September 25, 2016
A Beatles Fantasia:
John Lennon In Leather
R. E. Prindle
Dizzy Dez, a fellow Beatles researcher and internet friend, recently wrote a piece ( https://thenumbernineblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/taking-the-world-by-hurricane/ ) about the strange story of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Rory Storm led the most popular Liverpool band of the period. He was more important in Liverpool and Frankfurt than the Beatles. Yet, as Diz points out, when all the shouting was over and the dust had settled, the Beatles went unto worldwide fame pulling the best of the Liverpool bands after them, Rory Storm was left out in the cold. He never knew other than Liverpool success.
Just an inconsequential odd fact (except to Rory) that I found interesting but also significant. It was good of Diz to dig this story up, but then, Diz left me with a thought: What if the Beatles’ success had nothing to do with their talent; what if the only reason they found success was a fact that had nothing to do with their musical skills; what if their success depended on a queer’s fascination with one John Lennon?
Consider that Liverpool was an English backwater, a tough , gritty town with little sophistication and small hopes. If you have ever been in the Liverpool/Bristol area you really know what depression is. I was never so happy to leave an area since. I had become acquainted with a bottom surpassing Philadelphia and that is saying a lot.
So, in 1960-62 what you had was a city full of louts, what the English call Yobboes, desperately trying to find some distinction for their lives by playing in rock bands. In 1960 that was a desperate hope indeed. The hope was so desperate that the bands ended up playing before a bunch of rowdies and prostitutes, the underbelly of civilization, in Hamburg’s red light district on the Reeperbahn. Not the place for refined cultured manners. More like changing you from a lout or Yobbo into a super Yobbo. The indications are that the Beatles became very rough. What the homosexuals call ‘rough trade.’
In any event the Beatles went to Hamburg where they refined their rock n’ roll skills coming back to Liverpool to take their place in the hierarchy of Liverpool bands where they were a sensation although lower in the hierarchy than Rory Storm and his Hurricanes. Still in their locality and in their age and social set they were prominent.
Now, the local record store, NEMS, was managed for the family firm by a young homosexual Jew, Brian Epstein. At the time it was a punishable offence to public morals to be a homosexual so Brian Epstein was quite repressed. Raised on all the Jewish holocaust nonsense he felt like a powerless oppressed Jew. Therefore as a homosexual Jew he favored the rough trade.
Probably having heard the Beatles talked about along their outrageous leader John Lennon, dressed all in black leather, Brian made it down to the local rock emporium, the Cavern, to have a look.
What he saw made his dick throb. There on stage was God’s own Yobbo, John Lennon resplendent in his leather while projecting confidence and totally outrageous. Rough trade on a stick. Gimme dat ding. So, totally smitten Brian has to figure out a way to realize his dream.
It is clear that Brian wasn’t on the make to find a band to promote; for Christ’s sake he had a city full of rock bands to choose from including Liverpool’s number one, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and he made no effort to sign any. But, suppose he heard of Lennon’s desire to be the toppermost of the poppermost. Perhaps, Brian thought, I’m in the record business, I know execs at the London labels, perhaps if I gave John what he wants he would let me make him mine. Sounded good.
Now, let’s be clear, when Brian approached the London labels there was no interest in the Beatles or any other Liverpool band. There was no reason for any exec to ever even visit Liverpool and perhaps none ever had. Regardless of any talent, that had not yet been demonstrated, the Beatles were not going anywhere. The execs even considered the name stupid; what in the hell does beatle mean? Can’t even spell it right. Brian persisted and if he hadn’t the Beatles would never have had a shot at the bigtime. They would have disappeared the way they came in, unnoticed. The Beatles were going nowhere.
But, and this is the important fact here, Brian had a hard on for John. Bear this in mind, Brian had a tin ear, he could have cared less about the Beatles as a band; he had a hard on for John. And hopefully by making John the toppermost of the poppermost, and this meant only the small market of England, it was inconceivable that any band, let alone an English band, could become a worldwide phenomenon. Whatever happened next was totally serendipitous. Who could have dreamed of worldwide fame and hundreds of millions of dollars.
So Brian signed his Boys, as they say in the managerial parlance, and left for London to put them in a recording contract. Of course NEMS was a major account in the retail record world so Brian got a polite hearing but no real enthusiasm. Probably to get rid of a pest who wouldn’t quit he was allowed an audition. But this was only after making the rounds.
