Listen. If you all hush a minute, and lay down your conflagrations (especially over whether John was a pussy or not...and for your information, I believe he'd have been *delighted* to be called one; he *loved* cats...), you can hear a distant roar. It happened thirty years ago today, so you'll have to really concentrate. And it emerged entirely outside of America's realm (still a blow to historians who are convinced that all *real* rock-and-roll was home-grown :-) so its jargon, its typology, may seem faintly foreign.
It's not unintelligible, of course. We were already equipped to comprehend the dialect of Britain's great gift to pop music---England's modern-day revolution.
And we had no choice. It was either learn to speak their tongue or be left in the archaic musical constructs of the past. Today is England's triumph, one among many in the path of Beatles history. Thirty years ago today, a wave broke over that country and subsumed it in a sound of joyful pandemonium.
You know how it happened to you---whatever your age, whatever your country of origin: the first glimpse of their startling new image, the first notes of their song. To Britain, that's what happened this night, a precursor of the wildness-to-come with their American television debut... only America still slept, musically speaking, awash in its admirable but familiar past, its pop icons jailed or conscripted or dead; its newer progenitors of rock-and-roll having greater creative impact on pop-starsto -be across the pond than on indigenous music fans in the States.
Val Parnell's "Sunday Night At The London Palladium" reached fifteen million viewers this night thirty years ago---more people than had ever seen the Fabs, even if they'd heard something about this odd new phenomenon, these young men in suits with funny haircuts and the power to sweep away a passel of pallid British pop stars. The wave of change was building slowly all during 1963, but here was its crest. Or so it seemed. In several weeks time, the Beatles would turn the tides again, by invitation of the Royals; another in a series of shining moments at the end of that year.
Tonight, though, language changed as well, adapting itself to new terminology, essential to explain the explosion which collapsed an old harmonic order (the Marty Wildes, the Adam Faiths). Amongst the rubble (an image exploited by the Fabs' own press photographer) was a sharp Northern accent, a lilt of the underclass, an image of musical rebels... yes, despite the suits. :-) Journalists, having thought they'd seen it all before, were bedazzled by the onslaught. In an instant they'd found the right name: Beatlemania.
Grasping for words to describe it, newsmen and -women were torn between the need to good-naturedly scoff ("Personally, from where I stood---I mean shrank---at the back of the Odeon, Luton, the music sounded like a grinding rhythmical horror compounded of four incomprehensible voices drowned by their own self-inflicted 240-volt amplification" wrote one Donald Zec for a famous British daily) and the desire to reflect some modicum of the passion which triggered teens to sleep in the streets, waiting for tickets to see their adored ones.
That was only one part of it, of course. There was music there too, not just mania-for-its-own-sake, but so early on, Fleet Street was hard pressed to discern it. The noise, the pandemonium, the screams of the girls were part of the phenomenological storm; the artistic tempest was buried under that roar: new words built on ancient lyrical themes, old harmonies transfigured and recombined. Before many weeks were gone, the boys would be hailed as Britain's best composers of 1963...and would shortly conquer unthinkable territory in the formerly-impregnable bastion of the American pop charts.
But here, tonight, that was the sharp tang of the future. In the swirl of their own newly-minted fame, the Fabs themselves were in a sort of netherworld, where reality had not yet reached them. They said many times that they didn't understand their own power until two weeks later when they returned from a brief tour of Sweden and found Heathrow massed with hysterical hordes. The Beatles realized, only then, what was happening. And ironically, the television host who would pave their way in the States grasped it, too, as he stood in Heathrow watching the rising passion of fandom, what was in store for America.
Give England its due. Four of its native sons made this happen, with the help of their own musical heritage as well as the one they admittedly borrowed from us; backed by family, compatriots, soulmates; and bolstered by twin desires to create and to excel. For a short little while, this "Beatlemania", in all its facets, was Britain's own lustrous artistic gem.
Soon enough, it would also belong to the world.
"They are 'The Beatles', the smash hit, refuse-all-imitations, Number One Group in the sensational Beat craze now devastating, if not deafening, the British Isles."
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