Maternity ward, Melbourne 1964
It would be hard not to think of The Beatles upon hearing the perfect chord that introduces the song A Hard Day’s Night, the perfect chord to symbolise a worldwide phenomenon, and the perfect fanfare for a newborn life in Melbourne 1964.
I cannot recall a moment in my life when I was not aware of The Beatles.
Obviously, I would have heard them floating through the ether via the radio and TV. But there must have been a reason as to why they caught my attention at such an early age. I guess it was those harmonies, guitars, lyrics and melodies. Those songs, that sound, that look.
All I can tell you is that as I grew from a toddler through to my teenage years, whenever I heard or saw The Beatles, I would be enthralled and enraptured.
When I was six years old, I happened to notice a report on TV stating The Fab Four had broken up. I became distraught at what I was hearing and witnessing. I looked for sympathy, further explanations or news to the contrary from my family. They apathetically dismissed my questions. My young heart crushed as I realised there would be no more new Beatle recordings.
As I grew older and collected enough money, my passionate aim was to own all 14 studio Beatle albums. It didn’t matter if they were on vinyl or tape. My sole objective was to have every Beatle song in my increasing music collection.
I didn’t buy the albums in chronological order, yet each one was as exciting as the next. There were many songs on each record that I had never heard on the radio, so each album became a treasure hunt and a joy. I was never disappointed and certain songs from different albums became metaphors to particular moments in my life.
My first album was Magical Mystery Tour. Mum bought it for my 8th birthday.
I loved the sound they produced at that stage of their career. The psychedelic landscape . The surrealism. And Strawberry Fields Forever. It was the aural equivalent of a miner striking gold. The opening melancholic notes and dreamy guitars inspired my young imagination and matured my perception of music.
A few years later, I was able to afford the Double White album. It contained a kaleidoscope of musical styles. At the time I was teaching myself guitar. I tried as hard as I could to learn the song Blackbird. It demanded my concentration to improve my guitar skills, but exposed my limited vocal ability when I sang along.
I cannot underestimate the influence that The Beatles had on my identity as a person and musician. They were a deity to me. I loved every song they made.
I was sixteen when I purchased the 14th album. Finally I could play any Beatle song at my leisure. Ironically, not long after that purchase, John Lennon died. As I grieved, I recalled that moment as a six year old when I heard that the group had disbanded. Back then I had the hope of a reunion. But all hope had gone. The Beatles really had broken up.
The End was to be the last song on their last studio album, Abbey Road. However, when listening to the LP, there is a 15 second gap between that song and a very short song called Her Majesty. This occurs before the playout groove of the record. Originally, Her Majesty was to be placed in the middle of the medley on side two, but was later discarded after it was decided that it didn’t work. So, at the final playback session, the sound engineer cut the Her Majesty piece of tape out of the medley and then spliced it back in at the end of the two track master for safekeeping. However, he forgot to remove it before the whole tape went to the record pressing plant. That’s why there is that long gap between both songs on the record.
As a consequence of being removed from the medley, the last chord of Her Majesty was abruptly cut to make way for the beginning chord of the track that followed. That resulted in the song not finishing properly, and leaving the listener a little confused and jolted. I felt it poignant, the cut chord could symbolise Lennon’s life cut short, or the stunned disbelief so many people felt upon hearing of his tragic passing.
As it was the last song on their last album, it was the complete antithesis to the perfect chord that introduced them to the world and to my heart.
The perfect chord had not even faded. It became staccato, short & abrupt.
© Chris Mangan. Chris is a multi-instrumentalist with 35 years experience in the music industry. He has toured nationally, recorded several albums, produced and engineered, and composed music for musical theatre. He is part of Luke R Davies and The Recycled String Band, and is a guest musician of The Stereo Stories Band.