, lodgers, colleagues and friends, and so many seemed to be fans of the Beatles. And having revisited the Beatles' and Lennon's songbook, I have come to appreciate them so much more. Maybe, after all this time, I'll have to visit the zebra crossing at Abbey Road. But please don't force me to listen to any more of Yoko's singing, I'll stick with the Beatles "in my life" and a hundred others first.


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