The Beatles and the Dawning of a New Age

On its 50th anniversary, A Hard Days Night has been released in a newly restored digital version to universal critical acclaim. A precious cinematic artifact of social history, even a catalyst of cultural change, the first Beatles movie is now looked upon as more than just a piece of filmmaking, with its four heroes praised for their natural charm, energy and unalloyed youthful optimism.

If only it was that simple.

The Beatles came to prominence with a string of hit singles, arriving to lead a generation from the grim black-and-white post-War World era into the technicolor dream of The Sixties—or that’s how the story goes. Two men played Svengali to the phenomenon that had materialized. The band’s manager, Brian Epstein, emerged from the obscurity of suburban Liverpool to mastermind the various image changes that made the group attractive to mainstream tastes. Out went the grease and leathers of anarchic rebels, and in came the fashionably suited smiling young men. The public image of four “innocents abroad in the big city” à la A Hard Days Night was far removed from the reality of the men who had returned to England after years playing the clubs of Hamburg’s notorious Red Light district. Formed by such experiences, the Beatles’ presentation may have changed, their underlying attitudes hadn’t. The other Svengali was the music producer, George Martin. With Martin at the helm, the Beatles’ combined abilities were crafted in such a way that rapidly moved them from being just another Beat group to rock music luminaries, becoming, by the end of the decade, the musical touchstone for a generation.

The Beatles’ rise to world superstardom has been well documented. By early 1964, on spiritual recoil from the gunshots heard at Dealey Plaza only months earlier, America enthusiastically welcomed the band—the hysteria that followed was not, however, solely about music. Beatle hairstyles, clothing and, more importantly, their musings immediately became the preoccupation of global youth. It was no longer a case of the band catching the Zeitgeist—they had become it.

By 1966, however, there appeared a change in the Beatles and, as the mask invented for them began to slip, things began to grow darker.

American audiences noticed it first. The US music label, Capitol, released Yesterday and Today with the album’s cover showing the Fab Four dressed as butchers with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat strewn around them. After a public outcry, copies of the record were hastily recalled and a more palatable cover was swiftly inserted. The original artwork was supposed to be social comment. It was; but what no one realized then was just how much—for that year marks the start of more liberal abortion laws in some US States; and in less than a year, the procedure became legal in Great Britain. In hindsight, one can see that the cover revealed, subconsciously perhaps, one aspect of where the Zeitgeist of the times was ultimately leading: Roe v. Wade.

That year also marked another unveiling. On a trip to India George Harrison had been introduced to diverse musical influences, and to a spiritual one, namely Hinduism, something he was later to promote with proselytizing zeal. He was not alone in this, though, as, from the start of the decade, the “wisdom of the East” had once again become fashionable. As the Beatles were seen to embrace this trend then, inevitably, so too did many others. There was, however, something more sinister here than the fad of “tuning in and dropping out”; instead, it was an opening up to systems of beliefs, to spiritual powers and influences, that from the outset were seldom understood by eager initiates. Quickly, assorted Eastern meditation techniques gave way to non-Christian mysticism; in turn, the voguish The Tibetan Book of the Dead became an introduction to the occult, especially the Black Magician Aleister Crowley. As that self-proclaimed magus’ corpus was exhumed, the maxim: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” became a softly whispered mantra for much of what was now about to occur.

1966 also saw the release of Revolver. It was the first Beatles album to make explicit reference to these influences then surfacing: the final track, Tomorrow Never Knows, using direct quotations from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It wasn’t just the lyrics though. That track was musically very different from anything the band had thus far recorded. Its droning, discordant, hallucinatory sound world marking the commencement of what would come to be viewed as the embodiment of the preeminent counter-cultural musical form: psychedelia—at the time seen as an important component part in the dawning of the so-called “Age of Aquarius.” Of course, such an age was entirely bogus; nevertheless, through these mists now came entities all too real.

Was it mere coincidence that there was an explicit reference to Catholicism on Revolver? In the dolorous, Eleanor Rigby, the lonely, sad death of a churchgoer was recounted, with her equally lonely parish priest, Fr. McKenzie, sat writing sermons that no one will hear—a clerical version of Nowhere Man. It all sounded so forlorn. Later, George Martin was to comment on how the strings on that track were influenced by Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho. In hindsight, perhaps it was fitting that Hitchcock’s bleak start to the decade was now referenced at its midway point just as the killing—in all its guises—really got underway.

Seemingly, the first thing to be “killed” was Christianity. This was the year of Lennon’s pronouncement that: “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right … We’re more popular than Jesus now.” The contemporary press report went on to note that the Beatle had been reading, amongst other books on the subject of religion, the revived Gnosticism of the just published and best-selling, The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield—the new beliefs and repackaged heresies then flooding the West were being embraced with little or no critical faculty by Lennon and others. In contrast, Christianity was to be accorded no quarter; instead, the “prophets” of the age had decreed that that religion’s time had come and gone.

Others thought otherwise, however.

The following year, 1967, saw Pope Paul VI announce a Year of Faith starting on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul. This was in response to: “a so-called ‘post-conciliar’ mentality … [that] … question[s] or distort[s] the objective sense of truths taught with authority by the Church.” But, as if pre-empting this, earlier that same month an alternative spiritual center had been declared. On June 1 the Beatles released their eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and, with it, the “Summer of Love” began, along with a new era. Although subsequently much romanticized, this “Summer” did herald the beginning of something; however, perhaps only from a distance of years is it possible to fully make out its contours, and, ultimately, to recognize to whose lies the world had turned once more to listen.

