Anda di halaman 1dari 353

ARTIFICIAL

PARADISE
The Dark Side of the Beatles
Utopian Dream

Kevin Courrier

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Courrier, Kevin, 1954
Articial paradise : the dark side of the Beatles utopian dream / Kevin Courrier.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 9780313345869 (alk. paper)
1. Beatles. 2. Rock musiciansEnglandBiography. 3. Rock music19611970History
and criticism. I. Title.
ML421.B4C68 2009
782.421660922dc22
2008032632
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available.
Copyright 2009 by Kevin Courrier
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be
reproduced, by any process or technique, without the
express written consent of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2008032632
ISBN: 9780313345869
First published in 2009
Praeger Publishers, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
www.praeger.com
Printed in the United States of America

The paper used in this book complies with the


Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National
Information Standards Organization (Z39.481984).
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Don and Sheila Courrier for having the foresight to buy me a record
player early in my life
&
Roger Cormier and Walter Knox in gratitude for the years of shared music
and camaraderie.

Legends are born out of the need to decipher the indecipherable. Memories
must make do with the re of their delirium, with their drift. A moment
stopped would burn like a frame of lm blocked before the re of
the projector.
Chris Marker, Sans Soleil

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments

ix

Introduction: Step Inside Love

xi

Prologue: Nowhere Land


Chapter 1: Once There Was a Way

xxix
1

Chapter 2: Like Dreamers Do

30

Chapter 3: Hurricane of Love

66

Chapter 4: You Wont See Me

101

Chapter 5: Let Me Take You Down

129

Chapter 6: Fixing a Hole

159

Chapter 7: Turn Me On, Dead Man

188

Chapter 8: Come Together

236

Epilogue: Dreams Within a Dream

257

Notes

281

Index

297

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The idea for Articial Paradise came about a few years ago over a dinner
conversation among some close friends about the Beatles. The conversation
that night had rippled with friendly intensity. As we argued about the
groups merit, it had me wondering how a band over 30 years gone could
continue to spark debate as if theyd just broken up yesterday. Three books
made it possible for me to expand the ideas in my own work. Devin McKinneys Magic Circles opened up the territory, while Ian MacDonalds Revolution in the Head provided astute comments on the Beatles music and the
zeitgeist of their time. Steve Turners A Hard Days Write was invaluable
for collating the background to the writing of their songs.
I took this project to a number of publishers who didnt see the worth in it.
So I was deeply fortunate that Daniel Harmon at Greenwood Publishing
Group did. And Id rst like to thank him for his supportand for not collapsing from a heart attack when he saw the books length. Id also like to
thank Kelly Fisher Lowe for recommending the publishing house. Special
thanks also goes to Erin Fleck who provided the door which I gladly opened
to the concept of Nowhere Land. There were a number of readers who made
my job easier (and less lonely). First and foremost, Id like to express my
sheer gratitude to my friend and CBC colleague Greig Dymond, who cares
as much about the Beatles as I do. His invaluable support and insightful suggestions, which grew out of many years of discussing the group, made him a
worthy collaborator on this project. Steve Vineberg provided the kind of forensics appraisal that always keeps you sharp and never lets your work go
soft. Its one of many reasons why hes such a valued friend. Naomi Boxer
kept me on my game and did what deeply cherished comrades always do:
She gave unconditional support of both the work and myselfno matter
how tired or grumpy I became. David Churchill is one of my oldest and
closest friends for a damn good reason. Hes always there with the right
questions, the best answers, and the biggest heart. Special thanks go to Susan

Acknowledgments

Green for the years of unconditional love and friendship. My deep appreciation is also extended to Jack David and Jen Hale. Thanks to M. F. for the
rare Beatles album, too.
Many other people helped where they could and in their own distinct way.
My producer and good friend John Corcelli generously gave me all the
breathing room and encouragement that I needed to nish this book. Fellow
author Donald Brackett has been part of a long musical chairs style dialog
that provesonce againhow the shared love of art can deepen the best
of friendships. Judy Graham reminds me of why music lovers make for great
friends. Lynne Teperman is the kind of generous and loving friend that I feel
more than grateful for having in my life. Janice Newton has always provided
the most valued kind of encouragement in both my life and work. Shlomo
Schwartzberg was always on the lookout for good Beatle material and provided some invaluable research. Ester Arbeid lent me a valuable book. My
friends and colleagues at Public Outreach (you know who you are) always
give me hope that theres a better world to make. Adam Nayman always
gives me hope that there is better lm criticism to write. Id be remiss to forget Mi-Kyong Shim for changing my life. Thanks to Bob Douglas and Gayle
Burns for always caring. Annie Bryant for mattering beyond words. Sandra
Kerr and Vrenia Ivanoffski for convincing me I could teach and write. Avril
Orloff may be across the country, but shes never far from my heart. Sheila,
Shawn, and Scott Courrier and Albert Vezeau who never forget. Special
thanks goes to the Ontario Arts Council for the nancial help to nish this
book. And, of course, a tip of my hat to Anton Leo and Dave Downey, without whom, none of this would have been possible.
Kevin Courrier
July 2008