The Beatle’s ended up at EMI’s sub-label Parlophone and had George Martin assigned to them as a producer. While the Beatles had been all the rage on the Reeperbahn of ill fame and the backwater burg of Liverpool, what set the four aflame in those two locations was not so evident in the London recording studio. It was like someone from Poughkeepsie showing up on the Great White Way. George Martin found their musicianship flimsy but something apparently appealed to him about them. Everything about them was off, they still had the aroma of the Reeperbahn, but, the story goes, George was a technical wizard, so somewhat in the way David Seville created Alvin and the Chipmunks George’s wizardry created the Beatles. This is the legend.
The label thought they were hopeless so perhaps as a joke they allowed the Beatles to make ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ as a first record. And as with Alvin and the Chipmunks they probably viewed the disc as a novelty record; something along the lines of Mrs. Miller the off key virtuoso.
They were surprised when the record took off. No less surprised than I was when the record was a success in the US. Why the hell does anyone like that I wondered. But I and we were witnessing several seemingly unrelated things: First the song was the first true teenybopper, bubble gum song that soon inspired groups like the Ohio Express and the Lemon Pipers. ‘Yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy.’ Remember that inspired tune? A step up from, I Want To Hold Your Hand.
The social conditions were right for the Beatles innocent, probably tongue in cheek, song. The Fifties had been tense what with the Cold War and the Bomb and things were getting more tense. Nerves were frayed. Perhaps a return to innocent pleasures of the young were in order. At any rate after becoming the rage in England Brian had actually jockeyed the Beatles and John into the toppermost of the poppermost in that small sceptered island but after a terrific promo campaign in the US when their plane landed, they hit exactly the right insouciant note at the exact right psychological moment in time. You can’t plan this. Nobody, nobody, could have forecast that. Brian and the Beatle’s ship had come in.
John Lennon had realized his dream in a Spade Royal Flush. The Beatles, words fail me, were on top of the world. The planet’s first globally successful band. They were bigger than Jesus. Oops, when John said that all hell broke loose. Abashed, John announced they would tour no more. When it came to business sense John was lacking but he and the band were only musicians, a ‘hot little band’ as McCartney recently characterized them.
But what about Brian?’ What about Brians’s reward. He had little business sense too and hadn’t been working for the success that came or was prepared for it. Of course John and the rest knew Brian was a poof. Who didn’t except for those who chose not to see. Brian had always been attentive to John in that peculiar way, certainly that hadn’t escaped he leader of the band. He joked about how Brian and the whole record industry was Jewish and queer.
According to Peter Brown in his ‘The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story Of The Beatles’, Brian did get his reward. Brown says that Brian invited John on a holiday in Spain and there John gave him the reward he wanted.
What if the story of the Beatles success had nothing to do with their musicianship, their songwriting, their personalities or anything else but Brian Epstein getting a hard on for a bit of rough trade: John Lennon in leather.
Wouldn’t that make a fabulous movie? Wouldn’t that be as ironical as all get out? It might not be literally true but it can’t be too far from the truth. Forget about poor old Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, history’s forgotten band. Once again, what a movie.
June 30, 2014
1964- The Beatles Have Landed
The mystery of the Sixties explosion is a troubling one. Why would a simplistic musical group touch off the post-war changing of the guard and why at that time? How could a mere recording group of four very young men have such a profound effect on culture for, really, the century?
The detonators of the Sixties bomb came from a narrow time span of two or three years on either side of 1942-43. And they happened in England. The fuse was in that country while the explosion took place in the United States.
The English age cohort born in the center of the world war missed the war but grew up in the privations of 1945 to 1954 and the slow recovery of the fifties. This had a profound effect on their psyches.
The extreme Cold War tensions of the period from 1945 to 1960 also had their effect. The ending of the draft or what the English called National Service in 1960 meant that those born in ‘42 and ‘43 were relieved of duty. The could get on with their lives.
In the US the use of the Atomic Bomb against ‘the little yellow people’ of Japan had a racially devastating effect. Never mind that the Japanese started the war with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The big bad White Americans had used the ultimate weapon against the defenseless little colored people. It wasn’t an act of war; it has been characterized as racist.
