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by Maureen Cleave, The Evening Standard, 4th March 1966

It was this time three years ago that The Beatles first grew famous. Ever since then, observers have anxiously tried to gauge whether their fame was on the wax or on the wane; they foretold the fall of the old Beatles, they searched diligently for the new Beatles (which was as pointless as looking for the new Big Ben).

At last they have given up; The Beatles’ fame is beyond question. It has nothing to do with whether they are rude or polite, married or unmarried, 25 or 45; whether they appear on Top of the Pops or do not appear on Top of the Pops. They are well above any position even a Rolling Stone might jostle for. They are famous in the way the Queen is famous. When John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce, with its black wheels and its black windows, goes past, people say: ‘It’s the Queen,’ or ‘It’s The Beatles.’ With her they share the security of a stable life at the top. They all tick over in the public esteem-she in Buckingham Palace, they in the Weybridge-Esher area. Only Paul remains in London.

The Weybridge community consists of the three married Beatles; they live there among the wooded hills and the stockbrokers. They have not worked since Christmas and their existence is secluded and curiously timeless. ‘What day is it?’ John Lennon asks with interest when you ring up with news from outside. The fans are still at the gates but The Beatles see only each other. They are better friends than ever before.

Ringo and his wife, Maureen, may drop in on John and Cyn; John may drop in on Ringo; George and Pattie may drop in on John and Cyn and they might all go round to Ringo’s, by car of course. Outdoors is for holidays.

They watch films, they play rowdy games of Buccaneer; they watch television till it goes off, often playing records at the same time. They while away the small hours of the morning making mad tapes. Bedtimes and mealtimes have no meaning as such. ‘We’ve never had time before to do anything but just be Beatles,’ John Lennon said.

He is much the same as he was before. He still peers down his nose, arrogant as an eagle, although contact lenses have righted the short sight that originally caused the expression. He looks more like Henry VIII than ever now that his face has filled out-he is just as imperious, just as unpredictable, indolent, disorganised, childish, vague, charming and quick-witted. He is still easy-going, still tough as hell. ‘You never asked after Fred Lennon,’ he said, disappointed. (Fred is his father; he emerged after they got famous.) ‘He was here a few weeks ago. It was only the second time in my life I’d seen him—I showed him the door.’ He went on cheerfully: ‘I wasn’t having him in the house.’

His enthusiasm is undiminished and he insists on its being shared. George has put him on to this Indian music. ‘You’re not listening, are you?’ he shouts after 20 minutes of the record. ‘It’s amazing this-so cool’ Don’t the Indians appear cool to you? Are you listening? This music is thousands of years old; it makes me laugh, the British going over there and telling them what to do. Quite amazing.’ And he switched on the television set.

Experience has sown few seeds of doubt in him: not that his mind is closed, but it’s closed round whatever he believes at the time. ‘Christianity will go,’ he said. ‘It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first-rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.’ He is reading extensively about religion.

He shops in lightning swoops on Asprey’s these days and there is some fine wine in his cellar, but he is still quite unselfconscious. He is far too lazy to keep up appearances, even if he had worked out what the appearances should be-which he has not.

He is now 25. He lives in a large, heavily panelled, heavily carpeted, mock Tudor house set on a hill with his wife Cynthia and his son Julian. There is a cat called after his aunt Mimi, and a purple dining room. Julian is three; he may be sent to the Lycde in London. ‘Seems the only place for him in his position,’ said his father, surveying him dispassionately. ‘I feel sorry for him, though. I couldn’t stand ugly people even when I was five. Lots of the ugly ones are foreign, aren’t they?’

We did a speedy tour of the house, Julian panting along behind, clutching a large porcelain Siamese cat. John swept past the objects in which he had lost interest: ‘That’s Sidney’ (a suit of armour); ‘That’s a hobby I had for a week’ (a room full of model racing cars); ‘Cyn won’t let me get rid of that’(a fruit machine). In the sitting room are eight little green boxes with winking red lights; he bought them as Christmas presents but never got round to giving them away. They wink for a year; one imagines him sitting there till next Christmas, surrounded by the little winking boxes.

He paused over objects he still fancies; a huge altar crucifix of a Roman Catholic nature with IHS on it; a pair of crutches, a present from George; an enormous Bible he bought in Chester; his gorilla suit.

‘I thought I might need a gorilla suit,’ he said; he seemed sad about it. ‘I’ve only worn it twice. I thought I might pop it on in the summer and drive round in the Ferrari. We were all going to get them and drive round in them but I was the only one who did. I’ve been thinking about it and if I didn’t wear the head it would make an amazing fur coat-with legs, you see. I would like a fur coat but I’ve never run into any.’