INTRODUCTION
Step Inside Love
Art speaks to our dream nature, our secret desires, our wordless
understanding of the world.
Rennie Sparks, lyricist for the Handsome Family
The French lm critic Andre Bazin once wisely remarked that it was difcult
for directors to make great movies based on classic books because they often
feel intimidated competing with a literary classic. The writers voice
becomes such a strong presence, and the books reputation is so unassailable, that the moviemaker believes that he or she cant possibly nd his
own voice in the process of adapting it. Writing about the Beatles is a little
like that. The music is so good, their story so rich, so familiar to us, that
you can feel frozen in the face of it. Unlike Frank Zappa, Randy Newman,
and Captain Beefheart, the subjects of my previous books, the Beatles have
been so thoroughly covered in print that it seemed presumptuous of me to
add my own opinions. I even began to get embarrassed, almost sheepish, in
responding to anyone who asked me about the latest project. In contrast,
when I wrote about Zappa and Newman, it was like sharing some enticing
secret with the reader. But the Beatles? Who hasnt scribbled something
about them? What could I possibly add to the huge pile of Beatle lore? Since
everyone already has an opinion about the Beatles and their music, I began
to feel swallowed up by the idea. I was luckier with my previous subjects.
Most people had never heard of albums like Trout Mask Replica, Bad Love,
or Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Nevertheless, the Beatles were, in the end,
inevitable for me. I had lived through their music, grew up with it, and I
saw them in concert each time they came through Toronto. Without the
Beatles, in a certain sense, I wouldnt have found my way to Weasels Ripped

xii

Introduction

My Flesh. Their music and its impact on the culture was so signicant that
just about every other form of popular music stood in comparison to it.
But between the lines of this great music was another tale I wanted to tell.
That story was about the failed utopian hopes of the sixties. It was about
what those hopes were, why they emerged, and how the Beatles embodied
them; about what happened when the Beatles, and the counterculture they
helped create, couldnt fulll them. Since the Beatles had built a world for
us to dream in, what were the contours of that dream world? What part
did we play in its conception? I sought to examine how the Fab Four concocted, through their distinct personalities and tantalizing music, the promise of an inclusive culture built on the principles of pleasure. Their music
offered a utopia of the mind, a Nowhere Land, rather than a political manifesto for social change. On February 11, 1963, when the Beatles recorded
Theres a Place, a dazzling, mostly unheralded tune included on their electrifying debut album, Please Please Me, the song rmly laid the foundation
on which this huge utopian dream would be launched. But within that
dream also lay darker elements that materialized out of the very counterculture they helped concoct. As they would initially attract adoring fans, they
would soon draw the envious and the resentful to themselves. They would
also ultimately draw those with murderous ambitions. Disillusionment with
the sixties, along with the dashed hopes endured by the group itself, would
years later culminate in tragedy with the assassination of John Lennon and
the attempted slaying of George Harrison, perpetrated by deranged and
obsessed fans. This was the tale I wanted to tell. What I realized, in sharing
this story, is that, by being a fan, I couldnt avoid telling my own as well.
When I was four, I developed a promiscuous interest in music. Without
understanding the meaning of the rst songs I discovered, such as Frankie
Laines romantic confession Moonlight Gambler or Marty Robbins fateful ballad The Hanging Tree, I was drawn by the unusual texture of sound
in those numbers. Laine, a hyperbolic performer, used a number of strange
effects in his composition. A high-pitched whistle, drenched in echo, opened
the track; to my young ears, that whistle seemed to be forlornly signaling to
some distant train arriving into a lonely, abandoned station. It was soon followed by another voice making click-clop noises, as if a majestic horse were
coming over the hill to intercept that oncoming train. And all of this was taking place before Frankie Laine opened his mouth to sing. It was clear that I
was responding to more than just a songit was a whole other world of
sound reverberating around me, creating a spot in my imagination, inviting
me to share in the musics distinctive peculiarities. But these were my
parents and my relatives records. I didnt really discover rock n roll until
my mothers cousin, Jimmy Mahon, came to live with us in 1959.
Jimmy had a huge collection of 45s, by such performers as Buddy Holly
(It Doesnt Matter Anymore), Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks

