EASTER: Aging, death, resurrection and a song by The Beatles
This year our Easter weekend became, at is often is, varied and inspiring. Good Friday – rainy and dark – ended up with the traditional procession in Civitavecchia, an expression of grief over the deceased Christ. It is told that the procession first took place in 899 AD, as a public, joint expression of the harbour town's concerns about the upcoming century and out of fear of an expected invasion of Muslim pirates.
Concerned about past sins and God's forthcoming punishment, hundreds of penitents – men and women – walked along the streets with their faces covered by hoods, with heavy chains fastened to their ankles and burdened by solid, wooden cross. The chains dragged over and rattled against the paving stones, and still do. The tradition is kept alive. After more than one thousand and one hundred years, hundreds of barefoot penitents pass through Civitavecchia's streets and the clattering of their chains mixes with brass bands´ funeral marches.
Some of the hooded, ku-klux-clan-like penitents carry catafalques adorned with sculpture groups representing the lashing of Christ, his crucifixion, the mourning Maria´s and his dead, battered and beaten body. Police officers, carabinieri and town notabilities pass by, profoundly serious in their gala uniforms. The atmosphere is heavy, saturated. Everything is weird, beautiful and tragic.
Easter day dawned with a clear, blue sky. We drove down to St. Peter´s Square where expectant people from all corners of the globe queued in front of security controls, which with each passing year have become increasingly rigorous in fear of constantly mounting threats of terrorism. The controlling policemen and military were polite and friendly, the Vatican visitors patient and calm. Good Friday's weighty atmosphere had evaporated.
While he was sweeping a kind of electronic rod across my body, the mobile phone of the controlling carabiniere rang. With an excusing smile, he interrupted the survey while answering the call:
– Yes, yes, Mom, I'll call as fast as I can. Right now I'm in the middle of my work. Of course we´re coming to dinner. Chiara, as well? Certainly. I´ll call you back as soon as I can. Promise.
"It was my mom," the carabiniere explained, while he nodded as a sign that I was free to continue toward St. Peter´s Square.
The speaker system worked well while various church potentates sang and prayed, though we could not hear a word of what the pope had to say.
- Sabotage, mumbled someone next to me. The Curia is against the man. They have probably tampered with the loud speaking system so we would not be able to hear what the Good Father is telling us. Tradittori, infedele … l'intero pacchetto.
The enthusiastic crowd cheered Pope Francis as he walked down the stairs of St. Peter to enter in the papamobile. Bared from earlier-day bulletproof glass, the vehicle drove among the jubilant crowd. It could be heard where the popular pope passed by, the cheering followed the papamobile around St. Peter´s Square.
"It is as if the Rolling Stones are driving past, commented my younger daughter. I thought of John Lennon's provocative statement: "We are more popular than Jesus." Now maybe Pope Francis might be even more popular than Lennon. As he passed by, I caught an excellent photo of the waving Jorge Mario Bergoglio, God's representative on earth. I also appreciate this smiling man.
After watching the Pope we drove north, to Tarquinia. The Etruscan grave chambers were open and the entry free of charge. We have been there several times before. The small structures built on top of the graves are scattered across a wide field that, by the beginning of the approaching spring, are covered by meadow flowers and lush grass.
A long time ago we once tended Artemis here, the rabbit of my eldest daughter, Janna. When she had grown older, Janna painted a picture inspired by a photo I took of her cradling the beloved Artemis. She gave it to me on one of my birthdays and I brought it to Stockholm, where I kept at my office at Sida, The Swedish Development Cooperation Agency. To my disappointment and great anger the picture was eventually stolen. It was quite good and someone maybe thought it was valuable. Janna now lives with our soon two-year-old grandchild in Prague, though we had brought Esmeralda, our youngest daughter with us to Tarquinia and I took a photo of her where she stands among the greenery under a blue sky.
