Thursday, August 20, 2009



Ostensibly the cheap trick here was the band's dichotomous visual image displayed on the front and back covers of the In Color and Heaven Tonight albums, where two pretty boys gazed dreamily at us from the front cover while two nerds, one thin and geeky and one a chubby accountant-looking guy, hid on the back cover. Robin Zander (vocals) and Tom Petterson (bass) are the good looking guys and Rick Neilsen (guitar) and Bun E Carlos (drums) are the geeks. I guess the marketing strategy was to get the little girls to cream over the pretty guys and therefore buy the record before getting suckered into listening to a band that was not all pin up beautiful. Or maybe the in-joke was just for the boys who liked hard rock and wanted it to be less po-faced and grim than the run-of-mill ugly bands like Uriah Heep, Kansas, Boston or any number of other metal heavyweights of the era.

I read about Cheap Trick in the New Musical Express long before I ever heard their sound. There was a piece that lovingly detailed how wonderful the debut album, Cheap Trick, was because it had this hard rock veneer underneath which all kinds of weird and wonderful lyrics and attitudes hid. Perhaps this was the other cheap trick – it sounded like standard hard rock but it was more subversive. The other neat aspect of the music, particularly In Color and Surrender, was that it owed a big debt to the Beatles. In the New Wave crazy NME and in the wake of the power pop phenomenon, this vaunted Beatle-esque approach made Cheap Trick highly credible. This was excellent praise for an American hard rock band of the late Seventies who did not come out of the New York punk scene that influenced and informed so much of the British punk scene.

'I Want You To Want Me' was the lead single from In Color and eventually became something of a hit when a live version of it, from the Live At Budokan album was released as a single, but it was the studio version I first heard on Radio 5 and which I immediately fell in love with. The song had a kind of clunky, stomping en deliberate riff and vocals and lyrics that very much sounded like something the Beatles might have come up with circa 'Love Me Do' or 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'. I adopted Cheap Trick there and then and loved them. I did not know much about them, had not heard anything else by them but I still loved them. I guess the imprimatur from the NME had quite a bit to do with it.

The NME reviews for In Color and Heaven Tonight were glowing. They loved Cheap Trick too.

Somewhere around 1978, after the release of Heaven Tonight, the third album by the band, I found a sale copy of In Color, possibly at the bi-annual CNA record sale, and bought it, took it home and loved it for real. The album cover had Robin and Tom posing on serious motorcycles, looking all moody and dangerous. On the back Ron Neilsen and Bun E Carlos crouched over mopeds, looking dangerous in a completely different way. The album had a gatefold sleeve and on the one side of the inner cover, Zander and Petterson really posed their hearts out: they were so pretty either the little girls would gush or the gay guys would. On the other side Carlos faced front like a rumpled accountant in a police lineup and we saw Neilsen from the back with his weird short hairstyle, the baseball cap and a sating bomber jacket with the band name all over it. He looked like a guy trying to avoid the paparazzi after spending time in the same line up as his cohort Carlos. No guesses which band members would grace the official poster.

The music on the vinyl consisted of short, intense, riff laden songs with the incredible vocals of Robin Zander. As is the case with Robert Plant, Zander's voice was another instrument in the lineup. As I learnt later, the music and lyrics fitted in with all kinds of American musical traditions from Pacific Northwest and Nuggets style punk, to the Beach Boys, hard rock, pop, and freak out. This was a fun album where each successive tune was as delightful as the previous or the next. This was music for smiling to.

In Color has echoes of early Kiss, Angel, the Move, the Dictators, Big Star, and a number of other pop-styled bands of the Seventies who also liked heavy guitars. Sometime after I bought In Color, I also stocked up on a couple of Aerosmith albums and the first three Blue Oyster Cult albums, and these records, more than the icons of British metal such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath, were where I really got into hard rock. All of them kicked out the jams, but had a lot of melodic smarts and serious craziness going for them. Where Aerosmith was gonzo sexist riffmeisters with a bent for the Mick 'n Keef frontline, and Blue Oyster Cult were funny and heavy at the same time, Cheap Trick was the quirky kid brother, the one who was not nearly as normal as he looked and was proud of it.