Consistently rated by music critics as the greatest rock album of all time, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the Beatles at their musical peak. The album started with a pretend “live performance” before propelling its listeners through to the suicide and drug induced daydreams of the climactic A Day in the Life, with its apocalyptic final note. This strange disillusioned melancholy was to be the overture ushering in the new age.

Nevertheless, with its striking cover and sophisticated lyrics and soundscapes, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a signal that a changing of the guard was taking place. This was about more than just music, though. A new age was indeed dawning, and on the album cover the world saw the “founding fathers” of this coming reality. It should have set alarm bells ringing. Amongst a seemingly random selection were: assorted Hindu gurus and deities, Jung & Marx, H.G. Wells & G.B. Shaw, and, of course, Aleister Crowley—not included in the final edit was Lennon’s choice of Hitler.

The beginning of Pope Paul’s Year of Faith coincided with the start of the so-called “Summer of Love,” and was to conclude with the Credo of the People of God: “In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty….” By now, however, popular culture had radically shifted, and as these words were spoken Rosemary’s Baby was released into movie theatres worldwide. And so, what for many had started with the idealism of the “Summer of Love” anthem All You Need is Love was to come to a shuddering halt two years later as Helter Skelter became a soundtrack to murder.

Released into mainstream culture were forces that represented the very antithesis of the message proclaimed by the Year of Faith. Unfortunately it was not love that had been trumpeted during that summer of 1967 but license, and, surrounded by illusions, this led many only to enslavement, made all the more bitter having turned away from that which could have set them free—the Love that was really all that was needed. In the end, the “free love” of those sunlit days came at a price, and, sadly one still being paid to this day.

Maybe not surprisingly, I find it difficult, therefore, to share the widespread wide-eyed reception bestowed upon the re-release of A Hard Days Night. There was, and is, just too much “debris” strewn over the last 50 years that points to this movie as a genesis of sorts. Watching its four heroes on screen today, one feels only sadness at the forces then carrying them into a future they could never have dreamed of, or even bargained for.

K. V. Turley

By

K. V. Turley is a London based freelance writer and filmmaker with a degree in theology from the Maryvale Institute.

  • ForChristAlone

    “Unfortunately it was not love that had been trumpeted during that summer of 1967 but license, and, surrounded by illusions, this led many only to enslavement, made all the more bitter having turned away from that which could have set them free—the Love that was really all that was needed.”

    In ’67, I was a college sophomore and the Viet Nam War was raging. I wasn’t sure what I thought about the merits of the war and actually attended both pro- and anti-war demonstrations in Washington to better inform myself. I realized the shallowness of the Left when, standing at the footsteps of the Pentagon, I witnessed this “lover of peace” standing next to me spit into the face of the National Guardsman protecting the building. That, among many, was one of the more salient experiences that changed my view of the Left forever.

    As for Paul VI and the Year of Faith, in retrospect, he should have declared a Year of Exorcism. In fact, it would be most appropriate for our current age as well since Satan has gained a certain foothold in our society. A Year of Exorcism might just drive this point home for all.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I was in Paris during “the events of May,” the student protests of 1968 and a slogan one saw everywhere seemed to me to encapsulate perfectly the mood of the Sixties – « Le futur n’a plus d’avenir » (The future has no future)

  • NoSuchThingAsCoincidence

    The Beatles rise to fame was not coincidence. There were at that time many bands playing at The Cavern Club, where they were ‘discovered’ by Brian Epstein, that were as good, if not better, than The Beatles.
    Liverpool was, and still is, a predominately Socialist area. The (left-leaning) BBC, possible because of Brian Epstein’s homosexual contacts, promoted The Beatles through interviews and appearances. The rest is history.

    • Charles Ryder

      In what way were those bands at the Cavern Club “as good, if not better” than the Beatles? Could they write their own songs?

      • Art Deco

        He has no clue. It just pleases him to fancy it was all a gay conspiracy.

        • NoSuchThingAsCoincidence

          Not at all. What I was inferring is that The Beatles did not progress from a talented Liverpool band without a little bit of help from their friends.

          Microfiche searches of Liverpool newspapers of the time will bring up reports of other bands as good The Beatles. What sprung The Beatles into stardom was not happenstance but hype and patronage, through the network of contacts both socialist and homosexual. It was just that hype and patronage, in addition to their talent, that ensured that they remained so influential long after their last record was cut. Without the monopolistic power of the BBC and other MSM it is possible that more other groups would have been able to break through with their own song writing – but not quite the same message.

          • Art Deco

            Microfiche searches of Liverpool newspapers of the time will bring up reports of other bands as good The Beatles.

            You cannot tell that from newspaper reports.

            he Beatles into stardom was not happenstance but hype and patronage,
            through the network of contacts both socialist and homosexual.

            Just repeating yourself does not advance the argument.
            While we’re at it. Brian Epstein was all of 27 years old when he signed on as the Beatles’ manager. His previous employment history consisted of a stint in the military and a run of years managing one or another of his family’s retail establishments. Tend to doubt provincial furniture dealers are promising material for the ranks of the red haze.

