REVOLUTION AND THE BEATLES
Compiled and Formatted
With An introduction
Chapter 3 Comments from Musicians, Fans, and Others
NOTE: The following passages are excerpts from the complete book.
The purpose of this book, Revolution and the Beatles, is to emphasize the Beatles' contrib tion to the transformation of our consciousness as a social and cultural phenomenon through their music and charisma. Their aesthetic, personal, and social influence altered standards and values that led to a burgeoning of personal freedom unheard of before their arrival. This personal freedom was a neces- sary stage out of the confines of psychological repression before the next stage could be taken toward a self-freedom, which is slowly happening now everywhere in all walks of life.
As a defensive note: I do not say that the Beatles started this revolution, consciously or uncon- sciously; but that they spearheaded it; since all the ingredients from other sources paved the way for their contribution. Similarly, with this transformation.
Revolution and the Beatles, is a compilation of selections from professional articles, interviews, and published books, which elaborates on, and supports, the Beatles as not only a musical phenomenon, but a social and cultural phenomenon as well. It is this author's contention, with the support of selected passages in the book, that this world event could happen only as a result of being in touch with the universal Mind – Love, in Lennon's perspective – ever evolving human consciousness. And Lennon was that person in touch.
This "ever-evolving consciousness," what I term in our times as the conscious transformation,
has numerous human and transcendent aspects: philosophical, psychological, spiritual,
literary, social, cultural, political, musical, as attested directly and indirectly in my trilogy on Lennon, Of Love and the Man. It is a transformation that goes beyond knowing to understanding, beyond reason to intuition, beyond self-love to selfless-love; a transformation in which justice and wisdom will gradually take the ascendancy over injustice and ignorance through Love in its all-inclusive human and transcendent meaning. Lennon was in touch with this transcendent Love creatively and personally; and he used this gift to help transform man's consciousness into higher, deeper, realities.
An introductory essay by the editor – myself – discusses the magnitude of this revolution.
The Beatles! What can be said of them? They blazed unto a generation like sun gods. In them the magic of music fused so dynamically with the magic of personality that society opened at its seams. Through their music, manner, appearance, and dazzling presence, they radiated an aban- don, an innocence, a gaiety, an irreverence, that mesmerized millions upon millions of the young and not a few adults. They were frivolity incarnate, casting an illusion of a care-free-world-come-true. Excerpts from press conferences of their early fame convey the charm of their wit in a hitherto drear, dispirited world:
And for the times, the Beatles were the magic that mainly initiated the "vast social revolutionary movement", upheaval of freedom, peace, love, and magic – and nightmare! for those who re- sisted, resented, and suffered from this youth movement of song andideals. Nonetheless, for countless millions they were a celebration, a breath of fresh air breezing through a stuffy room. What they sang, said, did, or wore, made news and served as examples to be followed. They traveled to India to study meditation and the sitar, and thereupon popularized Indian philosophy-religion and music in the West. They embodied a freedom of creativity, expression, action. And this free spirit spread like a contagion that not only helped release many of the traditional shac- kles binding the young, but also helped bring them into prominence as persons in their own right. In keeping with this social emergence, American rock and folk music took its own course; and with its personalities, contributed in no small way in reshaping the attitudes, manners, and morals of the young and many of their elders. Long hair, loose, colorful, disheveled, or outlandish dress, sexual permissiveness, psychedelic drugs, communal living, rock festivals, political and social activism; the idealisms of love, peace, freedom, anti-materialism, universal brotherhood and equality, spiritual enlight- enment – all these and more came into vogue as representative of the new youth movement: the counterculture, as it came to be known in its beginnings.