Introduction

xiii

(Southern Love), rockabilly artist Jack Scott (Patsy), the Mills Brothers
(Till Then), some Elvis (Dont Be Cruel), and Little Anthony and the
Imperials (their wonderfully eerie voodoo hit Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-KoBop). He also owned a portable 45 rpm record player with a built-in cone
to stack each record on top of the others. When one nished, the next song
would drop down and begin to play. I used to sit in the middle of my room,
stack the singles, and leaning against my bed, listen to the songs for hours.
And there it was: my rst love affair with music. Of course, even though I fell
hard for Jimmys rock collection, the records and the songs were his, not
mine. (All I owned was Popeye, the Sailor Man and Blow the Man
Down.) At ve, I asked myself when I would nd my own music.
Word of the Beatles reached Canada before it did in America. In 1963,
some of their songs were getting radio airplay and many of my school friends
were starting to take notice. When I saw a photo of the group, four guys in
matching suits and cereal-bowl haircuts, they looked too precious for words.
My parents complained about their long hair and, adorned with my own
razor-shorned brush cut, I found no reason to argue. But a sharp guy in my
grade three class seemed to know a thing or two about music. Brian Potts
was older than his years. When the Beatles were about to make their historic
appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, Brian was telling all
within earshot to watch. He already owned their new album and he promised us that their TV performance would be worth it. A contrarian even at
the age of nine, I scoffed and refused to watch the show. So the next day,
Brian invited me over to his house to hear With The Beatles. It was their second UK album (called Beatlemania! With The Beatles in Canada) and it had
a black-and-white photo on the front cover with the group in half-prole.
The picture was startlinghalf in light, half in shadowand their faces
revealed no desire to please anyone. The music, on the other hand, was
immediately arresting. From the opening track, the boldly appealing It
Wont Be Long featured John Lennon declaring his desire to be by his lovers side, as Paul McCartney and George Harrison backed him up with
afrmative Yeahs! I was instantly hooked.
There was a quality of feeling in this music that told you it was yours to
possess. And as joyful as it was, it also had a bottom end, a certain sadness
at its core. The Beatles seized me dramatically because the pleasure in their
sound tugged at some unarticulated, buried sorrow. The seductive All My
Loving, for example, was the happiest song on the record, but it was about
the singer going away, leaving his girl behind. Most popular artists, like
Bobby Vee in Take Good Care of My Baby, made it clear that there was
nothing about the absence of a lover to feel happy about. Paul McCartneys
song, on the other hand, made a candid promise. Hell write every day hes
away, so although hes gone, dont worry, hell be back, just as Lennon
would be in It Wont Be Long. When the Beatles covered Motown, as in
their version of the Marvelettes charming 1961 hit Please Mr. Postman,

xiv

Introduction

they act out an emotional tug-of-war. The Marvelettes coyly beg the postman for that letter, perfectly condent that the boy will come through;
Please Mr. Postman anticipates the joy the singer will feel when that letter
arrives. In the Beatles version, John Lennon sounds like a man on death row
waiting for a reprieve. The elation in his voice at the thought of this letter
arriving is also paired with anguish that it may never come. This equivocal
characteristic of their music wasnt a simple divide between pleasure and
pain, right and wrong, or an unassuming claim asserting that pain would
lead to pleasure (as the woman in Girl believes). The Beatles records
had transcendence in them, a belief that even in the most despairing
moment, hope was possible; that even at the most painful time, enjoyment
could be around the corner. With The Beatles was the rst Beatles record I
bought with my saved allowance in March 1964though my parents
warned me not to get any ideas about growing my hair long.
In September, my mother bought me a ticket to the Beatles rst concert at
Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. I was somewhat surprised since she had to
put up with Brian Potts and me at the drive-in earlier that summer watching
A Hard Days Night, the Beatles rst lm. Bored out of her mind, clueless to
the Liverpudlian humor in the script, she also had to listen to Brian ponticate on the type of acoustic guitar Lennon was playing during If I Fell.
Nonetheless, she roamed the downtown streets seeking out a scalper so I
could attend the concert. She could only get one ticket so I had to go it alone.
I walked gingerly past scores of young girls screaming, tearing at their hair,
their clothes, some dropping to the ground in a fainting t in front of me.
One female I recall was hitting her headhardagainst the Gardens brick
wall screaming out for Paul, who, of course, wasnt there to answer. He
didnt yet know that the hopeful promise he offered in All My Loving
would generate such desperate responses.
Inside the hockey arena, the sports palace that housed the storied Toronto
Maple Leafs, my grandfather and I had watched many games together, but I
was now entering it by myself for the rst time to see the Beatles. It was a rite
of passagemy rst rock concert. Many performers took the stage before
the Beatles, but in my fervent anticipation, I didnt register any of them. I
was in the cheapest seats in the building, up in the gray area near the roof,
so I could barely see the stage. When DJ Jungle Jay Nelson of the local
CHUM radio introduced the Beatles, the din was frighteningly intense. I
knew the tunes, but I could barely hear the melodies for the screams from
the crowd. An older gentleman beside me lent me his binoculars from time
to time through the groups brief half-hour set. Dressed in their matching
suits, like elegant bachelors at a ball, they withstood the barrage from the
crowd. Singing She Loves You, they dug their black heels into the oor,
as if ghting back hurricane winds, yet smiling happily, knowing that the
vivacity of that song could match, perhaps even surpass, the devoted shouts
the song earned. At times, it was as much a battle of wits as a concert. I

