Posted tagged ‘Beatles’

Beatlemania

August 27, 2010

According to an interpretation of the selection of the 100 best Beatles songs by Rolling Stone magazine, John Lennon (rather than Paul McCartney) was the leading Beatle, and the songs he wrote were the most significant. On balance I would agree, though this is the kind of issue which probably doesn’t get to be determined objectively.

I guess that what is really remarkable is that, some 40 years after the Beatles broke up and 30 years after John Lennon died, this sort of question is still exciting people.

Imprimatur

April 12, 2010

Heaven help us, is nothing sacred? Must the entire foundation of my youth be pulled away?

What am I talking about? Well, the Vatican’s seal of approval for the Beatles, of course. According to media reports, the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has in one of its most recent editions revised the church’s judgement on John, Paul, George and Ringo, as follows:

‘It’s true, they took drugs; swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives. They even said they were more famous than Jesus. But, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless. Their beautiful melodies, which changed forever pop music and still give us emotions, live on like precious jewels.’

Of course, the reason why I and many others of my generation and since were such fans of the Beatles was because the ‘respectable’ older generation thought they were outrageous. If I had known then that, some 40 years later, the Vatican would say that it loves them, yeah, yeah, yeah, it would have rocked everything I thought I believed in.

Mind you, the Daily Telegraph also summarises the Vatican’s assessment like this:

‘In an astonishing turnaround the Church dismisses previous moral outrages including blasphemous remarks, drug taking and even the dissemination of Satanic messages through their music.’

‘Satanic messages’? Do you know, I wonder whether they have mixed up the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. That must be it, the Stones were always really an establishment outfit beneath the surface. Maybe I can relax after all, in the end.

Generations, part II: All You Need is the Beatles

August 12, 2009

Hot on the heels of my recent post here about intergenerational communications comes a report in the New York Times that suggests that the Beatles may be shaping up to be the bridge between today’s young generation and all who went before, except for those over 65 (thereby keeping the group’s song ‘When I’m 64’ just on the right side of the divide…). According to the report, the Beatles rank in the top four favourite musical acts of every generation up to that age. It is what we have in common, and apparently this has had the effect of softening the friction between generations.

This is indeed remarkable. Today’s 16-year-olds are listening to music that was recorded over 40 years ago. Back when I was 16, to achieve the same effect I would have had to listen to something recorded in 1930 or earlier. And in case you’re not immediately on the ball as regards what was hot in 1930, here’s the chart. I’ve only ever heard of two of the acts, and I’ve heard only two of the songs (or at least I don’t remember coming across the others). Maybe if there had been some real musical influences in common we would have had a better understanding with our parents back then. Indeed, maybe she wouldn’t have been Leaving Home.

Remarkably, the Beatles – whose successful musical output was recorded really only over eight years – have dominated modern music more than anyone before or since, with perhaps the exception of Mozart and Beethoven. Beyond music, they influenced style, opinion and fashion; and not just one generation, but many generations. Their influence is recognised by everyone (except my spellchecker). So as we struggle to connect, it appears that The Beatles Are All We Need.

Talking about my generation

November 2, 2008

The other day I was sitting in a room with a group of young people, whose ages probably ranged from about 18 to 24. The discussion moved to music, and I was amazed when I was told about their favourite bands and musicians: they included Queen, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and of course the Beatles – in fact, every other name mentioned was around when I was their age. For a minute I thought about this: these musical acts were all 40 years old or so; and back in 1968, I certainly wouldn’t even have known the name (never mind the music) of someone who had been singing in 1928. How is it that the music of my generation has refused to die and is still being heard by young people today?

A friend of mine, who is about three years older than I am, has a theory that our generation has dominated the world for much of our lives. We introduced the Beatles, and with them, not just new kinds of music, but whole new ways of thinking. We started wearing longer hair, God help us we started on drugs, we pushed politics to the left and later to the right, we brought in new shops and supermarkets; and whatever we did, those both older than us and younger than us followed our lead.

It’s a beguiling theory, but probably not true. But then again, we do seem to have remained cool (or something that allows us to think we are cool) for longer and more persistently than any other generation. Others who came after us never quite managed it in the same way.

But then again, we’re growing older, and the generation that brought you the Beatles is about to start drawing pensions. And will we still be thought leaders then? I don’t know. But I do believe that we will be leaving things to those who follow in somewhat better shape than we found them, by and large. And while the Who, in that iconic song of my generation – My Generation – asked of the old establishment ‘Why don’t you just fff…fade away?’, I think that it may just about be possible that we’ll still be rebellious enough while holding on to our zimmer frames to ask that of those coming behind us, should they cease to show respect.

That 1970s experience

September 29, 2008

Back in my family home I still have an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. I am not absolutely sure how old it is, but I think I may have received it as a birthday present in 1970. It was an Uher recorder, much like this one. For the next few years I recorded lots of stuff – much of it music recorded from the radio, but also some television programmes (sound only, obviously), people talking, that kind of thing. Then towards the end of that decade I decided that cassettes were more practical, and the old tape recorder was put away.

Recently I was cleaning out a little and I came across the old machine, and the dozen or so four-hour tapes that I had kept. So I plugged the thing in, put on a tape (which reminded me how fiddly all this was), closed my eyes and was transported back, initially to 1971. I was living in Germany at the time, and I recorded lots of music from German radio stations, and also from the British one broadcasting to their armed forces there. So here it was, all back again: the terrible bubblegum music, but also the Beatles, and long forgotten bands like the Tremeloes and the Small Faces. But also bands we still know or remember, like the Rolling Stones, Slade and T Rex. That summer I spent a few weeks in Ireland and recorded from RTE radio (only one RTE radio station was around at the time), and there was Larry Gogan, sounding exactly as he does now and playing some tracks which made me wince – did we really ever listen to such stuff?

I also recorded some TV programmes, including an episode of ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘ (long forgotten, although the star actors are both still known – Robert Vaughn is on our screens quite a bit). What intrigued me there, more than the (audio only) show, was the advertisements: heavily weighted towards cigarettes and beer: ‘On a hundred airlines around the world, the greatest name in cigarettes is Rothmans’; and ‘Carling Black Label, light-hearted lager’ (whatever that means) – if you were around at the time, you may still be able to sing along.

As I said, it was audio only, so I was spared the sight of flares and dodgy haircuts. But as I sat there I was right back in the 1970s, and it felt like yesterday. I must get the whole thing digitised; but maybe if it’s not whirring around on a tape it won’t be the same.