One feels that his possessions-to which he adds daily-have got the upper hand; all the tape recorders, the five television sets, the cars, the telephones of which he knows not a single number. The moment he approaches a switch it fuses; six of the winking boxes, guaranteed to last till next Christmas, have gone funny already. His cars-the Rolls, the Mini-Cooper (black wheels, black windows), the Ferrari (being painted black)-puzzle him. Then there’s the swimming pool, the trees sloping away beneath it. ‘Nothing like what I ordered,’ he said resignedly. He wanted the bottom to be a mirror. ‘It’s an amazing household,’ he said. ‘None of my gadgets really work except the gorilla suit-that’s the only suit that fits me.’

He is very keen on books, will always ask what is good to read. He buys quantities of books and these are kept tidily in a special room. He has Swift, Tennyson, Huxley, Orwell, costly leather-bound editions of Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde. Then there’s Little Women, all the William books from his childhood; and some unexpected volumes such as Forty-One Years In India, by Field Marshal Lord Roberts, and Curiosities of Natural History, by Francis T. Buckland. This last-with its chapter headings ‘Ear-less Cats’, ‘Wooden-Legged People,’ ‘The Immortal Harvey’s Mother’-is right up his street.

He approaches reading with a lively interest untempered by too much formal education. ‘I’ve read millions of books,’ he said, ‘that’s why I seem to know things.’ He is obsessed by Celts. ‘I have decided I am a Celt,’ he said. ‘I am on Boadicea’s side-all those bloody blue-eyed blondes chopping people up. I have an awful feeling wishing I was there-not there with scabs and sores but there through reading about it. The books don’t give you more than a paragraph about how they lived; I have to imagine that.’

He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England. ‘Physically lazy,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind writing or reading or watching or speaking, but sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with any more.’ Occasionally he is driven to London in the Rolls by an ex-Welsh guardsman called Anthony; Anthony has a moustache that intrigues him.

The day I visited him he had been invited to lunch in London, about which he was rather excited. ‘Do you know how long lunch lasts?’ he asked. ‘I’ve never been to lunch before. I went to a Lyons the other day and had egg and chips and a cup of tea. The waiters kept looking and saying: “No, it isn’t him, it can’t be him”.’

He settled himself into the car and demonstrated the television, the folding bed, the refrigerator, the writing desk, the telephone. He has spent many fruitless hours on that telephone. ‘I only once got through to a person,’ he said, ‘and they were out.’

Anthony had spent the weekend in Wales. John asked if they’d kept a welcome for him in the hillside and Anthony said they had. They discussed the possibility of an extension for the telephone. We had to call at the doctor’s because John had a bit of sea urchin in his toe. ‘Don’t want to be like Dorothy Dandridge,’ he said, ‘dying of a splinter 50 years later.’ He added reassuringly that he had washed the foot in question.

We bowled along in a costly fashion through the countryside. ‘Famous and loaded’ is how he describes himself now. ‘They keep telling me I’m all right for money but then I think I may have spent it all by the time I’m 40 so I keep going. That’s why I started selling my cars; then I changed my mind and got them all back and a new one too.

‘I want the money just to be rich. The only other way of getting it is to be born rich. If you have money, that’s power without having to be powerful. I often think that it’s all a big conspiracy, that the winners are the Government and people like us who’ve got the money. That joke about keeping the workers ignorant is still true; that’s what they said about the Tories and the landowners and that; then Labour were meant to educate the workers but they don’t seem to be doing that any more.’

He has a morbid horror of stupid people: ‘Famous and loaded as I am, I still have to meet soft people. It often comes into my mind that I’m not really rich. There are really rich people but I don’t know where they are.’

He finds being famous quite easy, confirming one’s suspicion that The Beatles had been leading up to this all their lives. ‘Everybody thinks they would have been famous if only they’d had the Latin and that. So when it happens it comes naturally. You remember your old grannie saying soft things like: “You’ll make it with that voice.”’ Not, he added, that he had any old grannies.

He got to the doctor 2 3/4 hours early and to lunch on time but in the wrong place. He bought a giant compendium of games from Asprey’s but having opened it he could not, of course, shut it again. He wondered what else he should buy. He went to Brian Epstein’s office. ‘Any presents?’ he asked eagerly; he observed that there was nothing like getting things free. He tried on the attractive Miss Hanson’s spectacles.

