They sing, shout, stamp, skat, skit, stomp, wiggle, wriggle, undulate, gyrate, kiss their lead guitars and ukes, hug their drum, yell Yeahhhhh! to get an audience pepped up. Sharrupppppp! when the pep reaches riot pro- portions, drive boys to deliriums of jealousy, barbers to despair, girls (young and not so young and even, in some cases, ancient) to a primitive, love-shaken madness . . . “make Elvis”—as the New York Times soberly noted— “appear to be an Edwardian tenor of considerable diffidence.”
And there are four of them!
We mean, of course, The Beatles. Those shaggy-haired, drain-pipe trousered and brilliant bedlamaniacs from Britain who recently invaded the U.S.—who, by their conquest, must surely have caused George III to smile in his eternal sleep.
Why Beatlemania? Why their sudden and incredible popularity?—here, there, all over the place?
Thousands of words on this subject have been quoted; thousands more are bound to come. But perhaps the feeling was best summed up by a sweet-looking English girl who said of her four darlings: “Oh, gosh, I don’t know. You just watch them, listen to them, and scream—but they send the stark, staring joy out of you!!”
More soberly, writer Frederick Lewis has observed: “The songs which the Beatles write themselves have underlined a change in the attitude to sex in pop music. Yearning is out. Jealousy and recrimination don’t get into tho lyrics either. Instead, the Beatle position concerning girls is cheerful and obvious: grab the bird [girl] you fancy and if it doesn’t work there will be another one along in a minute.”
When it comes to grabbing birds, the Beatles have no problem. John Lennon, leader of the group (and dubbed The Sexy One), is married—so that, to the chagrin of bach-elorettekind everywhere, lets him out. But Beatles Ringo Starr (The Shy One), George Harrison (The Quiet One) and Paul McCartney (The Bouncy One) have already received about 80,000 floridly-written proposals apiece, from Glasgow to The Galapagos, Manchester to—even—Maine. As Quiet George sees it, however, “Naturally, we can’t all stay single forever. But now, one married Beatle is okay. Two or more, no.”
To understand what the Beatles are like—in American terms—suffice it to say that they all hail from the rough-tough seaport city of Liverpool, a place which has been dubbed by some: the Brooklyn of Britain. A place where slang flourishes and the people are fun-minded and free-spirited and earthy, where one says what one wants, dresses how one wants, does what one wants, fights when one wants, takes outside criticism with huge laughter and responds by gayly thumbing one’s nose at those who tsk-tsk.
Liverpudlians, in short, are not phonies.
And neither are their proudest export.
Take, for instance, this quote from Beatle John the night Princess Margaret and Queen Mother Elizabeth were in an audience: “Those of you in the cheaper seats will please clap. The rest of you can rattle your jewelry!” (Meg and Mom, to the delight of all, broke up with royal laughter.)
This quote from Paul: “We aim our act to please all our audience. It’s silly to appeal to the girls and not bother about the fellows. If you do the coy bit, the smarmy bit, the fellows will just end up saying, ‘He’s a bit of a sissy, isn’t he?’ “
This quote from John: “Well, it’s fun, of course. We’re having a fab time. But it can’t last long. Anyway, l’d hate to be old. Just imagine it. Who would want to listen to an eighty-year-old Beatle!”
Actually, while John and the others probably don’t have a sixty-year career ahead of them (not if they don’t calm down their act a bit, anyway), it’s certain that they’ve made ruddy fools of those cynics—professional and otherwise—who gave them “no more than three months” when they put their act together a little over a year ago. Estimates today are that they will last as long as that other famous “flash in the pan”— the aforementioned Elvis. And if that’s not saying enough, just ask Colonel Tom Parker what his boy’s prospects are!
Like Elvis—who used to sing for five dollars a night (when he could get it), the Beatles began their career in a Liverpool cellar, singing and playing for about that same amount. Today—as we and the Bank of England go to press—they are reportedly earning $100,000 a week.
“And why not?” asks a sociologist. “They deserve it. More! We pay for what we need in this world. And in these times of the Bomb, of ever being on the brink of world disaster, of universal fears and neurosis—we need the gaiety these boys provide.”
Adds a psychologist: “They appeal mostly to young girls. Girls who listen to them—and scream and shriek. And good, I say. This emotional outlook is very necessary at her age. It is also innocent and harmless—a safety valve. It is a subconscious preparation for motherhood. Their screams are a rehearsal for that moment.”
How does a Beatle feel during these moments of performance—pre-maternal frenzy?
“Just gear!” deadpans Ringo, using a popular bit of Liverpudlian slang, which translates The Most.
How does a Beatle relax? Who are their friends?
Smiles George, “We are our friends. Friends, buddies and pals.”
Alone together of a post-performance night one is likely to find the Beatles seated around the living room of their on-the-road hotel suite. Downing lavish portions of their favorite supper—steak and chips (French fries), along with pots of steaming tea. Laughing at admittedly “siIly little jokes we make up—to pass the time—and because, well, we like to joke.”
Too, they discuss ways to improve their act. Possibly compose a new song or two, to be tried out the following night. Reminisce, of course, about home and family. And talk, generally, about all manner of things—including, periodically, the assets of Beatles, Ltd., their bulging trust fund.
Then at about three o’clock in the morning, they shake hands with one another, European style—and go off to their rooms.
And to dream gear dreams.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1964