Friday 20 September 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'When happiness was a brilliant Beatles album'


'This is Lennon making genius look effortless and if you’ve never heard it, there’s still time to redeem your immortal soul.' Photo: Getty Images)
'This is Lennon making genius look effortless and if you’ve never heard it, there’s still time to redeem your immortal soul.' Photo: Getty Images)
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

My brother got it for Christmas that year. The 'White Album', 50 years old last week, came in a plain white sleeve with The Beatles moniker discreetly embossed on it by way of identification.

At first we listened from front to back with silent reverence and religious respect. Then, as the days shifted to weeks and months, the truly great songs announced themselves and were played endlessly while the merely excellent ones waited their turn.

I was allowed to listen too but not to touch or play. My brother would deliver this solemn lecture while gently holding the vinyl, palm to palm, as if a white-gloved auctioneer at Christie's.

That was fine. He was in first year UCC; I was a short-trousered urchin still in primary.

But by the time I was in Inter Cert year I regarded his Beatles collection as my own and knew it just as intimately.

Even my best friend, a Deep Purple head who insisted the air guitar was a legitimate instrument, was converted and smitten.

He was also taken by a girl who used to pass us on her way to a posh school most mornings. Pretty and demure, she'd blush and lower her gaze as she glided by.

Her name was Prudence and she lived on a very desirable avenue in a fine Edwardian redbrick that was well set back from the road.

It wasn't by chance, he reckoned, that his favourite track on the 'White Album' was 'Dear Prudence', written by John Lennon about Mia Farrow's reclusive sister. In it, John plaint-fully asks her "won't you come out to play?"

That's how, one winter's evening, I ended up at Prudence's gate playing air-guitar bass while my buddy sang at what he best guessed was her bedroom window.

He knew all the words and he forced them out nervously and then reprised the lot. A few times. First love is truly a wondrous thing.

We're almost sure to this day that at one point, perhaps during the third rendition, the curtains twitched. Just for a second. That was as intimate as this great love story got.

'Dear Prudence' follows the opener 'Back in the USSR' on the album in one of the most perfect segues in pop music history. This is Lennon making genius look effortless and if you've never heard it, there's still time to redeem your immortal soul.

But the song means something else to me too. It's about that night: innocent, sad, heroic, daft.

Dear Prudence, if only...

My stand against an orgy of consumerism

My laptop is out of sorts. Dying maybe or, at the very least, seriously ill.

I can't complain. It was a bargain buy just before I commenced my degree course all of two-and-a-half years ago.

How cheap? Well, if techie-connoisseurs with more money than hobbies generally buy the equivalent of a Beemer, mine was definitely a humble Micra. Reliable but no vroom, vroom.

Except this past while it has been behaving uncharacteristically, with unpredictable wi-fi outages and mood swings.

In the middle of essay season this unnerved me. I've thumped in over 16,000 words in the past month, each sentence hewed out of granite, every paragraph boasting more footnotes than you'd find baubles on a Christmas tree.

I needed my old reliable more than ever, but the trust was gone.

The sensible thing to do would have been to replace it on Black Friday. But I just couldn't bring myself to partake in that contrived orgy of consumerism.

It was that rare thing for me: principle outweighing personal advantage. Feels really good, but I can't afford to make a habit of it.

Irish Independent

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