    • fredx2

      If that were true, they would have fallen flat after a very short time. They did not.

  • Billy Bean

    I would just like to point out that, soci-political analysis and hand-wringing aside, the Beatles were extradordinarily talented. Their imitators who emerged on their coattails long forgotten, the Beatles and their musical/ cultural legacy(not entirely positive, not entirely negative) endure.

    • DE-173

      Talented at what? Talented at composing incredible constrained and shallow music for an incredibly constrained and shallow generation, that imagined, to borrow a quote, that they were the ones the world was waiting for.

      Mozart was talented. The Beatles were popular. Yellow Submarine will never be confused with Beethoven’s Fifth.

      • JP

        Or his Ninth.

      • Objectivetruth

        Peter Kreeft had recommended Bach’s “Air on the G String” to an atheist friend of his. Several months later, his friend told Kreeft he wanted to become Catholic. The atheist friend said that Bach’s concerto was the turning point for him: such music could only come from the Divine.

        • donna

          albert schweitzer commented that Bach should be see as the 5th greatest evangelist. Don’t know if comment is apocryphal but sounds so lovely. It was also stated he believed his music had converted more Japanese than any other source. Feel Bach would have been charmed and humbled.

          • Objectivetruth

            Beautiful! Sebastian is probably conducting the heavenly orchestra as we speak.

            • donna

              from your lips to the “Lord’s ears” El Paradiso indeed

      • Billy Bean

        Well. you make a valid point; the Beatles were pop culture icons. No doubt, much of the praise lavished upon them was overdone. I personally enjoy their vocal harmonies and their music. But my taste is admittedly lowbrow.

      • fredx2

        The Beatles were for fun. That was their goal. They never intended to be Beethoven. There is a time and place for having fun, for singing teenage love songs, and being unrestrained. If you watch interviews with them, George in particular downplays their importance, essentially saying “We were just a really good rhythm and blues band that got popular”. After the world would not stop elevating them, they did get a bit pretentious at times, but who wouldn’t? Nobody, least of all them, would have said they were the most important thing in the world.

        In 1964, when they played for the first time in Washington DC, Brian Epstein told someone that their music would be played in the year 2000. Had I been there and heard that statement, i would have thought he was nuts. The fact that their songs have endured, the fact that everyone in the culture knows them, the fact that young kids still sing them, shows that they had at least a certain amount of quality.

        I never did get the screaming thing, though. I am with you on that.

        • DE-173

          The Beatles are to music what Olive Garden is to Italian cuisine.

          • Objectivetruth

            The lyrics “She loves you ya…ya..yaaaa!” Or “I am the walrus” wont I believe be compared someday to those of “Handel’s Messiah” or “Gloria Te.”

          • stpetric

            It’s more like the Beatles are to music what pizza is to Italian cuisine: Not a second-rate imitation of the *real* thing, but a popular spin-off with its own integrity. By music you seem to have in mind high art, and that anything other than high art is kitsch. Many of us, though, can enjoy *both* haute cuisine *and* pizza. Similarly, I listen to Bach, Palestrina, and Machaut (and Tavener and Penderecki)…but also the Beatles.

            • DE-173

              It’s not just the music, it’s the lyrics. She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah is catchy, but that’s it.

              Of course you have to ask is it Pizza or Pizza Margherita?

              • Objectivetruth

                Mmmmmmm……hungry now……..

                • DE-173

                  I’m always hungry.

      • Art Deco

        Talented at composing incredible constrained and shallow music for an incredibly constrained and shallow generation,

        People born during the years running from 1939 to 1955 did not in their personal conduct compare favorably to the antecedent cohorts. I cannot figure, though, how they qualify as ‘shallow’ inasmuch as the good conduct of people born ca. 1929 was often derived from a respect for convention. There’s nothing terribly wrong with a respect for convention, though it has its disagreeable aspect. Whatever it is, it ain’t ‘deep’. The older crew were often tempered by experience in a way their juniors were not (or not as often), but that is a hazard which attends both peace and affluence.

        It’s popular culture and mass entertainment. Something the film critic Roger Ebert said applies here: his grades are comparable within genres, not between them. Some years ago in my house we bought some CDs of period popular music. We discovered something: much of the vocal music produced and distributed and performed during the first 10 years after the war is a chore to hear. That’s not to say that there are not secular trends in quality, but rather that there’s a dreck pile in every age. (I’ve heard samples of what counted as commercially marketed music prior to the 1st World War and you don’t want to go there). The singer Jo Stafford offered that the advent of rock n’ roll was characterized by an abrupt reversal in the trend toward sophistication in musical composition. Yeah, Jo, but I listen to what your contemporaries produced next to (say) Richie Valens and I figure less is more (even though Stafford and some of her contemporaries were satisfactory enough).

        Is it really your contention that a Sinatra piece like “The Lady is a Tramp” or Andy Williams’ “Moon River” manifests ‘depth’ you cannot find in McCartney’s “Let it Be” or David Bowie’s “Wild is the Wind”? I don’t think so. (I like all four, but it’s for the music).

