Taking a day off from walking northwards along canal towpaths, I’ve been strolling down memory lane at The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool’s docklands and trying to find a common thread to what was happening elsewhere in the early Sixties.
It was a troubled world although the solutions of love and peace were obvious to so many young people, sparking the flower power movement and hippy generation that would later inspire me.
In 1962 President John F Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on Cuba; Marilyn Monroe was found dead of a suspected overdose; East German border guards shot attempted escapee Peter Fechter and left him to die on the Berlin Wall; the US landed a rocket on the moon and the greatest musical phenomenon of all time was launched with the release of the first Beatles’ single, Love Me Do.
It was also the year that The Rolling Stones were formed, emerging as the world’s greatest rock and roll band that endures today, more than 40 years after the Beatles split up.
And in a bleak wintry dunescape in northern Scotland, sacked hotel manager Peter Caddy and his wife Eileen parked their caravan at the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park, hoping to figure out what to do next and be on their way within days. With them were their three young sons and close friend Dorothy Maclean.
Never for a moment did those three adults guess that they were the nucleus of what would become a renowned spiritual community, holistic education centre and celebrated Ecovillage with one of the lowest recorded ecological footprints in the developed world.
Nor of course did John, Paul, George and Ringo anticipate the unprecedented scenes of global mass emotion that became known simply as Beatlemania. Talk about infinite possibilities and the uniqueness of the paths each of us walk!
My world was the mostly joyful place of a 13-year-old who kicked off his shoes after school and raced to the beach or bush in search of adventure, or shyly visited the gorgeous little blonde a few houses up the street.
There were no computers and television had yet to arrive in apartheid-dominated South Africa and I was largely oblivious that the superpowers were edging us perilously close to a potential nuclear holocaust as the Cold War hotted up between the United States and the Soviet Union. But I do vividly remember the impact the Beatles had on my young life.
For me it was a time of love and youthful idealism and I guess it was no different for most of those fans who were barely more than teens like the Fab Four themselves. We were all so young.
Walking through the Beatles museum wearing headphones and reliving the history through images and interviews, I unexpectedly felt tears welling up as I relived my own time of innocence.
I also remembered my unusual ‘meetings’ with the Beatles during their 1966 visit to Japan when I chatted to them from my hotel window to theirs, my room in the Tokyo Hilton placed just below their suites on the top floor where they were virtual prisoners, a permanent cordon of 2,000 police encircling the hotel to keep fans at bay.
Boredom was their biggest challenge and the conversations were funny and silly. Once I suggested to John Lennon that he do something to amuse the fans. “Jump,” I invited and he pretended to start climbing out of the window.
Later I strutted on the roof of the hotel in my mother’s wig, causing chaos below before I was firmly led away by polite but unamused policemen, my photograph appearing on the front page of a morning newspaper to the embarrassment of my parents.
I was a hero among my peers and friends insisted on visiting and even overnighting in the hope of contact with the famous foursome.
At their first concert I had front row seats but still struggled to hear the lyrics of Yesterday, my then favourite Beatles’ song, as Japanese girls shrieked their delight and declared their devotion: “Lingo, Lingo” and “I ruv you Pauru!”
John Lennon was later to explain: “The thing the Sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”
At the end of that decade huge billboards appeared in a number of cities with the message: “WAR IS OVER – if you want it. Happy Christmas from John and Yoko”
Now those screaming teenagers are parents and grandparents, some grappling with the same concerns about our beautiful world and recognising that love and peace are still the answer. Maybe young people, acting from an inner knowing, intuitively appreciate what is right. They don’t look at practical or political considerations: merely what’s possible.
Yes, let’s give peace a chance.
In December 1980, a day many of us remember so painfully, John Lennon died after being shot five times in the back outside his New York apartment block, while 21 years later George Harrison, the quiet one who’d become both a mystic and avid gardener, succumbed to cancer.
But the legacy of John, Paul, George and Ringo is timeless.
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one