‘Love, love, love
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done’.
‘Hey, that’s Paul. They are on already’.
It is Friday lunch time, August 1962. My co-worker Graeme and I clad in our Burton the Tailor’s work suits are seeking entrance to Liverpool’s, now famous Cavern Club in Matthew Street. The draw card is an emerging local band called The Beatles.
The twisting concrete steps down into the converted fruit warehouse, are narrow and jammed tighter than a barista’s coffee doser with fans. The cacophony of amplified sound drenching us is raucous and thumping. A phenomenon, now known to as the Mersey Beat, has emerged in the city and is gathering pace faster than Ravel’s Bolero. This lunch time though I am oblivious to the impact this nascent phenomenon will have on my life narrative.
I am a gauche sixteen-year-old acne-plagued lad. Having recently bid adieu to my 16th century grammar school I consigned my navy-blue blazer to the ragman. Forced by a dominating mother I applied for a hundred jobs. Now finally I am now employed as an Insurance clerk and have put my black elastic sided boots on the first rung of the work ladder. The job, at £290 a year, is with the Commercial Union Assurance Company in Liverpool’s Dickensian work milieu. Sadly, my aspirations to be professional footballer had been thwarted by a serious lack of talent and I am now an apprentice ‘pen pusher’.
Winged collars and porcelain ink wells are still much in evidence in the 1960s and the waistcoated bosses had placed me in the hands of a lass called Val. Her job was to teach me Insurance clerking: 1001. Val, a sloe-eyed beauty, with an hour-glass figure, was the envy of the hundred or so other blue-tuniced office girls. Her claim to fame? Well she was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend and Paul was already a heart throb of some substance in the city.
Val’s embellishments were many but it was her ebony eyes that were the winner for a sixteen-year old pimpled lad. Hooded and framed by her jet-black shoulder length hair they moved mysteriously back and forth behind a veil of mascaraed eyelashes. A mere six years older than me she treated me with the disdain beautiful young women reserved for naïve teenagers.
The Beatles had recently returned from a season in Hamburg and were now being managed by Brian Epstein, whose family ran NEMS, the North’s biggest music store. They had ditched, their drummer, Pete Best, and replaced him with Ringo Starr. Epstein had put them in black collarless suits and ties and brought in the hairdresser: the rest is of course history.
In 1962 the winds of change were becoming a gale and the ancien regime was tottering. The age of stolid Conservative government and a world map plastered in the pink of Britain’s Empire was entering its death throws. Harold Wilson was about to lead the Labour party to victory and a new dawn for socialism in the United Kingdom.
‘Can you see?’ Graham yelled in my ear. Finally we are down the steps and wedged against the back wall by the baying horde.
‘I can see John practising his knees bending exercises.’ I hollered back.
Paul McCartney’s mellifluous tones are ricocheting around the walls of the converted fruit warehouse, like a steel ball in a pin ball machine. Squinting through the blue tobacco haze, I glimpse the foursome spotlighted on the tiny stage by garish neon flashlights.
‘What do you reckon Rod? Good?’
‘I still prefer that German group we saw last Friday, The Rattles.’ Graeme laughed as we raced back to our desks and an afternoon of toil in our shop window like office.
The Commercial Union had some 200 staff spread over six floors but we were on the ground floor with a glass wall window that looked out onto Water Street and four lanes of furious traffic. If we tilted our heads, we could see the Liver Bird perched on the Cunard Building, on the banks of the River Mersey, some 500 metres away.
Sliding back behind my desk, I stared askance at a pile of pink policy copies that had magiced themselves onto my desk.
‘Hey Val, they played Love is all you need. They were awesome.’
Without acknowledging me, Val flicked her hair away from her face and raising her eyelashes a few millimetres replied, ‘Those need filing this afternoon. I will show you where now.’
The seesaw of work/life balance had been re-tilted.