        • DE-173

          I would define the “sixties generation” slightly differently, a woman born in 1939 was more than likely not to be one of the screaming ninnies (my own mother was born mid 1938 and had a toddler and an infant by the time of the British invasion, and was bemused by the slightly younger women swooning over the Beatles, having literally been a “bobby soxer”. I tend to think of that generation as the ones that were born late enough in the war or after, so they had no little or no memory of the war.

          After the war, there was all kind of technical change (polio virus, dieselization of the railroads, jet travel, proliferation of the railroads, new consumer goods of all kinds, atomic weapons, etc., etc) that led made those born into the time think that the time had bifurcated into the irrelevant past, and now and the future (the age of Aquarius?) and that they were the architects of a new age, independent of religion and those other relics of the past. That’s what I mean by shallow-it’s not that they were ignorant of history, it’s that they were indifferent to it, assuming it offered no to useful insights into life or society.

          Add to that that the they were likely to have parents eager to spare them of the travails of an uncertain economy and war, and you had shallow.

          • Art Deco

            Beatlemania was anticipated by the mobbing of Frank Sinatra (which my mother recalled from that era and thought silly at the time and retrospectively – she said the two phenomena were quite similar). Adolescents are commonly unedifying.

            I think the term ‘chronolatry’ was coined by C.S. Lewis in the 1940s. His preferred figure of fun was H.G. Wells. Not an innovation of the post-war era.

            IIRC, 3/4 of the youth population during the period running from 1964 through 1972 never set foot on the campus of a baccalaureate-granting institution. About 45% of the cohorts born during the years running from 1944 through 1951 had some sort of military service. That was lower than the 65% you saw with regard to the cohorts born from 1930 through 1938, but still quite a bit higher than is common among those born after 1952 (or was common for the pre-1875 cohorts). Street drugs were certainly a novelty, but for most they were consumed only during a brief interlude.

            The biggest difference and more consequential than changes in musical taste was the resort to divorce courts, which was done far more frequently by the 1950 cohort than by the 1930 cohort (and notably more than by the 1965 cohort, while we’re at it). Another was the self-immolation of religious institutions and educational institutions. The characters most responsible for that were largely drawn from older generations (though the succeeding cohorts made matters worse).

          • Art Deco

            Add to that that the they were likely to have parents eager to spare
            them of the travails of an uncertain economy and war, and you had
            shallow.

            The economy after 1938 was less uncertain and none of the wars fought after 1953 required a general mobilization or anything resembling one. Parental intentions did not matter in this regard; this is just what the world was like.

      • slainte

        IMHO the music of the Beatles is functional; it doesn’t reflect the thematic depth and enduring beauty of:
        .
        “A Time for Us” Romeo and Juliet, Loreena McKennit 1968 (http://youtu.be/4FHpmn-KYec);
        .
        “Love Story” – Andy Williams, 1971 (http://youtu.be/7jEaIDqHl74);

        .
        “Unchained Melody” – Righteous Brothers 1965 (http://youtu.be/UyqGfGBs3mc)
        .Lara’s Theme (1965) -http://youtu.be/4Yd2PzoF1y8

        • DE-173

          I first heard of Lorena McKennit when “Nights at the Alhambra”. Great voice.

          • slainte

            Very nice performance; her music is quasi Irish and Andalusian/Moorish and her voice is similar to that of Lisa Kelly from Celtic Women.
            .
            McKennit who was born in 1957 could not have been the singer in the 1968 performance of Romeo and Juliet. Go figure.

            • Objectivetruth

              Ronan Tynan’s version of “Danny Boy” is quite nice!

              • slainte

                How do you think he would sound singing with the Beatles? : )

                • Objectivetruth

                  Paul and George soon would be his backup singers!

                  • slainte

                    I think I would fall over laughing if Ronan Tynan sang with the Beatles. 🙂

            • DE-173

              I didn’t catch that there were two LM’s. Well that’s very different, never mind.

              • slainte

                There is only one LM. to my knowledge .and she was born in 1957. I am therefore not sure who sang the theme to “Romeo and Juliet” in 1968. The error was mine.

            • ForChristAlone

              Slainte,

              Here’s something to listen to. It a song by Leonard Whiting who starred as Romeo in the film of the 60’s.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnX22HIqXSI

              • slainte

                FCA, What an amazingly beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing.
                .
                I thought it interesting:
                .
                “Director Franco Zefferelli originally
                wanted Paul McCartney (The Beatles) for the part of Romeo. McCartney
                turned him down for two reasons. One, he didn’t think he was good enough
                of an actor to take on Shakespeare and two, the Beatles were recording
                their classic album, “Sgt. Pepper” at the time of filming in 1967.”
                http://www.notstarring.com/movies/romeo-and-juliet–1968.
                .
                “What is a Youth” is yet another lovely opus…sung poetry..from “Romeo and Juliet”….http://youtu.be/zCQMlyXMRJE
                .
                Paul McCartney should not have turned down the role of Romeo.

        • Art Deco

          It’s syrupy romantic music. It’s agreeable enough. Andy Williams could be the fictional Mr. Halfways. I’m not getting how “Love Story” is “deep” and “Norwegian Wood” is “shallow”. (If you wish to argue one is mid-range for its artist and the other is cream, go ahead). Betwixt and Between you have Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”.