It was difficult to think of Cheap Trick as hard rock at all. I thought of the band as New Wave American style and that was alright with me. So Good To See You was on repeat play for the coda where Robin Zander really gave his pipes a semi-operatic (but in a good way) workout. It would have been a monster hit in any parallel universe where I compiled the charts.

I played In Color so much (this was in the days before I had a decent tape recorder and had habitually recorded m vinyl records on tape) that the snap and crackle and pop of the eroded vinyl made listening a chore.

I found the debut album, Cheap Trick, in some sale bin somewhere. I'd read that this album was far heavier, weirder and less pop-oriented than In Color and I was therefore keen on discovering what the band sounded like before they started listening to proto punk. Indeed, the guitars on Cheap Trick are tough, crunching and almost traditionally hard rock compared to the lightness of touch on the second album. Rick Nielsen's concept was probably a band in the vein of the more intelligent hard rock of, say, Blue Oyster Cult, than the blustering thudding of Grand Funk Railroad or the plod of Black Sabbath. He wanted radio hits as much as he wanted to rock the house. In a way Cheap Trick could have been the precursor of Smashing Pumpkins whose Billy Corgan had a similar approach except that Robin Zander had a much more powerful voice and Cheap Trick probably aimed at direct mainstream success in the days before grunge became an alternative mainstream of its own.

Cheap Trick found success only after the release of the At Budokan album, which was originally meant to be a Japan only release as the band had found favour in the land of the rising sun when it was still a struggling band in the USA. At Budokan sold so well on import that the label released it officially in the States and took the live version of I Want You To Want Me off it as a single, and had a bit on their hands. Cheap Trick had released three studio albums without much commercial success although rock critic, especially the cognoscenti in the NME, loved them to death.

The release of Dream Police the follow up to Heaven Tonight, was delayed because of At Budokan's success. It was going to be the big breakthrough album that would cement the band's position in the mainstream and make them top dogs once and for all. The cover was in full colour and all four band members featured on the cover in their Dream Police uniforms.

I had skipped Heaven Tonight, for reasons unknown and probably irrational. The NME review had been ecstatic but it also seemed to me that it would be a tad pretentious and too weird for me after the first two albums and I never bothered acquiring it when released in South Africa.

Therefore, Dream Police was the third Cheap Trick album I bought. Like all of the others I bought it at record sales, but unlike the others the vinyl was a dud. There were deep scratches all over both sides of it to the extent where one could hardly listen to the last couple of tracks because the record jumped so much. I did not like the music much anyway. There was quite a bit of the hard rock style of the debut album but far too much sweet angelic harmony multi-tracked vocals for my liking. The Trick had gone all sophisticated on my ass and I did not care for it. It was an ambitious record form a band that apparently suddenly had the money to blow on studio time but had not quite managed to produce songs that matched the money spent on the production.

When I spotted Heaven Tonight in yet another discount bin, I snapped it up, took it home and prepared to love it. Funnily enough, though it is much in the vein of In Color, there is no tune on it that hit so hard in the guts as almost every song on In Color. It is on this second album that Cheap Trick perfected their early pop influenced, Beatlesque rocking groove. Heaven Tonight was not bad but I did not have a gut reaction to it and I did not play it all that much.

Next up was the EP Found All The Parts which consisted of tunes in the early style, and a great cover of Day Tripper, which emphasised the critics' fondly held view that the late Beatles informed the quintessential Trick songs. Otherwise the guitar sound was thicker, less gritty and to an extent more conventional than the early Trick but the tunes were great and the brevity of the EP makes for a brilliant record that ranks up there with anything that went before.

My final Cheap Trick purchases, both on one day, and I think it was a Ragtime Records sale in the late Eighties, were the early Eighties albums One On One and Next Position Please. By the release of these albums Cheap Trick were no longer the critics' darlings they had been in the Late Seventies and apparently the albums were not particularly commercially successful either. That is a pity for I loved both albums. Sure, they were not In Color, but the songs were great, the production muscular and the musicians were on top form. Just about every song had a memorable tune or hook and I sensed a deal of joy in the playing, even if this may not have been the case with a band that was facing a steady decline in popularity.

