[sixties-l] Remembering the Sixties (fwd)

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Date: Fri Dec 14 2001 - 15:19:05 EST

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    Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 13:35:13 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Remembering the Sixties

    Remembering the Sixties


    12 December 2001
    by Dominic Hilton

    The 1960s were a piece of hash for one who was not only there, but remembers.

    I shall never forget the first time I saw The Beatles. They were playing in
    the basement of the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and I arrived just as they
    were packing up their instruments. I had never heard a sound like it all
    that clanging and crashing and zipping. They all looked so German and after
    chewing my nails off I dared go and tell them. "Yeah, we've been in Hamburg
    like," they all said, in harmony. "We practically are German, are German,
    aaaaaahhhhhhhh German." That night I had my first drink a vodka and
    loganberry spritzer. It was bought for me by Brian Epstein, who kindly
    drove me home. I had never tasted anything like it and probably never will.
    In the car, Epstein said to me, "So, what do you think?" "When?" I said,
    and he made a note of it, nodding and saying, "You're right, you're right.
    It's Ringo, isn't it?"
    The next summer I saw them play at Shea stadium in New York. That year I
    had bought seven thousand copies of 'Love me Do' and eight thousand of 'I
    Wanna Hold Your Hand', all of which were scratched. By now the band were
    stratospherically huge, and like a nose on the face of the earth. As luck
    would have it, Brian Epstein let me fly to America on the Beatles' plane,
    selling me the ticket at a reasonable price considering the eminence of my
    fellow passengers. I tried complaining about my records, but Epstein just
    smiled at me, and offered me a bonbon.
    The plane was spectacular like all the others, except with the Beatles in
    it. I remember how John would run up and down the aisles pretending to be a
    plane crash, and how we would all laugh, except Paul who would say, "Oh,
    sit down you prat". At Shea I screamed and screamed until the girl next to
    me got off my foot. The lads were marvelous, and remembered all the lyrics
    to their songs and only missed the occasional chord change. "What do you
    think?" I asked some woman who had swooned into my arms. "About what?" she
    said, before the ambulance men took her away. I reported her comment to
    Brian Epstein who took a note of it, saying, "She's right, too much symbol."
    The next summer I had my second drink. I was giving the band a lift to
    Abbey Road studios when someone tapped on my shoulder and handed me a
    flask. "What's this?" I asked. "Cream soda," John said, and everyone
    laughed, except Paul who called John "a prat". I took a swig and
    immediately crashed the car. I was trapped under the steering wheel, and
    thinking only of the band, I told them to make a run for it, but they
    already had, across a zebra crossing. I was discovered only two days later,
    and after a few months in hospital, I re-acquainted myself with the Fab
    Four at one of Epstein's notorious fondue parties. (That was Brian, always
    ahead of the game.) "You're still alive?" they asked as we traded
    anecdotes. After the After Eights had done the rounds, I told them about a
    friend of mine, Eleanor Rigby, who kept her face in a jar. I had no idea
    what I meant, but it sounded deep and I was understandably nervous.
    Over the next year, my relationship with the band grew steadily. They began
    to invite me into the studio and even offered to pay when I scored for
    them. They were so like that: kind and down to earth. I recall one time
    when I handed Paul a fifty kilo bag of marijuana and he said to me, "Got
    any skins?" I hadn't, so I went out and bought a lorry load, just like
    that. They always inspired that kind of loyalty. True, I was arrested and
    spent the next twelve months in Wormwood Scrubs, but I presume Paul got his
    skins from someone else.
    The next summer The Beatles were set to become the biggest thing since
    Jesus, when John complained, and Jesus never got a look in. We hooked up in
    India, where, by pure coincidence, I had been sent as a government spy. We
    were all sitting cross-legged on the floor, except me who sat on my crossed
    arms, when I suggested to George that instead of his idea of going into the
    tea business, he should consider learning to play the sitar. "Hey, that's a
