CRAIG BROWN: Help me if you can with this Beatles trivia

CRAIG BROWN: Help me if you can with this Beatles trivia

Having just finished writing a 600-page book about The Beatles, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. To celebrate its completion, friends gave me a Beatles-themed version of Trivial Pursuit.

Ho, ho, ho, I thought, smugly: this will be a pushover! After all, I am now an expert!

The first question — What is the opening song of the White Album? — was a breeze. It only took me barely a second to answer: Back In The USSR. Correct!

The next proved somewhat trickier. What was Ringo’s date of birth? I knew he was born in 1940 but couldn’t remember the day, or even the month. ‘July 7th’ came the answer. I’m afraid to say it didn’t ring a bell.

What are the names of George’s three siblings? I remembered he had a sister called Louise but drew a blank at his brothers* (see below for the answer).

Having just finished writing a 600-page book about The Beatles, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. To celebrate its completion, friends gave me a Beatles-themed version of Trivial Pursuit

Who was the lead singer in John’s first band? I struggled to think of the names of the different friends who played in John’s skiffle groups but couldn’t come up with anything. Trick question! The answer was John.

And so it went on. Every now and then, I would come up with the right answer — in which state does Rocky Raccoon live? Dakota. But then along would come another question — in which Austrian Alpine resort were the snow scenes in Help! filmed? ** — to catch me out.

What instrument did George Martin overdub on The Beatles’ recording of Baby It’s You? ***

In the film Yellow Submarine, what song features images of smokestacks, soccer players and umbrellas? ****

The first question — What is the opening song of the White Album? — was a breeze. It only took me barely a second to answer: Back In The USSR. Correct!

Within 20 minutes of embarking on the game, I was a broken man.

I thought of my Beatles Trivial Pursuit humiliation the other day when I read that Liverpool University is set to offer a masters degree in The Beatles, exploring ‘critical and contextual approaches’ supervised by ‘renowned experts’.

My first reaction to the announcement of this university course was to scoff. Isn’t it ridiculous to imagine The Beatles a fit subject for academics to hum and haw over, to contextualise, subtextualise, detextualise, retextualise and so on?

But then I thought of all the subjects we were taught at school. In history, we had to answer questions about the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the South Sea Bubble, and the Six Wives of King Henry VIII. Over the years, we were obliged to study a fairly random group of subjects: the Corn Laws, King Alfred and the cakes, the Black Death, Florence Nightingale, the spinning jenny and King Canute.

Most of these events must have seemed either too trivial or too dull for people alive at the time to consider suitable for future history lessons.

It’s perfectly possible that even the courtiers who were present when Canute tried to demonstrate his powerlessness by attempting to turn back the waves would have thought it too trivial an anecdote to tell their wives on their return home.

 

The next proved somewhat trickier. What was Ringo’s date of birth? I knew he was born in 1940 but couldn’t remember the day, or even the month. ‘July 7th’ came the answer. I’m afraid to say it didn’t ring a bell

Similarly, ‘palace sources’ at the time of Henry VIII would no doubt have dismissed all the latest stories about Anne Boleyn or Anne of Cleves as ‘unsubstantiated tittle-tattle’.

But history might best be defined as gossip, plus time. Given a hundred years or so, people and events that seemed far too silly or boring at the time re-emerge as academic topics, taught by renowned experts.

Thus you can rest assured that, in the year 2121, our great-great-grandchildren will be sitting down to answer A-level questions on Brexit, Alex Salmond, Covid, Meghan Markle, Donald Trump and the invention of the mobile phone.

Given that, a thousand years on, the tale of Alfred burning his cakes is still studied, it may well be that Carrie Symonds and/or Dilyn the dog will merit a GCSE question of their own in a hundred years’ time.

It’s now half a century since The Beatles split up. Half a century back from 1957, when Paul McCartney first played with John Lennon, takes you to 1907. Like it or not, The Beatles are part of history, and their story encompasses economics, social studies, music, culture, politics, psychology and anthropology.

So, pens at the ready. You may now turn over your exam papers. ‘Using your understanding of the historical context, and citing examples, assess the influence of Yoko Ono on the songs of Lennon and McCartney.’ You have exactly one hour.

The answers: * Peter and Harry; ** Obertauern; *** A celeste; **** Eleanor Rigby.

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