by Tony Copple

Good TV is designed to be entertaining, informative, even educational. Better TV can reinforce ones own half-baked thoughts by enhancing them, projecting them and helping one to delve further into an important subject. The "Beatles Revolution" on ATV, November 17, 2000 was better TV.

Surely there have been enough programs about the Beatles. Well, they have had a lot of press, particularly in the past few months in Canada. It seems that the appetite of the public is insatiable - at least the baby boomer public, for many of whom the fab four were mothers milk. I have met many people who donít understand what all the fuss is about, and I have met people who donít know (or care) why rock music matters (and I have met some people who find daytime soaps entertaining). The "Beatles Revolution" is an objective compliment to "The Beatles Anthology" videos and book where the subjects showed us their own perspective. Because we love and respect these guys, we do like to hear their opinions, and "The Beatles Revolution" somehow had to make up for this by filling the program with the opinions of a slew of high-profile fans. The wow! factor was in discovering how so many familiar celebrities in different walks of life had the balls to admit publicly to having been influenced by the Beatles.

The fact is, as the program attempted to show, that not only did the Beatles reflect their times by being ahead of their time, but also they influenced a generation of people who were in their impressionable years in the sixties. They showed a form of unconscious leadership, by debunking stuffy class-related attitudes and replacing them by a delightful irreverence and spontaneity that for the most part has not dated.

They had humour, creativity and huge musical talent. The sound track to "The Beatles Revolution" naturally includes snippets from many of their songs, which continued to please and impress us with their staying power. Did John ever think that "In My Life" would last more than five years? Yet earlier this year it was voted the best song ever written by a panel of eminent popular music composers.

The question posed by the program was: is it possible that, with 30 yearís hindsight, the lasting influence of the Beatles could have been measurable social change, in addition to their unsurpassed musical legacy? The inclusion of Bill Clinton, Salman Rushdie and Yury Pelyushonok suggests that the programís director felt so and planned to illustrate as much. We can now identify changes in behaviour, attitudes, and performance on record, stage and film which were pioneered by the group. We tend to forget now, but if those of you who were around then think back to each new album, new film, new tour, they all introduced concepts that had not previously been tried. For example, the Shea Stadium concert in 1965 was the first music event in a sports arena. Innovation came naturally to the Beatles and they had the guts and the stature to be different, every time.

The program all too briefly touched on its full potential in a segment towards the end that suggested that the Beatles actually helped bring the Soviet Union from dictatorship to democracy, which is also hinted at in the excellent book "Strings for a Beatle Bass" by Ottawa writer Yury Pelyushonok. Had this proposition been examined in more depth, with investigation of parallel changes in other parts of the world (since the Beatles are a world-wide phenomenon), it would have been a program with guts, like its subjects. Instead there were plenty of opinions from a variety of top musicians and well-known figures. I would have preferred more comment from social historians and politicians, but even Clintonís comments were limited (edited?) to their musical prowess. I had the feeling that the producers had intended much more of this, but chickened out probably because they felt that today's audience would have been bored by serious social analysis.

And thatís not true, at least of a part of the audience. We Beatles followers are aware, responsible, interested and eager to study the social fall-out of our favourite band. We sense thereís much more to this than just a band. It is a revolution.

The program was very enjoyable to watch and hear, clearly put together by folk who appreciate their Beatles. It was targetted at the TV-watching "lost Beatles generation" in their thirties and forties, who were more aware of post-Beatle trauma than the heyday. The rec.music.beatles crowd would criticize it on lack of new state-of-the-art discoveries that they don't have on bootleg (I noticed footage of "Shout"). It does join that growing body of material that will repay repeated screening in years to come and I'd watch it again tomorrow, if not the next day.

Maybe ABC will do a follow up in 2030 and pinpoint more courageously the positive shift in behavour, attitude and even values that John, Paul George and Ringo unknowingly spawned during those seven tumultuous years.


See letter to The Guardian from Dr. Yury Pelyushonok.
Ottawa Beatles Site