          • slainte

            AD…Romance is a preview of love. It is endearing and lovely. The music that conveys it permits one a small glimmer….a nuanced reflection… of the most perfect Love who is Our Lord Jesus Christ.
            .
            ObjectiveTruth earlier recommended “Bach’s “Air on the G String”. Having listened to it several times, I have no doubt that the Divinity was present for Bach as he composed this piece that still conveys what it must be like to touch the face of God.
            .
            http://youtu.be/E2j-frfK-yg

            • Objectivetruth

              Artist who take their God given talents and pursuit God in their work are able to achieve a level where The Lord opens the window just enough for us to view heaven. God uses the arts to touch our hearts so we will pursuit him. This is why 500 years from now Bach and Handel will still be taught and loved, and the Beatles will be all but forgotten. Why Michelangelo’s David and Pieta will still have millions a year paying them visits with wonder and awe, and Andy Warhol will be forgotten.

            • Art Deco

              [clears throat]

              The Mamas and the Papas are not J.S. Bach and Margery Allingham is not John Donne. The thing is, I do not have precisely the same purpose in mind when I partake of one as I do with the other.

              • slainte

                AD, Beauty presents in unexpected places…very often in music and poetry.
                .
                I care little about the worldly pomp and circumstance attributed to individual artists preferring instead to focus on how or whether beauty infuses and winds its way through their pieces.
                .
                So I am happy to listen to “syrupy romantic” songs, as well as the Palastrina, Panis Angelicus, Beethoven’s 5th symphony…and maybe even the Mamas and the Papas.

          • slainte

            AD, I really liked the easy flow of the strumming guitar of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” which I listened to for the very first time. I liked the genuineness of Paul’s voice as he recounts how he had a girl or maybe “she had him”; that he can’t find a chair; then sits on the rug, drinking her wine, biding his time, chatting with her until 2 a.m, and then falling asleep in the bath. Simple, uncomplicated, touching, and vulnerable…very enjoyable; thank you.
            .
            Bobby Darrin is/was a man’s man and it reflects in many of his musical works which are masculine and jocular. Darrin’s music does not convey the tragic romantic spirit of a “Romeo and Juliet” or “Love Story”. Nor does it compel one to confront love, loss, profound and deep hurt, and finally death arriving too early for one just beginning to live.
            .
            Not quite sure which music is mid range or cream. 🙂

            • Navarricano

              Norwegian Wood is John, not Paul. It is a lovely melody and arrangement though. The last line is a bit of dark humour: the protagonist, upon awakening to discover that his paramour has abandoned him, burns her her house down in revenge: “And, when I awoke, I was alone; this bird had flown. So, I lit a fire; isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood?”

              • slainte

                Thank you for the correction and insight; I didn’t realize John Lennon was the singer.
                .
                I assumed (naively) that the reference to fire at the conclusion of “Norwegian Wood” meant he was chilled by the morning air upon awakening and lit a fire in the fireplace for warmth.
                .
                The dark humor taints my opinion of the piece.

                • Navarricano

                  You’re welcome. As for tainting your perception of the song, I don’t think you need to let it do so. Lennon’s black joke aside, your interpretation of the song is just as valid, I think. One of the wonderful things about songs is that they can take on a life of their own and mean something different to the listener apart from the intentions of the writer.

                  • slainte

                    Navarricano, Objective Truth exists and is real..
                    .
                    When one has knowledge that a piece is oriented toward and thus tainted by darkness, one is obligated to step back, rebuke it, and change course to align oneself with Truth…no matter how pleasing that work may seem to the senses.
                    .
                    I appreciate your kind act.

                • Steve

                  Nowhere in any interviews with or about Lennon have I ever heard or read that this line referred to burning the house down in revenge, but only lighting a fire in the fireplace to warm up. Don’t read something that is not there, people!

  • Cap America

    I think the Beatles at a certain point in the mid-1960s were CHASING the zeitgeist, rather than really making it. The really dynamic factors were birth control and the large, post-war generation coming of age in an era of affluence.

    John Lennon, of course, was soft in the head.

    • fredx2

      Lennon seemed to be at least reasonable until he met Yoko. Then they both became heroin addicts and that was the beginning of a tremendous tumble.

      There is a good story of Lennon in New York after the Beatles broke up. He was split up from Yoko at the time as well. He went to a nightclub and was making a fool of himself. He was wearing a kotex on his head, and he gave the waitress a hard time. She told him to go to hell, and he said “Don’t you know who I am?” She said “yeah, your some aho with a kotex on his head”.

  • Eladio

    Read The John Lennon Prophecies. A book about a pact he made with the Devil. I love their music but I couldn’t agree more with this article and the Lennon Prophecies. But being a great fan of their music, I still exercised my free will and never followed what they did to lead me away from the Faith. Perhaps better Catechesis in the church would have saved this from happening but I don’t know.

  • DE-173

    “Seemingly, the first thing to be “killed” was Christianity. This was the year of Lennon’s pronouncement that: “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right … We’re more popular than Jesus now.” ”

    How about now, John?

    • fredx2

      Well, he is right as far as Europe goes.

  • Rusty

    Methinks it is possible to give the Beatles and their apparent influence on mass culture too much credit for the change in social mores. It’s not like they invented license or the rejection of authority. It is too easy to burn books or suggest that popular music ought to be banned (which goes hand-in-hand with the writer’s criticism, although it was not explicitly stated). Even Plato wrote that society needs to regulate the kind of music and poetry that are presented to the youth if decadent influences were to be resisted. One truth presented by the author is that time and wisdom are required to better understand the events that could not be properly understood at the time.

