Meet The Beatles!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the last U.S. tour of history’s biggest musical act ever: The Beatles. This is a band with an extensive list of superlatives: number one artist of all time, greatest number of number one hits overall (20), greatest number of singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart (20), biggest number one hit ever (“Hey Jude”), most number one singles in a calendar year (6 in 1964, 5 in 1965), first English band to hit it big in the United States. The list is “Long, Long, Long.” (Beatles fans will recognize that phrase as the title of a song written by George Harrison for the album officially titled The Beatles and affectionately known as The White Album.) The Beatles’ popularity was so great that it caused the media to coin the phrase “Beatlemania” to describe the hysteria that followed Fab Four “Across the Universe” (title of a song written by John Lennon). As it turned out, Beatlemania is the main reason that the Beatles stopped touring and chose the safety of the recording studio.
Every Beatles fan has a favorite member of “The Fab Four,” all of whom pursued solo careers after the breakup of the group in 1970. Some favored John Lennon, the witty, acerbic cofounder, who sang about peace and was murdered by a deranged fan in 1980. Others prefer Paul McCartney, the “cute one” and the other half, with John, of the most successful composing duo in music history. George Harrison’s loyal fan club keeps his music alive through several websites, fan clubs, and charities, despite his death in 2001. Ringo Starr (a.k.a. Ritchie Starkey) is full of energy, and his fans struggle to keep up with him and his swift touring pace.
During the British Invasion, I was too young to appreciate the phenomenon that was taking place in the music world and in popular culture. Fifty years after The Beatles landed in the United States, it took my 17-year-old daughter to school me in the greatness of “the lads from Liverpool.” I listened to Cheyenne’s Beatles CD while we were driving in the car and began to understand why they are the most successful music act ever. But I didn’t fully appreciate the Beatles’ musical genius until I borrowed, via hoopla, the audiobook version of Paul McCartney: A Life, by Peter Ames Carlin. The biography fascinated me. Next I read While My Guitar Gently Weeps, by Simon Leng, and several other biographies on George Harrison, my favorite Beatle.
On July 12, 2016 (55 years after The Beatles played their first concert, in their small hometown of Merseyside), I attended a Paul McCartney concert at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ baseball stadium. Paul McCartney sold out the 44,000-seat arena. And what a show! It was amazing to witness in person the genius that drove The Beatles to the top of every pop and rock list. At 74 years old, Sir Paul (knighted in 1997) thrilled the audience with his virtuoso playing of several instruments (bass, guitar, ukulele, piano). He sang songs representative of his whole career—from his pre-Ringo days to his 2015 collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna, "FourFiveSeconds." No surprise to me, the audience responded most enthusiastically to Beatles songs, such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Eleanor Rigby.” Sir Paul really hit it out of the park with “Live and Let Die,” complete with fireworks! The entire evening was fabulous!
-Mary M. Astarita