Introduction

xv

remember the excitement of the audience during the Beatles performance of


Please Please Me. The plea from the stage was to come on, share this love,
an urgent appeal that was greeted with a desire in the crowd to become one
with this young and exciting group. Nothing could compare to the emotional force in the stadium that afternoon. As the Beatles left the stage, once
they had completed their mandatory mannerly bows, the air was thick with
exhilaration. My ears rang for days.
When I saw them again at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1965, the music was
becoming a little more sophisticated and I was sitting a lot closeron the
oor, mere feet from the stage. With the majority of the screaming behind
me, the intensity of the music was now before me. Lennon played a Hammond organ at this show, and as he sang Larry Williams exuberant 1958
bar boogie Dizzy Miss Lizzy, hed alternate his ngers and his elbows,
madly stroking the keyboards. Yet as exciting as the concert was, it lacked
the impact of the 1964 performance because it was clear to meeven at
my callow agethat the Beatles show was starting to become routine. Certain of what to expect from the crowd, they knew now what to feed us. Yet
despite the predictability of concerts like this one, they were never content to
repeat their success when it came to their albums. As they scrambled
through their second lm, the James Bond parody pastiche Help! they also
released the introspective Rubber Soul, and later offered us the dazzling
eclecticism of Revolver. On these records, the Beatles challenged us to hear
music in new and exciting ways. The artistic risks they were taking in the
studio were replacing the excitement once heard in their concerts. In 1966,
their most dangerous risk, however, took the form of John Lennons remark
about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ. Despite the outcry
over his comment, what Lennon argued was nothing more than a simple
truth: popular culture, the paganism of the sixties, was becoming the new
religion.
The year 1966 was also the year of their nal tour, and thats where the
violence that had been lurking under the surface of the happily screaming
throngs fully materialized. Facing death threats in Japan for daring to play
at the Budokan, being assaulted in the Philippines for snubbing Imelda Marcoss state dinner, their albums burned in the American Bible Belt as a protest against Lennons Jesus remark, the Beatles were now targets of hatred
rather than just entertainers of adoring crowds. When I saw the group for
the last time at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1966, I sensed a different dynamic
in the audience. The spontaneity of earlier shows was no longer present in
either the crowd or the group. For that show, I decided to bring a tape
recorder my parents had recently bought me. Nobody bothered checking
my machine since bootleg albums were still in the future, and copyright
infringement was still an issue for publishers and libraries only. My seat
wasnt quite as good as it was in 1965, but I was close enough to get a reasonable recording of the show. The screaming was also nowhere near the

xvi

Introduction

pitch it had been during the heights of Beatlemania. If there was frenzy in the
audience, it seemed rehearsed, as if people were acting out roles in a movie in
their minds, no longer responding to the performance on stage.
I took my friend Doug Smith to the show and afterward, as we were exiting, the crowd turned toward us, thinking they saw the Beatles and began
stampeding. I quickly pulled myself to the wall, clutching my tape recorder
for fear it would get broken. Unfortunately, I wasnt as cautious about my
feet and someone stomped over my ankle spraining it slightly. Doug wasnt
as fortunate: he got mowed down so fast I didnt see where he went. When
the paramedics asked me for a description of Doug, I told them what he
looked like before the crowd clobbered him, but I was afraid to consider
what he might resemble now. I remembered the scary pitch of intensity in
the audience in 1964, but the mood this time was more potentially dangerous. The crowd was less responsive to the Beatles, or to their music; they
were now becoming conscious of their own power. The harmony between
the group and the audience was no longer synergized.
As I sat on the stairs waiting for the paramedics to nd Doug, with my
ankle gently throbbing, I stretched out my legs. As I did, I heard voices and
footsteps coming down the steps toward me. Most of the crowd had left
the building by now so I found myself wondering who it was. As I looked
up, I was stunned to see that it was themit was the Beatles. Here at their
nal Toronto show, they were right before me. I was so startled that I
couldnt decide whether to pull my legs in so that they could walk around
me, or leave my legs stretched out, so they could just jump over me. Confused, I moved them up and down like a disabled drawbridge. Paul laughed
as he jumped over me, while George briskly walked around my feet toward
the wall. I brought my knees up and Ringo gingerly stepped around my feet,
but John had already decided to leap over me, and his foot caught the edge
of my knee. He started tumbling down the stairs, but quickly caught his balance toward the end, with Georges help. Horried, I tried to say I was sorry
but the words wouldnt come out. I was caught in one of those paralyzing
moments that resemble a dream where you try to run but you cant because
your legs wont move. Lennon quickly shot me his trademark look: an angry
pose replaced by a quick smile that caught you off guard and told you it was
alright. It was the same disarming smile you could clearly hear in his voice
on Eight Days a Week or I Feel Fine. I stumbled down the stairs to
watch them enter the press lounge for what would be their nal Toronto
press conference.
When Doug was nally found, he certainly wasnt smiling. Although he
was physically ne, he was emotionally shook up. He was even less pleased
when he heard that I got to meet the Beatles. But I was the one who soon
had little reason to be smiling. Assuming the Beatles would come back the
next year, I decided to erase my tape of the concert because buying reel-toreel audiotape was pretty expensive for an 11-year-oldand, of course, the