    Humans have always been faced with the choices that were present in the post-war period. Blaming the Beatles seems a bit misplaced to me – they were a sign of the times, they did not cause the times. Supremely talented musicians, their musical and popular culture impact are worthy of appreciation for what they were – it doesn’t mean they were right, but it requires one to recognize, evaluate, and respond to the ideas being communicated. Whether the zeitgeist is with or against the Church’s teachings doesn’t affect what is true and beautiful, but it does impact the strength of Satan’s smoke.

    The fact that people still yearn for and seek God, even in today’s post-Christian Western society, is down to God. The sheep still know their shepherd.

    • fredx2

      What did happen is that for the first time, kids started influencing the culture heavily. It is not a good thing to have a culture overly influenced by kids. And by kids I mean teenagers and 20 year olds.

      • Art Deco

        I think you’re off in time by a decade. Post-war affluence shifted the median age of record buyers from early 20s to late teens by about 1957. Also, the practice of early marriage and ready child bearing meant there was a cavern of experience between those two age sets. My own mother and father were less than a decade older than the vanguard cohort of rock consumers, but they never acquired an interest in it, as they were married with children when it hit. Allan Bloom has written of the status of classical music among college students in the 1950s; my mother carried that the rest of her life and took little interest in popular music.

    • Indeed, the Beatles didn’t invent what they preached, but they did affirm many in that lifestyle.

  • The omission of Vatican II, from 11 Octorber 1962 to 8 December 1965 seems highly odd to me. It may have had as much to do with the end of the age as anything. A thousand plus years of church form swept out in days makes the church complicit in the carnage.

    • Ford Oxaal

      God works in mysterious ways, but always for the greater good, and never complicit in sin. Maybe in the long run it will be seen that Vatican II spelled the beginning of the end for organized Protestantism, a 500 year temper tantrum, and at the same time exposed a tumor inside the Church just waiting to blossom so it could be cut off and thrown into the fire. The Beatles were just the dupes with a medal pinned on their chest, like Richard Rich in “A Man for All Seasons”.

      • fredx2

        It may be that this last 50 years will be seen as the time in which the church tried the alternatives, saw they led nowhere, and then returned to the correct course which allowed it to win the encounter with modernity.

        • Art Deco

          I’d have said that two years ago. Francis and the response to him has persuaded me that the Church may be facing a period of deep, abiding, and crippling corruption. Different in expression from the era of immorality and subjugation to Roman factional politics you saw in the 10th century, but perhaps as characterized by ruin in other ways.

  • JP

    It has been 40 years since the break-up, and a measure of musical artist is longevity. It isn’t surprising that the Beatles’ popularity is strongest with the over 50 demographic. And while other musicians such as Bono and John Fruscante still pay lip service to the Fab Four, the Beatles popularity takes a nose dive with the under 40 crowd. With the exception of musical jingles one hears on commercial TV, many younger people know as much about the Beatles as they do Glenn Miller.

    Without a doubt, the Beatles were the most original and imaginative of their generation. In the studio they took chances no one else was willing to take. Personally, my favorite album of theirs is The White Album. But, over-all I never caught on to Beatle Mania. I come from the tail-end of the Boomer Generation, and I always liked the Stones, the Who, and the Yardbirds more than the Beatles. That was followed by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other assorted bands that came up in the 70s. And I outgrew them all. I just out cannot listen to that crap anymore.

    The whole Boomer Coming of Age Narrative has taken a legendary commercialized aura that has the Beatles situated smack dab in the middle. Reading memoirs of Boomer celebs and you will not miss how the Beatles changed their lives. The Beatles are to Boomers as Wagner was to many Central European intellectuals during the period 1890-1910 (Hitler was one such person). The only difference being is that 100 years from now more people will be listening to Wagner than the Beatles.

    • PF

      I don’t agree with your claim that more will be listening to Wagner than to the Beatles 40 years from now. The Beatles still have a place in the music libraries of Generation Y. But with few exceptions, nobody under the age of 40 listens to Wagner anymore.

      • PF

        Correction: I don’t agree with your claim that more will be listening to Wagner than to the Beatles 100 years from now.

      • fredx2

        And the only book they will read is a book about a boy witch named Harry Potter.

      • Art Deco

        nobody under the age of 40 listens to Wagner anymore.

        Recall the crack of Mark Twain: “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds”.

    • Billy Bean

      They’ve been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.

    • Art Deco

      The whole Boomer Coming of Age Narrative has taken on a legendary
      commercialized aura that has the Beatles situated smack dab in the
      middle.

      Do you think it might just be humbug promoted by bourgeois journalists about other bourgeois with whom they identified? Most Americans in 1968 were what they have been since they left agriculture: wage earners. A Springsteen tune like The River might delineate a more common experience of the era than the historical ‘documentaries’ you see on PBS or the contemporaneous bushwah in the magazine journalism of the time. Again, a large minority had military service (though its amusing the way critics of George Bush fancy that he evaded service in VietNam when 85% of his male contemporaries were never anywhere near VietNam), large blocs had union cards, or worked at ordinary bourgeois jobs and joined the Jaycees (read Joan Didion’s essay on the Jaycees). If you limit your focus to those engaged in politics, note that up until about 1968 the Young Americans for Freedom had a larger membership than the Students for a Democratic Society (and did not abruptly implode within two years, either).