The rumour came through that a Beatle had been sighted walking down Oxford Street! He brightened. ‘One of the others must be out,’ he said, as though speaking of an escaped bear. ‘We only let them out one at a time,’ said the attractive Miss Hanson firmly.

He said that to live and have a laugh were the things to do; but was that enough for the restless spirit?

‘Weybridge,’ he said, ‘won’t do at all. I’m just stopping at it, like a bus stop. Bankers and stockbrokers live there; they can add figures and Weybridge is what they live in and they think it’s the end, they really do. I think of it every day-me in my Hansel and Gretel house. I’ll take my time; I’ll get my real house when I know what I want.

‘You see, there’s something else I’m going to do, something I must do-only I don’t know what it is. That’s why I go round painting and taping and drawing and writing and that, because it may be one of them. All I know is, this isn’t it for me.’

Anthony got him and the compendium into the car and drove him home with the television flickering in the soothing darkness while the Londoners outside rushed home from work.

This week in gaming...

...I have bought and played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and it has made me think about the political and social stance of games developers.

There are two ways of looking at Infinity Ward's attitude towards global conflict. The first is that it is a group of gung-ho patriots who have a warped Glenn Beck-esque attitude that war is an important thing because it keeps everyone in line and keeps America (and maybe the rest of the rich west) free. The second, and the one that I think is more accurate (at least, I hope) is that Infinity Ward is actually anti war, seeing various military actions as being unnecessary and being more about greed and pride than about genuine interests. War is, it would seem, only good for the subject matter of video games.

What Infinity Ward has done with Modern Warfare 2, its latest globe conquering offering, is something that not too many high profile developers have dared do - take the fight to the US mainland. Even a non American can sense the weight that this carried - rather than just fighting in miscellaneous East European and Middle Eastern towns (which are no strangers to conflict) you will be battling in everytown USA (in West Virginia), along the National Mall in Washington D.C. and even through the White House itself.

Taken at face value, this would undoubtedly support the first theory of the developer's stance on war. There is a section where you clearly overhear one of your fellow infantrymen say, with bitter resentment in his voice, "That's the Capital Building, man!", as he watches it being mercilessly shelled. I am in no doubt that many less informed, possibly right wing gamers who play will strive for an extra keen eye to take down this wave of foreign scum who dared breach the borders and deal this kind of treatment to America and its people. Yes, they will think, this is why we went into Iraq and Afghanistan - to stop this from happening.

But I think that Infinity Ward is cleverer than this. Because it's all about context. The first level in the game sees a battalion of US Army Rangers fighting their way through the streets of anytown Afghanistan. Buildings get pock marked with bullet fire and grenades. The fight even goes directly through a school, with children's work strewn across the floor and brightly coloured murals displayed on the walls. It's stuff that we have seen on the news countless time. So many times in fact that we have become immune to it. I feel that this is the point that Infinity Ward is making.

We forgive ourselves when fighting through dusty streets that are alien to us yet feel strongly about things when they hit a little closer to home. The fact is that whether the fight is fought in Anytown Afghanistan or Anytown USA the result is the same - innocents die, livelihoods jeopardised and normal life ceases to function. It matters not whether this affects a spice trading Muslim or a law practising Methodist, it is a futile waste. What Infinity Ward appear to be doing is showing people the effects of war in terms that are obvious. It s backed up by the use of (admittedly pretentious) quotations whenever the player is killed. One sticks in the mind more than any other, said by Ghandi, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

Say what you will about the relevance of video games but one cannot deny that this is a bold stance that will be seen by a great many people. For all of the lobbyists and naysayers who think that gaming is going to be the corruptible downfall of all that is right and good (Jack Thompson and Keith Vaz, take note) there are intelligent and responsible games developers out there who will rightly challenge the world out there is a powerful and dynamic way.

And the game is pretty decent too.

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2 months in gaming

I think I'll cut this for easy skipping for those that don't care.

2 (or so) months in console gamingCollapse )

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I am at the end of a full fortnight off work, which has been nice, if less restful than I'd have hoped. In fact, with me having visited Swalesdale in the North Yorkshire moors the week prior to this annual leave, it's been three weeks since I did any actually day to day grind. So, though it's always nicer to live in leisure, I sort of looking forward to my return to work. I'll have to take a massive hit in my wages though - I reckon I've lost about £150 from not doing the sleep ins. I suppose that my tax will be lighter so it shouldn't work out too bad.