Then in 1949 the Soviet Union got the Bomb. This fact alone touched off a low grade hysteria. Americans were in panic mode for the next ten years. School kids were taught to get under their desks and cover their heads as though that were some sort of defense against atomic annihilation. Imagine the lesson that entered their minds. Everyone’s nerves were quivering constantly. The great panic, the persistent latent hysteria was epitomized by the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. By some strange trick of memory I am convinced I saw the movie in 1958 when I was in the Navy. I can ‘remember’ the guys I saw it with and I have to convince myself that imdB isn’t wrong.
And then one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the United States hit: John F. Kennedy was elected president. Three years of torture followed. Three long years of sitting on the edge of our chairs wondering not if but when the idiot was going to pull the plug. His assassination was almost guaranteed the day he was elected.
Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Just Like Him
Like some few others I have wondered if the extraordinary success of the blasting cap of the explosion, that is the Beatles, wasn’t some sort of conspiracy. I just couldn’t figure out how such an amazing thing as four dips from Liverpool England could become earth shakers without plotters involved somewhere and making it happen. Then after writing my essay The Beatles: An Attempt To Explain The Paul Is Dead Controversy an explanation occurred to me.
The Beatles were the perfect storm caused by the tense nerve wracking eighteen years from 1955. People were wound too tight and needed release.
All of the storm elements were there waiting to come together. They didn’t have to but if one or two was missing the Beatles would never have happened. It has been said that in life there is a tide that if caught ensures success but if missed all fails. The Beatles caught that tide and rode it before imploding in the late Sixties.
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were the right age, complementing each other perfectly. Jettisoning Best and Sutcliffe, then replacing Best with Starr was a master move. Ringo did not clash with the front line.
Then the war had created a situation in Hamburg Germany that provided a tough, hard proving ground for aspiring British bands. The Beatles learned to play and please a diverse audience.
Returning to England without direction or management that might lead to a career the perfect manager in the form of Brian Epstein appeared. He himself knew nothing of managing bands but perhaps believing he had a tiger by the tail he threw himself into it battering down the doors until a reluctant EMI sent the group over to their perfect producer who knew what to do with them- George Martin.
Epstein got them touring and the public liked their records. They were a phenom in England but England is a small place. Of course no one realized that Lennon and McCartney would be the greatest song writing team of the century, who could have predicted it? No one could have planned that. The question for Epstein was how to capitalize the English fame.
The final element of the storm fell into place. Epstein booked the band for a Swedish tour. While the girls were storming the boys at the Swedish airport an amazed American TV producer who happened to be in Sweden at that airport watched in amazement. Always on the qui vive for an astonishing new act Ed Sullivan walked over to chat up the boys. He liked what he saw and booked the band for the beginning of 1964. How probable was that?
How probable was it that Kennedy would be assassinated toward the end of 1963 to validate their arrival?
Ed was convinced but in the US if we had heard of the Beatles it was with a shrugged, so what. Big in England? Who cared? The closest the English had come to rock was Tommy Steele and what a laugh he was. Not that funny though. No need for a repeat.
Actually the Beatles had been offered around the US record companies with no takers other than the small obscure VeeJay label. In 1963 the JV record had disappeared without a trace. Nothing there was there? I didn’t think so. I Want To Hold Your Hand? Right. Some sexual revolution, hey?
Ed Sullivan was a master showman no doubt about that. Plus he remembered the sensational ratings Elvis had given him. When the news of the Sullivan booking reached EMI they notified their US subsidiary Capitol Records. Capitol tried to retrieve the VJ recordings but failing that they just rode over them.
Now the big promotion began: The Beatles Are Coming, The Beatles Are Coming. Well, OK, we’re waiting. The big 707 jet plane was still new. There weren’t even docking facilities yet, the plane just parked out on the tarmac and passengers debarked down stairs walking to the terminal.
It is said that Capitol recruited a bunch of girls for the arrival and set them screaming. Probably so. Some genius got the TV cameras to record the Beatles’ arrival on what must have been a slow news day. No English band had ever made it in the US. Even the Rolling Stones arriving a few months after the Beatles flopped on their tour.
The Beatles apparently expected nothing but were greeted by batteries of newsmen with microphones and a thousand screaming girls. Hey ho! Welcome to America boys. You can see the bewildered, amazed, bemused expressions on their faces. Very cool. Just the right effect. Even if you didn’t like their music, it failed to impress me, you did like John, Paul and Ringo, George not so much. General nods of approval next morning.
