From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Jun 2 10:48:43 CDT 1995
In article <Fred_Gurzeleremail@example.com> Fred_Gurzeler@rand.org (Fred Gurzeler) writes:
>Who's famous now that will be famous in five years? Ten years?
>Did anybody think in 1963 that the Beatles would be as huge as
Lest we forget, 1963 was a year of impassioned press hyperbole re: the Fabs, at least from their own promoters at first, and later from the Fleet Street crowd (as British journalists were known).
The inimitable Tony Barrow referred to "The Lennon & McCartney Songbook" in the notes for "The Beatles Hits", their first EP (extended play) recording, released in April 1963. Note that date! Then, with a faint whisper of apology, Barrow remarks:
"If that description sounds a trifle pompous perhaps I may suggest you preserve this sleeve for ten years, exhume it from your collection somewhere around the middle of 1973 and write me a very nasty letter if the pop people of the 70's aren't talking with respect about at least two of these titles as 'early examples of modern beat standards taken from The Lennon & McCartney Songbook."
Funny how that all worked out.
Did Barrow expect to be right, I wonder? He was a little different from your average press officer. In his case, there's a better than average chance that he actually *believed* what he was saying...it was just serendipity that his prose was just what NEMS had in mind.
But a lot of people believed. A fair number of professionals were later to remark how charmed they were by the group, how struck by their sound. Sure, the Fabs' equipment was junk; their technique was an homage-laden pastiche from singers whose music they worshiped.
Yet despite their raw presence, the Beatles managed to impress the heretofore unimpressible: the established bastion of music-making who had seen everything there was to see. There was something that defied standard analysis in their craft. You see the same conundrum today when debating which of the four was the nexus of their art--- it can't be done. Dismantle the Fabs' machine and the pieces just don't add up to genius.
I guess you have to blame it on pure synergy.
In the Fabs there was strange undercurrent of artistic recombination. It also struck Cavern patrons who saw them on stage; you can feel a clamorous presence even in a battered film clip of their appearance for Granada TV in 1962. Nothing like the flamboyance of choreographed dance steps, nor matching frippery. It's so damn subtle...but you'd have to be well beyond the Pale not to perceive what was happening.
Somehow that tension---that need to be something else, some other guy, some other group---was the key to their momentum in 1963. So mysterious a process was it that it is reported (by none other than Lewisohn!) they talked endlessly among themselves about what the next great musical movement might be---even as they were in the thick of its creation, by their own hand. The Beatles apparently tried so hard to be like their own idols that they propelled themselves into a new harmonic cosmos. As they began to blaze with new heat, pop fans began to turn to the Fabs' flame. Even those blinded by the status quo---in England the plethora of Faiths and Wildes and Storms and lyricless groups with guitars; in America the Bobbys and Brians and Johnnys, the slowly devolving Spectoresque wash of postproduction---could perceive a growing incandescence.
How odd the Boys couldn't hear the tones of their own world conquest. Epstein clearly perceived it, and foresaw how big they'd inevitably be. Promoters whom he contacted in the early days as their manager recalled being impressed equally by the band as well as by Epstein's unwavering depiction of their future fame. The coolly professional whitecoats at Abbey Road Studios, like George Martin and Norman Smith, we're perplexed too by what they felt, this odd subjugation to such scruffs. Insiders, it seems, sensed what was inevitable. Maybe it was a little like love---the first sense of falling, when one is ultra-rational and denies what it about to happen.
It remained for pop-music patrons to be similarly swept away...not such a remote possibility! By the time Epstein, Martin, and music publisher Dick James were convinced, the Beatles were already amassing that songbook about which Barrow so proudly trumpets, and the charts showed how steadily enthralled those listeners were. It took the UK a relatively little period to fall; the U.S. was stubbornly xenophobic, as usual. :-) But despite an apparent concerted effort to be obtuse, Capitol executives could do little once American radio got hold of the Beatles' sound.
Who knew? I think we all knew. Even if we were loath to admit it in public, by the end of 1963 (certainly the first months of 1964 in the slowpoke States) we were all transformed by that maelstrom of new music, and it wrought delicate changes in those of us who felt its entirely personable fury. We knew something wonderful was afoot because of the buoyancy of their sound, because it was purely inexplicable, because it was crazy. There was a curious faith that came with it, too---I remember that clearly: a sort of conviction that pop music would never be the same after they were done with it.
Neither would we listeners ever be the same, come to think of it.
Even as you marveled at their output (I remember once thinking there was *no way* they'd ever top "Ticket To Ride" :-) you knew too that you would exhibit the symptoms of an unutterably sweet affliction as long as your ears could hear...maybe even after that. Because once the radio and turntable and tapeplayer and CD machine are quiescent, their music never stops...not inside my head, anyway. I hear it without hearing. I breathe it; my heart beats with it.
It's now nearly the middle of 1995.
Who are the "pop people" still talking about? :-)
"I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles, I asked Timothy Leary, but he couldn't help me either."
Click here to return to saki's index.