Kate said to me the other night that I was "annoying", before clarifying that what she meant was in a "mad genius, creative kind of way. Like Kubrick". She also added, rather nicely, that she thinks that, one day, I will do something brilliant and important. I was very touched. It also lead me to thinking that this would be harder to achieve with my current lot in life. So I'm going to make some changes (albeit slow, progressive changes) that will hopefully bear some fruition for the better in the future.

I have also been under the assumption that writers and miscellaneous media commentators have to have started their careers at painfully young ages (Charlie Brooker is but a few years older than me) but I realise that this is not the case. I think that it's because I equate everything back to the music industry which does rely on the young and beautiful just as much as the talented and dynamic. But it's different. Jo Brand (whom I neither like nor particularly respect, FYI) worked as a psychiatric nurse for years before taking a risk and becoming a stand up comedian, which now, I should think, gives her more job satisfaction and lifestyle security than all of those years of working in mental health. What if, I thought, the only thing that separates those that do and those that don't is their will? If they can do it then why can't I?

So, back to the real world, I have decided to embark on a degree with the Open University which I plan to encompass media studies (as in the study of the media, not running around towns with camcorders and making animated shorts), some social sciences, some history and some English. I hope that, during my time doing the individual courses, that some journalism courses crop up. I'm not under the illusion that, if I manage to get a degree, that I'll suddenly be whisked up by a broadsheet to write about whatever I please, but I hope that, at the least, it will broaden my horizons and allow me to get my foot in doors that would previously be shut tight. I'm hoping though, even more than this, that it will just be bloody good fun to do.

I have applied for my first course, Understanding the Media, that begins in January. The course is a level 2 (which I have opted to do over the level 1 not because of my arrogance or even confidence of ability to do well at the work but it's the last possible opportunity to do the course and I feel it would be a waste to not) and sounds right up my street. It's all about how media moguls control the media, whether society governs the media or if it governs us, why we need celebrities and how they are made, and the like. I am genuinely buzzing with excitement about this. Social commentary is what I really want to do.

So, as long as I get the funding papers sent off in time then I should be starting this very soon.

***

The big, fun thing of the past fortnight is that we bought the Limited Edition Beatles Rock Band, which means that we have the Hofner bass and Ludwig drums. After the initial excitement of actually buying the thing

(which made me feel like this)


We found that it is an absolute joy to play and a touching homage to an amazing band, and also works excellently as a coffee table decoration:



Yes, the car still isn't fixed and yes, £179.99 is a lot to spend on a videogame, but when you think that it has kept Kate and I happily occupied for 2 weeks and will continue to do so for some time to come, the value of it comes into perspective. I think that, aside from being a socially fun thing to do, it adds enjoyment to listening to the Beatles' music in ways not before explored. I think that everyone who loves music should have a copy.

I also bought Fifa 09 as I was craving a game that I could play in 10 minute bursts, it was under £8 and, with my utter lack of football knowledge, I am unlikely to notice the improvements made in this year's instalment of the franchise. It's fun, though I don't understand how people can play it to the extend that they do. I mean, there's no story!

I have watched a couple of very good movies recently. Before I went to Yorkshire I bought The Wrestler, which I I watched on return and was thoroughly impressed with. Aside from Miles in Sideways, I can't remember a character whom I care and worried about more than Randy the Ram. And it doesn't sell out to the sugary norms of the Hollywood system. We bought Coraline which I adored and thought was every bit as magical as Pan's Labyrinth (if a gnat's pube short of a good Ghibli movie). And it had Lovejoy in it. Lastly, I finally watched Quiz Show which affirmed that John Turturro is a great actor and reminded me that Ralph Fiennes is also. It also reinforced that films set in the 1950s in America are great and that you can't beat a conspiracy and a court room for thrills.

I'm sure that you've all seen this, but for those that haven't, here's a treat:



"Are you the goddess?"

"Your loving don't pay my bills..."

I need some time off work! My last time off was for my birthday back in mid June, and I'm currently suffering from the thing that people who do my job suffer from when they have gone too long without a proper break, namely almost constant fatigue and moderate malaise on a more or less daily basis. I am away with work for a week from 25th September, then, on return, have a fortnight off, so there's a bright light at the end of this professional tunnel. Hopefully it'll mean less moping around and more actual getting on with stuff.

There are currently so many expensive things that I want out there. These are

The car being fixed - for those that don't know the clutch went and the car is unable to be driven (and has been for about a month). Neither Kate or I actually need to use the car for work and can do the supermarket shopping online, so there's no real rush to get this fixed, but I am starting to miss it. I need to plump up at least £350 to get the necessary work done. However, I think that there is more wrong with the car than just that and am considering getting everything fixed. But that's more money.

