Chichester’s memory man David Bathurst wowed his Festival of Chichester audiences with a remarkable feat of memory, delivering all the Beatles songs in an epic one-day memory marathon.
David, whose past feats of memory include G&S, Flanders & Swann etc, offered the perfect tribute to John, Paul, George and Ringo on Saturday, committing all their recorded singles, B-sides and album tracks to memory and offering them up in a thrilling eight hours of fab-fourdom.
Expertly accompanied on the piano by David Russell for around two-thirds of them (and by Janet Reeves in a lunchtime specialist connoisseurs corner of Beatles rarities), David gave us the most wonderful reminder of just how fab the fab four were and just how gob-smackingly fab they remain..
David took the songs pretty much chronologically – an approach which gave us a superb insight into The Beatles’ development from the simplicity of Love Me Do to the sophistication of their later lyrics as the innocent he-she-me love triangle of the early days gave way to the weird and seductive worlds Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and I Am The Walrus.
I Want To Hold Your Hand faded to Semolina Pilchard Climbing up the Eiffel tower; Can’t Buy Me Love was replaced by He wear no shoe shine/He got toe jam football.
And David handled it all with astonishing ease.
Thank goodness there were just a couple of slight slips. Thank goodness because the slight slips were the handiest of reminders that however straightforward David made it seem, this really was the most monumental feat of memory, technique and endurance.
And one of the great rewards for those of us who were there was to watch David’s own enjoyment of it all shine through more and more as the hours whizzed past.
The other great enjoyment, of course, was that we were treated to some of the finest songs ever written – and we were offered them in the most intimate of settings where we could really focus on the quality of the lyrics.
David amply met the challenges of my absolute favourites – In My Life, Nowhere Man, Across The Universe, For No One, Norwegian Wood and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. But his approach also brought into focus the brilliance of the words to Within You Without You and The Inner Light – songs so easy to overlook.
And with great good humour and diplomacy, he also addressed the handful of songs which are rather trickier today lyrically– not least Run For Your Life. He also kept things light for those songs which, well, frankly defy understanding, Dig It and Glass Onion among others. Rightly, with a word of warning, he retained Back In The USSR with a subtle lyric change.
What we were left with was a wonderful celebration of an astonishing collection of songs – songs delivered with all the honesty, openness, skill and enthusiasm that they deserve.
How staggering, then, that it was all done from memory.
David learnt the songs at the rate of three a week over a project going back more than a year and a half.
The result was a marvellous event for Beatles lovers, for David – and also for the Festival of Chichester.
The event is a fundraiser with money to be split between Boxgrove Priory funds and the Sussex Snowdrop Trust which provides support for families of local children who suffer life-limiting illness.
You can donate via his Just Giving page which is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DAVID-BATHURST2