I have loved pop music all my life, so watching this big screen documentary about the Beatles’ touring years was no hardship at all. In fact it was exhilarating and satisfying to see the Fab Four on the big screen, their friendship and laughter, those catchy three minute songs sounding as good as ever. (Their first album contains 14 songs and yet only lasts 32 minutes!) Songs of love and struggle; tenderness, heartache and hope.
My office is often full of the sound of singing, thankfully not all of it me! The likes of Bruce Springsteen, Abba, Meatloaf, David Bowie, Squeeze, The Jam, Rod Stewart, Billy Joel, The Motors, The Clash and more can be heard seeping from my speakers. I try not to annoy the neighbours! I missed The Beatles the first time round, I was born the year they made it big, 1962. By the time I started listening to Radio 1 they had broken up. But their sound has been there in the background all my life. There is a glorious moment in this film where Paul McCartney is asked about the impact the Beatles are having on the culture. He immediately laughs it off, unable to imagine that theirs will be a lasting influence. When Dick Lester began to direct their first film, A Hard Day’s Night in 1964 he was told to hurry it along, in case the bubble burst after a month or two and the Beatles were no longer popular. Here we are 52 years later, still talking about them, still watching them, still singing their songs. The Liverpudlian legacy lives on.
Music is powerful, it can challenge evil as well as celebrate life. In 1946, when George Formby went to South Africa (he died in 1961, the year before the Beatles made it big), disturbed by the growing segregation trend, George shunned the whites and chose to play only to black audiences. This incurred the wrath of the police who escorted George and his wife to the airport and forced them to leave. As they got on the plane the black organiser of their concerts was shot dead. They weren’t preaching or holding political rallies, they were playing music, and it challenged the system. Music is spiritual too. It can waken the spirit and stir the soul. When I first started hearing punk rock in the mid 1970s I hated it, but within a couple of years I was a fan, not only of the punchy three minute singles, but of the songs that championed equality and challenged life’s corrupt systems. Some of the songs didn’t sound that different to one or two of the Psalms. We only have the lyrics of David’s 73 songs (he penned almost half of the collection), we don’t know the tunes, they may have sounded like The Clash, they may have sounded like The Beatles. We don’t know. But these songs have lasted thousands of years. They carry pain, celebration, hope, struggle, doubt and faith. They show us that we can sing songs which encapsulate the whole of life, the pleasure and the pain, the wonder and the woe. And we can sing those songs to God, as worship. ‘Money can’t buy me love,’ the Fab Four sang. Something King David might well have written. He was years ahead of his time (like The Beatles!), as he celebrated the God who was approachable, caring and intensely interested in the people he had made.