And the screaming girls on the Sullivan show! What the hell was going on? Who’d ever seen that before? Something was happening here but we didn’t know what it was, did we? And so history was made. The tide was rolling in. the Beatles became the cynosure of the world. The first world wide band. This particular transition to a new world was made. But why?
I think that when Kennedy was assassinated it broke the continuity between the post-WWII world and the new. After Kennedy’s death there was a sort of void, a period of dithering. Quo vadis?
When the Beatles landed it broke the spell, released the pent up hysteria of eighteen years that spilled out all over the Sixties. The tide came in and washed our sins away.
It need never have happened but it could and did. The perfect storm raged. All the elements of the storm had come together in the proper order.
A precursor storm may have been the Twist phenomenon but most of the elements were missing for it to release the pent up emotions although a part of the hysteria yearning for release flashed through.
While the notion of a conspiracy is attractive, we all love a good conspiracy, perhaps even desirable, I don’t think it’s there. It was just the possible that coagulated and happened. No one was prepared it was all improvisation after the Sullivan show.
February 1, 2013
Who Is Groovy Bob Fraser?
While writing my biographies of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull it has become apparent that some persons seemingly peripheral are more central to the story than one may at first have thought. One of these is the art dealer, Robert Fraser or Groovy Bob as he was known.
However, behind the scenes underlying all the action are the two Kray Twins, Ronnie and Reggie. As with underworld figures in the US little is going to happen in which their presence is completely absent. Ronnie and Reggie were two Jewish homosexuals. They thus had as much protection as Jews can provide for their own. On the homosexual front the Krays were procurers of young boys for members of the above ground establishment, men prominent not only in government but in the music business.
At the same time the brothers owned, or possibly fronted, prominent gambling establishments, thus people like Fraser and Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein who gambled heavily losing large sums came under their influence or control. Robert Fraser and the Krays thus became intimately connected.
Now, what about Robert Fraser? Fraser is the link between many participants in the 60’s drama. He befriended Richards, Jagger and Faithfull. He was close to Paul McCartney of the Beatles, who is somewhat of a mysterious figure in the drama, as well as being familiar with their manager Brian Epstein among many others of the rock musicians. And then he was linked with artist/film maker, David Cammell as well as arch Satanist, Kenneth Anger, and the main American link to these people, Andy Warhol. He brought Tony Sanchez to the Stones as well as the rock community while Sanchez was his link to the Kray brothers. Fraser’s friend Chris Gibbs is a shadowy eminence grise of this situation. So far, I’ve gotten little other than he was and is an antiques dealer who helped establish the Bohemian tastes a la Oscar Wilde of the rockers.
Fraser himself came from a moneyed family who financed his ventures. He was a public school boy, Eton. He served in the African Rifles in Uganda. There, as a homosexual he says he buggered a young Idi Amin. I have no doubts. Returning from the African happy hunting grounds he promptly left for the even happier hunting grounds of New York City, the sybaritic capitol of the world. There he soaked up the art scene where he learned the ins and outs of being a gallery director. He was in New York during the seminal years from 1960-62 just as the pop art scene was taking off. There he met Andy Warhol who would be the outstanding pop artist. As they were both homosexuals and revolutionaries they bonded.
Fraser, Warhol, Epstein, Gibbs, the Kray Twins and most of the cast were all homosexuals. Jagger was at least ambiguous so sexual lines blurred and those who may not have been homosexual by nature may have found it convenient to act like one. Certainly after Stonewall in 1969 the music scene became predominantly gay.
There are pictures and videos of Fraser on the internet so that we can gauge his appearance and manner. His manner was very engaging and while fey, not exceptionally so. He wasn’t camp, at least not in public.
What exactly his role in the scene was is less than clear. While apparently an excellent pop art gallerist his role among rock musicians while prominent is not clear. He frequently had large parties in his apartment attended by the cream of the rock community. Of course he sold them art work but perhaps through his drug connection Tony Sanchez he also dealt on the side to augment his income. Drugs were always prominent at his parties. Paul McCartney bought many artworks from Fraser which all appreciated significantly although Fraser is accused of overcharging. But then, why not, a collector always thinks he’s being overcharged as he buys one of a kind items.
Perhaps also Fraser was indoctrinating the musicians in tolerance for gays and other political matters. Perhaps he was seeking homosexual alliances from among these yobbos. Certainly after Stonewall it seemed that everyone in rock was fruity. It was then that Rock and Roll began to lose its appeal. When the homosexuality became so obvious rock declined in interest to non-gays leading it further into a gay audience that augmented by the evolution into all-gay Disco. YMCA and all that, and then the end.
