Back to index of Beatles pages by Donald Sauter.
There's a book about the Beatles which deserves a whole lot more attention than it ever got. It's called The Beatles, It Was Twenty Years Ago... If the title sounds a bit worn out, note that it predates the 1987 hoopla (if you can remember that now.)
The book probably appeared in 1984 and consists solely of reprinted newspaper clippings. It claims to have been published by Michael Press in Great Britain.
The clippings date from the beginning of 1964 to the end of 1966 and are presented chronologically. They're mostly undated but, with the help of such references as Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles Live! and The Beatles 25 Years In The Life, you can supply the dates.
The articles are taken mostly, if not exclusively, from 3 Philadelphia newspapers. There are 120 large pages worth, and it seems like it might be a fairly complete collection of articles devoted to the Beatles (as opposed to articles containing any mention of the Beatles.)
Sound pretty mundane so far? Not at all. If you want to learn what it was like to live through those years of Beatlemania, or refresh your memory, you could hardly do better than this book. The authentic vibes are preserved here in black and white. Jump in and transport yourself to Any Major City, U.S.A. at the dawn of the Beatlezoic era.
Besides portraying the madness, there are more than enough odd facts and in-depth presentations of known Beatle events to keep the serious scholars happy. Your highlighter pen is guaranteed to get a grueling workout.
Here's just a tiny sampling of excerpts that raised my eyebrows, smile or dander. We'll kick it off with the raging battle between the generations. It was of near-civil war proportions. On one side were the smitten; and on the other, the stubbornly uncomprehending.
[Material below each heading is directly quoted from the newspaper articles except for my comments in brackets like this.]
Great... original... novel... talented... sincere... natural... honest... sweet... not conceited... good singers... "the most"... great personalities... real good guys... They create unity among teenagers... They never put another group down... They take our mind off things and put a little fun in the world... George has sexy eyebrows.
The Beatles have the gimmick, all right, but not the talent to back it up.
We respectfully suggest that Congress immediately pass a special "noise tax." We suggest the rate be substantial, say about 150 percent of income. This high rate would keep such disturbers of the public tranquility back in England.
One number on the Ed Sullivan show suggested that at least one Beatle could actually sing, but four others challenged that theory.
Actually the group has little to offer musically, but a fad is a fad.
Mitzi Gaynor outshines the Beatles [on the Ed Sullivan show].
I believe these whatever-they-are are laughing it up at the thought that anyone in his right mind would be so gullible as to take their singing or their dress seriously.
How anyone could prefer the rantings and ravings of a bunch of idiots to the deep and dreamy sounds of a mature, sophisticated man like Robert Goulet is beyond my comprehension.
Along come the beatless Beatles with a minimum of musical talent (they probably think an arpeggio is something in an antipasta).
We are a little bemused by the throwing of jelly beans, though. Shouldn't it be peanuts?
Geographically, the Beatles are from Liverpool. Musically, they are from nowhere.
Once upon a time there were four young fellows who didn't sing too well separately, but were even louder together.
'Course I'm not so sure a ticket to hear the Beatles is much of a prize.
In 22 years (1986 A.D.), the Beatles won't be as big as Frank Sinatra is today, 22 years after he first hit. They won't be nearly as big as Frank Sinatra - the all-time king.
What do you want to bet that today's Beatles' worshippers will have another idol by next year?
The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful.
TV host David Susskind calls the Beatles "the most repulsive group of men I've ever seen."
Well, there'll always be an England - and thank goodness there won't always be the Beatles.
Mitch Miller calls the Beatles "the Hula Hoops of Music."
Ever since they came here, you and other newspapers have been cutting them down, and I can't stand it any longer.
You're pretty rotten and mean. Did your mother ever beat you up? Well, she should have.
You're a LIAR! DROP DEAD and quick.
Ratfink, ratfink, ratfink, ratfink, ratfink, ratfink, ratfink [repeated endlessly]...
Your the most ignorant, horrible, selfish, etc. man in this world. (Besides Kruschev.)
Why don't you listen to the Beatles sing a slow song and listen good, with all four ears.
You make me sick with a capital S. How are you? I hope you are ill.
The only reason you old, broken-down baldies cut up the Beatles' hair is because you don't have enough of your own.
May I say that Mitzi Gaynor certainly did outshine the Beatles. LITERALLY. I never saw so much sweat...
