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Please let me hold your hand
February 1, 2014 12:37 AM   Subscribe

On February 1, 1964 the Beatles conquered the top of the Billboard Top 100 for the first time with I Want to Hold Your Hand. A week later they made their first American tour stop on the Ed Sullivan television show. The music business and the entire country were rocked. It's fifty years of Beatlemania.

A few weeks later on the fourth of April they had the top five songs in the Billboard Top 100: (1.) Can't Buy Me Love, (2.) Twist and Shout, (3.) She Loves You, (4.) I Want to Hold Your Hand, and (5.) Please Please Me. There are encylopedias and wikipedias full of information on these guys but you might not have seen their guru Maharishi, their psychotherapist Arthur Janov, their type analogue 10 000 hours, or their making over groups of guitars.

They were more popular than Jesus.

(Washington Post Maharishi story for the New York Times averse. Also technically Janov was John and Yoko's therapist, not the Beatles' therapist.)
posted by bukvich (68 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just recently learned this: the head of Rickenbacker saw that this was a huge opportunity, and arranged to meet (heh) the Beatles, to present them all with shiny new American-made guitars. Paul didn't like the bass at first, so Rickenbacker persisted and sent him another, which he eventually took a shine to. That's marketing, folks!
posted by thelonius at 1:42 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]



Hey Jude!

You know I love you! Its been a hard day's night, yesterday.

Imagine.
posted by infini at 2:11 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


now that i've stopped screaming like a teenager on crack, thanks for the post, bukvich
posted by infini at 2:13 AM on February 1


At least one life changed immeasurably and forever right here. Thanks, guys for setting 5-year-old me on the journey of my lifetime.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:02 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Absolute proof that humans are capable of forgiving and forgetting: Yoko Ono has been exonerated.....pretty much....for breaking up the Beatles.

Hard to believe that the band gave its last live concert performance on August 29th, 1966.

(San Francisco)

1966!!!!
posted by chuckiebtoo at 3:39 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Twelve years later, the Sex Pistols released ANARCHY IN THE UK.

What were you listening to twelve years ago?
posted by sweet mister at 3:55 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I think I was getting around to "OK Computer" 12 years ago. I was listening to a lot of Warren Zevon too.
posted by thelonius at 4:00 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


It seemed so long ago, even when I was a kid in a garage band, a band that would never have existed if not for the Beatles-obsessed leader. The Beatles seemed not relevant, I guess, to a lot of my cohort, even then, in the 80's.
posted by thelonius at 4:03 AM on February 1


Optamystic's recent comment seems appropriate here.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:02 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Those five top songs on the Billboard charts - they wrote four of them. This meant pop music performers were now expected to write their own songs. It was a major shift. There were some predecessors in this - Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison come to mind, but the Beatles made it a requirement rather than an exception.
posted by tommyD at 5:07 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


George and I shared a birthday. I still give him a nod every year. And this also means that I grew up with radio stations everywhere playing "here Comes The Sun" on my birthday, and Beatles songs are a fine gift.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:18 AM on February 1 [9 favorites]


When the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, my parents thought they were vulgar with "shameful and indecently unkempt hair". They proclaimed the decline of civilized morality and at that moment the divide between the generations became a little wider.

Hell, the Fab Four made Elvis obsolete.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 5:25 AM on February 1


Currently reading the Mark Lewisohn doorstop, Tune In. 900+ pages covering up to the end of 62. So much fun! Highly recommended. The Beatles were punk as fuck before Brian Epstein cleaned them up.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:29 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


1966!!!!

The year of the fire horse, a fine year to be remembered by...
posted by infini at 5:48 AM on February 1


Hard to believe that the band gave its last live concert performance on August 29th, 1966.

How about the rooftop set in 69?
posted by stinkfoot at 6:00 AM on February 1


How about the rooftop set in 69?

That's a concert performance?
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:26 AM on February 1


At least phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust.
posted by Mezentian at 6:37 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]


Yoko Ono has been exonerated.....pretty much....for breaking up the Beatles.

