Phenomenologists will have a ball in the years to come with Beatlemania, a generally harmless form of madness which deluged Great Britain in 1963 and then, within a year, spread throughout the world.
As Frederick Lewis reported in the New York Times, "Beatlemania .... affects all social classes and all levels of intelligence. Sole cause of Beatlemania is, of course, the world's most popular quartet -- The Beatles, of whom Mr. Lewis said: "Their impact ... has been greater than that of any other exponent of pop music. There has been adulation before...but no one has taken the national fancy as have The Beatles."
In less than a year, The Beatles:
1. Achieved a popularity and following that is unprecedented in the history of show business.
2. Became the first recording artists anywhere in the world to have a record become a million-seller before its release.
3. Became the target of such adoration by their fans that their concerts -- if they can be heard above the din -- invariably end in riots with relatively minor skirmishes often taking place between Beatle fans and the constabulary.
4. Sold over 30 million records in the U.S. (in 15 months), shattering all previous sales marks, including those formerly held by Elvis Presley.
5. Became one of the world's most popular motion picture stars with their "A Hard Day's Night," and its follow-up, "Help!"
6. Became the biggest personal appearance act in the history of show business, selling out such huge stadiums and arenas as Shea Stadium in New York and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Every national magazine, including Newsweek, Life, Look, Time and even Playboy have chronicled Beatlemania. UPI and the AP have done their part for the cause (including an AP wirephoto of J. Paul Getty sporting a Beatle wig), and even Vogue shoved high fashion aside momentarily in an issue and carried a full-page photo of the group.
Precisely how, when, and where Beatlemania got started nobody, not even The Beatles, can say for sure.
The Beatles are a product of Liverpool, which has a population of some 300 rock-and-roll bands (or "beat groups," as Liverpudlians are wont to call them). The beat groups hawk their musical wares in countless small cellar clubs, old stores and movie houses, even in a converted church, nearly all of which are in proximity to the Mersey River.
Out of all these groups came, somehow, The Beatles. And they had to go to Germany to do it. In order to better their Liverpool take-home pay of around $15 per week a piece, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo (so called because of his penchant for wearing at least four rings) Starr took a tramp steamer to Hamburg and a job which moved them up a bit financially, if not in class.
There, in a raucous and rowdy strip joint, the Indra Club, The Beatles became the first entertainers ever to play louder than the audience. There, too, they were "discovered" by English promoter and talent agent, Brian Epstein.
Under Epstein's shrewd guidance, The Beatles found themselves signing a contract with Britain's giant Electric & Musical Industries, Ltd., the largest recording organization in the world and major stockholder in Capitol Records, Inc.; headlining concerts throughout Britain, and appearing on television.
Their first recording, "Love Me Do," was issued by EMI's Parlophone label in October, 1962. It sold a respectable 100,000 copies, and it was the last time a Beatle single sold less than a half-million. Their first (English) million-seller, "She Loves You," came out in the spring of 1963. It was followed by two albums, "Please, Please Me" and "With The Beatles." Both LPs sold over 300,000 copies. Then, finally, came the unprecedented success of their recording of "I Want To Hold Your Hand," the first U.S. single (and the first million-seller in the U.S.).
Since that time, it has been one million-seller after another. Their first Capitol LP, "Meet The Beatles," is one of the largest-selling albums of all time.
They followed this with another million-seller, "The Beatles Second Album."
In addition to their singing, The Beatles have proven to be the most successful songwriters in the world today. The compositions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney have been recorded by such vocalists as Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Keely Smith and by a number of bands including those of Harry James and even Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Their first extensive U.S. tour (in 1964) was such a fantastic success (the foursome grossed more than $1 million for 24 dates that nobody ever dreamt it would be topped. Yet, their tour in 165, which only had 13 performances, topped it!
Naturally, Beatle fan clubs have sprouted up throughout the country -- in addition to Beatle wigs, Beatle buttons, Beatle sweatshirts, Beatle hair spray and even Beatlenut ice cream.
Despite their fantastic success, The Beatles remain four of the easiest entertainers in show business to deal with -- for instance, during their '64 tour The Beatles volunteered their only day off on the West Coast to appear at a charity garden party hosted by Capitol's President, Alan W. Livingston, for the Hemophilia Foundation. They also contributed another date in New York to Cerebral Palsy.
More than any other group, The Beatles are known well to the world as individuals. Each one of them -- John, Paul, George and Ringo -- has a different and distinct personality.
John Lennon is often called the "chief Beatle" or leader of the group. "If we've got to have a leader I guess I'm him." Like the other Beatles, he doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. Once, when asked about politics he replied: "Politics? They have no message for me, nor for any of us. I haven't got much time for politicians. I've never bothered to vote. The Bomb? Nuclear disarmament? Well, like everyone else, I don't want to end up a festering heap, but I don't stay up nights worrying. I'm pre-occupied with life, not death."