Anyone who derived entertainment from Mitzi Gaynor's exhibition is obscene, lewd and lascivious.
[A 13-year-old girl writes: ] I would like Mitzi Gaynor better than the Beatles, too, if I was an old sap with my tongue half dragging out every time a woman walked by. Why don't you just buy a pinup magazine?
You must know that if it wasn't for the Beatles you would be almost out of a job, because you would have nothing to write about.
When our style, our likes and our dislikes are ridiculed, where is the fun?
If you think Barbra Streisand is so great, where are all of her fans? People talk about Ringo's nose; well her nose is twice the size of his.
I have 900 Beatle cards, 35 Beatle books and 52 Beatle recors. If you don't like it you can dump it rite on your head.
Frankie's new record is out of pitch!!!
So you think the Beatles were grubby little brats! Well, Mr. Rice, I have seen your picture and oh, mother! I will make you an offer - how much will you charge me to rent your face and go around scaring people to death this Halloween?
P.S. My sister thinks you should go soak your head in mud.
[The poor journalists' defense in the face of this onslaught was a pathetic sight, indeed. The best they could do was count up the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the kids' letters - and quash the enemy with the only means at their disposal: ] We're declaring a moratorium on letters from Beatlephiles.
[The Beatles were hardly ever mentioned without some crack about their hair.]
Zany haircuts... outrageous hairstyles... sheep-dog haircuts... dishmop hairdos... mop-haired English rock 'n' rollers... Mop-Heads... the barber-shy quartet... odd-coiffed quartet... homegrown fright wigs... the cocky girl-haired young man [John]... The haircuts look like some drunken barber had at them with a soup bowl and a pair of tinsmith's shears.
[The hair issue was very serious, though. Around the country, schoolboys were suspended for Beatle-like cuts. On the international scene: ] President Sukarno of Indonesia put out a new order of the day for police - ban Beatle haircuts.
The Police Inspector said he would have a big job while Ringo Starr and his cohorts are here.
Ringo buttons are the hardest to get. They outsell the others 4 to 1.
All day the shrill squeaking continued, with tribal chants alternating between the general "We want the Beatles" and the more partisan "We want Ringo."
The shaggy-headed quartet (the audience yelled loudest for Ringo) seems to have enjoyed the flippant, zany style of director Richard Lester.
"We were billed as the boys from Hamburg when we worked our first cloob in England," said Ringo. [Um, Ringo, didn't you join a couple of years later?]
A peculiar sociological note was injected via the revelation that during the Beatles' guesting on "The Ed Sullivan Show," not a single crime occurred in New York City. Does that mean all criminals are Beatle fans?
[The MBE episode is presented with fascinating clarity. The following is pieced together from about 16 separate articles.]
In June 1965, the Beatles were included on the Queen's birthday honors list. Although her actual birthday is in April, the official birthday is observed in June in hopes of better weather. It rained...
The Beatles were named Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. They were honored along with 1800 other distinguished servants of the empire.
The Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917 and consists of five classes with the lowest being Member (MBE). The MBE ranks 120th among the 126 titles of precedence in Britain. There was no special attention to the Beatles in the honors list; each of the four names appeared in alphabetical order, for example, "G. Harrison, member of the Beatles." The list gave Ringo's real name, Richard Starkey, in parentheses. Somebody told George he was the youngest person to get the award. The award permits them to add the three letters M.B.E. after their names. It also makes them esquires, the rank below knight, and allows them to use the word "esquire" after their names. [Getting a little crowded back there?] It allows them to wear the rose-pink satin sash of the order.
Thousands of Britons were incensed, including former recipients, newspaper writers, politicians and the magazine Tailor and Cutter (the bible of British tailoring.) Six veterans returned their decorations, one calling the Beatles "vulgar nincompoops." Although a medal could be returned, the holder still kept the honor and remained on the roll. [This was true for John as well, in 1969.] The question of why the Beatles were installed in the Order of the British Empire was debated in both houses of Parliament, with questions directed to Prime Minister Harold Wilson since he recommended their names to the Queen. The Prime Minister plays the major role in submitting names for the royal honors.
Besides faithful service to Britain, the awards were given traditionally for excellence in the arts or professions. The Beatles were the first group of pop singers to make the honors list, although other entertainers - actors, dancers and singers - had often been named in the preceding years. The Queen did not see fit to elaborate on the motive behind honoring the Beatles.
