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2019.06 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BA(ckgrou)ND

This iconic Beatles album was named recently, some 52 years after its release (26 May in the U.K, early June in the USA) as the best-selling album of all time. Malcolm had taken an in-depth look into some of the tracks and spoke on four of them – a trip down memory lane for most of his audience! The first was “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” widely believed to have been written, by Lennon, under the influence of LSD – the words had a definite psychedelic overtones and the title capitals seemed to confirm this. However both Lennon and McCartney denied this and Lennon always maintained that it was inspired by a drawing his son had made in junior school, Lucy being a fellow pupil who had died tragically young with Lupus disease.   

The next track “She’s leaving home” was inspired by a newspaper cutting of a wealthy young girl running away from home. John wrote most of it imagining the girl’s story, Paul adding what he thought would be the parent’s thoughts. The girl was found quite quickly and eventually got to know the song was about her – she had always thought it was a pretty accurate account of her escapade. Ironically she had, as a very young teenager actually met Paul as they both appeared on Top of the Pops in 1964 and he presented her with a prize for winning a mime competition. Malcolm had researched her life and found that although it sounded glamourous – the people she knew and the places she called home, she had more than her fair share of tragedy, twice becoming a widow and dying still relatively young with her third husband in a car crash.

The third track investigated was “A day in the Life”, again based on articles in the newspaper, this time fusing two that appeared on consecutive pages, together. The final track “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite” was based on a poster John bought down south, but it had a strong Leeds link. The poster was for an 1843 Pablo Fanque Circus show in Lancashire. Pablo Fanque was the stage name of a black circus equine performer who was born in Norfolk into a poor family so the date is not confirmed. The Leeds link is because both he and his wife are buried in St. George’s Cemetery, now within the ground of the University of Leeds. His circus often visited Leeds and they would erect a wooden auditorium on a site, built over by first by the Hippadrome theatre, then Schofields and now the Core. However on one occasion the staging collapsed – with one fatality, that of Pablo’s wife, in the ticket booth. Malcolm read an account of the lavish funeral and we saw an image of the large headstone which recounts the tragedy. Despite remarrying, Pablo always missed his first wife and wished to be buried with her and this, despite hard times, was what his friends arranged when he died later in Stockport.

Malcolm is an entertaining and accomplished speaker, using humour and superb research skills to bring the stories to life. Peter Woodhead, who had taught with Malcolm, an English teacher turned Inspector and lecturer, gave the vote of thanks and President Paul expressed the hope that he would be invited to entertain us again. 

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