Younger readers, having grown up in the era of Visa and PayPal, may also be unaware that at the time The Beatles were famous, the British government had instituted “exchange controls”. Under that system, there were strict regulations concerning the export and import of money from the United Kingdom. You weren’t allowed to take as much money as you liked on holiday and that sort of thing. I’m not entirely sure why. According to my history book, exchange controls were instituted to stabilise the economy, so they must have worked pretty well in 1973 when there was a three-day week because of power cuts, hyper-inflation and a collapsing pound. Perhaps they were a hangover from 17th century mercantilism of the kind that was so successful in retaining North America as part of the British Empire by preventing the export of bullion to the colonies (so our inventive Yankee cousins used the Native Americans’ seashells — wampun — instead and went on to use it buy coffee instead of tea). Anyway, the U.K. newspapers are today reporting that hitherto unpublished Bank of England documents show that, in 1973, the aforementioned George Harrison and John Lennon were under investigation by the Bank for violating exchange controls, shipping millions of pounds (at today’s values) in and out of the U.K. on the quiet. The Bank found that the popsters were technically guilty of the offenses but that prosecuting them would not be in the public interest.
What an window on a vanished world! Apparently, in those days, if you sent money from one bank account to another it could take three days to get there! Of course now we have laser beams and computers, so that today (well, sometime next year anyway) it will only take hours.