Tim Walker: Abbey Road is not my memory lane

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The Independent Online

If you read a newspaper yesterday – almost any newspaper – you'll be aware that it's precisely 50 years since the Beatles played their first show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Given they didn't break up until 1970, this means we can all look forward to almost a decade of semi-centennial Beatles stories. Put it in your forward planners: October 2012 is the 50th birthday of "Love Me Do", the band's debut single. In 2013, it'll be half a century since their first LP.

The following year, anyone old enough can fondly recall how they broke America with that appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show – and, a year after that, eulogise the famed Shea Stadium gig that even the band couldn't hear above the screams. Just think: in 2020 we could top it all off with a major John and Yoko retrospective at Tate Britain (none of their nonsense will be "modern" by then). Crackly recordings of the pair wailing each other's names will echo through the Duveen Galleries, as OAPs sit in rapt contemplation of "Self Portrait", a 42-minute film of Lennon's semi-erect penis.

Sixties rock nostalgia is an undignified obsession perpetuated by middle-aged (and, statistically speaking, male) media executives, who believe column inches are best populated by the idols of their youth. There hasn't been a genuine Beatles news story since George Harrison's untimely death in 2001, yet their monthly subscriptions to Mojo, The Word and Saga keep them convinced that there's a market for continued dissection of the band's break-up, and debate as to who deserves that not-rare-enough accolade, "the fifth Beatle". (It's George Martin, obviously.)

Meanwhile, each passing month brings reports of increasingly ridiculous Beatles-based purchases. Last year, somebody with more money than sense paid £9,500 at auction for Lennon's porcelain loo. (One imagines he/she isn't planning to use it for its original function. So where, exactly, will it have pride of place? The only room in the house worthy of such a crass acquisition is the bathroom – but putting it there would just confuse people.) The year before that, it was £750 for a wrought-iron balustrade from his auntie's house. Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger are all approaching their 70th birthdays. I was born a fortnight after Lennon was shot, which makes me 30; even if I was 50, I'd barely remember the Sixties. Beatlemania is just about pensionable, and it's time to retire it.

And yes, of course ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" aside), the band's musical legacy is limitless and beyond reproach. My contemporaries and I discovered as much in our teens or earlier, by buying Sgt Pepper and from there venturing in either discographical direction – to Revolver and Rubber Soul, to the "White Album" album and Abbey Road. But last year's much-trumpeted and long-overdue iTunes release of the Beatles' back catalogue didn't produce a Christmas No 1 as planned. In fact, it barely troubled the Top 40. Young people weren't interested in the billboards; if they were interested in the music, they probably downloaded it illegally years ago. The hype, memories and memorabilia are merely an unnecessary distraction.

A mooted Rolling Stones tour has reportedly been scuppered by the indomitable Keith Richards' mention, in his memoir, of his colleague Jagger's allegedly diminutive "todger". Apparently, the pair are no longer speaking – and a good thing, too.

This is a band, you'll recall, that hasn't produced new music of note in a quarter-century. And the World's Greatest Live Act™ is surely long gone, replaced by an ageing tribute act apeing its own back catalogue to anyone who'll pay through the teeth for a chance to remember the glory days.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps recently called on Liverpool City Council to delay plans for a massive and much-needed regeneration scheme, because he wants to prevent the demolition of a single, derelict terrace at 9 Madryn Street – where, in July 1940, Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr) was born. If it were Paul's house, he might just have a point. But it's Ringo's. It's time we knocked the thing down and moved on.

t.walker@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/timwalker