The darkness and the murals of the burial chambers constituted a sharp contrast to the light and spring above them. Some were quite lugubrious. We wondered why some Etruscans had their grave chambers adorned with frescoes depicting menacing demons. Some monstrous looking creatures flanked fake doors, which had been painted, or constructed, above the actual entrances to some of the burial chambers, probably as attempts to confuse unwelcome visitors, or trick evil creatures.
Most common among these creatures of eternal night was Charun. A hellish demon with pointed ears, bushy eyebrows, frowning forehead, nose like a vulture´s beak, thick lips, fangs and a pointed goat beard. Often his hue is depicted as bluish grey, as to indicate that he is actually a carcass in the first stages of carnal decay. Snakes wrap around his legs and arms, sometimes he is wearing huge wings. In almost all depictions, he carries a hammer, or rather a wooden mallet, probably used to club opponents, or sacrificial victims, to death. Sometimes a nasty smile lingers on the demon's lips.
In my books about Etruscan civilization I read that Charun originally was called something else but he was later provided with a Greek name, the one the used to denominate another demon who brought souls of the deceased across the river bordering The Kingdom of the Dead. The texts described Charun as an apotropaioi, these were creatures protecting humans from evil, scaring away malicious forces. However, I assume that Charun's tasks were more extensive and complicated than that.
At the museum of Tarquinia, which also offered entry free of charge to celebrate the Easter, we came across a sarcophagus that once had preserved the remains of a priest called Laris Pulena. On one side of the stone coffin was a relief showing how two Charun creatures swing their mallets above the head of Laris Pulena. To me it looked like they instead of protecting the priest were in the process of killing him.
In books about gladiators it is often claimed that Roman gladiator games originated from the Etruscans. However, the claim is doubtful. Certainly, there are several tomb murals that seem to depict ritual killings that may have been part of funeral rituals. Most famous is a fresco from a tomb in Vulci, where naked men have their throats slit by elegant, strangely inexpressive executioners, while Charun is observing the killings with his wooden mallet in readiness.
A blue-hued monster appeared in Roman gladiator games, generally described as Dis Pater, Father of the Underworld. His task was to kill injured gladiators with a wooden mallet. Obviously, the creature is no other than Charun in a different shape.
I remember how I and my cousin Erik Gustaf sometime in the early 1960s by our grandfather, were invited to watch Mervyn LeRoys Quo Vadis from 1951, with an extraordinary Peter Ustinov as Nero. After all these years a short scene has stuck with me. When the doomed Christian martyrs are to be released from their dungeon to be torn apart and devoured by lions in front of a jubilant spectator mass, a black-dressed creature ceremonially progresses to the large gate separating the Christians from the arena. He wears a green-greyish mask with pointed ears, protruding eyes and fangs, a thick snake is winding itself around one of his arms. In his right hand he holds a baton with which he knocks on the gate three times, until it opens to release the terrorized Christians. Since I saw Quo Vadis, and afterwards when the monster appeared in my nightmares, I have wondered who that demon could be and it is first now I realise it was Charun in his disguise as Dis Pater.
I guess Charun apparently was far from being, as it has often been argued, a psychopomp, a gentile creature who accompanies the dead to "the other side". He was rather a murderous beast who made sure that the dead were indeed deceased before they were brought into the Kingdom of Death. The Etruscan psychopomp was rather a winged woman, who often is depicted together with Charun. Her name was Vanth and on the mural in Vulci she stands behind one executioner who is slitting the throat of a victim.
Charun is no companion of the deceased, he is rather some kind of bailiff who makes sure that everything is rightly done, that the dead really are dead before being handed over to the awaiting Vanth.
The name of the death god who executed injured gladiators on e blood-stained arenas, Dis Pater, makes me think of the English word dispatcher, which denotes someone who delivers an item, or a person, from one place to another. That word apparently originates from the French despeechier, to liberate, related to the Latin pedica, chain or manacle. It is thus possible to imagine that Charun, in his shape as the gladiator dispatcher Dis pater, by death ultimately freed gladiators from their wretched slavery.