In our times, a Christian author, David Noebel, who effectively represents the segment of con- servative Christian traditionalists against what they deem as the nefarious effects of rock music, deplores such music as decadent, destructive, and satanic; including the sexually perverted, drug addicted, barbaric lifestyles of its musicians. For him, this music has polluted, and contin- ues to pollute, the minds of countless young people who would otherwise be morally and relig- iously sound. And he has the evidence to prove his case –
his one-sided case, that is:
"America's youth are bombarded with bizarre themes rhythmically hidden within
the rock 'n' roll cultural matrix. Lennon and the Beatles supplied this receptive pop
culture with lyric approval for dirt, drugs, and social rebellion.
"Formerly taboo perversions and the occult spice up their songs or the songs of
"The assault on Western values has been absolutely fierce. It is moral war! The
undeclared battle to subvert the values of our youth is without parallel, so far as I
know, in the history of the world.
"Neither John Lennon nor his legacy is ethically attractive. John Lennon was a
purveyor of moral trash, a drug connoisseur, a driving force of the revolution...."
"The present rock 'n' roll scene (1982), Lennon's legacy, is one giant, multi-media
portrait of degradation, a sleazy world of immorality, venereal disease, anarchy, nihilism,
cocaine, heroin, marijuana, death, Satanism, perversion, and orgies."
The Beatles were really the first group to earn rock'n'roll the right to be taken seriously as art. They expanded its expressive resources both musically and in terms of the kind of material a rock lyric could handle. In all aspects of their creative activity and influence, they sent the message to their fans that another kind of logic, or way of knowing, was to be sought and, perhaps, encountered. Inasmuch as these insights still remain to be articulated in a more communicable form, we have not as yet appreciated their amazing achievement in shepherding our culture out of the decadent sorrows of Modernism and into the new, and perhaps frightening unfamiliarity of the post-Modern Era. The leaders of a future world
could do worse than mull over the evergreen outpourings of the Beatles; they provided the soundtrack for their own spiritual formation. And we, like them, have barely begun to understand the lessons of the 'Sixties'.
THE EFFERVESCENT REVOLUTIONARIES
1. I'm really glad that most of the songs dealt with love, peace, understanding. There's hardly anyone of them that says: 'Go on kids, tell them all to sod off. Leave your parents.' It's all very 'All you need is love' or John's 'Give peace a chance.' There was a good spirit behind it all which I'm very proud of. Anyway ... It were a grand thing, the Beatles.
2. I do these songs still: 'Let It Be' and the like. And to actually see young kids crying over
the spirit in the song. I'm very proud of that. It could have gone another way. I say to people,
got kids to do anything, such was our power.'
3. I think we gave some kind of freedom to the world. I meet a lot of people who say the Beatles freed them up ... I think we set free a lot of people who were blinkered, who perhaps were starting to live life along their parents' authoritarian lines.
1. I think we gave hope to the Beatle fans. We gave them a positive feeling that there was a sunny day ahead, and that there was a good time to be had, and that you are your own person and that the government didn't own you. There were those kinds of messages in a lot of our songs.
1. We were honest with each other and we were honest about the music. The music was positive. It was positive in love. They did write – we all wrote – about other things, but the basic Beatles message was Love.
2. I feel now, on reflection, that we could have used our power a lot more for good. Not
for politics, but just to be more helpful. We could have been some bigger force. It's an
observtion, not a regret – regrets are useless. We could have been stronger for a lot more
causes if we'd pulled it together.
1. I think the Beatles were a kind of religion and that Paul epitomized the Beatles and the kind of things that were a hero image more than the rest of us, in a way. He was more popular with the kids, girls and things like that.
2. Changing the lifestyles and appearance of youth throughout the world didn't just happen, we set out to do it; we knew what we were doing.
3. Whatever wind was blowing at the time moved The Beatles, too. I'm not saying we weren't flags on the top of a ship; but the whole boat was moving. Maybe the Beatles were in the crow's nest, shouting, "Land ho," or something like that, but we were all in the same damn boat.
