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Condi goes on magical Beatles mystery tour - Sunday Times

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  • Peter Dow
    Here s another story - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2092618,00.html Condi goes on magical Beatles mystery tourSarah Baxter THE long and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 19, 2006
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      Here's another story -
       

      Condi goes on magical Beatles mystery tour

      Sarah Baxter
      THE long and sometimes winding road from Birmingham, Alabama, where Condoleezza Rice bought her first Beatles record, to her friend Jack Straw’s door in Blackburn, Lancashire, covers 4,200 miles. But the American secretary of state will have another figure in mind when she visits him there later this month.
      Could somebody please explain why there are “4,000 holes” in the foreign secretary’s Blackburn constituency? Along with millions of others, Rice was puzzled as a youngster by the lyrics of A Day in the Life on her copy of the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:
      I heard the news today oh boy
      Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
      And though the holes were rather small
      They had to count them all
      Now they know how many holes it takes
      To fill the Albert Hall
      “I never understood that Beatles song. Perhaps now I’ll get the chance,” Rice said last week.
      She is due to visit Straw’s constituency as part of the special relationship they have developed in office. The foreign secretary toured Rice’s childhood haunts in Alabama last October — and sealed the visit with a kiss in front of the cameras. Now the world’s most powerful woman is joining him on a magical mystery tour of the northwest of England.
      Rice, 51, describes herself as a huge Beatles fan who is excited about visiting Liverpool as well as Blackburn.
      “Who doesn’t know Liverpool who is my age?” she asked. “The very first album I bought was by the Beatles.”
      The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is putting on a gala concert in her honour, hosted by Roger McGough, the Mersey poet.
      He once formed part of Scaffold with Sir Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike McGear. But it was John Lennon, the other half of the Beatles’ songwriting partnership, who penned the mysterious lyrics about Blackburn, according to Hunter Davies, the Beatles biographer.
      The answer to Rice’s childhood question is that Lennon was inspired by a newspaper report on a council survey which found not only that there were 4,000 holes in Blackburn but also that there was one-twenty-sixth of a hole per person living in the town.
      Should the secretary of state wish to return home with a souvenir of her visit, she could pay £1.3m for Lennon’s part of the lyric sheet which is currently on sale at Bonhams, the auctioneers.
      She described Straw glowingly last week as one of her closest colleagues: “We share a lot of things in common, such as our great love of sport.”
      When Straw was in Alabama, he described American football as “rugby with commercials”. Rice will be unable to cast judgment on British football as Blackburn Rovers have no home fixture during her visit.
      She will, however, be treated to Lancashire hot pot and other northern delicacies. “I made Jack eat barbecue and catfish in Alabama, so whatever he wants to give me in Blackburn I’ll eat,” she said.
      Rice is expected to give a talk to an invited audience in Blackburn organised by the Chatham House foreign policy think tank and the Today programme. As in Alabama, where she compared the struggle for civil rights with the Iraqis’ desire for democracy, her speech is likely to have a local flavour.
      “The fact that Blackburn has a 20% to 25% minority population is fascinating,” she said.
      Straw has warned her that swathes of the clothes manufacturing northwest of England supported the cotton growing and slave owning south during the American civil war in the 1860s, although the millworkers of Blackburn declared solidarity with the slaves.
      “That’s all right,” said Rice generously. “I even have a couple of relatives who were on the wrong side of history during the civil war, so all is forgiven.”
      Rice’s inspiring story has prompted calls for her to run for president in 2008. So far she has declined all invitations, although friends believe she is tempted by the office of vice-president. They boast that she already gets more press coverage than the incumbent Dick Cheney — when he is not shooting his hunting companions.
      Although Rice attended the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet as Chile’s first woman president last weekend, she insisted it did not inspire her to run.
      “No, no, not at all,” she said.
      THE EXPERT EXPLANATION
      Hunter Davies, the Beatles official biographer, explains the origin of the Fab Four’s song A Day in the Life in January 1967.
      “It is a combination of two sets of lyrics, one by John Lennon and the other by Paul McCartney. John was writing this song at his piano when he saw this story in a newspaper about a friend of his, Tara Browne, the dilettante playboy son of Lord Oranmore and an heir to the Guinness family, who had been killed in a terrible car accident.
      “In the same paper was an article about 4,000 holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire, or one-twenty-sixth of a hole per person living in the town, according to a council survey.
      “He told me he thought it was so funny. He played with it and came up with the line about how many holes it took to fill the Albert Hall.”


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