Don't blame it on Yoki!
posted by jokeefe at 6:49 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Twelve years later, the Sex Pistols released ANARCHY IN THE UK.

This really bears remembering. The world did change over that decade.
posted by jokeefe at 6:50 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Sunday, February 9, 1964: A bad day for Frank Gorshin, Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill.

Saturday, February 15, 1964: A good day for the music store business.

And even not counting all the teenaged garage bands that came into being that spring, many of the American rock bands that made the charts between 1964 and 1968 were led by former folk musicians who'd grown up listening to rock and roll and thought they'd "grown own of it". Seeing what the Beatles were doing with it and the results they were getting persuaded some of these folks to plug (back) in.

So: no Beatles-on-Sullivan means maybe no Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Dreadful Grates, Surrealist Pillboxes, Maybe Gropes, Lovin' Spoonful and tons of one-hit-wonders . . . Probably no Big Brother, so Janis Joplin might've gone the solo acoustic route . . .

As to the Beatles and the 10,000 hour rule, the adults at the time were correct: with the possible exception of McCartney, the individual Beatles instrumental chops were nothing to write home about at this stage. But they had an uncanny ability to know what they wanted to accomplish and go out and do it -- and be right. You could call that taste, I suppose. The chops came latter, and you could hear them growing on each release.

You're not really allowed to do that anymore, more's the pity.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:51 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]



Twelve years later, the Sex Pistols released ANARCHY IN THE UK.

This really bears remembering. The world did change over that decade.


So does this: The Onion: NOBODY CARES THAT YOU LIKED PUNK ROCK
posted by Herodios at 6:59 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I just recently learned this: the head of Rickenbacker saw that this was a huge opportunity, and arranged to meet (heh) the Beatles, to present them all with shiny new American-made guitars. Paul didn't like the bass at first, so Rickenbacker persisted and sent him another, which he eventually took a shine to. That's marketing, folks!

Not exactly. Francis C. Hall, the president of the company, showed up with the first Rickenbacker twelve-string ever built -- the 360/12 -- to show it off to John, who had been playing a 325 since 1960. John said it was more George's thing, and George loved it. That first one was spoken for, but George got #2 off the assembly line and it made its Beatles debut two months later with A Hard Day's Night. In Miami a few days later, John received a gift of a second 325, which he accepted. Somewhere on this tour, Rickenbacker offered a 4001 bass to Paul, but he passed it up. Stories differ on the reason: some stories say that Paul, ever careful with his money, balked at paying the small charge that the company was asking for it; other say that the company had taken no note of McCartney being left-handed and offered him a right-handed instrument. In any event, Paul stuck with his Hofners almost exclusively until the Rickenbacker people did give him a left-handed 4001 in 1965, which makes its first appearance in April 1966 with the Paperback Writer/Rain single.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Yoko was one small nail of many, many nails in that coffin. No one would have lasted forever in the pressure-cooker that was The Beatles. Brian Epstien's death was really the beginning of the end, as their business entanglements began to unravel rapidly after that. They began to artistically diverge pretty drastically post Sgt. Pepper's. Even minus Yoko, and Brian's death, I doubt they would have wanted to continue playing each other's songs for too much longer, anyway.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:02 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Twelve years later, the Sex Pistols released ANARCHY IN THE UK.

What were you listening to twelve years ago?


The Beatles.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:06 AM on February 1 [15 favorites]


I've been thinking on the Nirvana reunion lately... Paul was so out of his depth as the band exploded back into being around him. Yet without him, it doesn't happen at all. So he picks up a cigar box guitar, resigns himself to sacrificing a few vocal cords, and went out and did it, and everything came together. The Beetles at work, half a century later.

Two hundred years from now, they're going to be played on the same station as Mozart and Miles Davis.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:10 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


What were you listening to twelve years ago?

