Am not much of a fan of "The Beatles." Ringo evinced nerve, not talent, is enough to succeed. Harrison evinced nice guys, who care, can land on top. McCartney evinced a cute, girlish man can always do well. All three warned of the hollowness of celebrity to follow.
"The Beatles" shoved the call for massive social change toward centre stage. The "baby boomers," born between 1 January 1946 and 31 December 1959, caused the change, and the damage. Not one of "The Beatles" was a boomer: Harrison, the youngest, was born in 1943. So, a conduit, at best, they fanned emberettes into flamers.
Ultimately, Lennon evinced intelligence out lasts nervy, nice and cute. Along with Plato and Marx -- Karl and Groucho -- Bruce and Hicks, Springsteen and Dylan, Lennon will vanguard the inter-glactical survival mission, in 2348. The first launch, from a wobbly, gerry-built facility on Mars, will be of the starship Imagine.
Gawd forbid something good is said about Yoko, but she edsured a sage got his rightful place. Lennon is a historic figure, earned with thought and action. The future is grateful to Yoko: she's to Lennon as Boswell is to Johnson. The present remains mildly tolerant of her. Maybe it was her association with artist, Andy Warhol, whom the future will also treat much better than does the present.
Lennon and McCartney inadvertently altered music. They changed the way music is written: E-minor, A-7th, C, G. They changed the way it's performed: intricate tours, huge audiences and price gouging.
Most anyone who writes, regularly, turns a phrase as well as Lennon and McCartney. Lyrically, Simon or Springsteen and, okay, Dylan, write much better than did Lennon and McCartney. Sid Vicious had his moments, too. Few write as effectively, in metaphor or allusion and with such common sense, as John Lennon, on his own.
Here's a live performance video from February 1964. The venue is the old Coliseum, in Washington, DC. Across town, James Brown was also performing to a packed house.
A 21 year-old Jack Alix, "JA the DJ," introduced the band. You can just hear the end of his introduction, and see him passing Harrison and McCartney, as they take the stage. Alix (1942-2006) worked WEEL-AM, at the time of this concert, and was the top jox in Washington. He also introduced "The Beatles" at their DC Stadium show. Not once did he claim to be the "5th Beatle."
Fan or not, the opening riff of "She Loves You" is a rush, sending shivers up and down the spine. Never has an E-minor had such gravitas. It kick-started the reign of the largest and, sadly, most influential generation in history.
The apogee of "The Beatles" is that riff. "Rubber Soul" and "Sgt. Pepper" reveal creative excellence in pop music. Anything by Brian Wilson or John Lennon, on his own, is so much better than anything by "The Beatles," it's unfathomable. Nothing "The Beatles" did is as exceptional or imbued with the meaning of the opening riff of "She Loves You."
A few things to notice in the video. The show is almost the same, word for word, as in Montreal, earlier that month. Nonetheless, "The Beatles" seem more relaxed in Washington than Montreal.
The Montreal show seemed more contrived and controlled. It was one of the first on the tour. The atmosphere in Washington seems less tense than in Montreal.
The McCartney arrogance is evident in Washington. Lennon seems looser: great thoughts fermenting. There are two or three insinuating cut-aways to manager, Brian Epstein (right): his eyes are as the pop-up dollar amounts on an old cash register.
In Washington, "The Beatles" take the stage via the audience. What act, today, would risk its status by entering from the crowd. How gauche would that be?
Would it be safe, today, to take the stage via the audience? The security for "The Beatles" was heavy: three or four middle-aged and balding guys, with huge bellies. What act, today, would stand for less than 30 or 40 pumped thugs as escorts, each armed to his or her gold tooth. Load-in gets a balding, middle-aged guy, with a pot belly, for security, not the star.
The stuff scattered on the stage, around the drum riser, isn't love notes or room keys tossed from the audience, but beats dropped by Ringo. McCartney does the talking. Lennon is yet to find Yoko, I mean, his voice.
You'd never predict what was to come watching this footage. Hardly anyone rushes the low-slung stage. There's almost no stage security, and a couple of guys fumble, adjusting the tom-tom that Ringo knocks over when he drops a beat; the Gert Reuter era, of smooth, silent and stealthy stage managers, is a few years off. No toadies are noticed harvesting post-show companions for the band.
Rows of girls sit, primly, swaying to the music. The convent swoon, one wag calls it. Most wear a large button, bearing the name of their "fave Beatle," pinned as a corsage. A few years later, these same girls would come to their senses: "women," marching to end an unjust police action and burning bras, wanting careers and routinely living out of wedlock (sic). All they were saying was, "if you won't give us a chance, we'll take it," and they did.
The video is one second under ten minutes. A great piece of herstory, and a brief reminder boomers were once, relatively, no different than the hip-hop kids of today. Click here to start the video. It takes only a moment to load and keep in mind the music is looped.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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