Thursday, June 4, 2015

50 Years Plus of Beatlemania

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte's column in the June 4, 2015 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

One day, a few years ago, I found my diary from 1965 and I chuckled at the entry from a day in late summer.

“Went to the movies and saw Help!  I LOVE Paul” it read.

That Paul, of course, was Paul McCartney, the cutest Beatle, in my opinion.

I had just finished seventh grade and I’d been somewhat of a sheltered pre-teen. I have no memory of any of my own or any other Beatlemania prior to that summer.  I never saw It’s a Hard Day’s Night – the first Beatle movie, which was released in 1964. Although we routinely watched the Ed Sullivan show as a family on Sunday nights, I don’t quite remember which the Beatles many performances I watched. (That adorable mouse puppet, Topo Gigio, was always my favorite anyway.)

This week, A Hard Day’s Night showed up in my mailbox. I’d apparently added it to my Netflix movie queue while I was on a recent quest to watch the top-100-classical-films-of-all-time stage. (I’d received Metropolis and Citizen Kane the week before.)

Little did I know how much I would enjoy this romp of a movie. Of course, that description might be somewhat of a stretch, but a humorous “day in the life of the Beatles” was what the filmmaker intended. (Also included in the 2014 Criterion DVD is the 1964 documentary You Can’t Do That: The Making of A Hard Day’s Night which I highly recommend watching, as well.)

The Beatles had been touring Europe and enthralling fans, especially in England and Germany, for several years before 1964. They’d had radio and television appearances and played to huge crowds in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Stockholm and Hamburg in 1962 and 1963.  American producers and concert organizers, however, weren’t sure it the Fab Four would be a hit in the United States. In fact, none of their albums had even been released here until January 1964 when Introducing the Beatles and Meet the Beatles hit the American market.

Early in the morning of February 7th, 1964, the Beatles' boarded Pan Am flight 101 and left screaming British fans behind at the London’s Heathrow Airport. The British invasion of the United States had begun. Before leaving again two weeks later on February 21,  they had been interviewed by the Associated Press and CBS news, they had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and had performed at both the Washington Coliseum and Carnegie Hall.

A snowstorm nearly kept them from Washington where the Coliseum held over 8,000 screaming teens, mostly girls. Their flight was cancelled but they managed to get from NY to Washington by train. The weather kept the Chiffons away but The Righteous Brothers, Jay and the Americans, and Tommy Roe were opening acts. The Beatles sang twelve songs and 362 police officers were on hand for security.

It was only several weeks later back in England that the Beatles began filming It’s a Hard Day’s Night. The plot of the screenplay is a comedic portrayal of what a day in the life of a Beatle was like.  It has been called a “mockumentary.”  One-liners abound. While Paul and John were thought to be better actors, George and Ringo acted in their own separate, quiet storylines.

After filming, no one could agree on a title. In discussions with American director, Richard Lester and producers, one of the Beatles described one of Ringo’s many comical malapropisms.  After a long night in the recording studio, Ringo apparently said that it had been an especially “hard day’s … night”. Everyone agreed that a very successful title was born. Six or seven new songs were written for the movie, including the title song. It was nominated for two Academy Awards – best screenplay and best score.

The rest, of course, is history. The movie was released in London in July and in August in the U.S.  It was a smashing success. The concept of the music video was born. The Beatles went on to make other films, of course. Help! (1965), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), and Let It Be (1970).  Yellow Submarine (1968) was an animated film that featured the music of the Beatles, not the voices.

While interest in the 50th anniversary of their arrival in America peaked last year in February of 2014, every generation will always be enthralled and intrigued by the Beatles. The Beatles, Six Days that Changed the World by Bill Eppridge (2014) was published to coincide with the 50th anniversary. It is full of photographs of their arrival at JFK airport, their stay in the Plaza Hotel, their adventures in Central Park, and their performances in the Ed Sullivan Theater, Carnegie Hall and the Coliseum in Washington, D.C.

Beatleness, How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World by Candace Leonard (2014) focuses on the first six years of the Beatles’ history after their first trip to America and how they influenced American life.  1964 to 1970 saw a cultural revolution of sorts in the United States and the Beatles were an integral part of the transformation.

Penelope Rowlands was one of the screaming girls who greeted the Beatles in February 2014 and she has written and collected essays and interviews in The Beatles Are Here! (2014). It’s another trip down memory lane for those who were inspired by the Beatles a half-century ago, including writers Lisa See, Gay Talese, and Roy Blount, Jr. and musicians Billy Joel and Bob Dylan.

The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies, was published last October 2014.  It is a compilation of the stories “behind the music” and includes many handwritten drafts of over 100 classic Beatles’ songs.  Some were scribbled on napkins, others on hotel stationery.

No collection of the Beatles would be complete without the movies and music they made and all of those DVDs and CDs are available in Minuteman libraries. A search of the Minuteman Library catalog results in hundreds of hits for the Beatles – their albums and movies, and documentaries and books about them. If you need help searching, please ask a librarian to assist you.