Backtrack

...bit like you and me

I rather liked Nowhere Boy. It’s actually very hard to present me with a Beatles related ‘product’ that I don’t like. Rock Band would probably be the exception.

For a group that officially split in 1970, The Beatles have never really gone away. The Fab Four have released sanctioned more artistic output now, than when they did at their late ’60s creative peak.

The Beatles are dead. Long live The Beatles industry.

Which brings us round to Nowhere Boy. I’m surprised it’s taken so long for a John Lennon backtrack story to appear on film. Backbeat took us back to Hamburg; Nowhere Boy takes a step further back, telling the story of the formation of The Quarrymen, and ending with The Silver Beatles being Hamburg bound.

As a historical artefact, only the three main characters can confirm the accuracy of the Nowhere Boy story. Seeing as though John Lennon, his mum Julia and his Aunt Mimi are all dead, Director Sam Taylor Wood is given artistic licence to stray slightly from the original plot.

And so what should be a fairly simple love triangle, becomes something of a bloated Beatles video, not too dissimilar from the bloody awful Free as a Bird. John takes a walk past Strawberry Fields; he doodles cartoon walruses in his schoolbook, and hints at a relationship with Thomas Sangster’s comically young looking Paul McCartney.

Meanwhile the B word is never mentioned throughout. The film starts with the crashing power chord of Hard Day’s Night, and concludes with Mother, the only original Lennon number to be featured.

The Beatles Industry has a habit of sneering to any outsider who thinks a shake of the mop top is as good as it gets. Nowhere Boy overcomes the muso snobbery by telling the tale of a band with little early musical direction.

You needn’t have read Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head to enjoy the narrative (although I strongly recommend that you do read Revolution in the Head, to find out how and why The Beatles had to split up.)

Nowhere Boy is simply the story of a skiffle group, with a sub-plot of a love triangle between Lennon, his mother and his aunt. There’s no real happy ending; there’s no real ending at all – the best is yet to come. But as prequels go, McCartney cast in the comedy Ja Ja Binks role is worth the admission money alone.

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