Simon Wilson, who distinctly remembers being there, celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the best-loved albums of all time: Abbey Road.
Paul is dead. There he is, dressed in his best suit with bare feet, just like they do in Sicilian funerals, or so everyone said, with Ringo the undertaker in black, John the priest (of course) in white and George all in denim because he's the gravedigger bringing up the rear. Four different ways for a man to look incredibly cool in the 60s, even without wearing colour. Because when's the only time, in 1969, that you wouldn't wear colour? A funeral.
And what are they doing? Crossing over. Paul is dead. You wouldn't even say the proof is hiding in plain sight. It's right there.
Who doesn't miss 1969? Even if you weren't there I bet you remember how great it was. Woodstock, the moon landing, Abbey Road, which was released on September 21, 50 years ago this week. The 60s, when conspiracy theories flourished without social media, clothes were cooler and the music was the coolest.
It was also awful. The Manson murders, as Quentin Tarantino has reminded us. Chappaquiddick, when Senator Ted Kennedy, youngest and last-surviving brother in the Kennedy clan, on target to become President of the United States, drove his car off a bridge into a river. He fled the scene, leaving Mary Jo Kopechne, a young woman who was not his wife, to drown. Also that year, a river caught fire in Ohio, it was that polluted.
On the upside, Monty Python's Flying Circus arrived. Stupid was funny.
Did The Beatles already know that, when they included not one but two novelty songs on Abbey Road? One of the greatest albums of all time but there they are, Maxwell's Silver Hammer bang banging away and Octopus's Garden, with the ridiculous vocals of Ringo Starr.
That song was sandwiched in the middle of the great I-can-write-a-better-power-love-song stand-off: Paul, roaring out Oh! Darling and John roaring back his feelings for Yoko Ono in I Want You (She's So Heavy). It's about her but it's the rest of the band he's shouting at, demanding they get the message.
John always thought he could sing Oh! Darling better, which is probably true but the rule was, you write it you get to sing it and Paul wrote it. It's a good song, but it's not extraordinary, not like I Want You: over seven minutes long and just 16 words, if you include the screamed "Yeah!"
"I want you. I want you so bad, it's driving me mad. Yeah. She's so heavy."
What did The Beatles not do? All those catchy, lovely, insistent melodies, all those clever, heartfelt lyrics, all those perfect pop songs drenching the world in "yeah yeah yeah" and "blackbirds singing in the dead of night". In barely more than half a dozen years The Beatles changed the world.
Took singer-songwriting from folk and made it important in pop. Took blues into pop. Paul turned his guitar upside down and restrung it and that became a thing for left-handers everywhere. They brought cities to a standstill with seas of rushing, weeping, adoring fans. Youth culture was a thing before The Beatles. By the time they'd finished, it was everything.
They mostly didn't do what the record company told them and the music was the better for it. They changed the hairstyle of every young man in the world - except the ones in the army. They knew how to be both serious and funny, although you have to say that's not completely true of John. For a give-peace-a-chance kind of guy he did serious with surprising shades of anger and his funny always seemed just a little mean.
Who cares. He could sing like a dirty angel, play a clever guitar, write really clever songs, he knew how to make the world a better place and he did it. I Want You was the first song they started recording for Abbey Road and, on August 20, 1969, it became the last one they finished. It was the last time they were in a studio together.
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Paul wrote that one. It was 50 years ago today, more or less.
Purists may want to say Let It Be came out a year later but that album was recorded before Abbey Road, and anyway it's maudlin and cliched. The Long and Winding Road is no way to end anything.
I remember the afternoon we gathered after school to listen to my friend Neil's copy of the just-released White Album, marvel at the music, gaze in sheer envy at the portraits that came with it. We agreed the rumours were false. Making music like this, The Beatles would never break up.
I remember a year later, when Abbey Road came out, we knew Paul could not be dead because there was the music. Forget the cover, the music was the proof.
"Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover." What a line, the suggestiveness, the way other becomes lover, the absence in the entire song of any gimmicky ideas or nonsensical wordplay. There are no Lennon and McCartneyisms in Something, because George wrote it. Honest George, whose guitar so often so gently weeps.
George also wrote Here Comes the Sun. "Here comes the sun doo doo doo doo, and I say it's all right." It certainly was. He wrote it hiding at Eric Clapton's house because he didn't want to be at another horrible meeting with John and Paul. It was the break-up of the ages and they were recording a great album.
"Little darling I feel like ice is slowly melting, little darling it seems like years since it's been clear." It makes you want to get up and go outside and run around laughing. Happiness, in three minutes flat.
"Ah ah, because the world is round, it turns me on." With the chords marching up and down the keyboard of an electric harpsichord played by producer George Martin. "Because the wind is high it blows my mind. Ah ah, love is old love is new." The searching, insistent nine-voice harmonies, John, Paul and George all recorded three times. The fabulous falsetto.
And then a moment of even purer loveliness. Piano, tripping along the melody, "you never give me your money", you only give me your funny papers and in the middle of negotiations you break down.
