Showing posts with label 50 years ago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 50 years ago. Show all posts

Meanwhile, in 1966 .... John Lennon and Jesus

Our Glass Onion Beatles Journal blog, today, takes a look at the news article that contained John's Lennon's controversial remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus. Interesting to read in its original context, which you can do at the link.

The article by journalist Maureen Cleave was published 50 years ago today.

It was 50 years ago today: John Lennon attends Foyles Literary Lunch in London, April 23, 1964

Another excerpt from my book-in-progress: I Read the News Today: The Beatles Phenomenon 1963-1970.

On April 23 – the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth – John was celebrated as the guest of honor at the Foyle’s Literary Luncheon, an esteemed event hosted each year by one of London’s oldest booksellers.
Christina Foyle, herself, had extended the invitation for John to attend and the event was packed with reporters, camera men and celebrities, including John’s movie co-star Wilfred Bramble, fashion designer Mary Quant (promoter of the increasingly popular mini-skirt), classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin and former Goon Harry Secombe.
The expectation, of course, was that John would give a speech that reflected the sharp wit on display in his book. Perhaps he’d provide another news-making, class-busting remark along the lines of his “rattle your jewelry” line during the Royal Command Performance, or his joke about “purple hearts” in the presence of Harold Wilson. As he stood up to acknowledge the room’s applause, everyone was anxious with anticipation.
Glancing across the crowd, John gave a nervous wave and said, “Thank you very much. God bless you.” Then he quickly sat down, adding, “You’ve got a lucky face.” There was an uncomfortable pause and then the bemused audience clapped. And that was that.
This time, John had made news by saying virtually nothing. Afterward, humorist and former Member of Parliament Sir Alan Herbert leaned over to Brian Epstein, who was seated next to him, and said: “A shameful affair, he should most certainly have made a speech.” But recollecting the incident later in his own book, Epstein said, “John was behaving like a Beatle. He was not prepared to do something which was not only unnatural to him, but also something he might have done badly. He was not going to fail.”
 In her memoir, Cynthia Lennon recalled that John was severely hungover during the luncheon due to partying the previous night with friends at London’s Ad Lib Club. He could barely make it through shaking hands and making small talk at the event, let alone giving a speech – and he had had no idea that a speech was expected.

50 Years Ago Today: Beatles occupy top 5 spots on Billboard 100, April 4, 1964

Another excerpt from my book-in-progress, "I Read the News Today: The Beatles Phenomenon, 1963-1970":

“Can’t Buy Me Love” received advance orders of a million copies in Britain and more than two million in the United States. It quickly went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic and, in the U.S., resulted in a pileup of Beatles hits atop the charts.
In the confused situation regarding rights to the band’s early recordings, Beatles singles were being released on four different labels: Capitol, Swan, Vee-Jay and the latter’s subsidiary, Tollie.   As a result, the April 4 issue of Billboard listed “Can’t Buy Me Love” at number one, followed by a succession of previously released Beatles songs at numbers two, three, four, five, 31, 41, 46, 58, 65, 68 and 79. The following week found 14 Beatles songs in the U.S. Top 100.
Even their first recordings with Tony Sheridan, “My Bonnie” and “Ain’t She Sweet,” eventually made the U.S. charts, much to the group’s chagrin.  “‘My Bonnie,’ we hated,” Paul told a radio interviewer. “It was a terrible record. We weren’t even on it [they played backup, Sheridan sang lead]. ‘Ain’t She Sweet,’ we’re on it, but it’s a terrible record.”
The takeover, by one musical artist, of the record chart was unprecedented, noted Billboard on March 14. “In the past three weeks, the Beatles have absorbed more than 60 percent of all singles sales. Only the Four Seasons, Elvis Presley and a few other disks have come fairly close to the sensational sales racked up by the British act on four different labels.” Sales by other artists, the magazine noted, had “gone soft as a grape.”

It was 50 years ago today: The Beatles receive Variety Club Awards in London, March 19, 1964

Excerpt from my in-progress book: "I Read the News Today: The Beatles phenomenon 1963-1970":

         On March 19, 1964, the Beatles visited the Dorchester Hotel, in London, to accept an award from the Variety Club of Great Britain. The Beatles had been named the club’s Show Business Personalities of 1963 and were joined at the luncheon ceremony by an array of other honorees, including actress Julie Christie, James Bond star Sean Connery, and Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman from the spy TV series “The Avengers.” But it was a celebrity of a different sort who presented the Beatles with their awards: Labour Party leader Harold Wilson.

         This arrangement was the result of some shrewd political maneuvering on Wilson’s part: In addition to leading his party, he was a Liverpool-area Member of Parliament and saw this as an opportunity to exploit his fellow Northerners to his own ends. After all, 1964 was an election year, and with Labour desperate to unseat Parliament’s Conservative majority, surely having his photo taken alongside the Fab Four wouldn’t hurt his party’s standing among younger voters.

         There was an element of political one-upmanship involved in all this, too, as Wilson’s opposition had recently tried using the Beatles to its own political advantage. Conservative Cabinet Minister William Deedes, in a speech to the City of London Young Conservatives, had portrayed the hard-working, high-aspiring Beatles as exemplars of his party’s ideals.

