Well, while half-heartedly searching through this morning’s papers for a scrap of something—anything!—other than more doom and gloom about Covid-19, I happened across an article in the UK edition of The Guardian, about a recent New York auction of Beatles memorabilia. (https://tinyurl.com/tkyrt9b)
Among the items on offer was an ashtray that Ringo had used at the Abbey Road recording studio. A rather ordinary ashtray. Want to guess what it went for? $32,500.
Which was dwarfed by the price of a drumhead—not even the whole drum, mind you, just the skin with the Beatles logo—used during the 1964 U.S. tour: $200,000.
But the big deal of the day was Paul McCartney’s scribbled notes for “Hey Jude.” Understand, these notes did not include the tune or even all the lyrics; they were just a little cheat-sheet to remind the band where the verses ended and the break came in. Still, the single piece of paper was in Sir Paul’s handwriting, and it sold for $910,000.
This made me smile because—as some of you already know, and as others, I hope, will find out—the plot of my current novel, THE PARADISE GIG (https://tinyurl.com/rnpyt4h), revolves around a notebook filled with dozens, maybe hundreds, of such song sketches scrawled by Lennon and McCartney. So let’s do some simple math. Say the notebook held a hundred songs at nearly a million bucks per. I just wrote myself a fortune!
Unfortunately, my Beatles notebook was purely fictional. Oh, well. Still, it tickles me to see the current vogue surrounding all things Fab Four. The craze seems to extend to every corner of the world and to bring together all the generations. I recently joined a fan site on Facebook with 80,000 members. The first three posts I saw were from Estonia, Spain, and the Philippines. More than a few of the active members seem to be 13-year olds uploading their solo covers of “Blackbird.” Honestly, I find this both charming and hopeful.
But this rebirth, this rediscovery–what’s it all about? True, 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the band’s traumatic break-up. True, in distressing and uncertain times, people tend to get nostalgic—though that doesn’t explain the 13-year olds with their earnest looks and cracking adolescent voices. Why, out of the blue, was there suddenly a Beatles-themed indie film called Yesterday, and why did it, improbably, become a cult hit? Why, for that matter, did it first fly into my head, eighteen or so months ago, that it might be fun to insert the Beatles into a Key West Caper? I’d never put real historical figures into a novel before. Why then? Why them?
I really can’t remember how it happened. One moment the idea wasn’t there; next moment it was. It would be tempting to claim some gift of prophecy, to pretend that I knew all along that a big Beatles resurgence was coming. But I didn’t. Probably I was just swept up into this mysterious bit of zeitgeist along with all the other fan-site groupies and the millions of folks, young and old, who laughed and wept at Yesterday. Maybe I’m just along for the ride, and The Paradise Gig is my ticket?
In any case, it sure would have been nice if my made-up Beatles notebook had been the genuine, actual, factual, hand-scrawled treasure trove…