It's the band's financial disputes, rendered as art. What? Who does that? The piano gives way to guitars, the tone and scale escalate and we're in another song, or are we? Are they just riffing on musical ideas? The lyrics collapse into "one two three four five six seven all good children go to heaven" and they are definitely fooling around. Except melodically it's as beguiling as ever. George rounds it off with the easy assurance of a guitar maestro.
You Never Give Me Your Money is such a gorgeous, subtly complex song, experimental and controlled and it's made from scraps. If it was easy everyone would do it.
The entire second side, from Here Comes the Sun, is one long note-perfect, melody-perfect, lyrically perfect outpouring of everything music is meant to be, even including corny, when it's done right.
Bits and pieces from their bottom drawers, scraps of songs cobbled together by George Martin because he desperately wanted enough to make a whole album and there was no way John and Paul were going to give each other enough new songs to get it done. There they were, engulfed in a bitterness known only to those who have truly loved and seen it turn sour.
How did they get it so right? The Sun King, a measured expression of beauty, everybody's laughing, everybody's happy, it's so formal, except it also has a clever, punnish burst of semi-Spanish. "Quando para mucho mi amore de felice corazon."
Polythene Pam, and then, "Oh look out, oh look out, she came in through the bathroom window. Didn't anybody tell her, didn't anybody see, Sunday's on the phone to Monday, Tuesday's on the phone to me oh yeah." These are happy people having so much fun, you'd swear to it.
Trusting bandmates making so much beauty, you'd swear to that too. "Once there was a way to get back homeward," with the strings rising and swelling and if you're in the mood it catches you and you just sink to your knees. "Once there was a way to get back home."
"Sleep pretty darling do not cry and I will sing a lullaby." But immediately it's not a lullaby, it's Paul, with another full-throated roar of love. "Golden slumbers fill your eyes, smiles awake you when you rise," which by the way doesn't make sense, "sleep pretty darling do not cry and I will sing a lullaby." And we're back. "Once there was a way to get back homeward," the strings coming down from heaven in waves, Paul curling his voice around every precious word.
"Boy you're going to carry that weight." Some drumming for Ringo, who's been sitting there waiting patiently, yeah yeah, guitar guitar "and, in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make".
They recorded it in pieces. They'd almost given up working together, they sure weren't talking to each other. But they made magic. Remember to tell your boss about this next time you have to do some stupid team-building exercise.
It seems safe to say now that Paul is not dead, but the album does still celebrate the conspiracy du jour. That would be, these days, the neoliberal conspiracy. Look at those song titles. Maxwell's Silver Hammer, ringing the sale of more overpriced property that only those already in the property market can afford. You Never Give Me Your Money, Carry that Weight, Here Comes the Sun, which is for us, the boomers - but not so much for the rest of you. The end.
Were The Beatles prescient gods or what? Boomers had all the best music and now we taunt you poor millennials with it. I bet every millennial slogging through this knows the words to at least half of Abbey Road but you couldn't find a boomer who could sing a word of Taylor Swift if their Gold Card depended on it.
And what did all that great music inspire us to do? Well, we stood up to nuclear testing in the Pacific, we had a massive state housing construction programme in the 60s and 70s and we created a world-leading no-fault accident compensation system.
Hang on. No we didn't. Those things were done by the generation before us. Sir Owen Woodhouse, the architect of ACC, was born in 1916. The political leaders of the 1970s, the heyday of the boomers in New Zealand and the last great decade of the welfare state, were all born in the 1920s.
They were our parents, the generation we reviled as "the olds", thick-minded, wedded to convention, incapable of understanding anything about us: that the Vietnam War was wrong, crocheted tops and mixed flatting were cool and young people were ready to take over the world.
Truth be told, we didn't even make the music. Paul McCartney is 77, born in 1942. Not a baby boomer, because by definition you can't be a boomer unless you were born in the busy time after the war, when births boomed. The clue is in the name. You have to be younger than 73.
Joni Mitchell is 75, Bob Dylan 78, Mick Jagger 76. Grace Slick is 79, which I can't wrap my head around at all. "And if you go chasing rabbits and you know you're going to fall, tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call." As for Pete Townshend, who hoped he would die before he got old, he didn't die and he's not a baby boomer either. He's 74.
Mind you, as every self-respecting 74-year-old will tell you, that's not old at all. Boomers, along with the music of the war generation we grew up on, will never be old. It's just a fact.
The world will end first. Being young is a state of mind and the end of the world is, like everything else in our lifetimes, something we've already organised. You may have noticed.
In the end, is the love you take really equal to the love you make? It's a con, isn't it? We took way more.
If I may speak frankly, how about we all do a deal? We'll keep our music, and why don't the rest of you rise up and take over the world? Write a new ending, or a new continuance. We'll keep Here Comes the Sun, you save the planet. Because you're surely not relying on us, are you? It's not too late, you know.
In the real end to the album, which sprang to life on the vinyl record after a long, sly silence, it's like this. "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she doesn't have a lot to say. Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she changes from day to day. I want to tell her that I love her a lot but I gotta get a belly full of wine. Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl someday I'm gonna make her mine oh yeah, someday I'm gonna make her mine."
Trivial and profound, or none of the above. Catchy little tune. And hey. Fifty years later, it's the same Her Majesty.