Last night I was divided at 8pm between The Moral Maze on radio 4 examining the latest athlete drug revelations, Cuffs and a programme showcasing the best 25 most popular Beatles songs as selected by ITV watchers. I was put off The Moral Maze when presenter Michael Buerk attacked the taking of drugs as part and parcel of athletes from rich countries’ route to excellence. Even I know the communist countries have been at it for years, a ignoble tradition Russis was – and for all we know is – continuing. I doubted if Cuffs would be a latter day Sweeney or Z Cars in ground-breaking television so I hit on the Beatles programme on the basis that I could still get on with emails and the like with their music in the background.
If not wholly absorbing, there was not enough footage I had never seen, like the Beatles in Dr Who, to keep me watching. Many of the contributors were now well into their sixties but doing their best to look hip. By far the best was Paul Gambaccini, though I could only feel anger that this dedicated well-informed broadcaster should be the subject of a witch hunt. He made the point that at their peak in one year they wrote more successful songs than most artists achieve in a lifetime.
The point about the Beatles phenomenon is that, unlike say Beyonce, they were not crafted and packaged, though Brian Epstein was a brilliant manager. They could and did do an impromptu concert on top of the roof of Apple in Savile Row.
In the programme there was a glittering array of modern rock stars paying their tribute without actually saying very much of profundity like Rohan Keating, Noel Gallagher and well known actors like David Tennant. There was little on the break up of Lennon and McCartney but George Harrison got his due as a understated songwriter. He wrote Something which appeared in the 25. He was always my favourite Beatle and went on to compose My Sweet Lord and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The alchemy that brought together four young scousers to creat songs listened to to this day, and days of the future, is hard to divine. So maybe one shouldn’t try. Better to sit back and enjoy. Incidentally if you’re curious Hey Jude was voted number one, a song Paul wrote for Julian Lennon when his parents were divorced. How nice is that.