Forty-five years ago today, on 5th March 1976, The Beatles released twenty-three singles simultaneously.
To someone who was fifteen years old at the time and was away at school and had 50 pence a week pocket money, it seemed an odd thing to do. Even if the entire pocket money were spent on buying records, it would have taken months to buy all of them. It was important, though, to buy some of them. Being born too late to remember much of The Beatles’ history, it was important not to miss this second opportunity.
Twenty-two of the singles had been released before, but for the twenty-third, ‘Yesterday’, it was the first time it had been released in the UK.
I remember buying four or five of them in their distinctive green paper sleeves. There were some I would not have bought, never liking Lady Madonna or The Ballad of John and Yoko, but the memory fails as to which ones I did buy, and they have long since disappeared from my pile of 7″ vinyl. (The missing Beatles records, together with some of my albums from the period were allegedly sold by a former family member who took all he could and gave nothing in return – The Baetles could probably have incorporated him into a song lyric).
It is odd which of The Beatles’ songs hold the strongest places in the memory.
Eleanor Rigby must have been played on the radio many, many times after its 1966 release for it seemed an overwhelmingly sad song to a primary school child who heard it. Father McKenzie seemed the saddest figure of all. We knew no Catholics in our corner of Somerset. We had no idea of what life might have been for one of their priests.
In retrospect, the later songs among The Beatles’ work always seem overshadowed by the knowledge that the band was in the process of disintegration. Listening to them always brings the sort of thoughts that might be associated with the last day of holidays. There is a sense in the sound of the music that a special time was past, that something had been lost and could not be recovered.
Listening to them more than five decades after their first release, there can be a sense that the records are artefacts from a lost history, they seemed sanitized, remote. In forty-five years’ time, will anyone still remember the sheer power those musicians once possessed?