On a vase in Paris, we see Charun waiting beside the Greek hero Ajax, who is piercing his sword through a Trojan warrior. A scene reminiscent of the mural of Vulci, which apparently does not reproduce a gladiatorial battle, but how prisoners of war are executed beside a hero's tomb, like when Akilles in the Iliad by Patroclus´s funeral pyre executes twelve Trojan prisoners of war.
I wonder why the unsavoury Charun is present in so many Etruscan tombs. Why not settle for the beautiful, winged Vanth, who cautiously carries the souls of the deceased to the other side?
Perhaps Charun served as a memento mori, a reminder of our mortality. His presence reminds us that we must take care of our moment on earth, making the most of our lives. Like those representations of time in the shape of Chronos we may be confronted with while strolling through ancient cemeteries.
In the museum of the small town of Sarteano, within the wine district of Montepulciano, we are confronted with the, in my opinion, most scary depiction of Charun. It was found in a tomb discovered as late as in 2003. From the sarcophagus of the deceased, a three-headed worm slithers towards a banquet scene by the entrance to the tomb, where a couple of lively discussing men lay next to each other on a divan.
On the other side of the doorway, a quadriga, a two-wheeled chariot drawn by two lions and two gryphons, is scurrying along the wall. Charun stands at the reins, with his pointed fangs and undulating hair. Most notably, and strangely terrifying, is the shadow that Charun throws upon the wall next to him. Is it the darkness of death that follows us everywhere?
Death is present in the Etruscan tombs, though there is also plenty of life. People are bathing, chasing, fishing, making love, dancing and drinking wine. Dolphins tumble among ocean waves, birds swirl in the air; there are flowers, deer, panthers and lions. Life and vivid colours, unbridled hymns to life and joy.
Especially fascinating are the banquet scenes, depicted with wine, music and dance. Surprisingly, we sometimes find men and women resting on the same couches. Just like on some sarcophagi, where they repose close together.
At several depicted banquets participants hold up eggs, as if they were demonstrating something. Eggs are also displayed during our present-day Easter banquets. Our familiarity with them may make it easy to forget that eggs are loaded with symbolism by representing new life, resurrection and rebirth – cosmos, perfection and harmony.
After coming out into the street by Tarquinia's museum, we found that the town dwellers were waiting for the traditional procession of the resurrection of Christ in all his glory. A brass band was followed by men dressed in blue and with red scarves around their necks, armed with rifles they fired resounding volleys up in the air.
After them came other blue-clad men carrying tree trunks decorated with intricate foliage, weighing more than a hundred kilos. By the end of the procession a group of men carried a catafalque with a heavy statue weighing more than half a tonne and carved in 1832, to replace a similar statue that was probably created in 1635.
The following day, together with our friends, we ate a lamb steak – an Agnello alla Pugliese. A delicious dish with the succulent roast meet placed on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and spiced, sweet Italian tomatoes, together with lard, herbs and rosemary. I cover the steak with a mixture of olive oil, parsley, grated lemon peel and peccorino cheese. It never fails.
Easter - a feast for life and death. Tragedy and Resurrection. Remembering my parents' death, I was with my mother an hour before she passed away half a year ago, I miss them intensively, keenly feeling the emptiness they have left behind, but strangely enough, no sadness. They gave me a love and joy that stayed with me throughout life. I also think about my own aging and become amazed that it does not scare or torment me. Perhaps because the decay, sickness and other ailments of old age have not begun in earnest yet. I've lost my dense curly hair. My body is caving in, while my belly swells. I have slight difficulties while getting up, or bending down. Though not exceedingly. The memory may fail, but is probably not much worse than before and in my mind I have not yet passed twenty years.