Whatever his political intent the goals were subverted by personal defects. Of course drugs will reduce your effectiveness by a little more than somewhat, but gambling and its resultant debts were much more deleterious of personal autonomy. While gambling has never been mentioned in connection with the rockers one wonders whether McCartney and others didn’t become involved.
Now, the record business in both the US and Britain was in the hands of homosexual Jews. The British groups, especially the Beatles and the Stones were god’s gift to his Chosen People. Between the Beatles and the Stones probably a billion dollars was generated in just four or five years including ongoing royalties and residuals. The entire billion was siphoned off by the Jews in both the US and Britain with only tip money going to the musicians.
Brian Epstein was the chief beneficiary. It was perhaps through his gambling debts, described as enormous, that the extent of the cash being generated by the Beatles came to the attention of the Kray brothers. Epstein apparently lost and owed a fortune to them. The only way he had to pay his debts was the Beatles which with his contract expiring in 1967 he was afraid he would be dismissed leaving him without that extraordinary income.
The Krays conceived the idea of taking over the Beatles from Epstein. At this time Robert Fraser had gambling debts with the Krays for which he had no available resources. The Krays put the squeeze on him. Fraser didn’t know what to do but he did know a man about the scene named Tony Sanchez, the Spaniard in the works, who did. Sanchez was nicknamed Spanish Tony. He would soon figure in as Keith Richards’ factotum and bodyguard. Spanish Tony is an interesting character meriting much more serious attention. As a connection between the underworld and the above world one would like to know more about his associates both under and above. He certainly used his underworld persona to threaten Marianne Faithfull into bed.
At any rate Sanchez told Fraser that he had underworld connections and might be able to resolve Fraser’s problem for him. As usual with Fraser he only fed Sanchez half-truths and when Tony contacted the Krays he got the other side of the story. Bear in mind that the Krays were crazy. They were pimping boys from the orphanage to social figures of the status of former Prime Minister Edward Heath. I mean, the moral state of the British upper class was beyond questionable. I would like to hear what the boys who were so used have to say now that they are men. Where are those memoirs anyway?
The Krays showed Sanchez a pile of Fraser’s bounced checks they had received which made Tony reconsider his position. Whatever bargaining chips he may have had were nullified. However the Krays had a proposition. Conversant with all the gambling characters they thought that Fraser might have some influence on Epstein so that if Fraser could arrange the transfer of the Beatles to themselves they would forgive Fraser’s debt. Who wouldn’t?
Negotiations and time dragged on and 1967 appeared at the top of the calendar with nothing accomplished, no debts settled. 1967. A big year in our story. That was the year that Brian Epstein supposedly committed suicide, the year his contract with the Beatles expired. We know for certain he left this sportin’ life. And 1967 was the year of the Redlands bust in which Fraser went to prison.
Sanchez gives conflicting stories of what took place. In his published memoir Up And Down With The Rolling Stones of 1979 he says the Krays amiably reduced the amount owed by Fraser and Groovy Bob gave them a good check for it. Problem solved. Tony says in his memoir.
Improbable as that seems, a missing chapter of Tony’s book has surfaced. Apparently many of his revelations were deemed too controversial and deleted. In this missing chapter Tony says that Fraser, unable to deliver the Beatles, set up the drug bust at Redlands in order to go to jail where for some strange reason he thought that he would be beyond the reach of the Krays.
In any event he didn’t seem to resent going to prison. Shortly after he was released from prison the Krays were arrested in May of 1968 while being sentenced to life on 3/5/69.
Presumably Robert Fraser escaped payment of the debt, however with the stigma of a jailbird his career as a gallery operator drew to a close after his release. He ended his life as a casualty of AIDs in 1986.
In his prime one wonders what he was doing. He seems to have been closely connected to Warhol and his crew. Andy himself seems to have been the center of what appears to be a political conspiracy. On their trip to Paris they made a Bee line to visit Fraser. So there is probably a strong political bent to Fraser’s activities.
Much more research is needed on Groovy Bob as well as his underworld connection Spanish Tony Sanchez.
March 13, 2010
Mourning Becomes Yoko
The Passing Of John Lennon
This magic moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until there was you.
