"It's nearly one a.m.," Mark Thompson's cover letter began, "but I've just come across your Beatle challenge in Monday's paper. So, although I should be sacked out, let me put pen to paper and name the two-word-title Beatle songs for you."
For the next four pages, and who knows how many hours, Thompson sat in his Kensington home and listed, listed, listed. Through the well-known (Eleanor Rigby) and the esoteric (Little Queenie), past ballads (This Boy) and hard rockers (Helter Skelter), Mark's pen flew. When he had thought up and looked up 55 Beatles songs with two-word titles, he reached for a stamp.
It was a good thing he did, because Mark's total was the highest among the 415 Beatlemaniacs who entered the contest I announced in these pages three weeks ago.
Mark's prize was a sumptuous lunch for two (Mrs. Levey's handsome son Bob was Mark's companion). The restaurant Mark chose was Dominique's, a French snazzerie near the White House.
They didn't have Honey Pie, Savoy Truffle or Glass Onion on the menu. But Mark wasn't complaining about his clam chowder, his salad vinaigrette, his Heineken beer or his fresh broiled trout.
"When I looked up a few titles in a reference book to add to what I got off the backs of the records, I figured I might be cheating," he said, between bites. "But a lunch is a lunch."
Spoken like a true newspaperman -- which is what 30-year-old Mark Thompson happens to be. He covers defense for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and considers himself only a modest fan of the Beatles.
"I don't put them up on an altar or anything like that," he said. "I don't have great regret that they never got back together. If they had, James Watt would probably be banning them from the Mall, anyway."
In submitting his winning entry, Thompson graciously failed to point out that his luncheonmate had run a less-than-tight ship in setting up the rules of the contest.
All it said in this space on June 20 was: "How many Beatles songs can you think of that have two-word titles?" You will notice that that brilliant sentence doesn't make clear whether I was talking about songs the Beatles sang, songs they wrote and sang, songs they just wrote, songs they recorded outside the U.S., songs that Ringo, George, John and Paul recorded individually after the group broke up and so on.
Once the ballots started arriving, I quickly realized that I had dug a big, fat hole for myself. The only way out was to appoint an expert arbitrator. Beverly Fox came mercifully and skillfully to my rescue.
Beverly is the mid-day disk jockey (and resident Beatle specialist) at WLTT-FM, the Rockville radio station that plays golden oldies and nothing but. One afternoon, we sat down at the station's conference table, me with a worried expression and a briefcase full of entries, Beverly with every Beatle reference book in the place.
Several contestants submitted entries with more than 55 titles. But Beverly threw out these ballots because they contained songs that had never been issued in the U.S., or the same song had been recorded under two titles and both were listed on the ballot, or all four Beatles hadn't recorded the song in question. Mark Thompson's 55 titles barely nosed out the 54 submitted by Steve Moore of Greenbelt.
What, pray tell, are the 55 Beatle songs with two-word titles? As supplied by Mark Thompson, they are:
My Bonnie, The Saints, Little Child, This Boy, Nobody's Child, Slow Down, No Reply, Mr. Moonlight, Kansas City, Honey Don't, Bad Boy, I'm Down, Another Girl, Act Naturally, Day Tripper, Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, The Word, Paperback Writer, Dr. Robert, Eleanor Rigby, Yellow Submarine, The Feat, Penny Lane, Getting Better, Lovely Rita, Hello Goodbye, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Dear Prudence, Glass Onion, Rocky Raccoon, I Will, Yer Blues, Sexy Sadie, Helter Skelter, Honey Pie, Savoy Truffle, Good Night, Hey Bulldog, Get Back, Come Together, Oh! Darling, Octopus's Garden, Sun King, Polythene Pam, Golden Slumbers, The End, Her Majesty, Dig It, Maggie Mae, Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, Besame Mucho, Little Queenie and Shimmy Shake.