    great idea," he said, as I pulled the rickshaw over to Ravi Shankar's place
    in the hills. We sat for hours as George perfected the right way round to
    hold the instrument, and jammed over tea and toast until the moon sat full
    in the sky, and my head began to ache.
    That summer I had my first experience with LSD when Paul filled my 500mg
    jar of Zinc and Vitamin C tablets with acid tabs. It was like nothing I had
    ever known and for three months I had a series of nasty trips in which I
    was convinced I was Donovan. I began to paint kaleidoscopic landscapes onto
    the walls of public lavatories, and enjoyed a period of limited fame as a
    guru for three teenage girls, until they gave me up and joined a Swiss
    convent. "But I am the eggman!" I insisted, "Alright then, the Walrus!" But
    they looked at me as if I was mad, and I went into rehab where the scores
    were great.
    It was a productive period for me, and I burnt more holes in sofas than
    there were in Blackburn, Lancashire.
    That spring we shot the cover of Sgt. Pepper. It was my first incident with
    a firearm, and the record was shattered over the room. The police turned
    up, but John just told them it was me and I was carried away, saving the
    reputation of the band. I had been angered by the band's incessant teasing
    of me after I discovered I had somehow stood just out of the camera frame
    in the photograph. I'm to the right of the guy who is top right, and missed
    my place in history by a couple of inches. I served my time, and prison was
    a mecca for cheap smack, which I sent home to mother to give to the band.
    That next summer I went on my first protest march. It was a powerful
    experience and apart from me spraining my ankle I really felt the winds of
    change blowing through my beard. Finally, I was part of a herd, all
    travelling for the sake of it. We sang the Marseillaise, until some fools
    ruined it by turning it into some song about how all we need is love. The
    Beatles, bless them, were furious, but still managed to make some money out
    of it. They were full of nous those boys. I'm not ashamed to say I loved them.
    The year after that, my ankle fully recovered, I was lounging in the studio
    with Yoko and Linda when we all recorded the White Album and I wrote Helter
    Skelter, the name of which they enthusiastically adopted for one of their
    songs. They had all these plans for a really crazy album cover when I
    suggested we give up and go home. And thanks to my timely request, the
    White album was born. The rest, of course, is legend.
    Later that decade, as the LSD slowly began to wear off and I learned to
    speak again, we all collectivised at John's nine thousand acre mansion a
    commune that he shared with Yoko and the servants. By now, we were going in
    and out of style, although, as ever, we were guaranteed to raise a smile,
    particularly when we wore those velvet suits and heeled boots. We started
    to argue about the meaning of possessions. John and Yoko said they meant
    nothing as we took a turn around the grounds in one of the deeper yellow
    Rolls Royces. George agreed, saying it was your inner spiritual health that
    meant everything and he would gladly give up his seventeen castles if
    somebody just proposed a better way to house his cats. I was about to
    mention a sanctuary I knew when Paul jumped in arguing that material
    possessions had nothing to do with happiness. "What about fun?" I asked,
    and he conceded to my astute observation. Linda insisted that meat was the
    only possession worth having, until Paul reminded her that it was the other
    way round meat was not worth having. "Oh yeah," she said, and we all
    laughed at how suckers would some day buy frozen vegetarian meals shaped
    like meat.
    But the developing rifts were unavoidable. John and Paul were not talking,
    especially after I told them both that the other hated their wives, and
    still nobody was talking to Ringo. Eventually things just petered out and I
    moved to the Orkney islands for some recuperation. The band, wealthier than
    in the Fifties, entered a new decade with fresh ideas about God, Yoko, Frog
    Choruses and Yogic flying. I knew things were over when John wrote "How Do
    You Sleep?" about my insomnia, an unforgivable and vicious attack on a part
    of my life I had tried to keep a secret. Now, older and wiser, I know
    valium is the only answer.
    Dominic Hilton writes a fortnightly column for openDemocracy.

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