Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Beatles, yeah, yeah, yeah

At a friend's recommendation, I'm enjoying the Beatles Anthology (see sidebar for more info), an umpteen part DVD series following the Beatles from birth to immortality. George died shortly after it was completed, but was fully able to participate, so it includes interviews with George, Ringo and Paul, as well as 1970s interviews with John. I'm only into part III (the Beatles have just stormed America), but have a few observations, in no particular order: 1. The Beatles, especially John and Paul, were incredibly musical. These are no Milli Vanilli studio produced singing drones. These are men who have interesting voices, over which they have full control; who have poetry in their souls; and who write beautiful melodies that become increasingly sophisticated in just a few years. As someone singularly lack in artistic talent, I so envy them this musicality. Very few performers -- even wonderful performers -- are dripping with talent this way. Fred Astaire was another one -- he danced, he sang, he played piano, he played drums, he played accordion, he played harmonica, he wrote music, just on and on and on. 2. At least in the early years, the Beatles were so happy. I'm pretty out of touch with pop culture, but I do take about 30 seconds each night to watch the musical acts that close out the Jay Leno show. I don't like the current singing styles -- rap or whine, whine or rap -- but what I also notice is that they all look grim. The Beatles look joyous. They're having the time of their lives creating upbeat harmonies anchored by surprisingly rich melodies. 3. The anthology doesn't explain why the Beatles went beyond being popular when they broke in 1964 and become figures of mass hysteria. I don't think even Frank Sinatra or Elvis rivaled them in popularity. It's bizarre seeing hundreds of thousands of screaming young people (mostly girls) descending on airports, and lining the streets, simply to glimpse four men from Liverpool. I'm hard put to imagine any performer today, no matter how popular, evoking the same type of hysteria. Perhaps it's that our music world is more fragmented, with a gazillion different top tens, not just one, but even that I don't think works to explain the whole phenomena. 4. The Beatles were charming and funny. It's not just in the memory of people who were young then. Watching their press conferences now, they're still fresh and witty, especially John.