For me, The Beatles were the beginning of everything. I think they triggered my life long obsession with music. Aged 7, I used to get my parents to put on the record Sgt. Pepper's
and I was in a magical world till it ended. I always particularly loved the 1967-70 Blue album compilation. It is simply the soundtrack to my life. I love the songs, the voices, the incredible arrangements, the imagination, the musical ambition, the power and heaviness, the melody and lightness, the sheer beauty and way the songs touch the soul. In addition, most of my favourite rock bands cite The Beatles as a major influence and the later Beatles music is clearly the birth of progressive rock too.
As a musician and composer, I have been inspired by all the above elements of Beatles music and sometimes it is almost weird when I realise that a compositional idea is directly derived from a Beatles track.... again! Shame there were no more saxophone solos other than "Lady Madonna" though (Ronnie Scott R.I.P.). Across the Universe
and In My Life
, and in the end... the Beatles rule!
The Beatles were a HUGE part of my formative musical years. I was, I will admit, a "Beatlemaniac."
When I first saw the Beatles on TV, I was amazed at all those silly girls screaming. Well, I guess it was contagious, because I became one of them. I had every single Beatles record. From Meet The Beatles
to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
, I knew by heart, and still know, pretty much every single song they ever wrote. How's that for being a fan? Their harmonies and melodies became a big influence on my young musical ears.
They were amazing as a band of musicians because they did not stay stagnant. They evolved with the cultural changes that were happening all over the world. And in some ways they even led the way. This was their strength, I feel, both musically and culturally. Their music was magical (like a mystery tour!) I think it was the dynamic between the combined polar opposite genius of John and Paul's writing. Paul being accessible and sweet in his lovely lyrics and boyish charm and John being a bit of a rebel with a bohemian poet's edge and naughty-boy mystique. Their styles were so vastly different, that when they wrote together it was like a chemical brew that burst into an explosive energy that seemed to ignite something in the hearts of everyone. Even my parents loved them.
George and Ringo rounded out that dynamic with George's spiritual sensitivity and Ringo's light-hearted playfullness and obvious joie de vivre. I had a huge crush on Ringo. When he played drums and shook his hair back and forth I just went wild! It still gives me a big smile to think how much I was in love with them and their music!
I saw them Live at The Cow Palace in San Francisco. It was crazy to be in that wild audience of prepubescent girls all standing on their chairs screaming so loud you couldn't even hear the music. My God, what a cultural experience! But I grew with them and I changed with them as the times changed. From the innocence of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to the sly coded lyrics of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (only those who were really hip, we thought, knew what that really meant!). Life is funny. They say it all goes round and round. So in the end I have to tell you a story: I was singing at Ronnie Scott's Club in London.
Paul McCartney's MPL offices are 2 blocks away from Ronnie's at #1 Soho Square. Occasionally he would drop into the club to check out who was playing there. One night when I was performing there, my visiting friends who were in the audience; pianist extraordinaire, Amina Figarova
and bassist, Ruth Davies
, whispered to me," Paul McCartney is here!" I said, "Help! I wish you hadn't told me that!" As you can imagine, I was a bit intimidated!
The club's audience is dark from the stage... but, when I got onstage I looked out and there sitting against the back wall under the only light was Paul. Yes, I could see him very clearly. In fact he was the only person in the audience that I could see! But there he was, digging my music and clapping along! I had such fun singing to him. Remembering how I had once sat in the audience and listened to him and the Beatles, I just had to shake my head! On the way home I dropped off my CD at his office as thank you gift for staying for my show, and congratulations to him, his wife and newborn baby (born that very day). Do you want to know a secret? Life may indeed be a long and winding road, but sometimes it all just comes back full circle. It certainly can be a fun ride if you're patient!