Worth noting that one of the biggest albums of the last fifteen years was The Beatles 1
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


regarding the beatles's chops: i just recently re-listened to john lennon's infamous 1970 rolling stone interview. there's this great toss-away quote in typical lennon fashion about how the beatles mastered the recording studio because they were "competent", and if you give them a task, their curiosity, intellect, and talent will inevitably get them through.

not the greatest musicians ever, but who has sold more records: ringo or dave weckl?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:23 AM on February 1


I remember a classmate in junior high school, solely from a quote. He was one of the 2 or 3 dominant guys in my grade. A "popular," athletic, smart guy. A guy who was able to project his beliefs and opinions onto his peers. A jerk.

His considered opinion, whilst Beatlemania was first happening in the US:

"The Beatles are OK. But they will never be as successful as the Kingston Trio."
posted by Danf at 7:24 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


This meant pop music performers were now expected to write their own songs. It was a major shift. There were some predecessors in this... but the Beatles made it a requirement rather than an exception.

Well, for a little while anyway.

Hell, the Fab Four made Elvis obsolete.

Elvis had already made himself obsolete by 1964, at the urging of "Colonel" "Tom Parker."
posted by entropicamericana at 7:24 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Hell, the Fab Four made Elvis obsolete.

Given I wasn't in a position to judge at the time, but I am not sure that's quite how it worked.
posted by Mezentian at 7:35 AM on February 1


In Ronnie Spector's 1983 interview on Late Night, she tells Letterman, "Beatlemania wiped us out...all the black groups, all the girl groups."
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:42 AM on February 1


If one enjoys The Beatles, they may also enjoy Compleatly Beatles, a podcast by the guys who do Sneaky Dragon, where they listen to and discuss The Beatles' oeuvre one album at a time. Like Sneaky Dragon, it can get a little digressive and I much prefer it when they keep the talk to the music (One of the hosts is a Beatles fan/music geek, the other host is a writer/comedian without a musical background, and I think he sometimes makes too much with the jokey-jokes to compensate) but I still enjoy it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:45 AM on February 1


I don't think I'm even being contrarian when I say that Yoko Ono is the most talented person affiliated with the Beatles. Her stuff's pretty consistently been about 20 years ahead of its time. That's a really hard thing to sustain over like five decades.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:46 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Hell, the Fab Four made Elvis obsolete

59 hit singles from 1964 on and the 1968 TV special says you're wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:48 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Hell, the Fab Four made Elvis obsolete.

Given I wasn't in a position to judge at the time, but I am not sure that's quite how it worked.


Nah, this is the ST:ENT version of "punk changed everything".

The Fabs were the new rebellion, as Elvis began to show his true colors: he wanted to be a movie star / Vegas performer in the Frank Sinatra vein -- just as later kids saw the formerly fab four break down into the money and credit squabbles that were never far from the surface.

They did exemplify the new pop-star model of the self-contained group that wrote and played their own material (even if that turned out to be an exaggeration for most of their imitators).
 
posted by Herodios at 7:59 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I was a Beatles fan. One of my HS classmates had spent a couple of years in England, and when he came back he showed me a photo of a bunch of English ruffians. He explained that they were the Rolling Stones, and he earnestly informed me that someday they would be bigger than the Beatles.

Of course I laughed in his face.
posted by Repack Rider at 8:02 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Were the Stones "bigger" than the Beatles?
They've had a longevity that's different, but there's also a hell of a lot of cringeworthy music in the Stones recorded output.

(I know it's hard to quantify these things. I mean, I grew up with stories of Elvis swiveling his hips on the TV, and also Filth & The Fury being my generation's defining moment.)
posted by Mezentian at 8:07 AM on February 1


I remember when my kid brother came home clutching a Beatles 45 sometime in '64 (we were living in Japan then) and I smiled condescendingly at the younger generation's taste in music. I came around, of course, but to me "Please Mister Postman" will always be a Marvelettes song. (And much as I love the Beatles, the Stones will always be The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band, but let's not start that argument...)
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


There’s a reason the Beatles didn’t give us “The White Album” when they were teen-agers.

