Real Life: We l-o-v-e you Beatles, oh yes we d-o-o-o: Joseph Gallivan has only just contracted Beatlemania

I ALWAYS said I'd save the Beatles until I was in my thirties. Such is the weight of critical acclaim attached to their records, I thought they deserved a decade of their own. But the quarter- century anniversary of Sgt Pepper last year ('Mr Mellor, what's your favourite Sgt Pepper track?' asked a reporter. 'Submarine,' said the Heritage Minister confidently) persuaded me, at the age of 29, to bring that deferred pleasure forward.

It is worth remembering that for years after they broke up, and for anybody born after 1960, the Beatles were just a naff, out-of-date pop group. Not any more. Last month, the 25th birthday of the release of The Beatles (aka The White Album), it was not only the middle-aged who were lining up on the radio and in the press to regale us with Beatles micro-anecdotes and the names of their four joint-favourite Beatles albums. Everybody else from Kate Bush to Chuck D, those who were too young or too old to remember the group when they were fashionable, or even recording, has been struggling to show the ways in which they, too, love the Fab Four.

When Sgt Pepper 'came out' again last year, I was compelled to buy one of the extra-expensive CD copies. I discovered it was full of pleasant memories: I remember my sister - seven years older than me - had the Red and Blue albums, which my brothers and I had to listen to while we waited to play our T Rex and Sweet singles. I had also heard most of the songs over the years on Radio 2. I particularly like that one 'When I'm Sixty Four', with the oom-pah band.

Eager for more, I started to realise that even casual questioning of anyone over 20 would cause a spring of Beatles commentary to issue forth. Beatles people are nice like that. Revolver is the best album, they all said. Either that or Rubber Soul. Going in search of 'Submarine' - another childhood favourite - led me directly to Revolver, the one with the terrible ink drawings on the cover. This was great] 'Eleanor Rigby', 'And Your Bird Can Sing', 'Taxman' (the genesis of the Jam's song 'Start'), and 'Doctor Robert' (and I thought he was just a bloke in the Blow Monkeys).

Just to establish the addiction, there is a sleek catalogue available, which reveals that, should you be feeling rich, you can buy all the albums on CD at once. They come in their own little cabinet, like a black bread bin. Get the trainspotter book 'The Complete Beatles Chronicle' (Pyramid Books) by Mark Lewisohn, and it doesn't matter when you were born, or how square you were in the Sixties, you'll know more than Paul, George, the other George, Yoko, Ringo and Linda can remember between them.

I prefer the drip-drip method. I bought The White CD this week. It's a double disc, weighing in at a hefty 24 quid. It looks like a tile off the space shuttle, and hopefully will match it for durability. I got it out of the shrink wrap and went straight to 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da', a chunky shouter of a song that was a scandalous hit at infant school - we thought they were swearing. Then I noticed 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?' Was Paul really that dirty?

I was tempted to tap into the super-saturated Beatles opinion network. I called my friend Luke, a Beatles fan since boarding school, and he gave me the lowdown. 'It's brilliant. But it gets progressively worse. The first side is fantastic, the second great, the third OK and the fourth crap.'

There is a crisis of confidence in British pop music at the moment. So you've got a spare pounds 15, what's it to be - the new Phil Collins, or Help] ? Which will make you feel better, look better, and stimulate more human contact? Can a coachload of Italian teenagers singing 'Yesterday' be wrong?

(Photograph omitted)

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