There's video games galore that I want - not least The Beatles Rock Band, which is going to be friggin' expensive, not least because I want the Hofner bass controller. I have been a Beatles fan for as long as I've been into music, and this is, in a way, the game that I have been waiting a lifetime for. Yes, I can use the older instruments for a lot less money, but I think that this is missing the whole point. Then there's the games in time for the Christmas rush, namely Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and the post new year must haves; Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2.

So much that I want, so little money to get it. As always, I'll find a way I'm sure.

I love this:



because there's nothing quite like someone doing something well. And, with that in mind and by me being in a Beatles-y mood, here's some juggling.

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Tucker's Law

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The lookalike game!

This isn't a meme, just something that I have thought up after thinking about lookalikes of celebrities. There are probably dozens of other things that you can do with it but I'll start with an easy one and ask:

Who can name this band?


Vocals/Guitar


Bass


Drums

Anyone but Kate can enter. No prizes on offer.

I dreamed a dream.

I didn't watch Britain's Got Talent last night. I have however just watched the performances from those that were in the final.

Now, call me a cynic but...what exactly is the fuss all about?

Yes, Diversity were quite good with their eclectic mix of dance styles and, out of the finalists probably did deserve to win, but their performance failed to captivate me. Susan Boyle, good voice and wacky, but, again, failed to move me. So why did 18 million people tune in and vote?

(Britain's Got Talent produced more votes than the last general election.)

Then I remembered that it actually has sod all to do with what the acts do, rather it has everything to do with who they are and there circumstance. We loved SuBo because she was old, ugly and had a learning difficulty, but boy could she sing! Apart from, as the press effectively told us, we didn't want her to win because she was, well, a bit strange. Better to give her a few votes to say that we like her and let the disadvantaged kids win. Well, otherwise they might come round and smash the windows, what?

Then there was Julian Smith, sax player extraordinaire who was making a last ditched effort to making the big time as a professional musician so that he could support his family. This kind of false stoicism really makes me angry. Sometimes having a talent is enough and, having a loving family around you and having a job that pays the bills is enough in life. Risking everything on a talent contest isn't a brave move into the unknown realm of limitless potential and wildest dreams, it's irresponsible.

But then again, we love this kind of thing don't we? People running the risk and making tits out of themselves so that we don't have to. We can laugh at the ones that fail and rejoice i the ones that succeed but ultimately we are the ones who have done nothing other than waste our money on a compitition that, in 9 months' time, no-one will remember.

(I'll say it again - more votes that the last general election.)

And this really sums us up as a people doesn't it? Predictable pawns who shall be molded into whatever the media want us to become. Was it a coincidence that he bookies favourite came second, after an almost week long negative press bombardment from the Red Tops? Of course not - we were just doing what we were told. (She had a learning difficulty, we must sympathise but not be seen to support that kind of thing.)

There are actual elections later this week for actual people who make an actual difference in our day to day lives. Now, I understand that you actually have to leave the house to go and vote and that, to make a decision, you might have to actually read and think about something, but, actually, it is really, really important. Because if few enough people vote then that could lead to the extremist parties being elected. And they can then gain exposure, support, money and maybe even power. And then you won't see the likes of SuBo, because she'd have been locked up for being disabled. Or Diversity, because they would have been deported.

We are the people. And we can, and should, make a difference.

Let's hope.

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Late not never.

Can someone explain how, even after owning no less than 2 albums, did PJ Harvey pass me by for so long?!



For fuck sake...

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Diversity...

...or Steve Marriott, singer with the Small Faces and, later, Humble Pie. I had always dismissed the Small Faces as being somewhat trite, but, maybe with age, I have learned to appreciate them and form a rather healthy interest. I was watching a repeat of Top of the Pops 2 on Dave (at work, TV is still unhooked here) which was guest hosted by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, who happened to pick a Small Faces song. In the introduction, Vic Reeves said that Steve Marriott was an amazing singer, and one of the main influences of Robert Plant. Which I frankly didn't believe. After all, Here Comes The Nice doesn't exactly feature the same voice and Led Zep's Black Dog. But, when I stumbled across Humble Pie, I found that not only was Robert Plant seemingly aping Marriott's singing style - he wasn't really doing it all that well. Live anyway.

An illustration:

Small Faces performs Happy Days Toytown


Humble Pie performs Black Coffee


They say that variety is the spice of life, so Steve Marriott must be a freakin' jalapeno. Which is a somewhat crass analogy, considering that he died in a house fire.

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