Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A Little Bit of Help! (Parts 1 and 2)

I have often mentioned my life on the fringe, from Rickie Lee and Tom Waits accusing me of stealing Rickie’s beret to my being “responsible” for Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joining Fleetwood Mac (indeed, a stretcher, but that’s life on the fringe*). My first “job” as a journalist was as an intern at UCLA for The L.A. Weekly. A year later, I was living on my own in Hollywood, a fixture in the burgeoning new wave. The bands I covered going forward were new to the scene and included Haircut 100, Wham!, Depeche Mode, Spandau, Duran Duran – all the new new wave bands on their first gigs in America, and because there was no inherent fame associated with any of them at the time, it slipped my mind how starstruck I’d always been. Enter Paul McCartney… 

Keep in mind that, like all of us, I’d grown up on the Beatles and during my formative years, there was never a moment when McCartney was on the radio. The McCartney canon of etched in one’s mind tracks included “Jet,” “Live and Let Die,” “My Love,” “Band on the Run,” “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” on and on and with the release of his Greatest Hits LP upon his departure from Capitol Records, McCartney was in L.A. A press session was held at the iconic Capitol Building on Vine Street and as gracious as he was, Paul was eager to answer questions about any topic – that’s when I stumbled to the podium. Of course, I said everything that everyone says about it being an honor, about it being such a special moment, and quickly I got into my diatribe extolling how Paul had been a part of my life as long as I could remember, that I was four years when my brother took me to see Help! at the Panorama theater (as if he knew where that was), how it was then that I became enamored by the Beatles. I related a story about how at every restaurant on the paper placemats I’d draw a stage with the Beatles singing “A Hard Days Night.” 

It was at this point that Paul interrupted and said, “So, do you have a question, or did you just want to talk?” 

But he wasn’t interrupting me and waited for me to continue. Shakily, increasingly nervous, I said, “You know there’s a scene in Help! in which each of you goes to a different door, but when you enter, you all live in the same flat?” 

“I recall.” (Laughter) 

“It was the first real depiction of friendship that I had in my life, and I think that many of us believe that it was real, that it was genuine, we want to believe that, and I’m just wondering, at least at that moment in time, was it real?” 

I never heard Paul’s answer. Somewhere in there,
I realized that I was talking with a Beatle, and he was talking back. For one brief moment, I was a part of Paul’s world. And that’s when I passed out.


Mid-Century Modern Beatles 

Post-war Britain was a solemn place. Throughout the 50s, the remnants of war were a part of the landscape. Abandoned makeshift military bases succumbing to weeds, rubble instead of jungle gyms, bombsites, and buildings with encrusted black soot. This is the setting for the bands who influenced our lives, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to the Kinks. 

That would change in the 60s with a newly-found optimism in which London would flex its might as a fashion capital and a barrage of new music would infect the world. 

The term “mid-century modern” most readily conjures up images of sharp-suited businessmen, bachelor pads, and chairs from Scandinavia courtesy of movies like North-by-Northwest, or television shows like Mad-Men. In California, mid-century modern meant all-electric Medallion homes with oddly pitched roofs and a lanai. In Britain, mid-century modernism manifested as something different, coming in the form of schools, cathedrals, municipal buildings, and… The Beatles? 

As imagery-laden as a watercolor by SHAG, the interconnected flats in The Beatles’ Help are a mid-century marvel. Filmed at Nos. 5, 7, 9 and 11 Ailsa Avenue, Twickenham, the Fab Four’s apartment is entered via four separate front doors (color-coded for each band member), though once we get behind these fairly ordinary doors in a fairly ordinary block we are presented with one, open-concept space, zoned by color for each member of the band: green for George (with a real grass “rug,” brown for John, blue for Ringo (with some groovy snack machines in chrome and glass and an Arne Jacobsen egg chair), and Paul’s white room, which includes an “Arco” standing lamp also seen in Tony Stark’s mansion in Iron Man.

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