Some years later I found All Shook Up at Vibes Vinyl (long since defunct) in the Old Mutual Arcade in the centre of Cape Town, a shop specialising in second hand records, and even cassette tapes. At the time, and after I had not bought records for a very long time, I again became interested in acquiring vinyl versions of albums I had long wanted, never bought when new, and could not really get on CD. Who knows why I bought this, the 5th Cheap Trick so long after the fact, but perhaps it was because I wanted to complete my collection and because the record was cheap. Anyway, I bought the thing and played it perhaps twice before putting it away and into storage along with all my other records. Unlike In Color, or any of the earlier records, All Shook Up just did not appeal at first hearing and I was not prepared to give it time to grow on me.

Supposedly the Trick became more experimental with their music on All Shook Up, though I would have thought that Dream Police had already been pretty experimental, but for the most part it sounds no more and no less like a pretty standard, middle of the road hard rock album with not much to distinguish it from anything else around at the lime. The power pop influence and attack was gone, the joy and fun were gone. This album seemed to have been made by a band that was solidly set on producing a professional product that would suit their record company and mainstream rock radio rather than a set of quirky songs that would appeal to a more selective but more appreciative audience, such as the original fans who loved the first couple of albums. Perhaps Cheap Trick embraced a certain amount of hard rock cliché in order to subvert the genre, but on the other hand this cheap trick was not nearly as entertaining as the sneaky pop smarts of In Color.

I have to confess that my current assessment of All Shook Up is based on a five CD box set of the first three albums, plus All Shook Up and Next Position Please I recently bought. It is a good idea, the packaging of 5 early albums by an artist, in replica record sleeves, and with additional previously unreleased tracks except that for some unholy reason, in the 3 such box sets I own, the albums are not completely in sequence. For example, Dream Police is omitted from the Cheap Trick box set though it is the follow up to Heaven Tonight, and Cheap Trick at Budokan is also not in its rightful place in the sequence of releases. Perhaps this is a marketing ploy motivated by the fact that the two omissions were and maybe still are good little earners in their own right and do not need bundling and also because the live set has been released in an expanded double CD version, for the serious fans.

Never mind my small gropes. When I listened to In Color for the first time in many years, at age 49, I was as thrilled by it as I was when I first popped the record onto my turntable when I was about 19. I believe that this album in particular has not aged one bit, is not such a faddish artifact of its time that it now sounds a tad stupid and lifeless like so much self-consciously "new wave" music of the late Seventies or early Eighties does, or even the leaden hard metal of the era. This is something Cheap Trick has in common with early Aerosmith and Blues Oyster Cult; all of them made hugely enjoyable and interesting music with a degree of intelligence and suss not enjoyed by most of their peers and a resultant long half life.

I liked and still like the tricks Cheap Trick played on my mind. Whether they were pretty boys or dorks made no difference. The music in the grooves kiboshed any visual cliché that would have us file the band under this label or that. Melody end power rock, serious skills and humor, light and shade, all of these aspects make Cheap Trick's music a fun experience. In my book In Color is definitely up there with the greatest albums of all time, or at the very least the albums that always brings a grin to your face when you hear the opening chords of the first song and you know you will be mightily entertained for the next 40 minutes or so.




Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Beatles



The first I knew about The Beatles was that their music had been banned from broadcasting on the South African airwaves, at least through the SABC, because their music was blasphemous, or perhaps because they were blasphemers for claiming that The Beatles were bigger than God, arising from a comment made by John Lennon that also got the band into trouble in the US Bible belt.

Many years later, when I was in the middle of my high school career the Rector gave a two part sermon on the evils of pop culture and used a couple of Beatles songs as examples of how subversive popular music could be and how the tunes contained all kinds of disguised drug, satanistic and generally anti-authoritarian references calculated to undermine the moral fibre of the youth. By that time I had heard a number of Beatles songs, owned a greatest hits album of theirs and was not prepared to accept this bullshit for anything but bullshit from an out of touch, conservative Afrikaner teacher. Maybe the songs contained drug references, but who cared? Those subtle or not so subtle references were what made us like the songs in the first place and I could honestly say that no Beatles lyric, or any song lyric for that matter, ever influenced me to renounce Calvinism or made me take up drugs or become a homicidal loner who hated society and everyone in it. I rejected my parents' religion because I did not believe in it, I took up drug long after I left school because I was curious and interested and they were available, and I was a loner through inclination and choice but never became an addict or mass murderer because of my alienation and eventually snapped out of it when I finally grew up, quite late in life.

