If we can agree that ghosts are shadows of the past, then I have what I feel is a ghost story to share..
My wife and I decided to makeover our basement from sunny yellow to dark red walls with a black floor,give it the feeling when you walked down the stairs you were walking into a night club or an old movie theater. I spent the next few long days getting up at dawn and working after everyone had gone to bed. In between breaks I had finished reading a very detailed book on the early days of the Beatles and in particular the Casbah club.
In the summer of 1959 Mona Best , the mother of soon to be trivia answer Pete Best opened up her cellar to the young people of Liverpool as a coffee house and a place to hear bands play. When Pete’s pals failed to show up his young friend George Harrison invited his pals Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe to play. The boys became regulars there jamming all the time and at Mona’s request they pitched in and painted the place. The room still stands today as Beatle landmark of their early days before they kicked Pete out for their pal Richie and moved to the Cavern, but that’s another story.
Around that time the Beatles managed to put out a recording called “Cry for a Shadow” an instrumental that was a poke at the popular band The Shadows..
So all this is going through my mind as I paint away, and its getting late so I put down my brush for a cup of coffee and sit back to take in my work. I picked up a near by electric guitar unplugged and started to work out how to play “Cry for a shadow”. Now the song is not much of a challenge but Johns part did not sound right and I know that the other guys use to laugh at his chord fingering because he would make broken ukulele/banjo chords his mother Julia taught him. I tried some simple variations and came up with “the Lennon Chord” ..no sooner than I found out it I started to feel odd. Now its 2am the house is quiet and I’m feeling something like stage fright all alone in my basement.
The room appeared to be getting darker and crowded with people milling about, I saw all of these people looking at me waiting for me to do something, my room was gone and I was in The Casbah. I was overwhelmed with how much I did not belong here and that I was trespassing through someone else’s memory.
I could smell sweat and dampness of a much older basement and when I released the chord the room was filled with thick shadows. I slowly got up and headed down the back hall to my studio and put the guitar away. I was filled with dread at the notion I now had to turn back up the hall to the stairs.
My hallway felt claustrophobic, thick with shadows and just the feeling of being watched, as I climbed the steps. I was so scared I would hear a “scouse accent “ come from a voice behind me.
Once up stairs again I poured myself a coffee and refused to be frightened in my own home, so to prove to at least myself I went down the stairs again and left the lights off and sat in the dark and tried to make sense out of what I had just gone through. Nothing happened, just an empty basement. I turned the lights back on and started painting again. Cry for a shadow was thumping in my head and I started to feel that I was being watched again, It got so bad I said “enough!” out loud and the room was once again still.
Its been several years and nothing more had happened, my daughter received a ukulele from her great uncle and along with it a chord book. I flipped through the pages and there was Lennon’s chord shape just as I had figured out.
I have no explanation for what I went through, tired, paint fumes, head full of stories all a good recipe to mix together and make a haunting. I do know that for as much as I treasure the Beatles work I do not listen or play “Cry for a shadow” anymore..that feels too much like trespassing to me.
Peace and Love