Wasn't it St. Augustine who observed "there are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."
Let's reflect on the Beatles. Their talent was undeniable. But was it so far beyond all the other talent in the competitive commercial music scene? Frankie Valli made his mark with The Four Seasons. We got to appreciate the Valli story in the movie "Jersey Boys." We probably should have rooted for them because they were American.
The Beatles very quickly grew to other-worldly status with their fame. It's scary that our young population embraced the Beatles in such an obsessive way. It lasted about seven years. It seems like not such a long time, but it's really a pretty big window in which to produce music. It's a big window in which to expect four guys to work together, especially four guys who couldn't tour anymore. "Beatlemania" had wiped out their ability to tour. What a curious phenomenon.
I remember being in Alexandria on the night when the Beatles made their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. As I recall, we were visiting friends connected to the University of Minnesota-Morris orchestra. I was in a room with some other young people. I was transfixed like everyone else. I normally couldn't even watch Ed Sullivan, because in our neighborhood out on the northern edge of Morris, we only got the NBC network in those days. I couldn't watch "Gilligan's Island" or "Gunsmoke."
There was more to the British invasion of music than might meet the eye. I learned this at a Driggs Lecture at UMM. This was a very well-attended lecture about the "hippie" phase in U.S. history. An academician from out West said the recording industry in England was advanced beyond the industry here. This is an easy factor to overlook. We listen to the music without realizing there's a whole complicated industry behind it, full of technical obligations and standards.
My favorite jazz artist, Maynard Ferguson, put out albums that seemed on a superior level, from England, back around 1970. It's hard to describe but the superior quality was discernible. Maynard would return to the U.S. after his period of disillusionment that caused him to leave. Or was it tax issues (LOL)?
The Driggs lecturer said the U.S. was held back by the Viet Nam war. Really? How could that impede anything? OK, you get my point. Young men who might be interested in the recording industry, or any particular industry, had to worry about the draft.
We must remind ourselves what it was like living in the U.S. in the 1960s. It's true the decade produced lots of nostalgia. Creative people can always do their thing, even under dark clouds. Thus we got those charming Don Knotts movies at the same time thousands of young men were dying, miserably in many cases, in Viet Nam. Our young men were handed guns and told to shoot at other men, while they shot at us, all over differences in political ideology. My generation said "nuts!" to that.
But it was no routine matter getting out of Viet Nam. Whatever else you might think about Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, they were fools for not taking charge with that.
The list of 1960s nostalgia is topped by the Beatles. These four young men developed a musical sound that was just what the young generation wanted. They had an uncanny skill for creating the "catchy" melody and piercing lyrics that could get played on the radio in the form of the three-minute song. It seems like a rather limited talent. It may have been, but it made them into the quintessential celebrities. They had worked to achieve this level of success. Upon attaining it, they had to wonder about the monster they created. Were they happy being in a fishbowl? They had to literally run for their lives. Stardom could be like a prison.
Welcome to "Beatlemania," the phenomenon that grew from 1963 to 1966. Who created that term? A little examination shows it was the mass-circulation Fleet Street newspapers of London. The Fab 4 had just appeared at the London Palladium Theater. The performance was shared on television to approximately 15 million viewers on the hugely popular variety show "Sunday Night at the London Palladium." People got to see the hysterically screaming fans - a staple of Beatles appearances.
The newspapers vividly showed the mass hysteria. The month was October. Beatles historians note that the hysteria had already begun in spring of that year. The newspapers really started paying attention in fall. Maybe the precise point when "Beatlemania" became firmly established was when the four guys arrived back at Heathrow Airport after a brief tour of Sweden. The date was October 31. I was eight years old. I definitely watched TV. It may be I first got familiar with the Beatles through the Jack Paar night show, or maybe it was the Today Show. I was struck by a video clip that showed a young female fan frantically pulling out a pair of binoculars to get a better look at the Beatles.
Four days after the Heathrow welcome, the Beatles performed for the English royal family. The Beatles captivated Britain in 1963. We all know what happened next. The whole world became transfixed. Crowds clamored. Audiences shrieked.
The Beatles had to stop touring because they couldn't concentrate adequately on their music anymore. The hysteria superceded the music. The Beatles would retreat to the calm of the recording studio, there to produce pioneering works in rock-flavored music, building it up as a bona fide art form.
Are hotels really so bad?
What is it about celebrities that makes them want to complain about hotel rooms? A psychologist should study this sometime. George Harrison talked about "being chased around by a crowd of hooting lunatics from one crappy hotel room to the next." The Beatles were surely housed in fine facilities.
I'm reminded of when Walter Mondale, when running for president, made what was interpreted as an unflattering comment about Holiday Inns. He later had to clarify, saying that if you're traveling and have to find a place to stay, Holiday Inn is probably the best. He was just tired of life on the road.
Al Michaels got in some trouble when broadcasting the 1987 World Series from Minneapolis. During a commercial break, he dissed the hotel where he was at. No dive, I'm sure. I remember talking and laughing about this with friend Jim McRoberts. Jim said Micheals "had probably grown up with an outdoor bathroom." Jim and I miss Arnie Hennen RIP.
Beatlemania could be suffocating, I'm sure, but this was the consequence of the four young men working so hard and developing their talent so far. What were they expecting? Was Pete Best better off having been fired? We are so human an animal.