The point is: no Beatles song ever influenced my thoughts or actions in any way whatsoever. I saw them as a perfectly nice pop group with some terrific tunes, realised their iconic status put them in a different league to everyone else, and left it at that. The Beatles was just one more band I liked.

The first time I really took note of their music was when Oh Darling off Abbey Road got quite a bit of airplay in South Africa, presumably after the band had officially broken up, as understood the reason why the Beatles was suddenly allowed back on the SABC channels had something to do with that technicality, i.e. they no longer existed and the radio ban could only apply to a working, functioning entity. At least that is what I heard; it may have been completely untrue, but in the context of the times and the sometimes stupid rules and regulation we lived under, and the many loopholes that existed, or were created, to allow one to escape from the full force of the repression, this explanation for the Beatles being in favour again, did not seem especially outrageous.

Most of the Beatles hits, apart from parodies of their tunes by the likes of Peter Sellers and the Carry On film series, were beyond my ken until I had the opportunity to listen to the two greatest hits sets, 1962 – 1966 "red" album and 1966 – 1970 "blue" album at the house of a school mate whose older brother owned the albums. I immediately liked most of the early hits, and found Hey Jude almost unbearably exciting with its (to me) inscrutable lyrics and huge sing-a-long coda. The Beatles seemed to be the kind of band one could enjoy on many levels though at the time I was only into the visceral attractions of music. If it had a good beat and you could dance to it, I was into it.

I've owned vinyl copies of the 1962 - 1966 "red" hits album, The Rock'n Roll double album, and had the benefit of listening to Municipal library copies of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be. Latterly I've bought the double CD sets Anthology 1 and Anthology 3 , and With The Beatles and Rubber Soul, to date hereof my most recent purchase.

I own Phillip Norman's biography of the band and Ian McDonald and Tim Riley's two separate song by song commentaries on the music, the infamous Albert Goldman biography of John Lennon, a slim picture volume called The Beatles In Their Own Words, a day to day activities diary, and some other written odds and ends. The Beatles story is pretty well documented in my rock library.

Does this make me a Beatle expert? I suppose not, given the vast mass of material out there, not to mention the latest Phillip Norman biography of Lennon, and the many authors who have had something publicly and in print to say about the group. Having said that, I do have an opinion about the band and its place in pop cultural history, and the relative merits of the various members' contributions to the music and the myth.

Simply put, I believe that George Harrison was the least talented songwriter in the group, that Lennon's supposed genius is vastly overrated and inflated by his so-called premature death -- he had been artistically dead for some time before he was shot -- and that even McCartney, who is most probably one of the most talented songwriter ever, pissed away his talent with inconsequential pop after he left the Beatles. Maybe all of them needed the others (and George Martin) to make something better than the sum of the parts and try as they might none of them ever really improved on their Sixties, youthful creativity.

Double Fantasy was crap when I first heard it, and Lennon's death made no impact on my assessment. I would think it would not have sole as many copies as it did if Lennon had remained alive to promote it. Although forty is by no means old he sounded like an old fogey making old fogey music in a cocoon of wealth and privilege but with no link to reality, either to what was happening musically or socially.

Somewhere in the late sixties John Lennon realised that his wealth and prestige gave him enormous cachet and leeway to do almost anything he wanted. He probably learnt from Yoko Ono that just about any activity could be labelled art and if you were John Lennon your farts could be made into art happenings if you declared them such. Hence sitting in a bed or in a bag for peace. The best things Lennon did after leaving the Beatles can be summed up in the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine albums. After that he trod water and essentially became famous for being famous.

George Harrison was the "quiet one", interested in guitars and guitar solos (his greatest sphere of creativity on record until he was allowed a song of two per album) and later Indian mysticism, the sitar and a huge beard. Much later, probably when he realised that his musical career was the pits, he bankrolled some good movies, and some poor choices like Shanghai Surprise, and then joined the Travelling Willburys where he could slot into his standard Beatles role and be a great supporting instrumentalist. But really, apart from All Things Must Pass, and some nice early Seventies singles, Harrison could never surpass Taxman, Something or even While My Guitar Gently Weeps and even the latter track became something special mostly because of Eric Clapton's solo. George Harrison was capable of writing a good song every now and then but he was not consistent and that is why he is secondary to both Lennon and McCartney who almost always delivered the good. Even a mediocre Lennon / McCartney tune can be interesting; a mediocre Harrison song is just dull.

