Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Liverpool, how far to Glasgow?

Actually, for all practical purposes, Liverpool is about halfway between London and Glasgow. But the question occurred to me incidentally.
I had listened to something both flashier and noisier than I usually watch on TV. It was the White House performance honoring Paul McCartney, with lots of guest stars. I love the Beatles, and it makes me sad today that only two are left. It makes me feel really old that our First Family is too young to remember the Beatles when the latter were young.
Anyhow, not for the first time did I wonder why I like them so much. I first saw it clearly when the White Album was issued. The Beatles wrap up a whole complex of genuinely popular music, from music hall (or American vaudeville), to Salvation Army bands and protestant hymns, to the American pop of the 50s that they themselves liked, and more. And gradually it dawned on me, the distinctive thing: Liverpool is not London. Wasn't it closer to Scotland? Actually, no it isn't. But Liverpudlian is not Londinian, either. In fact the young Beatles re-awakened in me one of the greatest pleasures of my childhood: my grandfather's collection of Harry Lauder. When we were little he'd lead us dancing around the dining room table to Wee doch an doris or I love a lassie. Musically, there is no great difference between Keep right on to the end of the road and Hey, Jude. Of course, the few people (and I think that Americans of Scotch-Irish extraction may be fonder of him than either Scottish or English people are today) who know his songs probably only know I love a lassie and Roamin' in the gloamin'. There are dozens and dozens more. Not that the Beatles' songs, even Paul McCartney's, are really like Lauder, but the pleasure they arouse in someone with a Harry Lauder childhood is the same. And that genuine music hall link (so much merrier than With her head tucked underneath her arm, which tries too hard) goes far to explain why I never liked the Rolling Stones or almost any others as I did the Beatles.
So that is why, this evening, I sat through 90 minutes, 60 minutes of which was arrangements that I did not like at all, for the pleasure of hearing Paul himself sing Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday.
The reason it needs explaining is that I was already "over thirty" (as the hippie children said derisively) when their greatest songs came out, and they kept rewarding me with things like a French horn solo or For the benefit of Mr. Kite..., or—but I no longer have the albums handy.
Just a note in passing.
Today it's a quarter century since I followed popular music at all.