The following article is from the "Weekend Magazine", May 20, 1967. The magazine was a insert to the Saturday edition of the Ottawa Journal. -- J. Whelan, researcher for the Ottawa Beatles Site, April 15, 2004.
Still Young, Wealthy, Together And Singing
Rumors of their break-up are rampant, but the Beatles carry on triumphant
by Robert Musel.
LONDON. "TO ALL AGENTS OF BATTY: Suspend operations and report to headquarters immediately. Mission impossible."
Alas, that I should have to broadcast such downbeat news to the thousands of BATTY operatives. But there will not be a Beatles American Tour This Year and the young ladies who have been imploring journalists to help them persuade the famous foursome to change their minds can dissolve their organization.
I shall miss the plaintive letters from BATTY but I don't think fans of the Beatles yet realize the tremendous change that has come over their idols. An exciting change. For now that they have achieved all their other goals they are now turning their whole attention to widening the horizons of popular music.
This is to be applauded, not deplored, as the young people will come to realize in time. Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever are a promise of greater depths to come. The year the Beatles did NOT tour American may well turn out to be as important in the history of popular music as the years they did.
I also have news for another pressure group the Katie Beatles (KTBT - Keep The Beatles Together). Don't worry. The Beatles have no intention of separating permanently, though each of them may go off on his own for a specific purpose, as John Lennon did to appear in a Dick Lester film, How I Won The War. They expect to be making records and filming together for a long time.
Ever since it became apparent late last year that the Beatles were holding summit meetings among themselves on their futures and rumors of a breakup spread, the pop scene has been wondering what led them to decide to tour no longer. Considering they are bright and highly vocal, the Beatles for once did not seem too clear about the situation themselves.
The key was first provided by their friend, admirer and rival, Mick Jagger, leader of the Rolling Stones -- at least Mick had a logical explanation. We were in his vast flat overlooking Regent's Park and Mick was idly tinkering with the $2,800 electronic marvel that he uses in composing (it can reproduce most of the rhythms and instruments of an orchestra).
If the Beatles are the king group of pop, the Rolling Stones must be the crown princes. Mick, a millionaire at 22, had his mind on the Beatles and he said he knew exactly how they felt.
"Touring is not creative," he said. "Once you've perfected your act, where do you go from there? You can change the songs but there are only a certain number of things you can do and sounds you can achieve on stage. The real challenge is in the recording studio, and it probably won't be too long before we make the same decision the Beatles have made."
Mick knew what he was talking about, because soon after that Paul McCartney, in some respects the most talented of the Beatles, admitted to friends that touring had lost its zest. Keep in mind that despite their youth McCartney and Lennon have been playing together since the skiffle days of 1955 -- and 12 years of performing in pubic is a long time.
"One reason we don't want to tour any more is that when we're on stage nobody can hear us or listen to us," McCartney complained.
He meant you, young ladies of BATTY and KTBT, with your adoring screams. When you take as much trouble composing and writing as Lennon and McCartney and George Harrison do, it's a bit disappointing to have the words and music swallowed up in the answering roar from the audience.
"Another reason," Paul went on, "is that our stage act hasn't improved one bit since we started touring [as the Beatles] five years ago. The days when three guitarists and a drummer can stand up there and do nothing else on stage must be over. Stage performance as an art is going out anyway."
Paul said that since people do listen to records, that would be their most important form of communication from here on.
"We can't go on a holding hands forever," Lennon added. "We have been the Beatles as best we ever will be -- those four jolly lads. But we're not those people any more. We're old men." (For the record: Lennon and Ringo are 26, McCartney is 25 and Harrison 24.)
"What we don't like," said Ringo, "are these rumors that we are breaking up, that we are jealous of each other. This idea of jealously is in other people's brains. We don't mind John doing a film on his own. When the time comes, if it does, that I get a role on my own the others will say, 'Good luck.' That's how we are. We all work for each other's success."
Ringo, the deceptively comic member of the group (he runs a building company when he's not performing), said they did not like the way they played on their last tour and yet the audiences depressingly did not even recognize this fact, because they were making too much noise to hear.
The Beatles could have gone on endlessly, getting richer all the time, playing below their best. But it is a measure of their uniqueness in the field of pop that they are their own severest critics and that they were aware that they were not developing as artists, performers, or composers. It was time to withdraw and meditate.
"Now that we haven't any pressing engagements we take our time," McCartney said. "There are no tours to limit us, so we spend many hours composing and recording. All we want to do is make one record track better than the last. We enjoy it. We don't compose like most other writers, you know. We play the melodies to each other and we pick them up, changing here and there. The melody isn't taken down until we are completely satisfied with it."
McCartney, who is branching into writing film music, emphasized that the Beatles are very good friends and consider everything they do outside their activities as Beatles merely sidelines (Lennon's books, for example, and Harrison's interest in popularizing the Indian sitar, which he went to India to study).
McCartney, incidentally, is the only unmarried member of the group. He is, however, the constant escort of a talented young English actress, Jane Asher, and friends expect them to marry some day.
There are penalties involved in the Beatles' decision not to tour, and they know it. Fans are not likely to be satisfied always with records; they want to see objects of their admiration. Thus the Monkees, stars of major U.S. television show, are getting the kind of buildup the Beatles had. If they decide to tour as well as record, this -- together with the regular television exposure -- may take them ahead of the Beatles.
Mick Jagger knows this as well, hence his own indecision on whether to follow the Beatles' example now or to tour for a while to make sure the Rolling Stones keep their high (and lucrative) position in the pop world. Jagger, by the way, has a composing contract that will earn him another million in the next three years.
One of the problems facing the Beatles is the fact that the British television networks usually insist on personal appearances by stars whose records are plugged on the best programs, or what might be termed a reasonable facsimile of a personal appearance -- a film of the artists. The Beatles, anxious to give Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever the best possible chance, made a brief film the networks could show while playing their record.
It was in the surrealistic vein of the their first, very successful feature film, A Hard Day's Night. It was also their first appearance as a group before a film camera in nearly a year. They have spent months now considering the script of what film producer Walter Shenson hopes will be another box-office winner for them.
"The boys are very meticulous about anything that involves public performance," Shenson said. "They approved the story outline generally and we have been trying to complete a script that they will be happy doing. They know themselves better than anyone else and theirs is the final word!"
Back to Ringo: "Until the script is to our liking we won't do it."
What of the immediate future? Some time this year the Beatles will probably do a television spectacular. They are keeping an eye on their music firm, Northern Songs, which had an estimated pre-tax profit of $2,250,000: the Beatles have sold more than 180 million records since October, 1962, when their first single, Love Me Do, reached No. 17 in the pop charts. They will visit each other socially, go to their favorite discothèques -- and record, record, record. (They may start their third film very late in the year.)
They are not at all concerned that Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields reached No. 1 on only one of the two major British charts. The song that stopped it at No. 2 on the other chart was Release Me, by a singer who adopted the unusual name of Engelbert Humperdinck. What does concern them is that they believe it to be the best record they have made up to now.
And that, dear agents of BATTY, is why there will not be a BATTY.
Copyright by the "Weekend Magazine" of Canada, May 20, 1967. All rights reserved.