    • Hailing from a later generation, I used to adore prog-rock bands like Yes and Pink Floyd and Rush and other less known bands. While definitely musically more sophisticated than other forms of rock, I was surprised recently by listening to a song by Pink Floyd and feeling rather annoyed. The change is that for the last decade and a half I have been exclusively listening to classic music. Though particularly attracted to Wagner, I can’t have enough baroque music!

  • Sherry

    How does the author know the reference in Eleanor Rigby is a specific reference to the Catholic Church. Lennon/McCartney were from England and would be familiar with the Church of England. Those pastors are called Father as well. Father McKenzie might have been Anglican.

    • John O’Neill

      Lennon and McCartney had roots in the Irish Catholic community in Liverpool which was extensive. Many Irish left their home and came to England looking for jobs and many of them settled in Liverpool where there was a sizable Catholic population.

      • stpetric

        On the other hand, there is a tombstone for an Eleanor Rigby easily visible from the principal entrance to the Anglican parish church of John Lennon’s youth. It was at a church social of that parish where Lennon and McCartney first met.

      • fredx2

        George’s family was Catholic, and I believe his mother was Irish.

  • stpetric

    The “Yesterday and Today” butcher cover was never officially released; it wasn’t “public outcry” that caused its recall but Capitol Records’ own pre-release second thoughts. Any connection between an album cover that was never released (and that most people never knew about) and liberalizing abortion laws is extremely tenuous.

    There are at least two alternate theories that strike me as more plausible. One is that the cover was a comment on Capitol’s “butchery” of the band’s British albums, which are quite different from the American releases. Another is that the “butchery” alluded to is the carnage then going on in Vietnam. Whether or not one believed the war justifiable, the casualties were significant.

    • fredx2

      I don’t think it was even that deep. I think it was just the creepy idea of the photographer, and God knows what was going on in his head. Probably just trying to impress the current arts scene of the time in England.

      • lspinelli

        It was the photographer’s idea at first. A few months later, Lennon revisited the pictures and thought they were perfect for representing what Capitol did to their EMI releases.

  • Mike Nace

    I’m ambivalent about this article, since, as a musician, The Beatles are my single most important musical influence. That being said, there is no doubt that the band experimented with themes that were at times dark. Turley points to “Revolver” as a thematic turning point for the band in terms of their interest into the occult and anti-Christian themes, however, there is a great deal of palpable angst on “Rubber Soul,” which precedes it.

    What’s left to decide are their motives. I’ve read and watched a lot of Beatles interviews, and I honestly don’t believe that, at the time, they were nearly as in touch with what they were doing thematically as Turley gives them credit for. I think that ultimately they were shallow, young men whose lives were turned upside down through fame, and it led them toward searching for answers. I think that McCartney and Starr remain rather shallow, secular people at heart these days, while I think that John and George did in many ways find a faith (the famously unpublished interview that Lennon did with Rolling Stone not long before his death revealed him to have come full circle as a Christian in belief and a Conservative thinker — a theme that is foreshadowed in “Revolution,” which is highly skeptical of the Left). While George experimented with eastern religion, he too settled into his faith in God.

    I don’t think the Beatles were the start of anything culturally so much as they were a reflection of what was going on. And I don’t think that they were closet Satanists who sold their souls to the devil.

    The Rolling Stones, on the other hand…

    • Objectivetruth

      I often thought (and hoped) that the words “Mother Mary……speaking words of wisdom” in the song “Let it Be” might have had a double meaning. A veiled honor by Paul to our Blessed Mother would have been nice.

      • stpetric

        McCartney says that the song refers to his natural mother, Mary McCartney, who died while Paul was an adolescent. However, the video graphics when he performs the song in concert are racks of votive lights, from which I infer that he is aware of, and not hostile to, people finding in it a reference to Our Lady.

      • slainte

        Bob Dylan is another giant of the 60s who seemed to be on a revolutionary dark path only to turn around and radically embrace Christ.
        .
        Father Robert Barron talks about him all the time on his Word on Fire apostolate. Dylan, after his conversion to Christianity from Judaism, used to preach Christ from the stage during his performances which disturbed more than a few of his more radical fans; they ended up leaving the performances. Dylan didn’t care; he just kept on preaching.
        .
        More power to Bob Dylan.

        • Objectivetruth

          Good story!

        • bbrown

          Has Dylan retained his faith? It seems somewhat common for pop stars to gain an immature enthusiasm and then just as quickly discard it when life becomes difficult or persecution strikes (which it always will).

        • Art Deco

          The admirable thing about Dylan was his inner-directedness. He did some protest songs but he really could not be roped into being an attraction at some sort of public demonstration (much to the irritation of Joan Baez) and never seemed to care if he irritated bien pensants.

        • Jay

          Is he still Christian today? I heard he changed back to Judaism.

    • Objectivetruth

      Rolling Stones hit…..”Sympathy for the Devil.”

    • fredx2

      From the wikipedia article on The Beatles religion:

      “McCartney pursued a kind of secular spirituality later in life, praying for his wife Linda when she had trouble giving birth to their daughter Stella, and declaring in the 1990s “I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual.” His 2001 song “Freedom”, written in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, spoke of freedom as “a right given by God”. (He had been waiting on board an airliner at John F. Kennedy Airport, when other airliners were being hijacked to make the attacks.)