I can think of a few prominent McCartney songs from his post Beatles career, such as Band on the Run, Live and let Die, Silly Love Songs, Ebony & Ivory, The Girl is Mine (both collaborations with Black artists that seem to be little better than frivolous novelties), Tug of War and Mull of Kintyre, and these are all from radio play. Apart from the Band on the Run album I have not listened to any Wings or solo McCartney album, and have no desire to. Of all these songs, only Mull of Kintyre is a true classic, a standard, the kind of song that can really bring a lump to the throat under the right circumstances. Lennon's song Imagine comes closest to a standard, but I cannot think of anything Harrison wrote or released after the Beatles break up that would ever be a standard of such proportions. Say what you will about McCartney, he can sure write them if he puts his mind to it.

John Lennon may have been the genius and may have been the true iconoclast in the Beatles, but he is the kind of artist who creates best on impulse and not all impulses are good. McCartney probably has impulse and dedication to craft, and can work a song into something splendid even if the effect is wholly calculated. This makes him the real genius and one of the giants of popular music. Sadly it seems to me that most of his output over the last 20 years or more has relied more on craft and polish than on creative spark.

I used to own a vinyl copy of the late Seventies John Lennon album Rock & Roll, bought as a budget re-release in the Eighties, because I recalled the hit from it, Stand By Me, as a particular favourite of mine back in the day and it seemed to me that the menu of rock and roll covers could not be a bad thing, and I must confess that I did enjoy the album and played it often when I still played records. I would not mind owning it on CD. The only other solo Lennon album I would want to own, is John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, though I would not mind listening to Imagine again, and maybe Mind Games and Some Time In New York City. On the whole, though, a greatest hits collection is about the best way to experience John Lennon.

As for Paul McCartney, I once had a taped copy of Band on the Run and listened to Back to the Egg, (which was terrible)
but I cannot really think of any one Wings or solo McCartney album I would want to pay money for or necessarily would want to listen to either, though I guess I would then be guilty of dismissing a whole body of work because of some individual examples I did not like. The thing is, whereas Paul at least had the gumption to start up a whole new band and drive it to success, he went into a musical direction that was the antithesis of what I was listening to or deeply interested in when I was a teenager, and the adult in me has not reconciled with the AOR rock of Wings. The post-Wings pop has left me totally cold.

As for George Harrison, about the only thing associated with him that I am interested in, is the DVD of the Concert for Bangla Desh movie, which may well have been his shining hour. Maybe All Things Must Pass as well, but in his case I do not think that even a greatest hits package would find favour with me.

As for Ringo Starr, the singing drummer, I must confess that his early Seventies hits such as Back Off Boogaloo and She's Sixteen were firm favourites of mine and they are still fun. He had no pretentions to art or artifice and made records because he was allowed to and fortuitously had some hits along the way. The movie career did not quite take off, perhaps because of bad choices, and nowadays he is on the road again, with a new band and new releases, and I guess he can make a living retreading some nostalgia and offering more modern sounds that will never trouble the charts or find favour with a general rock audience again. Perhaps Ringo is one of the lucky ones, who managed to hitch on to a speeding train to stardom without needing to be the talent or the ambition, and he became as famous as the rest, as lovable, and can now boast of being one of only two surviving Beatles. He is a living legend of sorts and maybe dozens of biographies will flood the booksellers after he dies, but I do not think anyone will ever write a revisionist tome in which he is found to be the most underappreciated genius of the century. About the best one could say about him in the context of the Beatles, it seems, is that he was a very capable drummer who did make a very useful contribution to their sound.

The genesis of this piece is my purchase of Rubber Soul a couple of weeks ago, from a CD seller on Greenmarket Square, along with Anthology 3, which covers the "White Album", Abbey Road and Let It Be final years. The anthology contains mostly demos and it is interesting to hear the naked, unadorned versions of songs better known in full arranged and orchestrated fury, such as Helter Skelter or Hey Jude, and even While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something, but one allows for the fact that these tracks are demos and if they sound a bit cheesy or flat, the reason is that they have been fully worked out and need polishing. However, it was Rubber Soul that was the revelation, in a manner of speaking, of disappointment.

