Ian Carpenter

Ferguson St, Williamstown 1962
Hammersmith Odeon, London, early1970s
Central Park New York, 1981
Williamstown Hospital, 1995

IN 1962 AT THE tender age of eleven, having convinced my mum to part with 2/6 (two shilling and sixpence, about 25 cents) I hurried down Fergie Street to Eddie Marr’s record shop on a Saturday morning bursting with anticipation at the thought of swapping my hard fought 2/6 for a copy of the just released first single by The Beatles. Love Me Do was a simple ditty as was its flip side, P.S. I Love You.

Neither really gave a hint of how our lives were about to change forever. For starters Eddie would soon be clearing all the Bert Kaempfert, Andy Williams and Pat Boone records to the bargain bins. At home the Oklahoma soundtrack would not get a look in as the battle to control the family radiogramme had begun. The time had come for Elvis and Roy Orbison to move aside, music as we knew it was about to be turned on its head.

EARLY IN the seventies, I paid far too many pounds to a scalper for a ticket to a Wings concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, I wasn’t a big fan, but such was my feeling for The Beatles, it seemed a kind of natural thing to do. After all, McCartney’s contribution could not be denied. Well, Wings were spot on, played all their hits, Band on the Run, Maybe I’m Amazed etc.

My head at that time was somewhere on the dark side of the moon but the bass had pumped as expected and I had been mildly entertained. By the show’s end the capacity crowd was on its feet as the stage lights focused on Paul as he launched into a spirited encore of Long Tall Sally. It ignited the place into a frenzy. People hugged one another as they danced in the aisles, tears of joy were streaming everywhere, this one and only reference to The Beatles had somehow served to keep the dream alive.

The chance of a reunion was often discussed but for most of the seventies the main activity in The Beatles’ camp revolved around legal wrangles and pin-suited briefcase-toting straights hovering like vultures over a rotting carcass.

ON A WORKING TRIP to New York in 1981 the Mark Chapman trial was raging. The dailies retold his story over and over, mostly using that eerie photo of John Lennon signing his autograph as if taking part in some macabre ritual prior to his execution.

With Ollie Halsall, an English guitarist of some note (no pun intended), I strolled on down to the Dakota building one day and then found a park bench opposite in that part of Central Park now known as Strawberry Fields.

In the early sixties, while I had been discovering the likes of Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins thanks to The Beatles, Ollie had been playing their licks in places like Butlins Holiday Camps around English coastal resorts, as the Silver Beatles had done years before.

Ollie had more recently played guitar on The Monty Python/Eric Idle offshoot The Rutles. It was an affectionate and perceptive parody of The Beatles’ career which included tracks like All You Need Is Cash and the album Sergeant Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band.To this day it is rightly regarded alongside Spinal Tap as one of rock’s most cherished parodies.

In the sixties I had been discovering the likes of Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins thanks to The Beatles while Ollie had been playing their licks in places like Butlins Holiday Camps around English coastal resorts as the Silver Beatles had done years before.

On the way back to our hotel that day on 1981 Ollie and I concluded that we could hold our breath no more for a Beatles reunion. As John had said a decade earlier, “The Dream Is Over”.

I LIKED FREE AS A BIRD before I’d even heard it. I’d kept up with all the hype surrounding its release. EMI had spent $50,000 on security to keep the lid firmly on it and as befits these corporate times the marketing machine wasn’t missing a beat. They of course hadn’t counted on George Harrison being at the Adelaide Grand Prix a week prior to the release and, as you do with your mates, you play your latest song for the after-party bash. As reported in the press the next day, the hundreds of people present stopped in their tracks and swayed in time to the first new Beatles’ music in more than 25 years.

And where was I when Free As A Bird was officially released simultaneously around the world?

Well, with my partner and I feeling incredibly satisfied and fortunate to have given life to two beautiful children, I had sheepishly volunteered to take responsibility for the non-proliferation of our already perfect family.

From my hospital bed and from the stupor that I felt from the anaesthesia, I awoke in fear for my severed manhood, with one eye on my watch and one hand feverishly fiddling with the radio dial, until the unmistakeable sound of new Beatles music stirred me back to life.

 

©  Ian Carpenter. Ian ran the OffBeat Music and music memorabilia shop in Williamstown, Australia for many years. It is now an online store. This story is an extract from the OffBeat newsletter of December 1995. Ian once appeared as a contestant on RocKwiz, sitting alongside Tim Rogers.

Footnote: Ian in hospital in 2015 – for a Medibank advertisement. (Ian is the third patient – greying hair and beard, striped pyjamas. Music by Vance Joy.)