[Given the uproar over the inclusion of the Beatles on the honors list, you would think the other honorees must have had much more illustrious credentials. Who were these 1800 world-changers? In all of these articles together, only four were mentioned, two by name.] Other new MBEs include two of Winston Churchill's secretaries. His senior secretary Browne was made a CBE, the third rank in the order. Actor-singer Frankie Vaughn was made an OBE, the fourth rank, one above MBE.
The investiture took place in October 1965 at Buckingham Palace. Beatle fans stormed the gates of the Palace in a hysterical effort to see the Queen honor their idols. Elizabeth decorated some 182 persons at the investiture, which was one of the ten that take place throughout the year. Ringo cut his hair; they all wore lounge suits instead of the more formal morning coats [those long black coats that make you look like, well, a big beetle.] Inside the ballroom, waiting for the Queen to arrive, some 50 other recipients of royal honors asked the Beatles for autographs. One old man said, "I want it for my daughter. I can't see what she sees in you."
Paul replied, "She must have her reasons," and the old man stormed off.
The Beatles entered the great gilded throne room. The Queen stood on a dais and smiled at the four boys. At a signal from an usher, they bowed their mopheads, took four paces forward, halted before her and bowed again. The lord chamberlain called their four names. With a twinkle in her blue eyes, the Queen pinned the insignia - the medals are called "gongs" - on the four and shook hands. [Another account said she handed them their decorations.] "It's a pleasure to give you this," she said.
When the Queen reached Ringo she asked, "Are you the one who started it all?"
"No, ma'am," he replied. "I was the last to join. I'm the little fellow."
The Queen gave them another smile. Aware that this was the signal to go, they walked backward four paces, turned smartly to the right and walked out of the throne room. Afterwards, they chorused, "She's great."
Word is out that the Beatles would like to become serious newspaper publishers.
The Beatles are pouring some of their big fat boodle into a cross-country string of beauty shops.
The Beatles may make a cartoon tieup with Al Capp.
John Lennon has sold his first screenplay "In The Words Of The Hornet, Take Gas!" - a kookie comedy.
The "Yeah-Yeah" lads never made too much of a hit in England until Ed Sullivan taped a TV show and exposed them to American teenagers.
A work of modern ballet written by John has been performed.
A February 1965 communique from London states that Paul "is definitely married to Jane Asher."
On the 1965 American tour in Portland, the Beatles belted out the old favorite "Puppy Love".
Paul and John will write some songs for the Mamas and the Papas. And John Phillips will return the favor by writing a few for the Beatles.
Beatle John McCartney bought the home where he will live after his marriage to Jane Asher. John selected an eight-bedroom place on Cavendish ave.
The Soviet minister of culture was asked whether a musical group like the Beatles would be eligible for government subsidy in Russia. "I am sorry I have never heard them. Thus I cannot decide if artists of that kind would go on our government payroll," she responded without smiling.
Del Shannon was asked to comment on Prince Philip's reported statement that the Beatles were on the wane. "He knows nothing about music," Shannon said.
Cynthia doesn't like it if John keeps jumping up and down from the table to change records. "For goodness sake, sit down, you're giving me indigestion," she once said.
Paul tsk-tsked the way commercials interrupt U.S. programs and observed, "It's a funny place, this America."
When Ringo entered the hospital to have his tonsils removed, someone asked whether the other 3 Beatles would be visiting him. "Are you kidding?" Ringo scoffed. "I'm not married to them."
John was shown a pamphlet titled "Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles" which referred to the Beatles as "anti-Christ" and linked them to a Communist plot. "Anyone who thinks we're Commies is nuts," Lennon commented.
"If the fans up there could get to us, they'd pull us apart," George said. "It's because they like us."
[On the book's next to last page, in November 1966, we read the heartbreaking news: ]
It's official - Paul McCartney said Sunday that the group was breaking up. "Now we Beatles are ready to go our own ways. I'm no longer one of the four mop-tops. I no longer believe in the image."
[Luckily, there's a retraction on the very last page.]
"There's no question, in our minds anyway, of splitting up," said McCartney. "Why should we? We've always been each other's best friend. We never said we were splitting up. Other people said it about us - but it's not true."
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