Is my old age similar to the one described depicted in Paul McCartney´s When I'm Sixty-Four? In five months, I will actually become sixty-four years old. It is completely OK. I have most of my life been a blessed man. In spite of annoying misgivings I have assumed that I have been a fortunate man. When I'm a Sixty-Four gleams of harmony and well-being. In that song there is no fear of old age. One of my best friends was in his youth quite obsessed by John Lennon's unique personality, his charisma, genius and creativity, something that has meant he nurtures a certain disregard for Paul McCartney and his music.
- Of those two, Lennon was the genius. What Paul did was composing songs for pubs.
Maybe he is right. When I'm Sixty-Four is fit for warbling, a simple, warm, yet charming and comforting song. In recent days, it has been circling around inside my skull. To my surprise I know the entire text by heart:
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till a quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck & Dave
Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
The song is almost childishly banal. It is reassuring, pleasant and cheerful. It was a young man who wrote it. Paul was only sixteen years old when he improvised it on his father's piano. He later told that it took shape in his consciousness as some kind of cabaret song, something from a music hall, a ditty that could be heard on the radio.
- When I wrote I'm Sixty-Four I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra.
Everything was not rock´n´roll for young Paul. His father was a musical man who picked out schlagers on the piano and listened to hit songs on the radio and gramophone. In his youth, Jim McCartney had organized and played in a big band - Jimmy Mac Jazz Band.
John Lennon recalled that when their band was still called the Quarrymen, before Pete Best had been replaced by Richard Starky, or Ringo Starr as he called himself, and they still played at The Cavern Club, it happened that Paul was playing When I'm Sixty -Four on the piano and sang it. The other guys in the band liked the song:
We've just wrote a few more words on it, like “grandchildren on your knee,” and stuck in “Vera, Chuck and Dave.” It was just one of those ones that he'd had, that we've all got, really - half a song. And this was just one of those that was quite a hit with us. We used to do them when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano.
When I'm Sixty-Four became the first song The Beatles recorded for the LP to be their eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Despite the harmony and joy it radiates, the sixteen-year-old Paul composed the song in the shadow of his life's greatest tragedy. When he was fourteen, his mother Mary had died in breast cancer. To the last she had been working as a midwife and “home nurse”. For Paul her memory was engulfed in an angelic shimmer and several years after her death he wrote the captivating and strangely comforting Let It Be as a tribute to his deceased mother:
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
speaking words of wisdom:
"Let it be"
And in my hour of darkness
she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom:
"Let it be".
Both Paul and John lived in the shadow of the tragic deaths of their mothers. John's mother Julia died in a car accident in 1958. He had previously lost contact with her, when Julia had handed over the custody of her five-year-old John to her sister Mimi. In 1956, John had reconnected with his mother. John's half-sister, Julia Baird, tells in a book about John's complicated relationship with her mother, about how hard he took her death. She quotes her half-brother:
I lost my mother twice. Once as a child of five and then again at seventeen. It made me very, very bitter inside. I had just begun to establish a relationship with her when she was killed. We´d caught up in so much in just a few short years. We could communicate. We got on. Deep down inside, I thought, ´Sod it! I´ve no real responsibilities to anyone now.
Sam Taylor-Wood´s movie Nowhere Boy from 2009 told us about how John and Paul met, how their fabulous collaboration began and developed in the shadow of the deaths of their mothers. It was a good movie and with great expectations I listened to John's Aunt Mimi when she looks out of the window and shouts:
– John, you´re little friend is here!
Geniuses meet and history is created. When John's mother dies and he breaks down during the funeral, he lets his frustration go out over Paul, who assures him that he can imagine how he feels. His mother has also died. In that scene we obtain a foreboding of their future breakdowns and attacks on each other, but also the deep kinship between their souls, with undertones of desperation that occasionally appear in their joint production and especially in Lennon's later, increasingly tragic, existence, with its oscillations between satisfaction, selfishness and desperation.
