Screams like teen spirit: girls go wild at a Beatles concert, Christmas 1963. Photo: Sharok Hatami/Rex
Show Hide image

Forty pairs of abandoned knickers: Maureen Lipman on the Fab Four in Hull

In the second half, John Lennon stepped forward to the mike, thighs straining against his shiny and confining suit. He shook his locks, lowered his eyes and let me have it.

Where I came from, you were a Beatles girl or a Rolling Stones girl. Just as, a few years earlier, you were a Connie Francis or a Juliette Gréco girl: white shoes and a beehive hairdo or black roll-neck, kohl and flatties. Mecca Locarno or basement jazz room, Pepsi-Cola or whisky sour: queuing at both. This was Hull, 1963, before it had culture and a marina, when David Whitfield covered “Cara Mia” in a blazer made by my dad and Philip Larkin darkly traversed the university library.

I was 17 years old, working on my English, art and history A-level syllabus and mooning around my bedroom listening to Doris Day and reading The Golden Notebook. I was a good enough actress to do a convincing squirm at Elvis’s gyrations, but frankly I had less idea what “sent” my gang of schoolfriends than I had of the unification of Italy 1871.

Every end of term Paddy, Ann, Marilyn, Janet, Leonie, Kay, Jennifer and me – the arty girls – led the whole school out on to the playing fields and performed an entire Sunday Night at the London Palladium show. Marilyn Atkinson’s “Cliff”, with tight trousers and lacquered quiff, drew more screams than the real thing. Crushes abounded. I had gaggles of fans who waved autograph books at me. We were legends.

One of my “crushees” had a dad who worked at the Regal Cinema and therefore had access to free seats at the forthcoming Beatles concert. A giggling posse of navy blazers asked me if I would like to go along and, out of pity, I agreed – after all, it was only 18 months since I had stalked Pauline Melville after her performance as the maid in Cranford. As far as I was concerned, the Beatles were a nice-sounding group of young men with shiny hair and no lapels. Nothing to sing about.

At the concert, the music was completely drowned out by the screaming. It was tribal, and I viewed my fellow mortals from my balcony seat with the same amusement and disdain I felt when audiences rose and lumbered out before the end credits ran on Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 – which I saw 15 times. So unprofessional!

Then I reached my road to Damascus. In the second half, John Lennon stepped forward to the mike, thighs straining against his shiny and confining suit. He shook his locks, lowered his eyes, put his overbite delicately in place and let me have it:

 

The best things in life

are free

But you can keep it for the

berds [sic] and bees . . .

Someone very close to me screamed the most piercing of screams, a primal mating call. I looked around peripherally without losing sight of the tiny demigod in front of me:

I want mo-o-o-ney.

Thass what I want.

My Cornetto dangled. Sweat ran across my upper lip and down my virgin armpits. The screaming was increasing in volume and intensity. Someone was about to implode. I realised with an electric shock that the screaming someone was me. I continued to scream for the next 40 minutes. The rest of the concert is a blur. As is the smug excitement of my fourth-year fans, and the moment their heroine was dragged away from the stage door by her dad to his Morris Oxford.

“Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three,” Larkin wrote. He wasn’t far wrong. The next day, I had a voice like Eartha Kitt; the manager of the Regal told my dad they’d cleared away 40 pairs of abandoned knickers at the cinema; and life, as I knew it, was never the same again. I still thank John Lennon from the bottom of my heart. From that day on, I understood what Martha Quest in The Golden Notebook was actually doing it all for. 

This article first appeared in the 20 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, What the Beatles did for Britain

Getty
Show Hide image

The worst Oscar-winning films of all time

How hated movies have grabbed their space in the spotlight. 

Whilst the biggest surprise at last night’s Oscars was undoubtedly the part where they weren’t sure who’d actually won Best Picture, Suicide Squad also raised a few eyebrows. The critically-panned superantihero non-classic managed to take home an Academy Award, albeit in the category of Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Which raises the question: is Suicide Squad the worst film to have ever won an Oscar?

Obviously, the quality of a film is an ultimately subjective measure. Suicide Squad is someone’s favourite movie; every film is someone’s favourite movie, except for Sex Lives of the Potato Men. But if we want to get an "objective" view, one was is to look at a measure of the critical consensus, like Tomatometer on the website Rotten Tomatoes, which counts the percentage of good and bad reviews a film has received from critics.

Here, Suicide Squad ranks at a lowly 26 per cent (with such glowing lines as the Wall Street Journal’s “an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment”), which is one of the lowest scores an Academy Award-winning movie has ever received. But not the lowest.

Michael Bay’s historically dubious epic Pearl Harbor, which managed a win for Best Sound Editing, has a rating of just 25 per cent. As well as its Oscar, Pearl Harbor won Worst Picture at "anti-Oscars" The Razzies, the first film to do so that also had one of the real awards.

This kind of "technical" award is a good route to unlikely Oscar glory. Middling John Lithgow-meets-Bigfoot comedy Harry and the Hendersons isn’t remembered as an award-winner, but it took home the gold for Harry's makeup job. It can sometimes be overlooked that most films are a massive team effort, and there's something heartwarming about the fact people can get still be rewarded for being very good at their job, even if that job is working on a mediocre-to-terrible movie.

Still, if no-one working on the actual film does their job right, you can always get someone decent to write a song. The not very good (score: 33 per cent) eighties "steel welder wants to learn ballet" movie Flashdance took an award home for the Giorgio Moroder-composed title theme. He would also later bring home a much better film’s sole award, when he penned Top Gun’s Take My Breath Away.

Picking the right song is how what may be the lowest-rated Oscar winner of all time did it: The Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor melodrama The Sandpiper has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 10 per cent, but win it did, for the song The Shadow of Your Smile (which isn’t even actually very good; Burt Bacharach’s What's New Pussycat? was robbed.)

Even an Oscar winner that is praised by contemporaries can be undone by the cruelty of time. One of the lowest-scoring winners is 1936’s Anthony Adverse, at just 13 per cent - not only did it win for Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress, Best Soundtrack and Best Editing, it was nominated for Best Picture. But however praised the historical epic might have been at the time, because Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews from online media, it does not appear to have dated well.

Perhaps awards can only ever reflect the critical mood of the time - Singin’ In The Rain has a 100 per cent Tomatometer score, but took home no Oscars. Best Picture that year went to The Greatest Show On Earth, now judged a 44 per cent mediocrity. Perhaps by the 2080s film critics will be stunned that the newly re-appreciated acting masterclass Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest only won for its visual effects, be baffled that the lauded classic Suicide Squad wasn’t a Best Picture contender, and be absolutely 100 per cent certain that Jared Leto was the finest actor of his generation. Maybe the apocalypse wouldn’t be so bad after all.