COMMENTS FROM MUSICIANS AND OTHERS
Joe Walsh / singer
What happened was, I was in the living room and my radio was on the refrigerator in the kitchen. And I heard this music coming into the room and I went "Uh-oh. Everything's changed now!" That was my basic statement to myself: "Everything's changed now!" Something has happened." And it was "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
Allen Ginsberg / poet
They had, and conveyed, a realization that the world and human consciousness had to change.
Bob Dylan / singer-lyricist
John and the Beatles were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction where music had to go.
Brian Wilson / singer/lyricist of the Beach Boys
It was the biggest musical event ever in history. It had the characteristics of God. God's presence on that stage took the form of four boys. ...Their gift: They write better lyrics than hardly anybody does.
Abbie Hoffman / political activist
[Sgt. Pepper] summed up so much of what we were saying politically, culturally, artistically, expressing our inner feelings and our view of the world in a way that was so revolutionary.
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THE MUSICAL PHENOMENON
From A Day in the Life, Mark Hertsgaard
The Beatles' music "has cut through differences of race, age and class [and]is adored by the world," as Derek Taylor put it in 1964. Lyrically and musically, the songs of the Beatles both invoke and convey the joy, sorrow, struggle. laughter, wisdom, anger, love, fear, and other emo- tions and experiences that make up the human condition ... LSD guru Timothy Leary sounded silly in the late 1960's when he called the Beatles young gods incarnate human, and in so doing, they, like all great artists, put the rest of us in touch with the divine ...
"What Made Them So Fab?" / Robert, Hilburn / LA Times, 11-12-95
The legacy of the Beatles, however, is best measured in their music's continuing ability to en- thrall new legions of listeners. For these fans, the magic of the Beatles doesn't grow out of a generational bond – it springs solely from the music.
In retrospect, there was no reason to be surprised. The Beatles' music has been touching us in deep and endearing ways for more than 30 years. It challenged and comforted, amused and amazed us. It is ultimately where the ideals and dreams of the '60's are best preserved. Who would have imagined?
"Billboard" / Los Angeles, CA, December 20, 1980
[The Beatles] proved music could be more than notes, that it could be noteworthy. It no longer mattered whether it had a beat. It now carried a message. The Beatles wrote the themes for a generation of change. They tried to explain that generation and the revolution in attitudes it created.
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THE SOCIAL-CULTURAL PHENOMENON
From Time / September 22, 1967
1. Considering that the Beatles' trademark is offbeat irreverence their effect on mature audien- ces is oddly amusing. If the teeny-boppers made the Beatles plastic gods, many adults make them pop prophets, and tend to theorize solemnly, instead of seriously, about their significance. ... And there is still the hardy minority that insists on viewing the Beatles as the great put-on of the century.
From National Review / April 1971
1. A letter from a spirited and incisive correspondent on the West coast has cost me the better part of a day. ..."I send you, untouched by human hands issues 74 and 75 of Rolling Stone that carries the complete interview with John Lennon, running to some thirty thousand words."
"These sheep-witted Beatles, fawned on and reverently looked up to by most of the
young across the earth, although their dispositions are as mean as their intelligence
and their morals are as base as their lineage, I make so bold as to suggest that they
started it all, and have dealt Western Society such heavy blows that it will be a century
in recovering, if in fact, it ever does.
"These men are not innocents – they are sophisticated scoundrels capable of the
most swinish behavior and their influence poisoned the headwaters of the Sixties and
we now see that trickling stream of history as it gathers and deepens and broadens
and rolls its mighty tides of drugs and antinomian attitudes, now already engulfing
what remains of civilization in a few walled towns. I am led to believe that what I am
sending you is a historic document."
Because my friend believes, after all is said and done, in the virtue of moderation, he adds the P.S.,"There are north-west winds today, and the horses are restless – also my 51st birthday – tomorrow will be better." Well, I have read all thirty thousand words, and I also hope that tomorrow will be better, having no alterative: despair is a mortal sin. Despair is very nearly what the reading of this gargantuan interview brings you to.
