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Craig Brown


Morkel on culture is brought to you in partnership with the Japan. Cultural Expo bringing the best of Japanese culture to the world. Let by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and arts comes the expo showcases ten thousand years of visual and Performing Arts Music Food Design and fashion eighty so unique opportunity to experience. The country sculpture from prehistoric pottery and Buddhist statuary to any Manga and more or these forms show the same deep reverence for nature a theme. Which is spread across hundreds of events happening across the country until twenty twenty one discover the depth and variety of Japanese treasures at the pan cultural experience. Hello and welcome to monocle on coacher. I'm Robert bound him for the time being because we making this program at home and speaking to our guests often in and around this. We're going to be looking at some of the cultural things we've been enjoying during lock down so in the background you might hear bit of lawn mowing or Skein of geese honking. I've had all the grinding of delivery vans gears the perfect pin-drop of the studio is for the moment. Just a memory. Today we're speaking to the author critic and Paradise Craig Brown whose New Book. One two three four. The Beatles in time came out last week this week. It's fifty years since the FAB. Full split up ending that decade of dominance which they changed music pop culture and frankly the world. How do you write a book about the Beatles? Then when so many have come before well in both style and substance. Craig Brown's previous book. The much loved and awarded Mom Darling. Ninety nine glimpses of Princess Margaret which gleefully bound through time to avoid the plot of the chronological biography. Brown does a similar thing with the Beatles. They're never static or still and neither dear reader will you be. It's a book that joyfully spins through the nineteen sixty S to which we we've been happily shot from a cannon so from his home in Albrough on the Suffolk coast with a soft seagull accompaniment. We give you Craig Brown Craig. Thank you so much for joining us today. No small subject. The Beatles wanted to ask you first. What's the feeling you get when you think about the Beatles? I think everyone of my generation and older it has to be a nostalgia in some way because For me it was sort of the age of seven until twelve or something I've just steeped in Beatles songs and really looking especially the last two or three albums really looking forward to them coming out and if someone says they don't like a particular Beatles Song you I sort of think to myself Oh yes very perhaps in such a good song because once I was just a beautiful song and it's just part of the sort of some kind of sacred texts and it's almost sacrilegious to say with a particular song is good or bad. It's a strange thing. Isn't it that beetle? Some suppose that when I think of them sometimes they'll be like stained glass windows somehow. They were very nice. But you don't necessarily think the ICONOGRAPHY. Sometimes they're just sort of part of the fabric but you'll book imbues the band with such a lot of life. It kind of feels that you'll almost watching a live news footage of the band. You have them crushing through time. I know that you oversee arrived on the similar sort of scheme of things. Feel wonderful. Ninety nine glimpses of Princess Margaret. It's a similar sort of thing. How did you come up with that sort of device to to to sift through all of this material? Well first. I review a book week and so I have reviewed almost for since I was say. Twenty one sixty two sixty three. I'm so I've read a lot of bug. There's always thought when reading a most of his the to do things. Chronologically isn't so I. It's kind of boring because you then have to treat whole years in microscopic detail when they might not have done anything of interest but you have to sort include them but also I think you don't if you think of your own life you don't see it in terms of h. One H. Two H. Three that you use you look to the future you look backwards you live in the present you dwell on particular until I was sort of. I thought it'd be more realistic to do an UN- chronological biography. And also in the case of Princess Margaret of course with all the royal family a lot of what they do almost all of what they do is exceptionally so Princess Margaret did open perfectly dutifully a whole lot of very boring buildings only all her job is were and she changed. Clothes alternate. But you don't want I mean the the perfect example of a very very boring bug. The William Shawcross is authorized bug if the Queen Mother was GonNa mind-numbingly boring goes into great detail. What she was wearing each day on a Canadian tour nineteen fifty-three that kind. Oh now you're now you're getting going on. So with Princess Margaret. I wanted to cut all that out and just focus on the kind of on the interesting moments in life and also I wanted to see her life from the outside so through what people rates about what people said about. Once she'd left the room uncertainty an obscene news cuttings and that kind of thing people's diaries. And so that was how it worked for the