Sunday, 03 July 2011 6:58 PM
I’m sat listening to YouTube, George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, writing this on my computer, on what has been a beautiful sunny July Sunday. When The Beatles first came on the general scene, bearing in mind they had been big in Liverpool for quite some time, this type of occurrence was confined to science fiction. So now nearly half a century later, yes 50 years, the World is listening to The Beatles through various distribution streams and they are as big now, if not bigger, than ever.
No one answer will suffice, it’s a multitude of different reasons as to why John, Paul, George and Ringo still make the musical world go round. And considering 2 of them are now on a greater stage in the sky their resilience is remarkable. I know Elvis is still revered many years later but the thing about The Beatles, and more to the point the Paul McCartney concerts available on YouTube, is the great age variations of the audience.
Not just old timers re-living their youth, although many of them are there, but its grandmothers with their children and the their children’s children who are singing and dancing along to the very same songs that the grandparents did many years before. Not only that but the youngsters seem as au fait with the words as their elders, ensuring The Beatles music will go on even longer.
But on a personal level what have The Beatles meant to me, from their emergence in 1962/3, to their heartbreaking acrimonious break up and the death of John and George a few years later. In a nutshell they were my youth, they embodied everything I loved about that era, they broke the mould of music by making it a young people’s thing. They broke the clothing styles, not on their own, but were deeply influential, they broke all the rules of youth and we took them to our hearts, they even changed our hair styles.
But it was the music, that was the crucial thing, they shattered the status quo in the pop world. Old ideas were simply that, old, Tin Pan Alley was devastated as John Lennon/Paul McCartney compositions came off the production line, in abundance, and not only for The Beatles themselves. It set the mood of the times as more and more groups wrote their own stuff and change the recording techniques to get ever more better sounds. The likes of Cliff Richard and The Shadows were early casualties from this onslaught and then later on The King himself was marginalised, even in the USA.
The output of The Beatles was phenomenal, sell out shows, singles, EP’s, LP’s, even full length feature films as well as TV Specials. Everywhere they went there was chaos, everyone wanted a bit of the Fab Four. Royalty and politicians were not immune to all this as medals were even bestowed on the four moptops. But it couldn’t last, although it never occurred to us at the time that it wouldn’t, but behind the scenes, as we now know, things were being unravelled. The sheer pressure of all this work finally forced the issue and The Beatles announced that there would be no more touring.
They would concentrate on studio recording, under the watchful eye of George Martin, himself a musical genius. Then one of the mainstays of The Beatles, a founding father to their fame more or less, died. Brian Epstein had seen the potential of the four Liverpool lads for himself in The Cavern, but not in their eventual formation. Ringo had to be poached from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to replace the much loved Pete Best after Pete’s drumming was classed as not up to standard.
They had already lost one member of the band, a big friend of John Lennon’s, in Stuart Sutcliffe at an unbelievable young age of 21 due to a brain haemorrhage after he had decided to stay in Hamburg with Astrid Kirchhurr the originator of The Beatles haircut. But nothing could stop The Beatles bandwagon, although there was always arguments between my friends and I about who were the best group of the time. My friends preferred the rougher image of The Rolling Stones, to the suited Beatles, but The Beatles reached No1 with every record anyway so it didn’t matter all that much. And although there were many good British groups around, in fact the American’s called it the British invasion, many fell by the wayside as time went on. But not The Beatles, well not yet, as ever more sophisticated music came from the Abbey Road studios, much of it influenced by the intake of drugs. The ‘From Me To You’ type of happy go lucky song had been replaced by Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows and the infamous A Day In The Life. Then disaster big time for the millions of Beatle fans.
It doesn’t matter who first announced it but whichever way you look at it they split up, acrimoniously at that. Lawyers were involved and you had Paul on the one side and John, George and Ringo on the other. In their personal lives things had altered greatly, John had been married to Cynthia for a long time and had a son, Julian, but he had met an avant-garde Japanese artist and they began a long affair, many citing this woman as the main cause of the breakup of The Beatles.
She was everywhere, even the recording studios, which were normally out of bounds during recording sessions. Paul had met and left Jane Asher, a British actress, then met an American photographer and member of the Eastman family, Linda. George had married Pattie Boyd, whom he met on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, one of 2 films The Beatles made, the other being Help. But she too was to find another and that another was none other than a good friend of George’s, Eric Clapton.
This didn’t seem to harm their friendship as the two played in many concerts together in later years after The Beatles. And Ringo married a Liverpool hairdresser, Maureen Cox, whom he had met pre Beatle days, only years later to marry and actress from the Bond movies, Barbara Bach. But the music kept on coming, but not collectively as each Beatle seemed to set a different path for their musical continuation. John had The Plastic Ono band, a motley group of musicians, plus Yoko, who went on the road at various times. Paul had Wings, a more polished outfit who went back on the road by simply turning up at university clubs and literally saying: ‘Hi I’m Paul McCartney can I do a gig tonight?’