      Speaking at the Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, in February 2010, Starr stated that he had recently returned to monotheism, saying “I stepped off the path there for many years and found my way [back] onto it, thank God.”

    • anonymous

      I agree, satan comes to steal, kill and destroy..the Beatles were a great target for his envy.
      I cannot judge anyone’s path of salvation, stay focused on my own..

  • Dick Prudlo

    I had a roommate in college that played their garbage endlessly. I attempted to interest him in modern jazz, i.e., Getz, Brubeck, etc., with no effect. I attempted to suggest he read some Chesterton and others, but he was fixated to this stuff. Today, this 67 year old is fixated on video’s and porn. Although anecdotal, it screams at least to me.

  • Frank Gibbons

    Talking about the Beatles visiting the Maharishi, the prudential Keith Richards once proclaimed “I draw the line at Swamis”.

    • fredx2

      Ever the prudent one!

      • Frank Gibbons

        Yes, Keith is a true Eagle Scout!

  • WalterPaulKomarnicki

    “Got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time” (“it’s getting worse”). Without God, things are bound to get worse.

  • Carlos X.

    Reading way too much into it. They were just a happy go lucky rock band. But don’t worry son, you won’t be the first or the last.

  • Elwin Ryan Ransom

    As a child of the 60s and a teen of the 70s who grew up a true believer in the movement and only later saw the destruction it created in my own life as well as the lives around me, I am often amazed at myself for feeling that maybe those parents who fought against what they saw as the immorality in rock and roll were actually right.

    • Art Deco

      The problem is, I think, that social life is a piece of architecture. If you remove supports here and there, eventually all that masonry resolves itself into a different architecture, and a less useful and aesthetically pleasing one for a that.

  • kentgeordie

    May I add that A Hard Day’s Night is actually a pretty boring film.

    • Art Deco

      I could never pay attention to the films.

    • Frank Gibbons

      Actually, it’s a quality film that’s ranked highly by a number of critics. I’ve watched many films by Welles, Ford, Bergman, Bresson, Kurosawa, Renoir, Hitchcock, Ozu, etc, etc, and I think “A Hard Day’s Night” is a very good movie. Roger Ebert, reviewing it in 1996, puts it in his “great movie” category and even the stodgy Bosley Crowther of the NY Times loved it when it came out.

      • kentgeordie

        OK, I’m outvoted. But I found it dull. Tedious. Unwatchable.
        Once again I find that the NY Times and I do not see eye to eye.

  • Art Deco

    If you look at the top 30 singles hits of the years running from 1963 through 1969 you see The Beatles placed five songs in 1964, two in 1966, and one each in 1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969. There’s a mess of ephemera on those charts from all kinds of performers. By and large, these singles are not The Beatles’ most engaging material either. (“I wanna hold your hand”, “she loves you”, “Help!”, “All you need is love” all placed).

    • Frank Gibbons

      For me, the album tracks on the Beatles’ LPs prior to the “White Album” were the most interesting work they ever did. Some of the early singles were jingles; later ones like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” were funeral dirges. Later album tracks like “The Long and Winding Road” were simply execrable. But I still love the early Beatles just as I did when I was fourteen.

  • Declan Kennedy

    I’ve read most of the above discussion. I saw “Hard Days Night” when it first came out. I throught it was a great film, although it opened me to other rubbish like the Grateful Dead and the the Airplane lot; I’m Irish and I wish you lot would stop blaming the English for Demonic influences in twentieth century rock.

  • Zoe

    I give George Harrison credit for one thing: once he embraced his HareKrishna/Hinduism-lite he stuck with it and wasn’t ashamed to include it in his songs. John was a conflicted soul, and along with Paul had an enormous ego, but at least was self-reflective. Remember, too, that none of these men had any religious upbringing. Paul is shallow. He has an enormous ego but he’s incredibly insecure, always on the defensive. His music and his lyrics are vapid because he is and he doesn’t seem to get any wiser with age. For every one good song, he has nine that are banal and trite. His espousing of Pete Singer/ PETA philosophy that equates the life of a human being to the life of animals is dangerous. It it also shows his lack of critical thought but his desire to believe in something. The Kinks and the Who wrote more intelligent songs, in fact the Beatles ripped everyone off from Dylan, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, San Francisco psychedelia, Broadway show tunes, English dance hall music…so they used a string quarter big deal. Chalk that up to george Martin and Jane Asher’s mother who was a music teacher. Remember Paul’s words from that forgettable banality Liverpool Oratorio (which was supposed to replace Messiah by Handel): “Good without an O is God; Devil without a D us evil.” This is the stupidity that passes for deep thought among the musically and theologically illiterate nowadays.

  • English Catholic

    I used to love the Beatles as a teenager. Now I utterly loathe them. Their early music is shallow and silly; their later stuff is wicked, both in its form and its content. I can’t listen to it: I have to turn if off.
    (And even technically speaking, it isn’t very good.)

  • JBubs

    Art imitates life. Sometimes poorly.

  • the accountant

    Wow did not know Lennon wanted Hitler on the album cover!!!! Strange mindset.

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