Princess Maga but then when I was GonNa do the Beatles book I thought well I'll do it in the same ways Princess Mogok because that seems to be a success and it's worked and seemed to be original but of course the big difference with Princess. Margaret Beatles is the the Beatles. Were very very interesting. Almost every day in the life as Beatles with Celo packed with intrest miserable entrust sociological interests personal interest. But also I thought they had to do with them in a sort of a more formal way in some into chrome logical sense because the Hamburg days hat to come before this success and the success in nineteen sixty four hat to come before that kind of hippy days in the Maharishi and on that had come before the break up it very definitely an old fashioned stood narrative story and a lot of the lot of it is A character studies of the four of the four-man and their entourage. And all the rest of it but it is also similar with the Princess Margaret Book. There is a lot of people reacting to the Beatles to this edifice of fame and talent and youth There's a lot of that in your book as well. Interestingly you focus on some of the people that sort of got left behind in this great kind of typhoon of talent and success you write a few chapters around the Ed Sullivan. Show in nineteen sixty four their US TV debut and some of the other acts that were kind of left behind kind of spitting. Dustin in the wake of the Basil's. Can you tell us a little bit about those characters and how you decided to focus on so I mean I have always been I think failure is perhaps even more interesting than success and how you deal with failure. And I've always thought it was. All novels tend to deal with failed lives. Biographies tend to be with people who had successful lives so long with amazing successive the Beatles. I Want I did want to folks and I think this is. Perhaps what makes my book different is that I I do find all these. These people who sort of not quite in the slipstream what may be wanted to the substrate of the Beatles but somehow were knocked out by them on this one. Big Lot with the old guard So no Council Frank Sinatra. Marlene Dietrich who didn't know what was coming. Suddenly this kind of Mersey sound and the Beatles and young says with long hair and working class it came as a big surprise to them and I mean for instance Noel Coward who was born into a lower middle class and then it become posh. Because that's how you had to become to succeed and it suited desire oversea but suddenly he's confronted by these people just aren't obeying result fashioned rules and so he was very shock to your say wanted to kind of chop with them but he'd been to route about them in print and so when he wanted to see them backstage. I think it was in Rome. They refuse to see him. Elvis Presley was also knocked off his perch by the Beatles and so when they did meet they had one meeting and the managers had to sort of it was made like a kind of Renaissance Court. Meeting had big ambassadors had to be sent to be arranged I think it later Elvis Presley when he had his famous meeting with President Nixon. He was incredibly rude about the Beatles and so there were these old God who have put off. But they're also the kind of peaked best characters and Pete best being the the most vivid. Suppose because you know But for sort of slightest chance or he never really knew why he'd been sacked from the Beatles but you know he could have been multi-millionaire in he would have been as famous as ring gets more favors because he was better looking But instead he as he became a baker civil seven One point charge commit suicide. I mean I think he's okay now he's going to weather the storm but you know it is. It's a must be a very hard thing to be to live Pete. Best's life and try and come to terms with it. Yeah Jimmy Nicholas. Well who who a lot of people might not know his name but filled in for Ringo Starr for four games knows it was more than four. It was about ten days and he might have been doing one or two gigs on each. Look it's an extraordinary story. He's barely mentioned by even the you know a lot of people's biographies good and or stroke but Encyclopedic but he he. Sometimes he's not mentioned at all. Sometimes you just get some mentioned in passing but basically Ringo was suddenly as I think in sixty four was suddenly struck down with an illness and they were. The Beatles regret to go to Scandinavia and Australia so they suddenly needed a new drama and they got this man Jimmy Nicholl. Who's playing with Georgie fame? He only had twenty four hours less than twenty four hours to prepare so you have to fitting with a suit because he was a bit taller than Ringo. A given the Beatles haircut he then became effectively became a beetle and this is the forest of the height of their fame mazing screaming fans in Melbourne and Adelaide. And he was treated as a beetle he he went to. He was at their press conferences. They sort of they perfectly. Nice to him Jerry with him but it sort of went to his head and then when he came back hide supposes he got too big for his boots because he'd become famous and then he was famous as next beetle and he formed his own band started playing band members too much money and anyway he went bankrupt