-By Mrinalini Shinde, NLSIU.
“We thought that if we lasted for two to three years, that would be fantastic.”-Ringo Starr
50 years ago, in February 1962, they were rejected by Decca Records for a recording contract with the words, “Guitar groups are on the way out…” Today, March 22nd, marks the 49th (pen-50th?) anniversary of the first album release by a certain band from Liverpool. Four unruly-haired, unapologetically gorgeous boys. And they still show no signs of being on the way out.
“The Beatles will exist without us.” -George Harrison
And what an existence it is.
I am one of the millions of people across the last half century who have loved the Fab Four. But what makes this particular fandom so transcendental? What makes Beatlemania, precisely that- a mania? They received god-like worship wherever they toured. All concerts had a large disposition of ambulances to deal with the hordes of fainting girls. A generation of boys decided to get mop-top haircuts. They were not overly talented musicians. They weren’t lyrically greater than their peers like The Rolling Stones or The Kinks. They weren’t even the best live performers. It is also hard to believe that the mania was a result of efficient promotion because no possible promotional tactic could create the kind of continued and widespread popularity as enjoyed by the Beatles. Their historically unmatched universal popularity stemmed therefore from a far greater force- The personality, the four pillared entity, and the very idea that was the Beatles. I’m sorry, not ‘was’; that IS The Beatles.
“We’re more popular than Jesus now.”– John Lennon
Remarks such as these, did incur the wrath of several; The Beatles were criticised and condemned too, for influencing the youth negatively, promoting drug use, corrupting their morals and such, by a significantly strong anti-rock movement.
I suppose there were only four people who really knew who the Beatles truly were, and we can only merely view them as the persons shaped by the several kinds of media that have explored their lives.
Why is it then, that despite my enjoying a massive range of musical styles, the four enjoy unchallenged hegemony over my heart? Funnily enough, I heard my first song as a part of the school choir when we were taught ‘Ob-la-di’ for fun. I didn’t really know who the Beatles were, at the age of six, but I remember loving the happy beat, and nursery rhyme-like lyrics. But a cousin’s stereo playing ‘Love Me Do’ really got me hooked, a couple of years later. I managed to listen to almost half the discography in the following week, discovering the mania.
Still listening, still discovering. And it’s amazing how much the songs have grown with me. How they’re as relevant today, as they were when I was 8. How they’re the same songs, I’m the same me, the world looks different around me, but the songs and I are in a continuum. And that I think, is really the point. The reason why the music is still contemporary. Why a film about a social networking site in 2010, would end with a song that seemed written specifically for it, if only 50 years previously. (The Social Network, ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’). Every generation, discovers The Beatles for itself.
Four boys who loved to dream, and dream of love, who tried in their own ways to write and sing about people that could be identified with- Sexy Sadie, Lady Madonna, The Taxman, The Fool on the Hill, the Nowhere Man or the Paperback Writer. Songs that dealt with death, separation, depression, war and crime as much as they dealt with the customary mush and joy of young love.
“The basic thing in my mind was that for all our success, The Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less.” –Paul McCartney
The doe-eyed, boy faced charm of Mr. McCartney, (The 70 year-old still made me go weak in the knees when he sang ‘Michelle’ at the White House), the unforgiving, barbed wit and earnest emotion of Mr. Lennon, the quiet brooding sensitivity and skill of Mr. Harrison, and the gluing, unfailing beats of Mr. Starkey. With the elements so mixed in them, that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a band’.
Well, yes, I admit that when I’m feeling low, listening to Hey Jude or Let it Be, makes the world a better place, that when sleep has evaded me, Strawberry Fields Forever and Golden Slumbers has eased me into oblivion, and an amazing date for me, would include dancing to a medley of Twist and Shout, I Wanna Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. Because, Love is All You Need, and Money Can’t Buy Me Love. So, Messrs. Paul, John, Ringo and George, here’s All My Loving, Eight Days A Week.
P.S.- The images contained herein are property of their copyright holders, which does not include me. 🙂 (Fair use and all that!)