         “[The Beatles] herald a cultural movement among the young which may become part of the history of our time,” Deedes said. “Something important and heartening is happening here. The young are rejecting some of the sloppy standards of their elders, by which far too much of our output has been governed in recent years…they have discerned dimly that in a world of automation, declining craftsmanship and increased leisure, something of this kind is essential to restore the human instinct to excel at something.”

         Even more prominently, Prime Minister Sir Alec Home, noting the Beatles’ immense commercial impact, had recently pronounced the band Britain’s “greatest export” and “a useful contribution to the balance of payments.”

         Such pandering got under the skin of left-wing writer Paul Johnson, who was disgusted by the Tories’ cynical attempts to co-opt Beatlemania. He was also pretty disgusted by the Beatles, themselves.

         In a Feb. 28 New Statesman article titled “The Menace of Beatlism,” Johnson wrote that Beatles had become “an electorally valuable property.” He claimed that “Conservative candidates have been officially advised to mention them whenever possible in their speeches.” And he went on to savagely decry the commercialism and inanity of the Beatles and their audience, as well.

         Discussing the Beatles’ concerts and TV appearances, Johnson wrote “the teenager comes not to hear but to participate in a ritual, a collective groveling to gods who are themselves blind and empty.”

         The Beatles’ fans, Johnson observed, “are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures.” Still, he held out hope that intelligent teenagers might see beyond this silliness and depravity and seek out the best in culture. Recalling his own youth, he said: “Almost every week one found a fresh idol—Milton, Wagner, Debussy, Matisse, El Greco, Proust…At 16, I and my friends heard our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; I can remember the excitement even today. We would not have wasted 30 seconds of our precious time on the Beatles and their ilk.”

    Harold Wilson, on the other hand, had no such qualms about the Fab Four. As with most of the British public – conservative or liberal – he saw the band as amusing and harmless (long hair and noisy music aside) and admirable for its success. The Beatles weren’t Shakespeare or Admiral Nelson, but they’d put Britain back on the map.

          The Variety Club ceremony saw Wilson happily mugging it up with the band and touting the Beatles-Labour summit to the media, simultaneously poking fun at the Tories for trying to co-opt the Beatles and at himself for doing the same thing, only better.

          “This is a non-political occasion so I’ll stay non-political. Unless I’m tempted,” Wilson joked at a press conference. “There were attempts recently by a certain leader in a certain party — wild horses wouldn’t drag his name from me — to involve our friends the Beatles in politics. And all I could say with great sadness, as a Merseyside member of Parliament, which I am, was that whatever arguments there might be, I must ask is nothing sacred when this sort of thing can happen?”

          The Beatles, for their part, enjoyed the attention while claiming no interest in politics whatsoever. And, despite the political theater, they also managed to land the best quotes out of the whole event, which was covered widely in the newspapers and broadcast on television.

    Presented by Wilson with their silver heart-shaped awards, George Harrison feigned confusion and referred to Wilson as “Mr. Dobson,” a reference to the well-known British sweets manufacturer Barker & Dobson. When it was his turn to talk, John Lennon leaned into the microphone and straight-facedly thanked the Variety Club for the “purple hearts,” slang for a popular amphetamine. Corrected by Ringo — “Silver! Silver hearts!” — John did a comic double take and said, “Sorry about that, Harold,” to much audience laughter and applause. It was a bit of playful subversion that made the older generation think twice about who was using whom.

         Though the result likely had more to do with damage inflicted to the Conservatives by the Profumo Scandal than any boost provided by the Beatles, Labour won by a razor thin majority in Parliament in the October General Election and Wilson was named prime minister. The Beatles couldn’t have cared less. Asked by a TV reporter whether they’d had time to vote, Paul confessed they’d “missed it.” “We were having dinner at the time,” said John.

It was 50 years ago today: The Beatles meet Cassius Clay, Feb. 18, 1964

While in Miami for a live broadcast of the "Ed Sullivan Show," the Beatles dropped by the gym for a photo opp with the future Muhammad Ali, who was then training for his upcoming championship bout with heavyweight champ Sonny Liston.

Clay wasn't expected to beat Liston. He also professed not to know who the hell the Beatles were, but went along with the pictures, anyway. The result was mutual publicity for two up-and-coming acts who'd go on to become icons of the 1960s and the 20th century.

Hear a BBC Radio documentary about Clay-Beatles meeting here.

Pop focus: The Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan Show!

50 years ago today (Feb. 9, 1964), the Beatles peformed for the first time on the "Ed Sullivan Show." That was a Sunday night, too. A record 73 million Americans watched the performance. Also on the show that night was a performance by the London cast of "Oliver!," including future Monkee Davy Jones as the Artful Dodger, and a routine by comedian/impressionist Frank Gorshin -- soon to portray the Riddler on ABC's "Batman" TV series.

 The Beatles also appeared on the Sullivan show, the following week (Feb. 16), when it aired live from Miami Beach. And they were featured in a pre-taped performance on the Feb. 23 episode.

Below, is a video featuring the Beatles spots from that first episode. If you want to see the entire episode, complete with other guests and commercials, nab a copy of this great DVD, which features  all the Beatles' Sullivan shows.

Also very highly recommended is the documentary film "The Beatles: First U.S. Visit," directed by Albert and David Maysles, which provides amazing, fly-on-the-wall footage of the Beatles backstage, traveling and performing.

If you saw the Beatles' first Sullivan Show appearance, or just have strong feelings about it, let us know in the comments section!