George was different again as he took the Mystical route being well into Indian music with the likes of Ravi Shankar, eventually marrying an Mexican/British lady, Olivia Trinidad Arias. But he joined a second super group, after The Beatles along with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan, calling themselves The Travelling Wilburys, they reached critical acclaim. He also did many charily concerts to raise money for needy causes mainly for the Indian continent. He was also into motor racing, both cars and bikes.
In many ways George was more diverse than the other former Beatles creating the Handmade Film company and financing the controversial, but very successful Life Of Brian, a Monty Python type spoof of Jesus. He was also a very accomplished gardener, which huge grounds in his mansion to look after it was just as well.
Then in 1999 George was attacked and stabbed in his own home by an intruder, despite a very sophisticated security system. It was reported that he was saved from death by the quick actions of his wife Olivia who hit the assailant over the head with a vase, knocking him out.
Which left Ringo, the one who didn’t seem to fall out with any of the others after the break up, and the one who was not as gifted as the other 3 in composing or playing. But he did appear in films, That’ll Be The Day, with David Essex, Caveman, Magic Christian amongst others. Of course all 4 of The Beatles stared in A Hard Days’ Night, Help, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine. But only Ringo was a star for a narration when he was asked to narrate the children’s story Thomas The Tank Engine, which as a big success for Ringo.
And then the unthinkable!
On December 8th 1980 Mark Chapman, who had earlier in the day obtained John Lennon’s autograph, was still waiting outside the Dakota apartments when Lennon and Yoko returned from a recording session, and shot The Beatle several times, John Lennon died later from the wounds, he was 40 years old. As has happened to other artist who have died, re-releases of previous recordings and even some new stuff was made available not least a recording made by John Lennon on a homemade tape machine and made into Beatle singles.
Free As A Bird and Real Love became hits and a compilation of every Beatle No1 British & American single became a No1 chart hit in 28 countries selling 31 million copies globally. There were many tributes to John Lennon, but I got the feeling that Paul, George and Ringo were rather subdued in their comments. There was animosity between Paul & George that had been simmering for a long time, Ringo, as always the go-between, and eventually the remaining 3 Beatles did collaborate, although they had played on each other’s recordings after the breakup of The Beatles.
That collaboration became Anthology, a collection of archive material from The Beatles beginnings to the present day, originally put together by one of The Beatles roadies, then P.A. Neil Aspinall. It was a collection of interviews and much unseen recorded film footage from years past, but mainly it was the remaining Beatles documenting their version of The Beatles story in their own words. The various Beatles did appear on stage and TV occasionally but not together, Paul being the most visible during this time.
Then a second tragedy for Beatle, and I would imagine many none Beatle fans everywhere. George Harrison, who had been suffering from lung cancer, died on November 29th 2001, aged 58. This time both Paul & Ringo paid tribute and appeared on stage at tribute concerts for their former Beatle friends. Although there has been apparent reconciliation between the various Beatle factions, Yoko Ono, Julian and Sean Lennon, Olivia & Dahni, Harrison, Paul and Ringo, I’m not sure if it was just a publicity stunt to quell rumours about the lingering disagreements between them all. It is known that Julian Lennon has often spoken some harsh words about his step mother and brother, and although Paul & Ringo have appeared together a few times, it seems contrived. Even during the making of Anthology tensions were reported to be running high between Paul & George. It is all a rather sad end to such a fabulous beginning, and with Paul & Ringo now in their 70’s there has been some publicity that all is well again and the past is the past, but what a past it has been.
Their music will live on, long after all four of them have departed this planet, there are Beatle radio stations, shows based on Beatle music running in Las Vegas, and their music is now available in ways that were too far fetched, even for sc-fi enthusiasts back in 1962. Apple, the computer company that is, now has Beatle music for download, CD’s are still available, 45’s singles and EP’s and 33 LP’s can still be found by vinyl enthusiasts, DVD’s of their films still sell, so the whole Beatle empire is ticking over nicely. You can watch much of the output on YouTube and the internet in general, along with much else of that era.
There is even a video type game called Beatles Rock Band in which you can mimic the Fab Four on your TV screen and sing-along to many of their songs. Today Paul still performs onstage, Ringo has his own band and now they are both in their 70’s they have appeared together on their respective birthday dates. Paul now has another woman in his life after his disastrous marriage to Heather Mills, despite there being a daughter in that union. The new woman is a New Yorker called Nancy Shevell, but not much is seen of her compared to the headline grabbing Heather.
And here we come to the end of my account of, what is to me, is still the greatest musical influence of my life, although not the only one, they are the biggest of them all. This is mostly my recollection, although I have resorted to Wikipedia for some back up facts, and I am well aware it is far from a complete account of such awesome talent. Not everything The Beatles did, music wise, got my approval, but the stuff I didn’t like was minute in the vast output both collectively and individually, that they produced. Although I have many CD’s, 45’s, LP’s and even EP’s (hope any youngsters reading this understand what I am talking about here) I can actually just find an online Beatle radio station and listen all night long whilst doing other stuff on my computer. I never did get to see the Beatles live on stage, or seen any of them live individually since the break up. Although they came to my hometown I was not allowed to queue all night long to get a ticket, mum said no, and in fact said they wouldn’t last that long LOL ……… bless you mum (and dad).