I don't totally buy the 10k hours stuff. You can make a strong case that much of McCartney's musical thematic raw materials (specifically some of his favourite voice-leading descents and dissonance treatments) are already fully in place as early as 1960. (Walter Everett does so in 'The Beatles as Musicians', dissecting 'You'll Be Mine', a home recording from April 1960. This song also features Lennon's sense of humour as an essential foil to Paul's sincerity.)

In terms of its structural coherence and as an ideal fusion of form and content, the Beatles' earlier material is often more radical and clever than their later songs. In the later work they become more and more intrigued by surface textures, phrase length, and formal experimentation. For example, 'She Loves You' is more dramatic and delivers more harmonic interest from start to finish than 'Rain', which is a great track but Paul has had to ship in a pseudo-Indian vocal harmony, a virtuoso bassline and a massively slack-tuned guitar part to make sure we don't all drift off into a similar trance to that which has possessed Lennon. This stretching of time, easing of tension and general lack of concision is the sound of rock as opposed to pop.

The White Album is also the sound of disintegration, of course, and far from being the pinnacle of their achievement it is only fully understandable as these musicians feeling out a dialogue with their earliest, most ardent, and eternally spellbinding singles.

They could have stopped after the Hard Day's Night album and still been the most astoundingly original songwriters of all time.
posted by colie at 8:17 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


There is a reasonable chance that I and some of my friends will be around for 100 years of the Beatles. Can't wait for the history channel special.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:28 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


And now for a visit to the lighter side, Pinky and The Brain meet The Feebles.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:37 AM on February 1


Can't wait for the history channel special.

You mean the Beatles were ALIENS?
posted by Mezentian at 8:40 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


The Fabs were the new rebellion, as Elvis began to show his true colors: he wanted to be a movie star / Vegas performer in the Frank Sinatra vein -- just as later kids saw the formerly fab four break down into the money and credit squabbles that were never far from the surface.

I'm not sure that's what Elvis wanted for himself, I think it's what that criminal manager of his wanted for Elvis. I think Elvis was happiest just a-pickin' and a=singin'. Watch the sit-down "unplugged" segments of the 68 Comeback Special and see how he comes alive. In an alternate timeline, Elvis survived to have a breathtaking, stripped-down 1990s career revival like Johnny Cash did.

But yeah, the Beatles were awesome too.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:55 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Rutlemania, now there's the real story...
posted by Devonian at 9:00 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Twelve years later, the Sex Pistols released ANARCHY IN THE UK.

Imagine if there were no Beatles how those twelve years would have gone. Would we still end up with Sex Pistols? Who'd have "done" it? Cliff Richard? I like to think we're privileged to be in that timeline where the lads show up and music *reigns* for a good, long time.

The thing about the Sullivan show that I like so much is Ed's cadence to get the introduction out. Clearly the small theatre is sizzling with anticipation. One over-long pause or word might precipitate the snap of a thousand banshees - which are coming anyway, he just doesn't want to be caught up in them.

"Now yesterdayandtoday ourtheater'sbeenjamm'with newspapermenand hundreds of photographers fromalloverth'nation, and these veteransagreedwithme that The CITY - never has seentheexcitement stirred by these youngstersfromLiverpool, whocallthemselves The Beatles.NowTONIGHT . . you're gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles! Let's -"
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEE!!!

The first song, All My Loving kicks off, the crowd is full on, and as the song slowly moves forward the reality of everyone's situation sinks in and some of the shrieks subside as they begin to savor what they've expected for weeks. Paul's kicked it off, he sings clear and strong, the Beatles are clearly happy to be there and the crowd are beyond thrilled. Second verse, same as the first, skipping guitar, loping bass, crashy drums, and then - the chorus - the song goes minor, the Oooohhhs begin from John and George as they lean into the mic. The crowd surges, a huge wave of shrieks and trills crest and give way to outright sobs of joy.