Introduction

xvii

Beatles never returned. The tape that had once contained the Beatles nal
Toronto concert was now lled with the voices of my grandmothers taunting each other as they played cards.
The concert in San Francisco at the end of the summer of 1966 was to be
their last. From that moment onward, they no longer wished to be the
Beatles we knew. They were soon to be disguised by nineteenth-century
moustaches and mutton chops, calling themselves Sgt. Peppers Lonely
Hearts Club Band. Along with this new look and the fundamental shift in
their new singles, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, their candid revelations about drug use began to test the loyalty of some fans (who
ran for comfort to the Monkees). But the effects of drugs had always been
part of their music, beginning with the uppers they used in Germany at the
outset of their career, so they could play maniacal rock n roll nonstop.
They embraced grass to reach the contemplative state of Rubber Soul,
turned to psychedelic drugs like LSD to reach the mystical grandeur of
Revolver in 1966. The widespread use of harder drugs, especially in the
counterculture, would evolve into a type of skid row psychosis, and when
John Lennon was taking heroin in 1968, the effects of this psychosis inltrated the Beatles, too. The harsh individualism heard on their White
Album that year began to mirror the violent splintering taking place in
the counterculture. The curtailing of political and cultural reform with the
assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy contributed to
ending the ideals of the era. Soon the hippie movement would evolve into
the Manson Family, while the Students for a Democratic Society would
become, in a modern equivalent of Dostoevskys The Devils, the terrorists
of the Weather Underground.
The drug culture the Beatles had endorsed had little impact on me,
although I did do some experimentation of my own. When I discovered
Frank Zappa in 1968, his persuasive view of the harmful impact of narcotics
was convincing. (Seeing what people around me were like on various types
of chemical refreshment served as a perfect deterrent as well.) But I did
become quite politically active on the left, especially after the shocking
events of 1968, and I briey toyed with the extremism found in various collectives and cells. When King and Kennedy were murdered, the thought of
revolution seemed not only necessary but inevitable to me. Fortunately,
when I discovered the writings of Arthur Koestler, Dostoevsky, Freud, Hannah Arendt, Wilhelm Reich, and Robert Lindner, through a high school
teachers marvelous humanities class, I realized much to my own dismay
that the political discourse I was endorsing was tinged with bitterness and
personal disillusionment. When the Beatles ended their celebrated career
with Abbey Road in 1969, they had concluded with the line, The love
you take/Is equal to the love you make. By the time they uttered those
words, I had realized all too well that there was little love left to takeor
makefrom the culture.