Neither Paul, nor John grew up in abject poverty, though hardly under any prosperous conditions. Paul's father worked as a supplier of cotton fabrics to various shops and his wife Mary earned more than twice as much as a nurse, something that caused troubles for his family when she died. John's Aunt Mimi first worked as a nurse and then as a secretary, while her husband George first had a dairy shop together with his brother, but then earned a living as bookmaker. George, who was close to John, died when John was fifteen years old. He took his stepfather´s death hard since they had shared many interests, not the least popular music.
The future music geniuses did not grow up in any particular intellectual circumstances, though they had music in their veins and were able to share their musicality with those who were close to them. John had his stepfather and his mother Julia, who sang and played banjo and piano. Paul had his father, who was an able, self-taught pianist with a great repertoire and a profound interest in various kinds of popular music. He taught the son to play and inspired him to compose his own music.
Jim McCartney was thirty-eight years old when Paul was born and thus already fifty-four years old when his son composed When I'm Sixty-Four and sixty-five years when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out. Jim may well have been an inspiration for the song - an older man who had taught Paul to appreciate and play the kind of music on which the song is based. It develops an imagery of a typical English environment, characterised by the mores of a relatively poor, low middle class – cosy evenings, a night at the pub and with friends, Sunday excursions, and caution with money. Let us have a closer look at the text:
When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now. It is where I find myself at the moment. How could the sixteen-year-old Paul McCartney know that his hair could be on the mind of a sixty-four-year-old man? Especially since he once had lots of it, like me and Paul?
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine? Old flame never dies. We meet an older couple who still give each other signs of their love and affection, for whom the sharing of the contents of a bottle of wine becomes a celebration worthy of a lifelong kinship of souls. I come to think about the old couple in Disney's Up in which Carl and Ellie Fredricksen live a happy life together. Despite the fact that their longing for children is not met, they succeed in preserving their shared youthful dream of going away to a distant, exotic place, an existence and dream that unfortunately transforms Carl into a grumpy old man when his beloved Ellie dies, but the story ends happily – as in all true fairy tales.
If I'd been out till a quarter to three, would you lock the door? Here we find ourselves in England's pub culture, contentment within the fraternity of good ol´friends, albeit with somewhat too many drinks, but this does not prevent a loving wife from condoning minor, actually not too serious transgressions. After decades of fellowship, virtuous married couples know their partners well and can trust that a spouse does not go about committing any major crimes or stupidities.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four? We need each other. We want to trust each other and share our lives with someone we love, even when we grow older. We want to be well cared for and feel needed. Here too, the sixteen-year-old Paul displays an amazing insight about our hopes for a safe and cosy old age.
I could be handy, mending a fuse when your lights have gone. Here we find ourselves in an immaculate home environment and within safe, traditional gender roles. The husband fixes practical things, takes care of the technicalities, while, through her soft femininity, his wife guarantees an atmosphere of security and warmth – You can knit a sweater by the fireside. Weekly heydays and relaxation are also homely and shared – Sunday mornings go for a ride.
The home is beautiful, the husband is doing his part – Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more? Well, maybe the economy could be somewhat better, but where trust and love abode we find means for simple, but enjoyable pleasures – Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight. If it's not too dear. We shall scrimp and save.
The old couple´s harmonious way of life is not childless. Unlike Carl and Ellie in the Disney movie, they have enjoyed and still the benefit from an ideal family life and now they revel in their grandchildren who stay close to them, something the lyrics express in a simple and touching manner – Grandchildren on your knee, Vera, Chuck & Dave.
The end of the song, however, proves that it is all a dreamed-up utopia. It is an offer of marriage, which a young man writes to the woman he wants to share his life with:
Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate exactly what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, you will still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
Did it all end up well for The Beatles? Did their Utopia turn into a reality? When the song was sung, written and recorded, they were all close:
The Beatles spent their lives not living a communal life, but communally living the same life. They were each other's greatest friends. [George Harrison's ex-wife Pattie Boyd remembered that] "all belonged to each other. George has a lot with the others that I can never know about. Nobody, not even the wives, can break through or even comprehend it.”
