Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sat 18 Feb 06 16:56
Like Gary, I wasn't predisposed to catch Beatlemania. I'd also seen the clip on the Jack Paar show a few months earlier, and may have seen the thing in Life magazine, and I was into other kinds of music--some rock, some folk, but also (being a Brooklyn native, albeit relocated to San Diego) heavy into Four Seasons, Drifters, etc. But the moment I saw them on Ed Sullivan I knew they had something going on that I had to know more about. I wasn't instantly converted to maniac, but it didn't take long. Within the year my brother and I were lip-synching and playing prop-aided (i.e. baseball bats) air guitar to Beatles albums in our den--I always took John's parts, he Paul's--and within two years I had taken up the guitar (which I've never put down). During the Beatles years I was a pretty serious John acolyte. He seemed to have the most incisive intelligence, the most urgent, piercing way of putting across his art (especially his vocals), the most sophisticated way of looking at the world. It wasn't until years after the band broke up that I came to understand and appreciate how much Paul and the others brought to the table, and how it was the synergy of their talents and proclivities that made the whole Beatles gestalt possible. I was watching "Monday Night Football" when Cosell told the nation and the world about Lennon's murder. The day before, I had taken an all-day workshop with musician Paul Winter here in Berkeley, and had come away from it profoundly energized and excited about music as I hadn't been in some time. So in a sense I took the news of John's death personally--like it was an insult and affront to my renewed passion for music. But more than that, I took it as some kind of evil omen about the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan--who, let us recall, had been elected as president the month before. It was like, well SURE you want to do away with gun control, so you can have crazies running around shooting people like John Lennon. You fuckers! (How ironic, then, that Reagan's own press secretary would become a kind of poster child for gun control a few months later--and would, with his wife, found one of the more effective gun control enterprises going.) Today what matters to me is that I am still unpacking the genius John and his mates laid down on their albums, some 40 years later. Hard to think of a higher-yield body of work than the Beatles'.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sat 18 Feb 06 16:57
Oh, and I neglected to say: Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Sat 18 Feb 06 21:09
One of the things I wondered about as I started to put together this book is how Beatlemania spread so fast. The Jack Paar tape went down quietly enough, but SO many people heard about the appearances on Ed Sullivan. I was surprised to find out that Beatlemania had been raging in Great Britain, but then thought maybe the whole Beatlemania thing here was a massive marketing campaign. But over the last few years I've heard so many stories, like a friend who told me that she first heard the Beatles while in a taxi on 6th Ave. in New York, and she could still tell me exactly which blocks she was on... time somehow coalesced for her right then. I was among those who heard about the Sullivan show, and joined my father, who is a photographer, in the dark room while he was printing. (He had the only TV in the house.) I sat under the enlarger while he walked back and forth in the dark, whistling, while I fell in love. I was only a few days away from having my first child when Lennon was shot. The huge, painful mystery of birth and death and violence and vulnerability took hold of me. I was working, right up to my son Will's birth, as an acupuncturist, and for the next few days everyone I saw was processing Lennon's death, some very deeply and profoundly.
Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Sun 19 Feb 06 07:36
Yeah. The Web of Coincidence. How did so many meaningful, if troubling, things happen almost all at once? It was a time of great change. Fwiw, I got into the Beatles 'cuz I noticed that the girls really dug them. I was just old enough to be paying attention for the first time, to what girls liked. I remember being on the school bus, and all the young ladies were trading Beatles card. I figured I'd better get in on that racket. I'm not even sure if I'd recognize their music at this point. A few days later, they showed up on Ed Sullivan, and I watched it with my folks. My dad said their music was okay, but he didn't understand why they needed to have those haircuts. My mom protested that they were clean cut young men. I liked the songs fine, but was mazed at how the girls were all freaking out. Whatever JohnPaulGeorge&Ringo had, I wanted. I bought my first rock n' roll record, their first US release, the next day. I haven't been quite right since ;-)
John Payne (satyr) Sun 19 Feb 06 17:46
They were damn good! It's still some of the best music ever recorded.
Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Mon 20 Feb 06 07:09
Yeah. It's interesting to have been around at the point where the electronic recording studio became an instrument itself. The Beatles weren't alone in creating this innovation, and it's rather obvious in hindsight that a former producer of comedy records, Martin, would have such a hand in the revolution. But, the Beatles and Martin were in many ways the most successful in the enterprise. Today, I think it's hard for the casual listener not around during the mid-to-late 60s to realize what a break from the past occurred in terms of song-craft and production, at that time. Heh! Without her producers and the modern studio, Madonna would be unlistenable ;-)
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Mon 20 Feb 06 08:27
Yeah, it's funny, I have a longtime friend who's also a major music hound -- he listens to stuff going back to the 50s and my range goes back to the 20s. And we had a long talk a few months ago is that while you can enjoy the music of the past, the one thing you can never really hear is what was new to people at the time, and thus what a big flash it was. I really like Louis Armstrong's classic records from the late 1920s, but I absolutely can't hear what was so startling about them to people at the time, in part I'm sure because they were so influential that I've been hearing music incorporating their insights my whole life.