xviii

Introduction

When the Beatles broke up in 1970, the book might have been closed: a
great rock band breaks up and life goes on, as John Lennon put it at the time.
But the group continued to be a leitmotif through the seventies, when people
kept clamoring for a Beatles reunion, until 1980, when Lennon was murdered. The Beatles utopian spirit, a dream of love and inclusion, had always
been an articial paradise, but the seventies had turned quite perdious.
Since the stakes offered by the Beatles dream were so high, the disenchantment with the sixties was all that more painful.
If one rock band in the history of rock music captured the hearts and souls
of an audience, plus the spirit of a decade, it was certainly the Beatles. Unlike
that of any other group, their music found ways to astonish us and change
our expectations of what pop culture could be. They helped to bring about
a cultural revolution that altered our perceptions of what the world around
us might become. The Beatles also offered a promise that we all could share
in. Beyond being a signicant part of the cultural history of the sixties, they
were a force that shaped that history. While their musical innovations set
high standards among their peers, as a group, they went far beyond the status of great pop stars. They were pop artists who deliberately gave voice to
their time while allowing others, in the process, the means to nd their
own voices. The relationship the Beatles developed with their fans over eight
years, 12 albums, and dozens of singles became an intense explosion lled
with desire. The explosion they touched off echoed the New Frontier promised by John Kennedy in his 1960 inaugural speech when he implored, Ask
not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Kennedys address, which asked Americas citizens to become part of
a larger dream, made possible the utopian spirit of the Beatles. When Kennedys idealistic plea was answered with the gunshots in Dallas in 1963,
the countrys mournful mood was answered by the Beatles new hope a
few months after his assassination.
Although they were British, the Beatles idealism took the form of American rock and rhythm and blues music. And why not? [They resurrected]
music we had ignored, forgotten or discarded, recycling it in a shinier, more
feckless and yet more raucous form, wrote music critic Lester Bangs.1 And
they chose the most appropriate music in which to lift our spirits: In retrospect, it seems obvious that this elevation of our mood had to come from
outside the parameters of Americas own musical culture, if only because
the folk music which then dominated American pop was so tied to the
crushed dreams of the New Frontier. 2 From the moment the Beatles
appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, they seemed to resurrect the possibility for a better world. [It was] the last time we can remember believing that life got better every day rather than worse, Beatles
biographer Philip Norman recalls.3 Author and critic Steve Turner, in The
Gospel according to the Beatles, conrms Normans view, while dening
our own complicity in the Beatles hopes. During such a time of uncertainty

Introduction

xix

the Beatles represented the best of what people longed for, Turner writes.
They represented laughter rather than tears, hope rather than despair, love
rather than hatred, life rather than death.4
The joy we heard expressed in the Beatles best music offered us an ardent
connection to the group. But while that identication brought both the
pleasure and the belief those two writers describe, in time it would also bring
pain and disappointment. The unending riddle of the Beatles stamp on
popular culture is basically this: how did a band so devoted to love, also
attract, and occasionally inspire, such hate? Within [Beatlemania] the symbolisms of desire, fear, and foreboding ran wild, Devin McKinney asserts in
his book Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History. Under its proscenia, acts were committed which could not be consciously acknowledged
for what they were. And under its sway, the dreamer had no power over its
components, its direction, or its outcome.5 Within an open-ended dynamic,
the contours of their vision housed a passionate love riddled with paradoxes.
Although the strong fervor of this romance promised better days, it also
carried within it the roots of disillusionment, rage, and ultimately murder.
The innocent invitation of I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1964, which
cast a bright reection of deep love, would, within a few years, be answered
by the shadow of death formed by the grim prescience of Helter Skelter
in 1968.
To imply that there is a dark side to the Beatles utopian dream is by no
means to say that the dream is false or inherently corrupt. It isnt either/or.
Out of this dream grew hope, an honest desire for change, and even a sense
of fulllment that comes with the realization of what that change can mean.
From the moment we heard our very rst Beatles song, so unlike any other
pleasurable form of pop, many of us believed that the real world, if not our
own lives, would change into something much ner than we knew. The joy
expressed in a song like Eight Days a Week made us believe that love
could extend the calendar, even though we knew it couldnt literally be
done. Through the conuence of four disparate men coming together at the
time they did, with the songs they imagined, we invested hope that the world
they invented in those songs was inherently possible. But we then woke up
one day to discover that the world hadnt changed for the better. We had
to recognize that the Beatles greatness lay in the way they changed our perspective on the world, rather than their impact on the state of the world.
Some experienced a profound sense of loss over the fact that something so
grand, so powerful, could change so little of the worlds poverty and the
hatred among nations. For others, the end of the Beatles dream was a
betrayal and no promise would ever again be great enough to make them feel
as hopeful again. The void at the heart of this kind of despair would be seen
in the actions of a Mark David Chapman. In one way, or another, this
longing for communitythe dream of self-willed equity and harmony, or
at least tolerant pluralism in a world where familiar notions of family and

