The Beatles are back with a vengeance — at least in the U.S. media.
It has been 50 years since The Beatles arrived in America and set the nation on fire with their debut on CBS’ The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. Some 73 million people watched the Sullivan show that night — and thousands of rock and roll bands came into existence the following week.
Of course, the journalists have to make do with only two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. I can’t help but wonder what John Lennon and George Harrison would make of this explosion of Beatlemania at 50. John and George were widely regarded as the most cynical of the Beatles.
Lennon and Harrison would probably be very reluctant participants in such a nostalgia trip. Neither of them had much reveled in talking about the good old days, except for the quality of the music that The Beatles created.
John and George would see through this as a thinly veiled way for everyone — including The Beatles themselves– to make a quick buck.
There have been lots of news stories tracing The Beatles’ rise and fall but few say anything new. Maybe everyone is just talked out (except, notably, for author Mark Lewisohn. His 900-plus page book Tune In, which tells JPG&R’s story up till Dec. 31, 1962 (with two more volumes to come) in exhaustive detail.I’d rather read it than peruse the tiresome explanations of poorly researched accounts.
When Lennon died on Dec. 8, 1980, much of the skepticism of his generation seemed to vanish under a hunger for dollars. It was somehow as if Lennon’s departure was the opening the exploiters needed all along.
Nobody would step forward again to question everything, the way Lennon had a habit of doing (with originality and ample wit).
Today, John and George would stand bemused by the media hysteria surrounding Beatlemania at 50. They might wave the Beatles flag as a sop to their long-time fans.
What’s fair is fair and all of The Beatles acknowledged over the years that they appreciated the support of their followers in Liverpool and Hamburg.(Harrison even wrote and recorded a song called Apple Scruffs as a tribute to the uber-loyal women who gamely stood outside the Beatles’ recording studio to get a glimpse of their heroes).
Lennon and Harrison would remind us about the greatest lesson of all when it comes to analyzing The Beatles:It’s all about the music.