Wednesday 3 March 2010

I could've been a Beatle....

An Education and Nowhere Boy are both set in the dark days of the late 50s and early 60s. Remarkably both films were in colour, which is not how I remember the time. My hometown was grey, I was grey, even the dog was grey. This was partly as a result of post war economics and the transfer of vast sums of money to our gallant allies the USA, who supported us financially during the war, but then wanted all the cash back. But the dullness of the time was also because our parent's generation had had rather too much excitement over the previous twenty years and were happy to settle for a little light boredom in exchange for a lack of bombs.

I can't blame them (though I did at the time) but I do remember the stultifying dreariness and the yearning for glamour and excitement. And jazz clubs. Because jazz was cool and sophisticated and pop had come over all Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde and was safely in the clutches of Tin Pan Alley and the BBC Home Service. An Education portrayed this desperation for escape beautifully, with some fabulous performances, although Peter Sarsgaard was surely miscast.

Nowhere Boy begins slightly earlier, when there was still a rough edge to Rock and Roll and even Elvis had not yet turned into a pudgy warbler of dreary ballads. John Lennon's first performance was as leader of a skiffle group. The shambolic recruitment of the band took me back to a day when, as a shy 15 year old I stood at the back of my local youth club. There was to be a festival of youth at the Civic Hall. A skiffle group was to be formed and could anyone play the guitar? To my mounting horror, I raised my hand with a show of bravado. I was in. My only niggling doubt was that I was neither able to play, nor did I own a guitar. But my Uncle Jack did. I cycled over. "Could I borrow your guitar and can you teach me to play it by Saturday?" And somehow he did, or at least well enough for us to perform in front of an audience of several hundred. And for that one evening I was overwhelmed by the glamour of show biz.

So as I watched Nowhere Boy, observing that 'The Quarry Men's' efforts were little better than those of the glorious but ephemeral Saint Anne's Youth Club Skiffle Group, I enjoyed for a brief moment the illusion that 'I could've been a Beatle.........'

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