The Last Day in the Life

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and passionate mash notes back home to Cynthia Powell. "Sexiest letters this side of Henry Miller," he observed.

He was also a student at the Liverpool College of Art while the Quarrymen were still gigging around. "I knew John would always be a bohemian," Aunt Mimi recalled. "But I wanted him to have some sort of job. Here he was nearly 21 years old, touting round stupid halls for £3 a night. Where was the point in that?"

Well, the point was the music, a peak-velocity transplant ot American rock, with its original blistering spirit not only restored but exalted. There was some concern for the future, however. A Liverpool record-store owner named Brian Epstein thought he might be able to lend a hand there. He signed on as the group's manager in 1961. By the end of the following year. boys got their first record contract and their first producer, George Martin, who remained aboard for the crazy cruise that came to be called Beatlemania. There was one final change of personnel: Drummer Pete Best was replaced by a gentleman named Richard Starkey, who favored quantities of heavy jewelry, most of it worn on the digits, and who went by the name of Ringo Starr.

It took just a month for the second Beatles single, Please Please Me, to reach the top of the English charts. That was in January of 1963. By the end of that year, they had released She Loves You and appeared live on a BBC variety show in front of thousands of screaming fans in the audience and unverifiable millions of new converts and dazed parents sitting at home in front of the telly. I Want to Hold Your Hand came out in the U.S. in the first week of 1964, and it seemed then for a while that both sides of the Atlantic were up for grabs. Beatles forever.

Some history becomes myth, some myth goes down in history, some statistics boggle the mind: the Beatles have sold, all over the world, upwards of 200 million records. They made history so quickly, and so seismically, that their chronology can be given like a code, or an association game in which words, phrases, snatches of lyrics, names, can stand for whole years. Even the skeptical on either side of the Beatles generation will be startled to see how easily they can play along. Start off with an easy one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now you're off . . . Ed Sullivan. Jelly babies. Plaza Hotel. Moptops. Arthur and A Hard Day's Night. The Maharishi and M.B.E.s. Sergeant Pepper. LSD. Apple. "More popular than Jesus." Shea Stadium. White Album. Yesterday. I'd love to turn you on." Jane, Patti, Cynthia. Linda. Yoko. "Paul is dead." Abbey Road. Let It Be.

The history and the resonance of those fragments are so strong that even out of chronological sequence they form their own associations, like a Joseph Cornell collage. Some of the colors may be psychedelic, but the shadings are the pastel of memory, the patina made of remembered melody. Lennon, the only wedded Beatle —he had married Cynthia in 1962 and had a son, Julian—had early been typed as the most restless, outspoken and creative of the group, even though he led, outwardly, the most settled life. There was paradox in this popular portrait, just as there was considerable tension in Lennon's belief that the well-noted contradictions were true. There were both beauty and ambition in his music, and a full measure of

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