Low and popular (rik) Mon 20 Feb 06 08:37
Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Mon 20 Feb 06 10:13
This is SO completely true! Because you can never have the thrill of feeling it for the first time -- you've already heard all the iterations as they have filtered into other people's music. I think excitement is also contagious -- the pleasure of a group of people discovering something new at the same time. And in this case, the Beatles music gave us a way of hearing and feeling and expressing all these phenomenal changes we were going through. I'd love to hear also anyone's thoughts on why the death of Lennon stood for so much. It was a personal loss, certainly, but for me it was more: it was some kind of end of the dream, of the possibility that we would find our way into making more changes, reclaim some of the idealism of the sixties we had put aside.
Low and popular (rik) Mon 20 Feb 06 10:24
"It was a personal loss, certainly, but for me it was more: it was some kind of end of the dream..." That's it, exactly. Frankly, I didn't have a favorite Beatle. I was aware from the beginning that they were a whole greater than the sum of the parts. And as I became a professional musician myself (a goal that became cemented for me while watching the mailcar scene in "Hard Day's Night"), I realized that the synergy required two more factors. Brian Epstein and George Martin. John's death, for me, was the you-can't-go-home-again moment. It would have been the same for me if it had been any one of the four performers. And, in my life, it was that part of growing up when I really got that everything is not going to turn out OK.
Chris (cooljazz) Mon 20 Feb 06 10:42
"...why the death of Lennon stood for so much..." I think its personal for everyone. AS I recall, up until about a year before the tragedy I hadn't been very interested in the Beatles or John for that matter. I'd been caught up in the John and Yoko story and demise of the Beatles. In that year before the tragedy, I had started hearing another side of the John and Yoke story, and began to feel there was an incredible love story, something I had completely missed in the stories I had been reading. For me, there was the sense of a tremendous loss of John and the end of the love story of John and Yoko. I still think about it from time to time.
Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Tue 21 Feb 06 05:20
Yep, the two posts above give some measure of the depth of the loss of John Lennon. We were already filled with pivotal moments we might not have even realized: launched into puberty with the Sullivan show, hooked into being a musician with the Hard Day's Night mailcar scene, realizing we could never go home again, the end of a love story. What layers! Lennon carried so much for us, and he had the depth himself to contain all of it. It must have been a heavy burden to be so symbolic. I know sometimes he would protest: "We were just four guys who formed a band, and we made it very, very big." (paraphrasing)
Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Tue 21 Feb 06 06:36
Ooosh, my reaction to the news, oh, boy, once I regained the ability to think at all about what had happened, was this: "How could WE have killed John Lennon?" It's not a rational feeling, but it sort of rings true even today. How in the world did we make a culture that could breed and then kill such a man? It's a complex question that spills out into so many more. He was no angel. He was a useful, powerful lens through which we could see ourselves and our society. There was the cold weather that morning; all those snow and flowers, and it was so grey. Ronald Reagan was the big pop star on the scene. His management team of thugs, goons, and bonzos had swept the nation in a storm. All the new music sucked. I couldn't imagine a future. It was like when one stupid kid shot Lennon, hope died, and I felt we all shared some of the blame.
Evelyn Pine (evy) Tue 21 Feb 06 10:19
Thanks for the heads up about all the discussions in the WELL's Bealtes Conference. All this and much more all the time. I'm wondering how much the spread of the Beatles was fueled by a "great white hope" sense -- wasn't the really great stuff on the charts in 1963 Marvin Gay, the Shirlles, the Temps and the Four Tops?
Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Tue 21 Feb 06 11:40
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a "great white hope" sense, but this may answer your question: Sam Phillips had a small recording studio in Memphis. He was white. He recorded black r & b musicians. He said "I knew that for black music to come to its rightful place in this country we had to have some white singers come over and do black music -- not copy it, not change, not sweeten it. Just do it." In 1954 Elvis walked into his studio. The rest, as they say, is history.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 22 Feb 06 13:03
Yow, the two weeks have zipped by so fast! Thank you so much for joining us, Elizabeth, this has been a great conversation. And thank you, (evy), for moderating the discussion. Our virtual spotlight has turned to a new author, but that doesn't mean this conversation has to stop. The topic will remain open indefinitely and you're welcome to continue as long as you like. On the other hand, we'll understand if you have to move on to other responsibilities. In either case, it's been a pleasure. I'm hoping, Elizabeth, that you'll be able to give us a quick run-down on what's next for you before you have to disappear. Are you working on a new book, and if so, what's it about?
Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Thu 23 Feb 06 09:40
This has been wonderful. Thanks for all the interesting posts. So far, I haven't committed myself to a new project. I'm playing with a couple-- for me, ideas are easy. I have plenty of cool ideas to chose from. I spend a period of time waiting to see what clamours the loudest. I may write a novel, or I have a couple of bio. ideas i'm checking out. We'll see!
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sun 26 Feb 06 21:51
Well, whatever you decide to do, Elizabeth, we'll all be eager to see it. And good luck with it! Thanks for being available here and for all your insights into one of the most iconic figures of our lives.
Evelyn Pine (evy) Mon 27 Feb 06 10:28
Yes, and thanks so much for writing a young people's book about John that doesn't present him simply as an icon but presents him in all his remarkable complexity.
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