From the Beatles Forever / Nicholas Schaffner
1. [They were] the most remarkable cultural and sociological phenomenon of their time. During the 1960's they seemed to transform, however unwittingly, the look, sound, and style of at least one generation. They had, of course, a lot of help from a great many friends but it was more than anyone else, John, Paul, George, and Ringo who set in motion the forces that made a whole era what it was, and, by extension, what it is today.
"I Wanna Hold Your Head," Andrew Kopkind / Ramparts, April 1971
1. The myth of the Beatles was a seed-dream of the '60's. From it grew the rock religion to which massed millions now adhere. In most respects it is a complete cult, with a pantheon of gods, demi-gods, angels, priests, and sacrificial virgins installed to cater to the range of pas- sions and needs. it is also big business, of course, as every true religion must become. In time, the roster of divinities grew long, but the Beatles retained the central throne. They claimed that they had superceded the old superstar, Jesus Christ, and for their adherents they were right. Then, as gods will, they fell to jealous fighting among themselves and went their ways, their divinity still more or less intact.
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THE METAPHYSICAL BEATLES
From The Beatles Reader, edited by Charles P. Neises
The Beatles love what they do, so they love themselves. The screaming girls love the Beatles, and the Beatles are the receptacle or container of their love. They also resemble the Greek god of love, in the sense that Kierkegaard speaks of him:
It is a genuine Greek thought that the god of love is not himself in love, while all
others owe their love to him. If I imagined a god or goddess of longing, it would
be a genuinely Greek conception, while all who knew the sweet unrest of pain or
of longing, referred it to this being, this being could know nothing of longing.
But the Beatles not only embody love, they are the Incarnation of Love. As Kierkegaard writes:
In the Incarnation, the special individual has the entire fullness of life within
himself and this fullness exists for other individuals only is so far as they
behold it in the incarnated individual. (From Immediate Stages of the Erotic)
The Beatles are as extraordinary as they are because they not only represent Love but also contain the "entire fullness" of Love within themselves. They are thus an embodiment and container of Love, and they are also the Love which they contain. There is no one there at all but themselves.
Thank God for The Beatles / Timothy Leary, Harvard psychologist, and foremost spokesman of the psychedelic and LSD culture of the Sixties and Seventies
1. Obeisances to the Four Divine Gurus...
This essay is a logical exercise designed to prove that the Beatles are Divine Messiahs. The wisest, holiest, most effective avatars (Divine Incarnate, God Agents) that the human race has yet produced.
My thesis is a simple one. I declare that John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr are mutants. Prototypes of a new young race of laughing freemen. Evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with mysterious power to create a new human species. …
Meet the Metaphysical Beatles: Vanguards of the Revolution / (excerpted from Alexander Journal No. 37)
Let us examine the nature of the soul agreements binding the four young men constituting
the Beatles. An agreement was formed before their births to blend their disparate energies
into a unified gestalt serving as the primary revolutionary trigger for the Sixties. That is, in order to avoid the catastrof [catastrophe] a culture suddenly collapsing as its cosmological pillars crumble – as western society's core value of separation violates natural law and must lead to cultural disintegration – a trigger was needed to ignite the revolutionary fires of incendiary social change. The need was urgent for an irresistible force to wrest young people away from the values of their elders and larger culture, to enlist them as foot soldiers of revolution.
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AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The Beatles With Lacan: Rock'n'roll as Requiem for the Modern Age / Henry W. Sullivan
Their outstanding music placed them in an unprecedented position of authority from which to influence cultural phenomena that were not strictly associated with the world of popular music. But my larger thesis is that they presided over an epochal shift comparable in scale to that bridging Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages, or the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The Beatles became their own historical example for vindicating such a thesis.
US Weekly / Sept. 18, 2000
John Lennon, Paul McCartney; George Harrison and Ringo Starr changed everything. They trans- formed not just pop music but pop culture, simply by being themselves. Yet at the height of the frenzy of Beatlemania that began when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" topped the U.S. charts in Jan. 1964, they probably would have laughed at the idea that their fresh-faced images – 30 years after their breakup, 20 years after John Len- non's murder – would still be beloved by everyone from tattooed teens to baby boomers' elderly parents.
