“They”, that grey, indeterminate, anonymous body that is always agin’ everything, have predicted the demise of Elvis Presley for just about twelve years and the demise of The Beatles now for nearly five years. Somehow or other The Beatles, like Elvis, have been very unco-operative and refused to do as “they” say.
If 1965 could be said to be the peak year of the Beatles’ fame with their being awarded their honour by the Queen, their third and most successful tour yet of the United States, their film “Help” a smash box-office success although they didn’t think much of it themselves, plus every record they chose to release going straight to the top of the charts in Britain and almost as quickly in the U.S.A., 1965 could also be said to be the year that we glimpsed the pattern of the future and 1966 could be said to be the year when the big question mark had to be answered — Where do we go from here?
To this writer’s mind the most significant thing about 1965, Beatle-wise, came at the end of the year when two songs written by Lennon and McCartney, “Yesterday” and “Michelle”, caused a sensation sung by other artistes than The Beatles.
Lennon and McCartney have always been a great song-writing team and each Beatles’ number they wrote seemed to get better and better, culminating, in the writer’s opinion, with the very beautiful “We Can Work It Out”, but all these have been Beatle songs sung by The Beatles. Other artistes have sung them, of course, but so far don’t seem, again in this writer’s opinion, to have really got hold of them. Several of these Beatles’ songs will in time become standards, of that there is little doubt, but at the moment they are overshadowed by the aura of The Beatles’ own performance of them, so that we cannot be wholly sure. With “Yesterday” and “Michelle” we have two songs that will undoubtedly become standards, and in each case gaining their effect just as much, if not more, when sung by other artistes.
As good as Paul McCartney’s own rendering of “Yesterday” in The Beatles’ L.P. was, it didn’t come up to the performance given it by Matt Munro, which deservedly made the Top Ten.
So these two songs show the future of two of The Beatles quite clearly, confirming what we always suspected, that we have in them two of the greatest writers of popular music that this generation will produce.
Many fans get up in arms at the mention of The Beatles or any of their favourites being finished, but sometimes forget the real question which is not, “Is the public tired of them?” which the public obviously isn’t, but “Are The Beatles tired of being The Beatles”.
To many fans the idea that The Beatles might wish to stop being The Beatles or Elvis Presley might wish to stop being called The King seems ludicrous. They cannot estimate or even begin to understand that what started out as a great adventure years before, when you had no money and there was all the world to gain, can become not only a bore, but a physical strain when you have enough money to provide you with a rich man’s income for the rest of your life, and yet the public still requires you to perform, expecting each of your offerings to be better than the last, and yet still forcing you to lead a life that is constantly circumscribed by the necessity of securing you from the over-eager admiration of your fans.
Presley found the answer by confining himself entirely to films and although he has gone on making records, his apparent reluctance to cut any new discs, apart from those required for his films, seems to indicate that he, at least, would welcome an easing-off of the fans’ admiration or rather that wild, out-of-hand admiration which seems to be confined almost entirely to recording stars.
Can The Beatles find this answer? Their first film “A Hard Day’s Night” wasn’t as successful as many people thought it might be. It was made on a cheap budget and there were some mistakes left in it that should have been cut out. It was almost as though it had been tried to put the film on to the world’s screens for as little money as possible as quickly as possible.
“Help” was an entirely different kettle of fish and has been a smash success. However, The Beatles proclaimed themselves not altogether pleased with it, and most critics thought it rather over-gimmicked and an attempt at something that didn’t quite come off.
This underlines the problem in making a film about four people. Many people draw the rather obvious parallel with the Marx Brothers and have tried to make out that The Beatles could be another Marx Brothers. Can they?
Well to some extent they have developed different characters. Paul McCartney, the juvenile, John Lennon, the master-mind, Ringo the sardonic clown, George, the burbling good-natured, “uncle” figure. The trouble is quite a number of readers won’t agree with me and will see them in quite a different set of roles—the only one that would be more in general agreement, being Paul as the juvenile romantic lead.
So far, however, the four have not shown themselves to be capable of emulating the talents of the Marx Brothers, and probably they themselves wouldn’t want to be a second lot of Marx Brothers anyway — The Beatles are nothing if not originals.
No doubt that they will be able to work out some satisfactory four-man act in time, which might prove the successful basis of a series of films starring the four boys.
Again, the question mark, may be put after the words — if they want to. It might well be that Ringo with a family and a string of investments, might after perhaps one more film and another American tour, be prepared to call it a day and take life easy on the proceeds. John and Paul obviously have a bright and permanent future ahead of them as composers, which might leave only George Harrison, who married early in the year, wanting to go on as a Beatle.
All this is in the realm of speculation. From the Beatles’ fans’ point of view and wishes The Beatles will go on for ever and there is no doubt they can for how many umpteen more years. The question still remains, however, will they want to?