within a year. Divorced went to Mexico and hasn't been seen for about ten years and you fill if only he hadn't got that call one day from Brian Epstein His life might be that that more obscure but he would have had some kind of happy life and there are. There are lots of these kind of casualties along the way one of my favorite chapters in the book is very short one and it simply about Paul McCartney on the way back from from somewhere. And they're in. They're in the car and they stop in at a place called Harold in Bedfordshire and that she spent a night with the family just randomly they go to the pub. They invited back to someone's house. How on Earth did you dig up a story like that? It's such a tender lovely story. A short beautiful chapter on. It is a sweet story because in a way it's just kind of normal life story but he was traveling back kind of chauffeur driven with two or three friends. Derek Taylor was one of them. I in fact God it from Derek Taylor Sir one of these autobiographies dirt having been the press office and then fighting trump touted the minds. So let's go to an English village and they just choose it because the name Herald which is H. A. W. A. L. D. They just think they will. That's a funny name you would do if you're having on an acid trip to go so Another thing Loan they asked the way to the Pablo the river And he goes along And the whole village lights out because Paul is Paul plays songs in the first in their house and then in the pub and you know it just sort of emt plays hey jude. I think it was for the first time in public. Solis showed You know amazing fame. He had but also you know the way it was then possible for them to be a relatively normal. I mean he was still the center of attention of the state but I also feel that That Paul has been quite hard done by. I mean John Principally because he well say principle it's been mean but because he died people then turned him into it sort of secular saint and and almost in revenge for pull being alive. He had this great downswing in his popularity of day while he's just to kind of commercial kind of Figue but equally in the same way about fairness. It's quite hard to you. Know to have been a beetle. What do you do for the next fifty years because it is now? Fifty is next week since they broke up and I think he's I think he's done pretty well. He's I just remaining saying that. Without degree of fame and that degree of fame Which is centered on time so long ago and so I I liked told them the stories I heard about hall which showed him in this kind of human. I read like putting those in just to kind of stay redress the balance. Yeah I want to people will will. We can make their minds up about who you have a soft spot for but certainly Ringo you love. Ringo's kind of unsophisticated. Chirpy bonhomme suppose. There's something that you seem very warm towards Ringo Starr I. I liked him just you know. I thought he had this extraordinary childhood by the time he was in fourteen. Hit Been in hospital for two or three years. I mean a one point is his mother was told he was going to die that night. Say it was very very weak. Poorly child easily. The came from the poorest background at any of the Beatles and had because of being in hospital had no education had taught to read and then he had this random successive just being chosen as it to be a beetle just before they broke and but because of his background he was sort of grateful for everything. And I like that about. You might solid since I didn't really cover them since. Nineteen seventy but he always cheerful and happy unassuming and I think sometimes it's very funny. There's a bit and kind of brave I've probably because it done gone through this off the hospital but when when they're American concert I think it was the second one nine sixty four an anti Semite Had had threatened to shoot him into one of these big stadiums like a proper assassin. And there's no reason not to believe this threat and so I said what he's the Ringa said what he's made the mistake he's made. The time is unknown Jewish. Then he had a ringer had a policeman sitting next to him while he was drumming on stages on security guard and Ringo said well he couldn't stop smiling Ringo under this threat because he kept thinking. Wha-what's the security guard. Do you're going to catch the ball. And he so he could always kind of deflator situation and he was very on palm personnel. I liked that about. Yeah you gotTA respect any Any man beat Lou or otherwise that takes that packed. His suitcases baked beans to take on his own to get very spiritual with her she and in India one of the things Craig that jumps out about the book as well is how you treat history and sort of historiographer the study of history and looking at different versions of events as listed in other biographies and eyewitness accounts of certain things. You play around with that in a very source. Spry and witty way I mean. I'm sure anyone is written a biography of anyone. You know. Almost every day comes across his problem that if there are three accounts there'll be three of the same thing they'll be three different accounts and if attendance will be ten different accounts. And so what do you what do you do? I mean my decision through