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Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE BEATLES INVADED AMERICA HALF A CENTURY AGO

Can you believe it was 50 years ago that the Beatles first came to America?  A relevant reference point is me, in 1964, imagining the start of World War I.  That was so far back in history that I couldn't relate.  But like that conflagration, the Beatles should today at least be in the memory of the younger generation today.

The Beatles didn't even make my miracles list, for I selected the Rolling Stones, who, after more than half a century, after ingesting all those drugs and alcohol, are not only mostly alive, but still actively touring.  I can add the Beachboys, who have been around for just as long, and, of course, the McGuire Sisters, who manage to still be seen on PBS...and they began singing 62 years ago.  Amazingly enough, they still look good, and the youngest, Phyliss, is 83 years old.  Okay, that photo was taken in 2005, and Dorothy passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.  But here is a clip of the group (in 2004) when they were still together.

A few interesting bullets about the Beatles:
  • Paul McCartney joined in 1958, soon followed by George Harrison.  Brian Epstein (right), their manager, was selected in 1961, and, their producer, George Martin, in 1962, as did Ringo Starr.
  • Name changed from Blackjacks to Quarrymen to Beatals to Silver Beetles (kind of copying Buddy Holly and the Crickets) to, finally, the Beatles, in 1960.
  • They spent their first few years in Hamburg, Germany in seedy cafes.
  • In 1962, at the Abbey Road Studios (Abbey Road--click on it to hear the full 47 minutes and 31 seconds--was their next to final album in 1969) in London, they made their first recordings.  Here is a clue on how you get free songs for your iPod.  Love Me Do was their initial single.
  • The first to hit #1 in America was I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1963.
  • The Beatles landed at JFK on 7 February 1964, gave their first TV performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by 73 million viewers, or one third the population at that time, the largest Nielsen viewing audience ever.   While they were in New York, they met Bob Dylan, who introduced them to marijuana. There was also a second Sullivan show later in the year.  By April the Beatles had the top five songs on Billboard's Hot 100.
  • In August of 1964, exactly half a century ago, they returned to the USA and gave performances in 23 cities, beginning with San Francisco, where a sold out crowd of 17,130 in Cow Palace experienced 12 songs and paid a grand total of $91,670, which, if I calculated right, cost around $5/person.  Thus, that ticket to the right must have been for a particularly expensive seat.  For the year as a whole, one-third of top U.S. top ten hits were British groups.
  • They were not giving up a good thing, so the Beatles returned to the U.S. in 1965, beginning with their concert at Shea Stadium on 15 August 1965, with 55,000 in the audience, breaking the highest gross record in the history of show business with $305,000.  That means the average price of a seat was $5.53.  They only performed for half an hour.  The final show was at the Cow Palace on August 1965.  They were exposed to LSD around this time, which they found to be terrifying, but fantastic, leading them on a psychedelic trajectory.  Said McCartney, "it opened my eyes...made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society."  McCartney's Yesterday came, and it is said that  this is the most covered song ever written.  Then Queen Elizabeth II made them Members of the Order of the British Empire.  However, it took to 1997 for the Queen to knight (thus, it's now Sir Paul) McCartney.
  • They returned again in 1966, and the 14-concert tour ran into problems, for John Lennon had just made some religiously insensitive statements about being more popular than Jesus Christ  They feared for their lives and they saw rows of empty seats at some venues.  Their absolute final commercial concert for humanity was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  Incredibly, in that short a period since Hamburg, they performed 1400 gigs throughout the world.
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (a particularly loud full version of 40 minutes can be heard here) was released in 1967, winning four Grammy Awards (in 1968) and first rock Album of the Year.  In 2003, Rolling Stone (the magazine) ranked it at #1 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  There are four rows of celebrities on this cover:  Mae West, W.C. Fields, Fred Astaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Huntz Hall, Bob Dylan, Aldous Huxley, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Stan Laurel / Oliver Hardy, Karl Marx, H.G. Wells, James Joyce, Marlon Brando, Tom Mix, Dr. David Livingstone, Johnny Weissmuller, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carol, Lawrence of Arabia, Shirley Temple, Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich the Beatles and many more.  Jesus was originally included, but removed, remembering that brouhaha, and Adolf Hitler missed the final cut.
  • In 1967 the Beatles sang their forthcoming single, All You Need is Love (this is the full one hour and 38 minute program) to around 350 million TV viewers in the first live global television link.  Soon thereafter Brian Epstein "probably" committed suicide for reasons having mostly to do with his insecurities.
  • The group never recovered and fissures developed, with Lennon and Harrison against McCartney, with Starr a non-factor.  Yoko Ono kept appearing at their recording sessions for the White Album (yup, the full 91 minutes, digitally re-mastered in 2009), a no-no.
  • Let It Be (35 minutes) their final album, was released in 1969, including their accompanying single, Long and Winding Road, their last, fading into darkness.  A full bearded McCartney, morose and bespectacled John Lennon, with mustachioed Harrison and Starr.  The documentary won a 1970 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.
  • McCartney filed for dissolution in 1970--that was 44 years ago--but it took until 1974 for formalization.
  • In 2000 The Beatles 1 (a compilation of their # ones, but why buy it, for the whole one hour and nineteen minutes are here) was released, becoming the fastest selling album of all time, with 3.6 million in week one.  As long ago as 2009, sales had topped 31 million. 
Compared with Paul's songs, all of which seemed to keep in some sort of touch with reality, John's had a psychedelic, almost mystical quality ... John's imagery is one of the best things about his work – 'tangerine trees', 'marmalade skies', 'cellophane flowers' ... I always saw him as an aural Salvador Dalí, rather than some drug-ridden record artist. On the other hand, I would be stupid to pretend that drugs didn't figure quite heavily in the Beatles' lives at that time ... they knew that I, in my schoolmasterly role, didn't approve ... Not only was I not into it myself, I couldn't see the need for it; and there's no doubt that, if I too had been on dope, Pepper would never have been the album it was. Perhaps it was the combination of dope and no dope that worked, who knows?[333]
  • Their hairdo discombobulated the world of style and was symbolic of a revolution.
  • The Beatles have sold one billion units worldwide, and were ranked #1 by Rolling Stones in 2004 as the best artists of all time.  They had 20 #1 hits on Billboard (surprisingly enough, Mariah Carey has 18 and the next is Michael Jackson at 13).  But Paul McCartney himself has 9, beating the Rolling Stones at 8.
  • John was murdered in 1980 and George died of lung cancer in 2001.
  • Paul and Ringo appeared together at the Grammy Awards this year, then again on the following day at a Grammy Beatle's special.

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Marie is now a Super Hurricane at 160 miles per hour:


However, no threat to land is projected.

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