Beatlespooks, Ch. 1: The Phantom Guardsman of Strawberry Fields

Frames from the “Strawberry Fields” promo film, shot January 30, 1967, in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent.

DEVIN McKINNEY  • 

 

 

At first, Paul is sanguine, at his ease, perhaps even lofty on teasmoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what does he spy, reflected in the varnished piano of a Kentish night?

 

A Beatle aide caught in pass, or a vigilant spirit on eternal watch?

 

 

 

 

May we say, you or I, what so widens his eye?

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Wow, Devin–how on Earth did you come across that? It’s fantastic. Wasn’t there a Coldstream Guardsman aspect to the “Brian Epstein was murdered” rumors? Could it be a…premonition? 🙂

    Could be a sloppy edit on the Moviola, but I bet it was left in on purpose. The Beatles were big believers in improvisation/serendipity–which is one of the reasons they’ve always felt much more authentically experimental to me than say, Yoko Ono, whose work always shows the presence of The Director. “By doing x, I’m trying to make the audience do y.”

    A “Great Artist” is only one component of great art; there also has to be enough space for the audience. They have to be allowed to establish their own relationship with the work quite apart from the artist’s intent or control–and that doesn’t jibe with the “Artist-as-hero” cult. And it’s one reason why I believe that great art most often lurks in the popular idiom, not the highbrow one. I could go on about this but it seems besides the point, so I’ll rein in.

    Back to the film: The ’66-’67 Fabs have always been my favorite incarnation, and I remember the first night I saw those videos, back in 1985. People younger than us can’t really understand what it was like in that pre-internet age; you’d see stills in Beatle books, or perhaps a clip on a TV show, but to see stuff like this–to study it–required attending some sort of convocation. If you were as Beatles-obsessed as I was (am), and had a monkish turn of mind which I did (do), Beatlefest wasn’t a convention, it was a pilgrimage.

    If I recall that night correctly, first came the Washington concert from February ’64; then Shea; then the promo films for Rain, Penny Lane/SFF, and Lady Madonna. All scented with that mix of mildew, stale air-conditioning, and industrial carpeting that to this day makes me think of the bowels of the O’Hare Hilton.

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