To understand the sixties one has to go back in time to the foundation of Astrology. In Time beyond Ancient, Astrology and Astronomy were one. The very old gods and the sky were one. It was only when science, a more clear understanding of ‘creation’, if you will, removed the sky from the gods’ purview that Astronomy and Astrology separated. Astrology in those days had meaning that is not apparent today when the sky is just part of our natural surroundings.
The Zodiac was divided into twelve periods of roughly 2000 years each which formed the Great Year. The periods were called Ages with each Age having its own avatars. The avatars of the current Piscean Age have been Jesus the Christ for the first thousand years, and for the succeeding thousand years Artemis or Diana in northern Europe and Mother Mary to the south. Sometime within a few hundred years near the end of an Age a new avatar begins to form.
The first intimation of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius that I am aware of occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century. While not the first, the chief proponent seems to have been Edgar Rice Burroughs and his creation, Tarzan The Ape Man. Not one to
be dogmatic Burroughs left his intent open only to, dare I use the word again, the initiated.
Tarzan is timeless, he represents the past, being associated with the Atlanteans and the range of evolution, the present and, as the exemplar of the perfect man, the future. While rejecting organized religion Burroughs also rejected the Piscean avatar, Jesus The Christ in favor of the coming man-god. Thus the coming man-god must be a projection of the Aquarian avatar. Tarzan, a magnificent specimen is both physically and mentally the perfect man and hence representative of the future Aquarian man-god. Do not confuse the movie Tarzan with the literary creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The longing then for a new messiah had been developing for half a century, at least, when circumstances came together for the appearance of a new avatar pointing toward the Age of Aquarius. This manifestation appeared on the stage of Ed Sullivan, in of all places, New York City. It was the Tupelo Mississippi Flash himself, Elvis Presley. In that brief magic moment on Sullivan’s stage he revealed himself and was recognized by his people.
Interestingly the appearance on 10/9 coincided with the birthday of John Lennon.
In that moment Presley’s future was cast. Whether the old order recognized who he was they knew how he was perceived and made every effort to slander, denigrate and destroy him short of actual murder. All to no avail. They might have been able to kill him, murder him, but he was inviolable to any defamation. It made no difference that they ridiculed him in a couple dozen fatuous films, he was the man-god. People endured his humiliations with bowed heads and resentful miens.
From him succeeding generations have taken their guidance. The first awe struck generation took the stage in direct emulation of him. While many had better songs (Gene Vincen’ts Be-Bop-A-Lula) none of the generation were anointed thereby developing a devoted following in the magnitude of Presley.
Elvis was not the last word but the first in what will be a procession. While the American Pharisees persecuted and scattered the faithful a new, younger generation was growing up in Elvis’ shadow. Their epiphany, that Magic Moment, would take place on the same Ed Sullivan stage in that same strange city of destiny, NYC, nine years later.
The gestation of this second manifestation of the godhead would take place in Liverpool, England. Inspired by Elvis Presley four young men of the second manifestation would be filtered through the persona of a young Scottish musician named Lonnie Donegan
When the settlers from the British Isles settled America they brought their musical traditions with them, most prominently to the Southern tier of States. Thus both the White and Black musical traditions of America stem from essentially the Celtic peoples. In the mid-fifties Donegan brought this music in the form of American Folk back to England in a form he named Skiffle Music. It swept England and its youth up being combined with Presley. Donegan added a ferocious beat to the music that evolved into the form termed the Big Beat. Thus the British musicians were schooled in American music as it had evolved from their own.
Now, the Magic Moment requires the man who has been prepared for the moment. If all goes right he is equal to his destiny, if not the moment fails.
While Presley was the man, the second avatar would be four men seemingly acting as one. The four men seemed to represent four archetypal personalities as in the four faces of the godhead. Those of us who didn’t ‘get’ them, of which I was one, were mystified by their apotheosis.
Just as Elvis had his unique preparation so did this fabulous foursome. Raised as four ordinary kids from varying levels of poverty and varying psychological backgrounds they were united by the music of Presley and Donegan.
They began a grueling and astonishing apprenticeship in the red light district of Hamburg, Germany. Unable to speak German they were thus compelled to rely on each other for companionship which created a unique bond. They were required to be on stage for up to twelve hours at a stretch for weeks at a time thus honing their musical skills apparently to perfection.
