Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 / 4 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The recent big Paul McCartney marriage bash brought to mind those Beatles days of yore. I was barely fifteen years old when the Fab Four burst onto the US scene with their smash singles "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand." Appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" kept the momentum going as the group charted hit single after hit single.
Media PR, unlike anything ever seen before or since, was unrelenting. Beatlemania it was called. You had to have lived through it to know what I'm talking about. Teenage girls would argue over which guy was the cutest and teenage boys started growing their hair long and combing it down over their foreheads.
For awhile there, it seemed as though new Beatles singles were coming out at the rate of every couple of weeks or so. Stores couldn't keep the 45's in stock. Beatle wigs were being sold at every five and dime and drug store. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines -- the Beatles were absolutely everywhere.
With every new song, every new interview, every guest appearance, stage show and magazine article, the group gained not only in popularity, but in prestige. What had started off as four cute English kids playing rock and roll novelty ditties soon became something else. First they were rock and roll musicians. Then pop idols. Then entertainment superstars. Then cultural icons. People started taking them and their music very seriously.
Everyone jumped on the Beatles bandwagon. Pop music legends like Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra recorded Lennon/McCartney tunes. Big shot music critics compared their compositions to Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer. There were even pundits who likened some of the Beatles music to classical compositions. And no one disagreed. No one took issue because ...well, it sort of sounded right at the time, I guess.
Although I didn't like everything they did, I can remember listening to some of their songs and thinking, "Wow. This is really great stuff!" Of course at the time I was sixteen years old and hadn't yet been exposed to many other forms of music.... but what was Bing Crosby's excuse? Not to mention all the distinguished philharmonic orchestras in the country which were performing "Hey Jude" as if it were Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata.
By 1970 The Beatles as a group and as a recording entity were finished. John, Paul, George and Ringo decided to go their separate ways -- and the rest of us...well, we grew up. As I got older I discovered Jazz, Big Band and Classical music. My music appreciation broadened to include show tunes, movie scores, cowboy songs, Irish ballads, and American folk songs. Today I enjoy listening to just about all 20th Century popular music -- up to around 1964.
I never play the Beatles stuff anymore. I haven't in decades. I don't even own one of their CD's. But every now and then I'll be walking through a mall or some store and I'll hear "Strawberry Fields" or Yellow Submarine" being played over the piped-in speakers and I know why I don't play Beatles songs anymore. They just don't hold up. They sound so dated and completely irrelevant to me now that I really find them difficult to listen to for any length of time.
All that stuff that was taken oh so seriously back in the sixties sounds trite and empty now. Like just so much juvenile junk food music. What was considered weighty then, rings completely hollow today. Unlike Porter, Berlin, the Gershwins and other truly great popular song writers whose music has proven to be timeless, the Beatles' music is definitely of a time-- the sixties-- arguably the most dated of all decades.
But I could be wrong. Maybe "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" is just as valid as say, "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing." Or perhaps "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" is every bit as beautiful as "Stardust."
America's (and the world's) love affair with the Beatles went on for years, for some it continues still. My sister, for instance, was a Beatles fan from the very beginning and will always be, I'm sure. I don't think there's a record or book about the Liverpool lads that Debra doesn't own. That's fine. As for me -- "I am the walrus. Koo-koo kachoo."
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.