Re: When are the Beatles not the Beatles?<br>

Re: When are the Beatles not the Beatles?

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In article <> writes: >>In article <> beatle@sentry.larc.nasa.
>>Sort of...he didn't do Let It Be, but they weren't really still the Beatles
>>at that point.
>If they weren't the Beatles, then who were they? Were they still the Beatles
>during Abbey Road? Should we consider the moment they stopped touring or
>writing together as the cutoff point for Beatledom?

And a very good question it is...just when did the Beatles stop being Beatles? :-)

It's not a trick question for everyone, but for me it is. I'm one of those old sticks-in-the-mud who thinks there are some things you just can't put behind you.

Oh, no reflection on the Boys' cumulative and separate desires over the years to grow beyond their Beatles personae. That's as it should be; that's the natural progression. And one of the curious facets of being a Beatles fan for the past twenty-seven years, for me, is the fact that I *can* feel some sympathetic tug in my heart for their nonstop frustration over being just pop idols. To a great extent, I have to admit that I and my ilk have been responsible for their discomfort; fans and fanatics became part of the partnership that urged those four young men to play a role that, perhaps, they had outgrown before they even took it up.

The real seer of the group, a one-time electrician's apprentice, mentioned that all things must pass. Of course he was right; that's as it should be. And when the Beatles gradually broke up during the years 1968-1970, the final blow, for me, wasn't much of a blow. I felt measurable relief when they called it quits in 1970. It was time to move into new realms. It was no fun to be at a party where the principal players were in such pain.

I had a tendency too to think of "Let It Be" as not quite a Beatles work; and clearly Paul's "Another Day" or George's sterling production and playing on Ringo's "It Don't Come Easy" were no longer Beatles' songs. How hard they all struggled to throw off the old ties. I admire them for it. I even have cheered them on, in my more lucid moments.

But what all four men found, I believe---eventually after their own separate struggles, from all available evidence---was that some experiences of life, art, music can never be renounced. And perhaps their struggle to get beyond their collective past became such a monument that they---and those of us fans still left---focus on the nearer "failures" rather than the totality of their architectural wonder.

"Ex-Beatles"? It has a false ring to it, somehow. Yes, of course there's been the Plastic Ono Band and Wings and session work and guest appearances...and undeniably "Watching The Wheels" and "When We Was Fab" have the clear message of artists who have acknowledged their change over the years---their distance from former incarnations. Some analysts take it much further, suggesting that the Beatles ceased to be Beatles as early as the White Album, which arguably shows the results of internal fragmentation. "Martha My Dear" a typical Beatles song? It has Macca's personal stamp so clearly that only a novice would mistake it for the work of another.

But the more distance we have from their music, the more clearly we can see their individual personalities in even the earliest compositions. And paradoxically, those individual early works--- "Don't Bother Me", "All My Loving", "Not A Second Time"---are also so purely "Beatles" tunes, with the indelible impression of each musician's contribution, that it seems each songs exists simultaneously in two worlds: one of individual genius, and one of group talent. When you try to find the point at which one leaves off and the other begins, you virtually can't find the seam.

I think it has become clear to the gentlemen in question, over the years, that a certain weave of those early days would always be a part of their artistic fabric. Sure, I know that "Cloud Nine" and "Flowers In The Dirt" stand on their own as commendable solo accomplishments. But it's another paradox: the songs carry the trace of Beatles music even as they fail to fulfill the best promise of that musical output all those years ago. Even as we take pride in the so-called Ex-Fabs for not falling into music and personal devastation, like some other talented but unfortunate cases (the late Gene Clark and Del Shannon come to mind), our standards are very harsh indeed. And the question at the back of everyone's mind (albeit unasked) is: why can't they, solo, put out songs as good as that erstwhile group?

It's a terrible trick question, really. And sometimes I think the Ex-Boys have begun to deal with it more deftly than a lot of their fans. It's unanswerable whether John would have come to terms with his inevitable Beatles heritage, but the flickerings of creativity that emerged from 1975 to 1980 suggest to me that he might well have. Ringo had no choice, really, but to come to terms; it was his major talent in life to be a part of a band that made musical history, and to be an unobtrusive but essential cog in that machinery. George seems to have made the healthiest adjustment, accepting the immensity of his years with the group while humbly and cheerfully (and not without his cynical goodnatured wisdom) making music and art in its monumental shadow. Paul still fights it, naturally; he's two-faced. :-) And of two minds: if his only possible fame must be bound with the past, he'll give us part of it...while sensibly trying to create an output beyond it. Nothing of what these men do now is anything close to the Beatles. But we---and they---shouldn't expect it to be that way. Nor should we expect them to be so very different. :-)

No matter what you love in life---and there *was* a time when the Beatles loved their work as Beatles---you never lose the touch of it; you never can cast off the experience of creating something new. If, as I suspect, the living members of that group have learned this...and learned to accept the rich layers of their past, contributing a blinding luster to overwhelm present talent...then they are, in a sense, still Beatles. Not Ex-Anythings, by any means. They remain the sum of their history, in a sense: still Quarrymen, still Beatles, always solo. But all of it is still a part of their souls...and a part of ours, who loved and even now still love their music.


It'll be the usual rubbish but it won't cost much.

saki (reachable by email at

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