Good show last night.
Yeh. Quite good.
posted by petebest at 9:03 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Imagine if there were no Beatles Heaven.
It is easy, if you try.
posted by Mezentian at 9:06 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


So: no Beatles-on-Sullivan means maybe no Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Dreadful Grates, Surrealist Pillboxes, Maybe Gropes, Lovin' Spoonful and tons of one-hit-wonders

we'd have still had motown, stax and tons of garage bands, possibly still inspired by the stones and the yardbirds

the beatles were huge - but there was still more going on than them
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


"Beatlemania wiped us out...all the black groups, all the girl groups."


The Supremes


In February 64 my grandfather was staying at the Waldorf Astoria. Late at night he got a phone call: "Mr. Epstein, I need tickets to the Beatles".

Grampa was born in Belarus, raised in Cleveland, didn't have any sort of a British accent....but it took him hours to convince this girl she had the wrong Mr. Epstein.
posted by brujita at 9:18 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


I don't totally buy the 10k hours stuff.

John, Paul and George at least had done their "10,000 hours" in Hamburg, by 1960, Gladwell notwithstanding. They were journeymen by the time they started recording their 2nd or 3rd album, as they had been touring England incessantly since '61 or so. Go back & watch them play in some of the early videos from their first US tour. They were fully confident & in charge of their instruments and were very tight as a unit, even Ringo. His stick technique is fucking impeccable. Fortunately, they continued to improve & refine their craft throughout their career. McCartney was the most formally-trained of the bunch, having grown up in a house with formally schooled parents.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:27 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Regarding Elvis, The Beatles and "the kids..."

If we accept that we mean "high school age teenagers" when we say "the kids, " between Elvis' debut in 1956 and the 1964 Beatles Ed Sullivan appearance, there were as many as 8 graduating classes of seniors. The oldest of the first wave of Elvis fans were about 26 years old.

"The kids" are notorious for not being into the things their elders are into. Look at the songs that were huge 8 years before Elvis broke. We already discussed the punk explosion, but the music of 1972 was even significantly different from the music of 1964 (and both the former Beatles and Elvis had hits that year by changing with the times).

I propose that The Beatles didn't dethrone Elvis. Time did that. The Beatles just happened to be the group that caught the imagination of kids who were looking for something that wasn't "old" like Elvis.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:31 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


we'd have still had motown, stax and tons of garage bands, possibly still inspired by the stones and the yardbirds

Sure, lots of good stuff. Booker T on Sullivan would've been a gas, gas, gas. But would any of those acts have gotten the same levitating-audience kind of response? Much less one that went on and on?

Are any of them as able to be as literally transcendent? (Songwriting, movies, new media technology, arena rock, genre-defining, genre-defying, soul-bearing spiritual seekers, coke-diving greedy litigious backstabbers, junkies, geniuses, bigger than Jesus, threads across decades . . .)

Good music, sure, but could they do all that? Mick and Keith know. They could not. (Not without the Beatles.)
posted by petebest at 9:33 AM on February 1


Are any of them as able to be as literally transcendent?

transcendent of what? - the human condition? - i'm afraid the evidence says otherwise, tragically so in lennon's case

musically transcendent? sure, but they had lots of company - and some of that company wasn't even trying to follow them

and as far as levitating audiences go - james brown on the T.A.M.I. show beats that

and really, petebest, you need to get over the past - i'm sorry they threw you over for ringo, but ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:46 AM on February 1


For a piece I was writing I did a lot of researching of early sixties pop music and I was surprised at how little of it was Rock and Roll. Just before the Beatles the number one hit (US charts): The Singing Nun (Dominique) followed by Bobby Vinton. The person who bounced The Beatles off of their streak of number one hits in '64? Louis Armstrong. The change inspired by The Beatles was radical.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:31 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


>Sunday, February 9, 1964: A bad day for Frank Gorshin, Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill.

You have, of course, heard the This American Life segment about how poor Mitzi and Charlie had to try to entertain an audience that was there for one reason and one reason only?

Also in attendance for that show: the London cast of Oliver!, featuring a young Davy Jones as the Artful Dodger.
posted by mgrichmond at 10:43 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I had just turned three years old. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is the first single I can remember that caught my little ear and became something that when it came on, I knew what it was and would instantly launch into little kid dance-fest.