Thus the four aspects of humanity, one might say, were placed in a unique situation creating a unique combination of personalities seemingly as one. In those circumstances they were forced to be able to communicate instantly with their audience night after night. Valuable training.
Returning to Liverpool with their abilities seemingly uniquely developed they were adrift with no direction home and no other future than earning their livelihoods as best they might. But then, as by a miracle, a man appeared with no managerial experience who said he could take them to the top. Amazingly he got them launched. Even more astonishing they were assigned to perhaps the only record producer in the world who could bring out their unique talents. Thus this Fab Foursome took their home British Isles by storm succeeding as no other had succeeded before them but their Magic Moment, that lunge for the Golden Ring had not yet arrived.
The Magic Moment was awaiting them in NYC. A big jetliner brought the foursome to America’s shores in January of 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan show where they were to stand in Elvis’ footsteps so to speak. The difference in presentation between the two is interesting. With Elvis, he and his backing duo were standing in front of the drawn curtains on the edge of the stage, no set, his two band members were huddled behind him while the guitar player is turned sideways not even facing the audience. Presley is directly in front of them cavorting on a minuscule part of the stage. Mort Sahl would do his standup routine a few years later in the same manner with a newspaper as a prop.
In contrast the Beatles were given an open stage with decor behind them while the group was spaced dramatically and attractively. A very positive image which from long experience they knew how to take advantage of . But the appearance on the Sullivan stage merely confirmed their Magic Moment placing it indelibly in the American psyche.
The actual Magic Moment occurred when the Beatles announced themselves on the tarmac. Gods descending from the skies. For
whatever reason there were thousands of screaming girls awaiting them and a battery of newsmen and photographers. Some say the girls were bussed in, it isn’t unlikely that the astute promotion men of Capitol had a hand in the arrangements, but on the receiving end of the tube it looked genuine. Mystifying but genuine.
Posed a bunch of questions by the news cameras all four Beatles fielded them with aplomb, the cheekiest and most confident acting was John Lennon himself. All four personalities established themselves at that time as one- the Beatles. In that little flash of time the role of the Beatles was established for all time.
While each individual Beatle was adored for the face of mankind he presented each had only an identity as an aspect of the Beatles. When they split they became merely humans rising or falling based solely on the musical merits. Of the four, Lennon adopted the messianic mantle, was accorded it, and took it when he left. In one sense the Magic Moment had been his.
There would be argument about when the Beatles began to break up over the years but the when was coincidental with their annunciation. John Lennon was the weak link in the chain. Having now won what he had been struggling for for so long John Lennon discovered he wasn’t worthy. Incredibly he wrote, and the Beatles recorded his song, ‘I’m A Loser.’ He was a loser, not the winner he appeared. Now conflicted he tried to both accept and reject the role of ‘messiah.’ He was well on his way to losing the role two short years later in 1966.
The course of his career was affected by two people, Bob Dylan in 1964 and Yoko Ono in 1966. Historical ifs are difficult. It seems impossible that Bob Dylan’s career would have been possible without the overwhelming success of the Beatles. Dylan lacked commercial appeal then as he does now. He appealed to a minority audience- as opposed to the majority audience of the Beatles. Dylan lacked universal appeal then as he does now.
While the Beatles were one as a group they were two as the songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney. Since 1962 they had been turning out a steady stream of million sellers both for their own use and that of others. They were catchy tunes in the Tin Pan Alley manner that could be sung and whistled but very introspective at the same time. Dylan on the other hand wrote tortured introspective lyrics that resisted anything close to whistling or a Mitch Miller singalong.
Dylan considered his stuff amazingly thoughtful and profound. He apparently put himself in the same class as Elliot and Pound. He fooled most of his audience for a long time too. The Beatles for whatever reason became the top news story of the day; for months they either were, or seemed to be, on the news every night. Seriously, one had to ask: What’s Going On?
Just as mysteriously Dylan began getting the same treatment. Now, the Beatles were selling unprecedented millions of records on both sides of the Atlantic, at one time occupying the top five spots of the Top 10. Dylan was doing diddly squat with his tortured lyrics. He wasn’t selling records in any quantities while having essentially a cult following. Now, mysteriously he began to be given the same treatment as the Beatles. Time Magazine sent a reporter to interview him on camera. Dylan imitated the Beatles by giving smart ass answers. The Time reporter took his jibes seriously. Sitting out in front of the tube my eyebrows shot up. What is this? The rest of the world went wild in their applause of the Beatle’s and Dylan’s cheekiness. God, they were giving the finger to the Greatest Generation. The latter may have crushed Elvis but these boys were getting their own back.