They had a lot in common, not just the music, but also their humour and view of life. They came from humble living conditions. They had had a difficult childhood. John and Paul had lost their mothers. Ringo's parents divorced when he was three years old. He had been sickly and experienced an inadequate and insufficient schooling. Nevertheless, he had, like John, had a friendly and musical stepfather, who dedicated a lot of time and interest to his stepson and together with his mother he both sang and played the piano. The one Beatle who apparently had the quietest childhood was Paul, whose mother was a shop assistant and father a bus driver. They encouraged his musical interests and the father bought him a guitar.
Over time, all the Beatles had their fair share of drug abuse and crashed marriages. Over time they slipped away from each other. John and Paul publicly interrupted their friendship, clashed with each other and only occasionally succeeded in provisionally repairing their once so intense and close friendship. They became involved in a difficult, painful and very public display of battle for prestige, independence and recognition. At the same time it became apparent that George Harrison had felt marginalized by John's paternalism and Paul's constant prioritization of his own creations, his music, while Ringo had suffered from an inferiority complexity vis-à-vis the other members of the band, in spite of the fact that The Beatles could not have become The Beatles without Ringo's efforts.
It was only Paul and Ringo who were due to become sixty-four years old and they are now 75 and 77 years old, respectively. John was murdered at the age of 40, while George could, to some extent, experience the utopia in Paul's song. He mostly lived a quiet family life, far removed from John's hectic and public one, cultivating his large garden. At the end of 1999, a terrible tragedy struck him when a madman broke into his home, punctured one lung, while giving him forty stab wounds and a head injury. These injuries may have contributed to the fact that less than two years later, at the age of fifty-eight, George died with lung cancer and a brain tumour.
Did Paul live his utopia? Perhaps, according to his own opinion his marriage to Linda was happy and for regular periods they apparently enjoyed a secluded, harmonious family life on their farm in Scotland. However, in 1998 Linda died of breast cancer, fifty-six years old and like his friend John, Paul occasionally exposed a fragmented and plagued impression.
And the aging? I remember how girls of my age remarked that Paul was "the cutest of the Beatles", but lately I've heard how they have lamented that he has not aged in an "appealing manner". Someone pointed out that he is increasingly resembling an old lady, perhaps Angela Landsbury, who became famous through the TV-series Murder, She Wrote. I do not know if the similarity is particularly eye-catching, you may judge for yourselves:
In some of the movies I have seen, acted by or inspired by The Beatles, I have assumed there are allusions to When I'm Sixty-Four. For example, in the absurd, carefree and animated Yellow Submarine, one scene presents how John accidentally messes up the pointers of a huge clock, causing the submarine to pass through a head full of gears and clogs, entering The Sea of Time, an ocean constituted by old-fashioned pocket watches. The Beatles are aging at record speed while white beards grow out of their faces. As soon as the submarine has safely crossed the sea they become rejuvenated and regain their original age.
The music that accompanies this short glimpse into the future is not, however, When I'm Sixty-Four, but like many other tunes in the movie it is performed by an orchestra and composed by Georg Martin, presenting elements of Indian and classical music, as well as a melody string reminiscent of George´s Within You Without You from Sgt. Peppers's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Strangely enough, I now find that the movie that makes me associate even more with When I'm Sixty-Four is Richard Lester´s in my opinion quite strange A Hard Day's Night from 1964. Richard Lester has explained that his motivation for making this movie was the liberating lifestyle that The Beatles personified, a kind of playful, liberating anarchism:
The general aim of the film was to present what was apparently becoming a social phenomenon in this country. Anarchy is too strong a word, but the quality of confidence that the boys exuded! Confidence that they could dress as they liked, speak as they liked, talk to the Queen as they liked, talk to the people on the train who 'fought the war for them' as they liked. ... [Everything was] still based on privilege—privilege by schooling, privilege by birth, privilege by accent, privilege by speech. The Beatles were the first people to attack this… they said if you want something, do it. You can do it. Forget all this talk about talent or ability or money or speech. Just do it.
