Pro or anti, you can't ignore those Beatles
There are some issues in these agitated times on which one may decide to have no opinion. But there are other questions on which every man and woman worth a pinch of coon fur must form a judgement. One simply cannot be neutral, for instance, about medicare, or prohibition, or Charlotte Whitton*. Nor can one be neutral about the Beatles.
It is now about a week since the Beatles hit North America, and the old continent has been shaking all that time. Like everyone else, I have spent an appreciable amount of that week in reading and thinking about the Beatles and a few minutes in watching them on television.
Thus informed, I am ready to stand up and be counted on the question of the Beatles. I know of no better way to express my considered judgement than in Beatletalk, thus:
"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
This approval, I hasten to add, does not extend to the hysterical teen-aged girls who squeal during a Beatle performance so loudly that it is hard to hear the Beatles beat. Still less does it extend to the Washington diplomatic set who, in the words of our hard-pressed correspondent there, "grabbed, shoved, fondled, jostled, pulled" the Beatles at an embassy party the other night. (One diplomat's wife went to the party armed with a pair of scissors, with which she sheared a lock of hair from the head of Mr. Ringo Starr.)
But leaving aside the idiots who over-appreciated the Beatles, I find the boys themselves refreshing. Perhaps their music is second-rate, but they are fine showmen. It's fun to watch them, and that is the test of showmanship. Frame a Beatle in your 17-inch screen and you forget everything else, and that is the test of pure entertainment.
The Beatles are not embarrassing, as I have found the rock idols of the recent past to be. They are natural, relaxed and spontaneous. They do not appear to be in permanent pain, as so many pop singers do. They do not give the impression of conceit, which is a rare gift in show business.
I have it on the unimpeachable authority of the British Broadcasting Corporation that the Beatles owe this last quality to their upbringing in the streets of Liverpool. In that environment, says the BBC, "it is a cardinal sin among youngsters to be 'big headed', i.e., conceited.
The Beatles, I learn from the same reliable source, orginally numbered five: John Lennon, who is still the leader, and Paul McCartney, these two being the composers of Beatle-sound; George Harrison, who is still a Beatle; Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best, no doubt to his everlasting regret, left to form his own group before the Beatles hit the big time, Stuart Sutcliffe died at the at of 21. Thus depleted, the Beatles recruited Ringo Starr, he who lost a lock of hair at the British embassy in Washington, to be their drummer.
Just as Ottawa long ignored Paul Anka, so Liverpool was not the first city to acclaim the Beatles. They played rock 'n' roll there for several years without making much impression. Then one day they were called to substitute for a group of entertainers who had cancelled an engagement in Hamburg. And it was there that they developed that mysterious emission of noise now world-famous as "the Mersey Sound."
A flow of inquiries from Hamburg led a British music store owner to make a Beatle record in late 1962. A year ago he made a second record, called "Please please me." It pleased multitudes, apparently, for the Beatles have never looked back -- even if they could look back through those shaggy curtains of hair.
British sociologists are grappling earnestly with the Beatle phenomenon. They are analyzing the significance of the Merseyside background in terms of a revolt of the provinces against London's cultural domination; and the significance of the Beatles' lower-class background in terms of a revolt against the Establishment.
In British terms, Beatles are everything that Sir Alex Douglas-Home is not. Accent, haircut, clothing, age and vitality combine to embody that other England that lives outside Eton, Oxford and Westminster.
But these weighty inquiries dwindle in importance now that the Beatles have won international success in Paris, New York and Smith Falls (where the RCA Victor plant is making 30,000 Beatle records every day).
Maybe they are just four happy Liverpudians who are making a lot of money out of making a lot of people smile, laugh, jump, squeal and even in a manner of speaking, dance and sing.
*Charlotte Whitton was a very feisty mayor for Ottawa who was gifted with a silver tongue and a very sharp mind. - J.W.
The Ottawa Beatle Site wishes to give special thanks to The Ottawa Citizen for allowing us to e-publish their editorial concerning their impressions on Beatles invasion into America. E-published here on April 29, 2000. Copyright 1964 by the Ottawa Citizen, all rights reserved.