It was the first 45 I owned, all by myself.*

To my everlasting shame, when it came down to choosing Sullivan or The Wonderful World of Disney.... well, I had just turned three. (Yes, I was consulted on the programming choice that evening -- I remember it distinctly.)

*the 45 did not survive
posted by wallabear at 11:37 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I was going to say James Brown. I'll give you that, four James Browns with differing talents would have given The Beatles a run for their money.

Transcendent of the pop music condition. Pop music being a particular locus for cultural, spiritual, societal shifts. Arguably not the most important, just one that's very well documented. Getting from Frankie Valli to Johnny Rotten in 12 years was the result of something phenomenal, not just special.

i'm sorry they threw you over for ringo, but ...
Well, we'll always have der Kaiserkellar

posted by petebest at 12:33 PM on February 1


>Sunday, February 9, 1964: A bad day for Frank Gorshin, Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill.

You have, of course, heard the This American Life segment about how poor Mitzi and Charlie had to try to entertain an audience that was there for one reason and one reason only?


No.

No, I have not.

Of course.

I can't even get through the introduction to the average This American Life show.
posted by Herodios at 1:40 PM on February 1


I dig a Pygmy by Charles Haughtry and the Deaf Aids. Phase One in which Doris gets her oats...
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 2:23 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


The Beatles are the greatest rock and roll band ever.
posted by Renoroc at 2:55 PM on February 1


I was born in 1964; these were the number-one hits that year. It's worth looking at to compare the tenures at the top of the charts: stalwarts like Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong got one week each, Roy Orbison (whom the Fab Four owed a big debt to for "Please Please Me") got three with "Oh, Pretty Woman", which another British group would borrow heavily from for "Satisfaction", and Bobby Vinton and the Supremes got four each. Between three songs, the Beatles ruled the charts for three months straight, and those weren't their only hits of the year. Incredible.

Although I'm just old enough to remember when the Beatles were still making records (also Woodstock, the first moon landing, and the original broadcasts of Star Trek), I didn't really get into them until I was eleven and found the Hunter Davies book on someone's shelf. (The book is the source of the quote about Decca rejecting them because, supposedly, guitar groups were on their way out.) At that point, only five years after they broke up, their records already seemed like the incredible relics of a bygone, more glorious age, like the dragon skulls in A Game of Thrones, and if that seems like an excessively florid comparison, consider the deep weirdness of a project such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which the world's greatest rock band proffered a record with substantial non-rock content, plus a cover that featured an absurdly detailed collage (and some details of which would spawn the rumor that one of them, which is to say one of the world's most famous musicians, had died, and to keep the good times rolling, he had been replaced with an imposter who looked, sounded, and played exactly like him... and then they left clues to this on all their subsequent albums), for no other reason than that, well, they just fucking felt like it, and who the hell would tell them not to? Plus there's the White Album, which proved that they could sell shitloads of records with absolutely nothing on the cover but the band's name in small embossed type, and Magical Mystery Tour, an album based on a TV special of the same name in which the band, which had given up touring a few years previously because their fans had made any actual enjoyment of their public performances impossible, simply got in a bus and rode around England trying out their hand as improv comedians. (Results: underwhelming.) And if you think it was all about the drugs and/or the hippie era, explain the butcher cover.

No one else in popular music, even in the sixties, has ever come close to the sheer improbability of the Beatles, by orders of magnitude; over a decade before the word furry was coined, they dressed up in animal suits and sang "I Am the Walrus." Their last concert (done as part of their last film project, which served mostly to show how much they hated each other by then) was cut short by the police, who objected to their performing on a rooftop in the middle of London without warning. They were much more unique than musicians who deliberately try to be. As much as I wished, at eleven, that they hadn't broken up, I'm glad now that they did, because they were simply an act that even they couldn't follow.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:52 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure that's what Elvis wanted for himself, I think it's what that criminal manager of his wanted for Elvis.