The working class lads from Liverpool were turning the antiquated English class society upside down. They were a fresh breath of air in an old fashioned and cramped England, which would never become the same after having experienced their revolutionary influence.
Scriptwriter Alun Owen, who was fifteen years older than The Beatles and like them a devoted Liverpudlian, spent several days in their company. Paul McCartney later commented on his contribution:
Alun hung around with us and was careful to try and put words in our mouths that he might've heard us speak, so I thought he did a very good script.
Alun realized that The Beatles felt like captives of their own success. They had recently been on a tour in Sweden and when John was asked about his impressions from that trip, he responded: "A train and a room and a car and a room and a room and a room and a room." Already when I as a 10 years old boy saw the movie I became slightly confused by "Paul's grandfather". Who was he really? What did he have to do in a film about The Beatles? His presence was in the movie provided with different, strange explanations. Paul states that his grandfather should accompany them because his mother had explained that it would make him a lot of good since he was "nursing a broken heart". Time after time, The Beatles are questioned: "Who is that guy?" And those who are wondering receive different answers. At one point, George told Paul "That's not your grandfather. I've seen your grandfather; he lives in your house." Paul answers: "That's my other grandfather, but he's my grandfather as well."
"The grandfather" turns out to be a villain and a free-liver, who constantly puts the patience of The Beatles to the test. They are declaring him to be a villain and a “mixer”. He flirts with the girls around The Beatles, fakes and sells their autographs, causing Ringo to end up in a prison cell and generally works havoc on The Beatles´s life. What does this old man's presence mean? Is he an anarchist? A representative of the obsolete class society that The Beatles so effectively punctures? A kind of projection of what they themselves would become in the future?
When the film was made, Paul´s grandparents were not alive and his mother was also deceased. Why did he then let such a strange character appear in a movie where The Beatles play themselves, as well as stating that his mother had asked him to take care of him? Perhaps Paul's grandfather is a kind of a more or less conscious representation of Paul´s father. Henry Brambell who played Paul's grandfather was only fifty-one years at the time, ten years younger than Paul's own father, whom he actually reminded about. At least could Brambell´s looks be related to Jim McCartney´s and Brambell looked much older than he actually was.
However, Jim McCartney was hardly such a slippery character as “Paul's grandfather” and his son often expressed his affection for him. Several of Paul's jazzy compositions remind of music hall compositions and have been perceived as a tribute to his father, who taught his son to appreciate vintage English popular music. Songs such as Your Mother Should Know and Honey Pie, as well as the concept of a somewhat antiquated Liverpool atmosphere that frames Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, may be reminiscent of Jim McCartney´s tastes. Despite all the appreciation Paul showed his father, he did not refute that he was often troubled by his father's overly appreciation of his successes and what he perceived as an exaggerated and self-centred pride in having such a famous son.
Easter, with its messages of death and resurrection, its mixture of despair and hope, made me silently hum When I'm Sixty-four. I am right there now, having lost my parents and with a long life behind me. I hardly live in an utopia like the one a sixteen-year-old Paul McCartney dreamed up in Liverpool, long gone. Nevertheless, I would have loved to be there with its safe warmth and simplicity. Life proved to be considerably more complicated and unpredictable. However, during these Easter celebrations I felt quite at ease and The Beatles song warmed me like the fire by which the woman of the song is sitting knitting. Behind me are experiences I regret and are plagued by. My future continues to be uncertain and insecure. However, joy and gratefulness are also present – due to what I have and what I have received. I will soon be sixty-four years old, a fact that I do not fear. It´s quite OK.
The long and winding road
that leads to your door
will never disappear.
I've seen that road before
it always leads me here.
Leads me to your door.
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