Born in Liverpool, John attended Liverpool High School and later the Liverpool College of Art. Lennon readily admits his school life was far from being successful ("My whole school life was a case of 'I couldn't care less.' It was just a joke as far as I was concerned. Don't think I'm, proud of it all ... I wouldn't want anybody to follow my example.'). The failures he had in school were more than made up for whon The Beatles came into existence in a Liverpool club called the Cavern.
After some months of playing at the Cavern the boys received a booking for a tour with a Larry Parnes pop show. The job wasn't a very good one -- just backing a young singer -- but it was the first time they had played outside Liverpool. After that came their booking at the Indra Club in Hamburg, Germany, and a short time later their discovery by Brian Epstein.
Today, John is not only a member of the most popular singing group in the world, but he's also the author of a best-seller, "In His Own Write." Despite the success, John has not been overwhelmed: "I feel, he said, "richer and flattered by our good fortune. I am touched by the personal gifts that are showered on us now."
His philosophy sums up the feelings of the entire group. "We all go out to have fun. If others have fun, that's great."
Paul McCartney, along with John Lennon, writes most of the songs for the group and has turned out hundreds of tunes since the group first organized.
Paul comes from Allerton, a typically suburban area of Liverpool, where his father worked as a cotton salesman. He was 15 when he met John Lennon who, at the time, was playing with several other musicians. Paul asked if he could sit in and that was the beginning.
"I guess it was pure chance that I met John," he said. "You see my mother was a district nurse, until she died when I was 14, and we used to move from time to time because of her work. One move brought me into contact with John."
Their fantastic rise to fame is one of the things that Paul has thought a great deal about. "You know," he said, "when you're about 11, you start to think about what's going to happen to you.
"I've often thought about it. My plan was to go on playing the clubs until I reached 25 -- a ripe old age -- and then go to John's Art College and hang on there for a couple of years. I never dreamt about being discovered or anything like that. I always thought discovery was something you read about."
George Harrison, lead guitarist, is the third member of the group. Born in Liverpool, George left school to become an apprentice electrician ("I had to stop trying to be an electrician because I kept blowing everything up."). in 1956, he met John Lennon and Paul McCartney and in the next couple of years, they played in a variety of groups -- "We experimented," George recalled, "with washboard and banjo sounds."
Although McCartney and Lennon do most of the song-writing for the group, George has demonstrated his ability, too, by writing tunes for several of their albums.
Songwriting isn't George's only interest. "I like parties and a bit of fun like anyone else, but there's nothing better, for me, than a bit of peace and quiet. Sitting around a big fire with your slippers on and watching the telly (television). That's the life!" George's ideal life is a far cry from his real life. Like the rest of The Beatles, his home is often surrounded by dozens of female fans.
Ringo Starr is the fourth member of the group. Ringo, so-called because of his passion for wearing lots of rings, is the oldest member. Age doesn't seem to make any difference with Beatle fans because Ringo is one of the most popular members. He's been known to wear up to six rings on his hands -- all gifts from admiring fans -- at the same time.
At home ("I daren't tell you where home is because it would be surrounded by shock troops who've gone Beatle-mad") when he manages to find time to spend a few days there, Ringo stays indoors.
"I've got records to listen to -- everything from rhythm-and-blues to country-western style -- and fan mail to answer."
But, all the fan mail and adulation heaped upon him hasn't changed his attitude at all. He shares the same likes and dislikes of his fellow Beatles. "I'm not interested in living it up. All the money is invested. I don't even know how much it is. I don't take much out -- just for clothes, a few cigarettes. When it ends -- well, we've been skint before. But I'd like to have enough to do something -- well, something with me hands. I've always loved basketwork, or pottery. Shaping something, making something. Being able to say 'I did that.' "
Right now, Ringo, along with the rest of the group, is making something -- musical history. Never before has the world witnessed a mania as extreme as the one that has enveloped The Beatles.
And no wonder. The world never dreamed The Beatles could surpass "Revolver" for progressive sounds. For example, in "Tomorrow Never Knows," the final cut on the album, Beatles buffs were stunned at John Lennon's voice emanating from something that resembled a (of all things) megaphone. Cries of "regression" and "blasphemy" and countless other utterances of shock went up in Blighty and Boston and San Berdu all at once. But then followed a volley of so-called "camp"-style records which, as was well-chronicled, employed megaphones galore.
From that same sweet package came "Yellow Submarine," "Good Day Sunshine, "Eleanor Rigby," "Taxman and a half-dozen more equally luminescent lilts. How could they top it? What could be more startlingly avant garde, more mellifluously mod than "Revolver"?
Then (significantly?) nine months later, the world heard "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" .... and it knew, once and for all, there was no stopping The Beatles.
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November 16, 1997
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