Maybe Dylan got the attention because he was the only American act available, to balance the relative status of Britain and the US. Perhaps in the emerging racial politics of the time he was offered as Jewish competition to the great goy champions of Elvis and the Beatles. He entered the Beatles’ life in August of ’64 when the Jewish journalist Al Aronowitz took it upon himself to introduce him to the four-in-one. The meeting was more momentous for the Beatles than Dylan.
The story goes that Dylan introduced the boys to marijuana at that meeting. More importantly he lectured Lennon-McCartney on songwriting. Dylan told them in effect that they should stop writing hit songs and write the pretentious crap he did. Now, consider, the Beatles were incredibly successful at what they wrote, Dylan couldn’t do what they did and what he did do couldn’t compete in the marketplace with the Beatles. I mean, they should have been lecturing him, but they didn’t while accepting his viewpoint at the same time. They listened to the little twerp and fell under his infuence to begin trying to imitate him.
The imitation was not very good but as the current avatar of the messiah the Beatles were industructible, as the leader, for whatever reason, John Lennon was accorded the role of messianic leader, a role that he took quite seriously.
While the Beatles had always used various pill forms of speed or amphetamines after Dylan’s introduction to pot they quickly expanded their repertoire to include Acid or LSD. The other three seem not to have been so conflicted in their personalities not becoming as drug dependent as Lennon. He claims perhaps with exaggeration, perhaps not, to have taken LSD thousands of times in the next few years. Under the influence of LSD his personality already distressed by the transition from failure to success disintegrated completely. As he says, he lost his ego totally.
If so, adrift, he was open to a strongly directed personality to manage his. This personality appeared in 1966 in the person of Yoko Ono. She quickly commandeered his personality displacing his British wife, Cynthia. It would be two years before Lennon divorced Cynthia but he left her a year earlier.
Since signing with Brian Epstein as their manager the Beatles had had an ideal artists arrangement. Trusting him they left the business details to him which allowed them full time to devote to their creative efforts. If they needed money they asked for it while all business details such as negotiations, titles and even check writing were handled by Epstein so that the Beatles had no worldly business experience. In 1967 Epstein died.
With Brian gone the Beatles were left rudderless with no one they could trust to manage their corporate and personal finances. Forming Apple as their business alter ego they attempted to manage their affairs themselves resulting in a business regime of such dissolute ineptitude that it has been referred to as The Longest Weekend.
Having attached herself to Lennon, Yoko Ono now tried to insinuate herself into the group as the ego of John Lennon. Thus the group would have been comprised of McCartney, Harrison, Starr and Lennon-Ono. A clear impossibility, the Beatles would be dissolved. As the avatar of the sixties the era had no choice but to disappear along with them.
This was now the late sixties. The world as it had been , the world that gave birth to the Beatles c. 1960 had all but disappeared. Blown away in the wind, so to speak. Just as the sixties called for the Beatles as the messiah of the period so it called forth its anti-messiah of satanism. In 1966 Time Magazine’s cover story was Is God Dead? A title that offended Bob Dylan who petulantly asked: How would you like to be talked about like that? Right.
In 1966 Roman Polansky began filming a movie titled Rosemary’s Baby that actually portrayed the birth of Satan’s child. The story took place in the future home of the Onos- The Dakota Apartments. And then the Rolling Stones released their rather bizarre record, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request with its famous song Sympathy For The Devil. Right about then the Broadway musical Hair was staged that celebrated the Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius. Synchronicity? Not a bit.
As the messiahs had abdicated it remained for the anti-messiahs the Rolling Stones to place the epitaph on the period which they did in 1969 at Altamont.
However John Lennon as the messianic figurehead was rescued by Yoko Ono. As an unsuccessful performance artist now with Lennon’s audience and financial clout to realize her wildest fantasies she, using Lennon, organized some of the most outrageous extravaganzas that catapulted she and Lennon onto the world stage playing messianic figures. The Bed-In was the most jaw dropping stunt since flag p0le sitting.
Part III will consist of the career of the Ono-Lennon’s to John Lennon’s death in 1980 and perhaps a little beyond. There’s some really interesting stuff involving John Green and a possible associate, Sam Green. The latter is an interesting story.