The Beatles followed their creative whims, always with groundbreaking – and commercially viable results. In the 1960'S, they helped fuel the drug-drenched revolution of social and political consciousness that reverberates to this day. Everything they did seemed to open doors no one had even noticed were there, allowing an entire generation safe pas- sage into uncharted ter- ritory.
British invaders though they were, the Fab Four purely embodied the American dream: aver- age, working-class kids transformed through hard work, smarts and perseverance into the undis- puted, yet humble, emperors of rock & roll. Their extraordinary adventures and fame were be- yond most people's experiences, but the music was absolutely human. The Beatles Anthology, being published in October, is an oral and photographic history of their life in the band. As Paul McCartney ruminates in the book, "The basic thing in my mind was that for all our success, the Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less."
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Beatles during the last few decades is that the further we get from them, the bigger they have become.
There was a period in the mid-1970s when it seemed their stars might fade, their fame and influence recede, that they would be superseded by new and better music and musicians, and, if not better, then more popular music and musicians, and, if not more popular, then definitely dif- ferent sorts of music and musicians, thus making them appear very 1960s, old hat, rather dated.
But it hasn't happened. Since 1980, and the death of John, their curve has gone ever upwards not downwards. This is mainly a value judgment, somewhat hard to prove, based on observa- tions rather than statistics, but I can think, immediately, of seven ways, seven areas, in which the Beatles are still growing bigger, every day.
Firstly, in musical influence. In the year 2000, at the end of the 20th century in those millen- nium polls that were conducted in most countries, the Beatles were rated the most important, most influential, most loved, most fab, most bla bla group in the entire history of the universe – well, since pop music began. Whether it's a survey of pop fans around the world, of present-day performers, or of music and popular culture experts and commentators, the Beatles are always up there, usually at number one. Revolver is the album most named, when it comes to the most named album. Even when it comes to album covers, a Beatles cover, usually Sergeant Pepper, seems to be awarded the title of most influential, sometimes even seminal. And quite right too.
Secondly, in political influence. This is a bit more hypothetical and impossible to prove, but there's a body of opinion today that believes the Beatles helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has to be taken slowly, but the theory is that young Russians preferred Lennon to Lenin, liked listening to Beatles music and lyrics rather than to political dogma. Ergo, they refused to consider Western culture as decadent and Westerners as the enemy, and grew cynical about their own Communist propaganda.
'It sounds ridiculous' so Milos Forman, the eminent film director, was recently quoted, 'but I'm convinced the Beatles are partly responsible for the fall of Communism.' Well then.
Thirdly, commercially. They still sell, in trillions, despite the lack of an obvious marketing point, i.e., a new product. Old stuff repackaged, as in 1, the compilation album of their number-one hits, released in 2000, topped the charts in 34 different countries. During that year, it was EMI's biggest selling album. They shifted 21.6 million copies. (In second place, as you've asked, came Lenny Kravitz Greatest Hits, which sold 6.7 million.) The Guinness World Records has now decided it's the bestselling album of all time.
Released in 1995 and 1996, The Beatles Anthology CD's in theory contained two 'new' songs -'Free as a Bird' and 'Real Love'. The latter had been written by John on his own, but had never been released, till the others decided to knock it into shape. 'We took the attitude,' said Paul, that John had gone on holiday, saying ''I finished all the tracks except this one, but I leave you guys to finish it off.'' Once we agreed to take that attitude, it gave us a lot of freedom.'
