Thursday, October 04, 2018

The first thing we did when the concert was uploaded was look for ourselves in the crowd. It was a surprisingly stressful experience for many of us, the cameraless fans who were suddenly in the presence of Paul McCartney in Studio Two of Abbey Road Studios. Yet, the fans made sure to link up with one another, to add and follow and like each other after the show. That night, we gathered up whatever photographic evidence we had: the crumpled setlist, the sweaty green wrist band and the poster of Egypt Station and we made sure we posted all we could to the socials. I uploaded a screenshot from the Abbey Road webcam, captured by my brother, Andrew, diligently spying from his computer in Melbourne. I didn't tell him where the show was, but I gave him a very firm tip off.

I was on limited data on a primitive replacement phone when the Spotify gig was finally released, but I made sure to watch the show as soon as possible. "The Green Wristband Bunch" memorialised the show in degraded screenshots of us euphorically singing, smiling and grasping each other. During the show itself, I had no particular sense of anybody else around me. I was entirely focused upon what was going on the stage. At times, the girls around me would reach out to touch my arm and ask if I was OK. I assured them that everything was fine but then, there were times when I was visibly shaken. I had to embrace the sheer euphoria of it, to be in the room where the Beatles recorded, with a Beatle performing a few feet in front of me.

I had recorded a video of myself before I set off to Abbey Road, privately acknowledging what this show actually meant. Much of my musical life is preoccupied with Beatles research, whether it is reading books or watching documentaries or just seeking out photos of the Fab Four with teacups in the background. The fascination exists an escape valve and I relish how much we all seem to know about John, Paul, George and Ringo. I live so much more in every conversation where we can contribute an insight or a feeling about the Beatles. There is such purity in that love that we share, yet when I am forced to qualify my place as a "true" fan, I feel completely inadequate.

My guilt about winning that place to see Paul led to discussions with friends about the hierarchies which fans impose to determine the sincerity of other fans. That pressure to be a musical expert undermines my desire to publish anything, particularly on C&CM. Despite my neverending research, I feel that I will never know enough to tell you about it authoritatively. In a material sense, I have no shrine and I have no tattoos and yet I still think about them more than most things. I think about the competitive nature of their creative partnership and I think about how we can characterise and identify Paul's songs as opposed to John's. I think about them so much of the time, because I'm still learning about the Beatles.

Thank you to Shot97 for beautifully crafting this gif...

When I look back at that show, I feel that there is something so incredibly pure in those intermittent shots of my friends in the crowd, particularly with Jon and Mel freaking out together. At an early point in the show, Paul was describing the first time they entered Studio Two, being "little Beatles" who were only allowed to enter only the tradesmens' entrance. Paul described George as having a black eye as a result of a fight at the Cavern. At that moment, the camera cut to me, with smudged black eyeliner and tears streaming down my face. I suddenly felt so overwhelmed to hear one of those whimsical stories I had been collecting for decades. The casual nature of it broke my heart.

I didn't feature predominantly in the show, but I was grateful that they captured that particular moment. It was the moment that I felt the most love and awe, the most gratitude and sadness. I'm not embarrassed to admit that it was a kind of existential grief, one that owed to the fact that despite all our love, that moment had to pass. As fans, we can dwell and we can document. We can retreat and virtually live in a year that predates our birth by two decades... but it's all so ephemeral. Nothing can ever contain that awe or gratitude we carry. We just have to find a way to feel it. We just have to find a way to learn to be thankful for the way such moments materialise.

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