The Beatles forever
Mar 05 2012
The Fab Four, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, still hold their sway over people’s hearts
The Beatles exemplified such axioms to a T — they lived a dream-come-true. They still do. The most dominant music group, perhaps, of the rock era, The Beatles ‘mesmerised’ the post-war baby-boom generation in the UK and the US. In the 1960s, their global fame exceeded the magnetism of presidents; even Jesus.
The Fab Four — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — that made the group were initially renowned for light pop music. Their work is a blend of critical and literary commendation that nobody has been able to equal. Thanks to their amazing fame, The Beatles became more than recording artists; they branched out into films too. Besides, Lennon, the man behind the band’s awesome appeal, advocated political activism, not the solace of drugs, for which The Beatles were once notoriously (in)famous. The Beatles were, for sure, the most successful music group in history; their global sales exceed two billion records.
It all began when McCartney, the prince charming of the group, met Lennon at a party in the late 1950s — to sow the first seeds of their musical perestroika. A few years later — it emerged to conquer fans all over the globe.
Flashback: 1995. It was music’s year of wonder. As McCartney, Harrison and Starr convened at Paul’s Studio, outside London, long after they split, and set about completing an old, unfinished Lennon song, Free as a Bird, a weighty sense of conviction that The Beatles would never sing together again was whacked. The Fab Three got into the act in vintage style, to produce a multimedia campaign — The Beatles Anthology. It relieved the longest-held lungful of air in popular music.
It was also implausible, yes — because, Lennon was long gone, shot dead by a crazy fan in New York on December 8, 1980. However, the stage was set not only to ‘feel’ him metaphysically, even if it was creepy hearing a dead man on lead vocals. What did the good turn was a copy of John singing with his son on a simple mono-recording. This was testimony enough that The Beatles were eternal.
There is a bit of the weird too with the band. When The Beatles soared with their songs, they provided effusive grist for middle-class daydreams, even though Lennon discredited the 1960s. He also begrudged “performing for the f***ing idiots who don’t know anything about music.” Lennon, of course, never concealed his class-consciousness. Yet, when it came to winning, The Beatles emerged triumphant. Curiously, some connoisseurs believe that The Beatles’ original genius was Lennon, with McCartney being the charismatic performer with a gift for melodies — both pleasant and poetic. Over to Paul himself: “We were good to each other. John and I are the only two people in the world who were Lennon and McCartney.” Right, but the fact remains that McCartney — now Sir Paul — has lived too much on past glory, although what makes him a true knight in musical armour is his powerhouse of a voice and sublime musical refinement.
Psychedelic drugs, sex, and their once-much-vaunted and much-soured tryst with Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, the famed Indian guru, were all part of The Beatles’ register, but what remains on solid ground is the band’s timeless, magnetic allure. The Beatles produced a myriad number of incredible tunes and numbers. If songs like Yesterday and I Want to Hold Your Hand, or Hey Jude, champion an uplifting purpose, a stirring image, there are several other compositions that invoke visions of a new utopia, a beautiful précis. In Lennon’s words: “Nothing is real/and, nothing to get hung about.”
That the Fab Four could not read music made no difference to their artistic genius and intuitive feel for words. Take Sgt. Pepper, for instance. The lovely number is an epochal rendition — the resolution of rock into a work of art. Or, to cull another example — McCartney’s Penny Lane, which brings home the lost world of childhood.
Or, think of Harrison’s brilliant strokes in While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Yes, a host of The Beatles’ numbers convey sweet despair; some produce a whimper from the heart full of hope. Some others have agony, illogicality, sadness and a sense of something pristinely fresh — the realities and redemptions in our lives.
Lennon and Harrison are no more; McCartney and Starr are around… pontificating under The Beatles’ sunshade — continuing an inheritance without the thunder of the past. But, it’s working — if you look at the emergent number of fans in a generation long exposed to a new crop of singers and technological razzamatazz.
The Beatles’ stunning records speak a lingo no one can challenge. They have the most multi-platinum selling albums for any artist or musical group (13 in the US alone). They are the best-selling musical group of all time. They have had more #1 albums than any other group (19 in the US, and 15 in the UK). They have spent the highest number of weeks at #1 in the albums chart (174 in the UK and 132 in the US). They also have the fastest selling CD of all time with “1” — selling over 13 million copies in a month’s time, following its release, some years ago.
Besides, the band appears five times in the top 100 best-selling singles in the UK. No other group appears more than twice. To cull another exemplar, among a host of extraordinary accolades, The Beatles appear five times in the top 100 best-selling singles in the UK — another unique record, because no other band has appeared more than twice in the genre. What’s more, The Beatles had their own postal stamp commissioned — a tribute to one of their all-time great hits, Yellow Submarine. The most interesting part — The Beatles’ music is exquisitely replete with both western and oriental influences, the latter primarily due to sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and Harrison’s lilting forays into ‘fusion.’
The Beatles’ timeless numbers are imperishable — from simple “folk” tunes to tumultuous orchestral upsurge of a magnum opus, the true essence of music as highest philosophy. Yet, more than anything else, The Beatles were and are the Cecil de Mille of music. Their genius delineates a language of its own — the sound of music, in all its eternal resplendence, never before incarnate.
(The writer is a trained physician and holds a conferred doctorate in