xx

Introduction

accord were breaking downwould haunt rocks most meaningful


moments for the remainder of the decade, eloquently writes Mikal Gilmore
in his book Night Beat, about the dashed hopes inspired by the Beatles.6
This specic longing, though, ran deeper and much longer than the decade
Gilmore refers to.
The endless struggle to dene community pops up almost everywhere in
American culture. In 1928, in the wake of a horrible depression, folk singer
Harry McClintock proposed an alternate world in Big Rock Candy Mountain where ones worst trepidations could happily vanish. On Bruce
Springsteens Magic (2007), the narrator on Radio Nowhere desperately
scans the radio dial looking for a song that will pull it all together, make
sense of the turbulent tenor of contemporary American life, but he cant nd
it. Hes not just clamoring for some current hit to tap his toes to; hes searching through time to nd some meaning thats lost to him, an ageless song
that reminds him that hes part of something bigger and not at the mercy
of transient tastes, the whims of the moment. His goal, as the song states,
is to be delivered from nowhere. [T]he covenant between Springsteen and
his audience remains strong, in part because he gives them permission to
go on believing in trust, even when the world seems to offer so few things
to deserve it, writes Robert Everett-Green in the Toronto Globe and Mail
after a 2007 Springsteen concert in Ottawa, Canada.7 You can see the cost
of that pursuit of a covenant to trust in Tommy Lee Joness Sheriff Ed Tom
Bell, as he walks through the indifferent murderous American landscape in
the Coen Brothers laconic thriller adapted from Cormac McCarthys novel
No Country for Old Men (2007). [His] last speech is a contemplation of
hope, a dream, about however dark and cold the world might be, however
long the ride through it might be, that at the end you know that you will
go to your fathers house and it will be warm, or to a re that your father
has carried and built for you, Jones told a journalist in 2008. The last sentence of the movie is, And then I woke up. Its a contemplation of the idea
of hope, is it an illusion? Is it just a dream? And if it is, is the dream real?8
The question of whether it is real or all an illusion, a question John Lennon
posed explicitly in Strawberry Fields Forever, always remained at the
heart of the Beatles vision. Those of us seeking the covenant they offered
were searching for something outside the world we were fated to live in.
But the America that the Beatles bonded with in the sixties, despite the
Vietnam War and racial iniquity, still had a promise worth believing in. In
the wake of the current Iraq War, profoundly hysterical anti-Americanism
has replaced a critical distinction between whats rich and true in the culture
and whats empty and false. You can see that lack of distinction, too, in the
fatalistic world of Paul Thomas Andersons There Will Be Blood (2007).
The picture is a preordained polemical statement, an empty pose that offers
little insight and no surprises. Andersons epic tale of American betrayal
implies that there was no American Dream to breach since it was already a

Introduction

xxi

nightmare to begin with. So his movie provides no tragic dimension to the


teeming avarice of the oilman played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Walt Whitman
had once distinguished between an art that decided presidential elections
and an art that made those elections irrelevant. There Will Be Blood is art
thats too busy counting ballots. There is no grandeur to the deceived dream
to even care about its loss. By marrying themselves to the most vital and
exciting aspects of American culture, the kind that outstrips partisan
polemics, the Beatles give the lie to the kind of narrow assertions Anderson
deals in. They built a dream world based on Americas conicted spiritits
promises and its failingswhich offer us a wider denition of community,
one that also attracts many diverse citizens.
In 1963, the young Brit Ozzy Osborne, yet to become the Wizard of Oz
fronting the formidable Black Sabbath, was walking down the street with
his transistor radio when She Loves You suddenly came on. It took me
to another placeand Im still there now, Ozzy told Uncut in 2005. I collected everything with the name Beatles on it. My bedroom wall was like a
sanctuary to them.9 That same year, a Scottish teenager with aspirations
to live a bohemian life had a calling to play music. Donovan Leitch sat in
his bedroom and just turned on his radio as many kids his age did. [It
was] one of those old, Bakerlite jobs with the grill of a Fifties American automobile, he recalled to Anthony DeCurtis in 2003. The DJ played a pop
song, and this song washed over me and I had to sit down. I was dumbfounded, in a kind of altered state. It was two guitars, harmonica, drums,
bass and these extraordinary Celtic harmonies. I couldnt quite gure out
what it was, but I said to myself, Im going to do that. There it isthats
the fusion. And then the DJ said, And that was the Beatles with Love
Me Do.10 Step inside love, the song told Donovan, and he did just that.
When the Beatles 1, a CD of #1 hits, was about to sell nearly 30 million
copies in November 2000, the largest number of buyers were 16- to 24year-olds. To commemorate the album, ABC Television ran a Beatles special
called The Beatles Revolution, which featured a number of celebrities and
recording artists. Comedian Robin Williams described the Beatles songs as
residing not so much in his memory banks as in his genes. Singer Sinead
OConnor, whose public persona rivaled John Lennons for its outspokenness, claimed that the Beatles were the modern version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, able to change the entire face of the planet. Author
Salman Rushdie remembered how, for ve minutes in the history of the
human race, thanks to George Harrisons interest in Indian music and culture, he felt that it was very sexy to be born in Indiaespecially to the girls
he met. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of amazon.com, declared the Beatles futurists
for recognizing the emergence of a global village (to borrow Marshall
McLuhans prophetic phrase). But it was composer Michael Kamen who
identied the nature of the strong bond between the Beatles and their audience: We didnt want to be like the Beatles, we wanted to be the Beatles.11