If one is used to greatest hits compilations of pop groups, listening to albums can be less than satisfactory when not every song is a killer. This is what Rubber Soul is like. As I understand the conventional wisdom of how Beatles albums and the body of work are categorised, Rubber Soul is where they start maturing into the era of the peak that is Revolver, and perhaps Sgt Pepper, before dipping into the trough that is Magical Mystery Tour and the rocky period of the "White" album and the Let It Be sessions, before peaking again with Abbey Road. Before Rubber Soul, the Beatles were quite good, but still somehow a bit twee and hidebound and too much of the family entertainers. From here on in they take LSD and expand their personal and musical consciences and truly become avant garde.

I approached Rubber Soul with much anticipation. The cover is great, my favourite Beatles album cover, and it has a number of songs I knew and loved, close to half of the album's songs can be found on the 1962 - 1966 greatest hits set. As it turned out, the well known tunes are also by far the best of the bunch and the other tunes seem mostly like filler to me. The two Harrison songs are dire, and Lennon's Run For Your Life, that seems like a left over from the debut album or maybe With The Beatles, is just terribly naff. Where was the quality control? These kind of songs counter the argument that the Beatles were simply the greatest pop group ever. Okay, maybe Rubber Soul is just a flawed album by a great band, but it seems to me that just about all their albums are similarly flawed, as most of Harrison's songs up to maybe the "white" album were at best mediocre, Ringo just had his single goof per record, and the quality of Lennon's output fluctuated wildly -- for every Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds there is a Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite.

Apparently a New York rock critic Richard Goldstein was just about the only rock writer who did not think much of Sgt Pepper at the time it was released and found himself lonely and castigated out on a limb of his own making. Perhaps he was more correct in his opinion of the album than everybody who did and still reckon it to be one of the best albums ever made, if not the best. It seems to me that the event of Sgt Pepper has overtaken the reality of the music, which is not that bad and not in total all that wonderful either if you get right down to it. Like most Beatles albums it is a mixture of wonderful and mediocre lent more weight because it is a Beatles product.

If one wants the best of all possible Beatles worlds, buy the "red" and "blue" greatest hits sets, or the later Beatles 1 album, and you will have all the good stuff. The rest, barring an exception here or there, is disposable. The best one can say for the Beatles, to paraphrase John Lennon, is that they became very popular and are now, even more than ever, cultural icons of a magnitude that it would be hard to diminish and, as is the case with Elvis Presley, the music becomes of secondary importance, just background to the big show. The hits will always be with us, the mop top images will always survive on posters and other merchandise, John Lennon will most likely always be thought of as the genius more than Paul McCartney, and the Beatles industry will thrive for as long as pop culture exists.

Despite my high school principal's dire warnings and greatest fears, my only Beatles connected drug experience occurred when I was already close to my mid-forties. It was a night I spent with fortysomething friends when we were all high on some herbal substance (not the obvious one) they smoked and I consumed as a kind of infusion, and the guy played the Beatles 1 album. Somehow he became fixated on and obsessed with Eleanor Rigby. It is probably not the first track on the CD, so we must have listened to the preceding tracks in the ordinary course but for some reason the guy got stuck on this piece of McCartney schmaltz with its deeply meaningful lyrics about alienation, set to a great pop tune. My host identified with the deep meaning he perceived in the rather mundane lyrics. The pause and return and play buttons of the remote control to the CD Player worked overtime. We'd listen to half the song and then he'd pause, share his stoned insights, then return to the start of the track and let it play for a few seconds before pausing again, and sharing more insights, or maybe even the same insight, put slightly differently, before starting the track from the beginning again.

This process lasted a couple of hours, or so it seemed, and we never got through the whole of the song. Obviously the guy and his partner, who had theories of her own, were heavily into their explication of the lyrics and intent behind them and so forth, and may well have had true insight in their attempts to relate a pop song to the greater human tragedy around us, but it got a tad trying after a while, especially as I was not nearly as stoned as they were and rapidly became bored and irritated with having to listen to the same bits of the song over and over. I went to bed and they carried on and for all I know, never did get to the end of Eleanor Rigby.

This experience should probably be a convincing reason why one should not take drugs.

Perhaps it was totally coincidental that the Beatles drove my friends to this kind of excess and maybe it would have happened with any other album they'd chosen to play, but I almost think not. Whatever it was that John, Paul, George and Ringo had, it was something that still has some of us caught up in imagination and awe.