Yes. Based on his later albums, which Elvis produced himself and selected the songs for, it seems what he most wanted to be was a country gospel singer.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:28 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I saw these guys in Bangalore in 1985 or 86... seems they are still around, or at least the concept is, as they played for the Queen's Jubilee
posted by infini at 10:42 PM on February 1


I saw these guys in Bangalore in 1985 or 86... seems they are still around, or at least the concept is, as they played for the Queen's Jubilee

They played Glastonbury last year. Amusingly, they were scheduled opposite the Rolling Stones.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:24 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


they were simply an act that even they couldn't follow.

They definitely abdicated from the huge responsibility of being themselves after 'Pepper'.

John, Paul and George at least had done their "10,000 hours" in Hamburg, by 1960, Gladwell notwithstanding.

No, they didn't start performing in Hamburg till August 1960. I don't really doubt the 10k hours thing as a whole, but it just seemed very interesting to me that Everett (probably the world's leading expert on their music) finds quite a few aspects of Paul's songwriting style are in place before this.

But in general I agree that the 10k hours are done by the end of 1962 and that's part of why the 63-64 songs are the most interesting and the band goes into elegant decline from then on. Lennon stated absolutely coldly and clearly that he thought the 'music was dead' before they even toured Britain at the start of 1963. Certainly Paul continued to hone his fantastic craft and play ever-more widdly basslines, but John had little interest in craft as a thing, and was increasingly frustrated with trying to express himself up until he more or less retired after 'I am the Walrus'... his frustrated energy gave us some great tracks, but no more explosions of transcendent, world-stopping pure joy like She Loves You etc.
posted by colie at 12:33 AM on February 2


About the Beatles and the 10,000 hours of craft-honing, rule or no rule. Some perspective is in order:

10,000 hours is nearly five years of full time work, given a 40-hour work week. Even allowing an extreme and unlikely (actually counter-factual) commitment -- say 15 hours per day every day -- that's 667 days or just short of a year and ten months of non-stop craft-honing*.

Talented and driven they may have been, but Midori they were not. They had time to go to high school and/or art college, smoke cigarettes, drink lager, and get girls into trouble, not to mention setting German hotel rooms on fire.

In June 1962 when the Beatles first entered the recording studio, Starr and Lennon were each 21 years old, McCartney had just turned 20, and Harrison was 19.

I don't believe they even had 10,000 hours, much less that they applied them as such.
 
*We also have not agreed on what specific craft we are discussing. In my initial comment above, I referred only to their instrumental abilities -- not songcraft. I think the former is much more likely to be affected by such a rule than the latter..
posted by Herodios at 12:10 PM on February 2


10,000 is an arbitrary round number, based on how many fingers humans have. It is perhaps a useful yardstick, but no sort of useful hard and fast rule. They were kids, but by the measure of their time, we're capable musicians, well-versed in their craft by '63. George was probably the one who progressed the most as time wore on-- you can definitely hear him struggle a bit on some of the earliest stuff, and it's well known that he frustrated George Martin enough that Martin & McCartney ended up playing the solos out of expediency from time to time (Taxman being the most infamous example, considering it was George's song) but they were a very tight live band.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:25 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


667 days or just short of a year and ten months of non-stop craft-honing*.

They had easily easily done those hours by the end of 1962, having started in 1956 and done very little studying or being interested in anything else since then. They skipped school constantly to do it. There are even tape recordings from George's mum's house in 1960 that basically drag on for hours.

Songwriting and 'craft' and how to play your instrument were all part of the same nebulous cloud of things at that time.

In England in 1956 you could hardly even purchase a decent guitar even if you had the insane amount of money required like 80 pounds (due to post-war tariff restrictions on USA imports), let alone dedicate yourself to honing the craft of playing it and being a 'rock musician' like we are prepared to respect and understand today. Writing, singing, performing was all a continuum.
posted by colie at 4:16 PM on February 2


How the Beatles Went Viral: Blunders, Technology & Luck Broke the Fab Four in America

The Beatles' First Ed Sullivan Show (Audio Only)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:22 AM on February 12


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