There were three Anthology CDs, plus a major TV series which appeared as six programmes in the UK and three in the USA. The TV series sold in 100 countries. In the USA, 48 million watched Part One. This had dropped to 25 million by Part Three, but, even so, a hell of a lot of people watched and listened, and a hell of a lot of money was made. There was also a radio series and, later on, in 2000, a whopper of a book, also called The Beatles Anthology. Huge in size, big in scope, excellent on illustrations, if not all that revelatory when it came to words. About the only thing missing was an ice show.
Fourthly, the Beatles as a source of academic or literary study. In the early 1980s, I was asked to be an outside examiner for a student at London University who was doing a PhD on the Beatles. I thought it was a leg-pull at first. I'd heard that some minor American universities had introduced such studies, but not any British ones, certainly not one as distinguished and rigorous as London University. I can still remember her name, Melody Ziff. She was, in fact, American, but London University had accepted her to study for a PhD. Her thesis, as I remember, was called 'The Beatles' lyrics as poetry.'
Today there are universities, colleges and schools all over the globe, eminent and otherwise, offering courses that include a study of the Beatles. They have even made the National Curriculum for children In the UK between the ages of nine and eleven.
Fifthly, as creators of employment. The Beatles industry has a bigger workforce today than it had back In 1970. Regular Beatles conferences get held across the USA, as well as in Britain, Europe and Japan, run by people whose full-time job is organizing Beatles events. In Japan, Beatle fans are so keen that it takes 40 Beatles conferences a year to cater for them. A new and magnificent museum, devoted to John Lennon, was opened in Tokyo in 2000, the first of its kind in the world. There is also a new Beatles museum in Brescia, Italy, which was opened in 2001.
In Liverpool, where the local airport has been renamed John Lennon Airport, a new $8 million, 120-room hotel is being built, to be called The Hard Day's Night Hotel, primarily catering for visiting Beatles fans doing Beatles tours or Just coming to gape.
Then there are all the dealers, shops and collectors' fairs throughout the so-called civilized world. When you add in the number of Beatles look-alike groups, performing full time, both here and abroad, I estimate that there are now 5,000 people living on the Beatles. Even Apple in its heyday had no more than 50 staff.
Sixthly, Beatles memorabilia. There is no argument here. The auction sales clearly show increases, year after year, as Beatles tat – sorry, Beatles' treasures – once overlooked and considered mere souvenirs, continue to fetch huge prices. When I read the catalogue for the first Sotheby's sale in 1983, and saw that lot 198 was the 'Beatles signatures, obtained at Heathrow Airport, estimate $40-60', I thought, no chance, no one will pay that sort of money. Whoever sold them that day is probably now regretting it. Their autographs are today worth at least ten times as much. Lot 246 that day was John's handwritten lyrics to "Imagine," estimated to go for $800-1,200. Today, it would be expected to go for 40 times as much. In 1999, John's handwritten lyrics for 'I am the Walrus' went for 80,000 (pounds).
Seventhly, more and more new books about the Beatles, for the academic, the anorak, and the general market, get published every month, all promising new material, which usually means the old cake gets sliced even thinner. There are Beatles Brains, who were never alive when the Beatles played live, who know more about the Beatles than the Beatles themselves. They can tell you what they were doing, and where, for every minute of every day of their performing lives.
From "Intimate Portrait: Yoko Ono" / Lifeline/ video, 1995
In the mid-sixties, the Beatles were at the height of their charismatic power, and they were having an inebriating effect on a whole generation. This was more than music; this was a movement. John Lennon was redefining pop culture with his every move.
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Such is the topsy-turvy world confronting us in our day. And did the Beatles incite it all. Of course not. For one thing, it was the intellectual, liberal, and affluent conditions and social consciousness of the times that produced the Beatles, and made it possible for the young to make such strides as they did. As far as the musical influence of this youth revolution was concerned, it started with the rhythm and blues of the blacks, and wove its way through rock and roll where the fuse was lit by the popularity of Elvis Presley; and with him, you might say that the youth culture began. The explosion came with the Beatles. Certainly they did not consciously set out to turn our culture inside out – or did they?
Revolution and the Beatles
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