From Thu Jan 5 09:57:29 CST 1995
The Beatles' beginnings...and beyond<br>

The Beatles' beginnings...and beyond

Distribution: world

In article <3e3f9u$> (Bob Stahley) writes:

>Let's remember the time-frame. In 1961, rock'n'roll wasn't a life
>career. For anyone. Period.

Tell it to the Fabs. :-) Who knows how they did it...maybe desperation. Maybe raw hope. But the Beatles essentially became the first rock and roll band to invent their own permanent musical artistic sustenance.

How did that happen? They burnt their bridges, and firebombed any future "sensible" career. Just think of it: all those nice homilies from their respective guardians. A guitar's all right...but, as we all know, Aunt Mimi was incontrovertibly correct.

Or was she?

What happened to the fellow who found electrical apprenticeship to be a right and proper bore, school even more so?

What about the wistful young man from the Dingle who actually held out hope that he might emigrate to Texas? Fueled on fantasy, even he found the bureaucracy too much to bear.

A certain son of a cotton salesman was persuaded to think about teaching...and then spent his precious study hours, meant to help him pass his exams, on a concert tour of Scotland in an anonymous backing band.

And the near-dropout from art college, who spent more time in pubs and clubs, flirting with the charisma of lyrical composition, than attending to his auntie's good sense...what would be in store for him?

Whether or not it was right, these four had no place to go, neither backwards to their families' embrace, nor forward to dull demarcations of their social class. Not rebels outright, they were rebels by default. They let go of their past and faced a future bereft of clearly recognizable topology. They knew it as well as you: no one survives in pop music.

Yet they found a way, nevertheless.

>The *very* best these four middle-class pseudo-teddies could hope
>for was a record or three and enough money to open a small business of
>their own, *if* they didn't piddle it away.

And at first, when their dreams were only modest, this seemed pretty damn good. Of course they weren't really Teds, and they knew it---not tough leather boys, but resilient in a way that Teds never were. Whatever was possible, what little taste of pop music's evasive feast, however tenuous and short-lived its sustenance...that's what they sought. And with such a small payoff, they'd *have* to be made of steel to survive on so little.

Yet eventually that reward failed to sustain their vision. With each step they found themselves wanting more of what seemed out of reach: a decent drummer; a regular gig; a club contract; a foreign tour; a record; a dependable manager; a radio contract; better concerts...and finally, a chance to make records and write songs with their own indigenous talent. Even after reaching what seemed to be pop's pinnacle, they kept looking for more, not because they were so greedy but because they still sought answers to life's promise of fulfillment...not so different from the rest of us!

>It's hard to remember now, but rock'n'roll wasn't an industry,
>it was a minor, and supposedly short-lived, abberation.

Well, it was as much an industry as any previous musical milieu...and people managed to live on their winnings 'way before the Fabs did it, long before rock and roll was a gleam in *any*one's eye. Song pluggers of the 'teens and 'twenties learned how to write or play, and before you knew it they were making their own hits in that new-fangled transitory style called "jazz". We all know how short-lived that trend was. :-) (Of course its style changed over time....)

So with rock and roll, whose roots were with jazzmen and bluesmen from the forties, boogie-woogie progenitors, purveyors of rhythm 'n' blues. With a pedigree so brazen, it's no wonder that rock outlived its naysayers and made immortal those seers who divined its essential passion. Even those who strayed, for whatever reason (disinterest, other diversions, or unexpected death), built greater strength into the stones of its foundation, and upon those lapideous plateaus were views of still more splendid musical vistas.

>The Beatles found a niche in that peripheral,
>literally underground culture that actually paid them enough money that
>they didn't need day jobs! I've no doubt they were in pig's heaven.

Frankly, until they made the biggest step of all---toward the real professionalism which Brian Epstein offered to help them find---their wages were less than heavenly. After the euphoria of a wild evening at the Cavern, or a few months in the heady fumes of Hamburg, they came down with a crash to grim realism: the paltry pay that wouldn't do much more than keep them in ciggies and cornflakes. Good thing they still had parental wings hovering near; that way, when things got too desperate, they could retreat to home's familial support. They were only a whisper way from those dreaded day jobs.

Hence the reliance on rote magic: Where are we going?

To the top....

When they began this early mantra, it must've sounded utterly absurd. The top, indeed. Only pretty boys and girls reached it, only those who conformed to a type and danced in sequence---the ones with the right breaks. The Beatles didn't have those kinds of breaks.

Lucky for us they didn't.

And because they didn't, they had to exist in a kind of netherworld, where ego clashed head-on with humility, where the unthinkable was reachable by a new route. *This was the way it had to work*. If they let themselves be defeated by self-doubt, by too much of what was real and sensible and possible for lower-to-middle-class Northern lads, they might never have made a blessed sound. You'll never earn a living by it! You'll never earn a living....

So they sought the impossible, because they left themselves no other alternatives: no schooling finished, no apprenticeships tackled, no contingencies fashioned. They bucked so many old trends. Fed on raucous rock and ancient novelty numbers, they learned to write and sing with great tenderness. They spoke of love in their lyrics as if they were the first to reveal its pleasure and pain. Their self-image was imported from stark past designs, side-lit and pensive. Their hair bespoke an indeterminate revolution, but their erstwhile surly stage antics were subsumed into civility, a long, low bow punctuating their power.

And what curious iron-grip on the music world, a grasp so strong that they have yet to let go.

They hold us in this way, almost thirty-two years after they released their first inevitable number-one record, because they too were in thrall to a vision beyond what reason told them was theirs. Even with those first skiffle chords, or those legendary rave-ups in Hamburg, or swearing and sweating and shouting their musical joy beneath the cobblestones of Mathew Street, they had some finer landscape in mind.

The wonder of it is still moving *us*, body and soul, each time their music enraptures our willing ears.


"I guess by now you've got the gist". (saki) Click here to return to the rmb home page.

Click here to return to saki's index.