‘A world without the Beatles is a world that’s infinitely worse.’ One of the more memorable lines from 2019 feel-good movie Yesterday. The story revolves around Jack Malik who awakens from an accident to a world in which nobody has heard of the Beatles nor of any of their songs. So when Jack starts singing them, they regard him as a musical genius – a persona he reluctantly runs with for the time being. The film, and especially that line, made me think of the impact music has had on me and in general, and of that band in particular.
My family moved to Liverpool when I was seven years old and although the Beatles had long since disbanded, it was evident just how much they still meant to the city. To this day I remember school trips when the lads would all be singing Beatles songs in the coach en route. At that time, in the early ‘80s, the music of the 1960s seemed a long time ago, but I have to remind myself that it was no more historic then, than me now listening to tunes from 2004 – just the other day for my middle-aged sensibilities. I also recall how around that time one of the boys from my school ended up singing ‘Yesterday’ on the kids’ TV quiz show Blockbusters, and how much I admired his courage, and the fact that he kept winning (Can I have a ‘p’ please Bob?).
Thinking of the Beatles also reminds me of my (albeit somewhat imagined) recollection of my parents’ arrival in the UK in the 1960s. Certain parts of that recollection are unequivocally based on facts: it was true that they came from a tiny, forgettable village in the north-east of Pakistan, situated in a district from which my father was the only person to have escaped with an education. It was also true that they encountered opportunities in the UK which were simply unavailable to them ‘back home’. The fact remained, however, that I hadn’t discussed with them all the details of those initial years, so it remains questionable just how much of my picture of their early life here in the 1960s was accurate.