the rest of the book was to go with the most likely rather than the most sort of amusing interesting just to say you. Just think well if these characters What is most likely? But of course there is an interest in in how these myths grow up and all the different versions so though I could have done it with almost instant in the light. I did it with this instant web. When two related instance John had gone away on holiday with Brian Epstein to Spain will just off to his son. Julian was born. I'm all time to go on holiday. And when he came back though these Gossip had it that he hit had an affair with Brian it's done and someone at the party. I think it's supposed twenty first. Started teasing him about this and John. Beat him up. So that's the basic facts but then you go to all the different accounts of what what might have happened on the Spanish holiday and all the different accounts of the injuries suffered by this man who teased him. Disc Jockey Co Bob Mueller. And what John did where the heating move with a spade or with his fists. Oh and how many stitches he had to have an say and so I do on one page. I list about twelve thirteen different accounts but I I realized it'd be trying the patience of the reader. If I did that with absolutely every instance I just did it with one but I thought it was interesting because it just shows how the random nature of biography as you talk. Frankly I'm sure as as a user of language yourself but about John Lennon's love of his goon ish kind of Lewis Carroll Ish Edward Lear. Ish Kind of love of puns and wordplay and stuff. You seem to drill right down into that subject matter kind of quite gleefully yes. I'm more much more reverential when it comes to to John's because I think he did have something though is something original something. You could definitely traced back to the English tradition of nonsense which he was very well-versed in I mean they're all suddenly Paul and John. We're kind of well taught at school. John didn't enjoy at school but he was a reader and so John was redone particularly liked Lewis Carroll Edward Lear he could recite Japa- walkie things like that and then he likes goons and I think you know English. Nonsense is is very interesting And Joan he in a funny way he channeled into this nonsensical Start like in. I am the Walrus. So that kind of thing because Steven Bailey who later became an kind of great Sort of museum. Buff and I think so design guru but aged fourteen or fifteen. He wrote a fan letter to John. Situ- Because he had a stephen was Corey. Bang High School which John was up and He said to John that they were being taught Beatles lyrics at school by the English Master and say John. Thought that he. John also wrote very long letters back and so he wrote a long letter back steamboat but he thought this was so funny. That academics who are taking an interest in him when it's done very badly at school themselves the that sold spurred him to make more nonsensical music and so to put completely meaningless lyrics into into Into HIS SONGS. Like on the walls and But actually they they work and he then realized they were because lyrics. Don't obey the normal rules of perjury. They can work and be nonsensical at the same time. It's not sort of either all and so yes so. I admire John's lyrics. I mean other than the the UN nonsensical ones which The self pitying ones like. I'm so tired. I get a bit Fed John Insane Way. Got Fed up with Princess Margaret for being self pitching. I just think snap bad that you have the joy lucky live. Yeah Yes it seems as the way that you react to certain certain of the band members kind of set. He comes out necessarily in the book. Just finally Craig. Did you write? It sounds like a funny kind of question but did you have to get back to the. Lp's to get into the mindset to get into that youth and vigor an excitement of especially those early years or do you always have to ride in silence. Actually yes I mean in a funny way in a funny way. I I kind of clicked onto the Beatles around sergeant pepper when I was ten or something and so I I was sort of aware of them before and she loves you. Yeah Yeah Yeah. But I didn't really know the under the album sins but they went solo part of my brain As the others were and so actually this. While I was doing the book I was much more listening to the early songs which I felt. I didn't know well and that made me sort of in a way. Love them for the first time. I thought they were the sort of Del bits before the interesting songs came up but they have a real life of their own under sweetness and that kind of Happiness jollity to them also amazingly beautiful harmonies. Which is sometimes overlooked with the Beatles? Just just their voices and John Paul's particularly just go so well together and I think that's one of the things that makes them unique. Thanks to Craig Brown joining us on today's edition of Monocle on coach his new book one two three four. The Beatles in time is out now published by Harpercollins. This is being another black. Heath Bureau and Hon Hill hop production produced of course by Holly Fischer join us again at the same time next week but at the time being for me Robert Pounds. Thank you very much.

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