xxii

Introduction

Tom Robbins wrote in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues that you could tell a
lot about a person by learning who his or her favorite Beatle was. The svelte
sixties model Twiggy remembered ghts in the schoolyard over who the
most attractive Beatle was. (Her choice was Paul McCartney.) Comedian
Tim Allen loved Ringos everyman quality. Author J.K. Rowling was madly
in love with the quiet, contemplative George Harrison, but she wrote about
a hero, Harry Potter, who looked more like John Lennon. Blues singer/guitarist Bonnie Raitt covered her wall with Lennon pictures. She even had a
pillowcase with Lennons face on it so she could kiss him goodnight. My
own favorite, like Rowling, was George. His unassuming stature suited my
own reserve and I liked the simplicity of his songs. He seemed too shy to
have a voice and yet was still determined to express his thoughts. Dont
bother me, one song might say. Think for yourself, another would add. If
I Needed Someone told you that he denitely had needs, but he wasnt
needy. His egoless detachment naturally led to an interest in spiritualism
(and sometimes some pretty dull sermonizing) that was never less than genuine. I admired and identied with that characteristic over the imposing
genius of Lennon, the magnetic showmans gifts of McCartney, the steadyrollin self-effacing appeal of Ringo Starr.
Most performers responded to what they heard in the music. In songs like
Town Without Pity and Only Love Can Break Your Heart, singer Gene
Pitney had the loneliest voice next to Roy Orbisons, or maybe Del Shannonsa voice that didnt set out to build a community, but rather existed
in the shadow of night, on dark streets where it faded into isolation and
oblivion, the way Paul Muni did at the end of the Depression-era social
problem picture I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). Despite his forlorn romanticism, though, Pitney understood the utopian foundation that
the Beatles built. I wasnt an outsider looking in, but there was a feeling
of optimism, Pitney once explained about his response to the Beatles.
There was something about whether the problems of the world, or personally, you could make them work out. There was an answer to it. To me that
all fell apart at the end of the 1960s and diminished into something that
nobody ever believed in anymore.12 The Beatles story is partially about
things falling apart. But its also about desperately trying to put the pieces
back together again.
At Beatlefests worldwide, fans offer celebratory events unlike those for
other pop groups of the past. In tributes to other pop legends, the music is
generally enjoyed for its nostalgic value. But attending Beatles events is like
entering a world invented solely to recreate a history. These particular
events, of course, leave out one key part of that narrative: the madness and
the shadowy undercurrents of Beatlemania. At these gatherings, people step
inside the skin of their favorite Beatle. Once I saw a gentleman gleefully,
without self-consciousness, take on Ringos style and even his name. There

Introduction

xxiii

he was madly signing autographs as if he were the real deal. Mostly at these
happenings, though, you are exposed to fannish discourse given by the background players in the Beatles story. At one event in New Jersey in 1999,
Mojo magazine writers Dawn Eden and Simon Moran encountered former
Beatles publicist Tony Barrow enrapturing the crowd with old band stories
(one included quoting John Lennon who had once asked him, If youre not
Jewish and youre not queer, why are you going to work for Brian
Epstein?). Sometimes they met some of the recording artists, all but forgotten today, who toured with the Beatles in 1964. These were people I had forgotten Id seen like singer Doris Troy, whose song, Just One Look, I loved
as a boy. Eden and Moran also encountered Gordon Waller, late of Peter
and Gordon, who recorded a battery of Lennon and McCartney discards
like World Without Love and Nobody I Know, reliving a time that
had denitely passed them by, if time was ever on their side to begin with.
Theyre not forgotten by these hard-core fans, though, who are still looking
for a glimpse of that Beatles magic, an aura of what made their period so
convulsively joyous.
If these special guests cant supply the magical ambience, then the fans
attempt to create it for themselves. Sometimes it took the form of Bob
Abdous Beatles Puppet Show, or the clone bands that tackled the music, like
Liverpool who performed Strawberry Fields Forever with every little
sonic detail in place. The audience seems to think its really the Beatles up
there, Eden and Moran wrote in Mojo. Their excitement stems from Liverpools frighteningly high-level of authenticity.13 By taking the right steps,
playing the right notes, who knows? Maybe they feel they can nd the vanished Beatles spirit. Over the years, there has been an endless supply of
Beatles tribute bands, but perhaps no tribute quite like the one that took
place in Toronto on December 17, 2006. A 20-member ensemble called
Classic Albums Live (who had spent four years performing classic albums
by the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead) embarked on a 211-song,
12-hour Beatles marathon, beginning with the groups 1963s debut Please
Please Me right through to Let It Be in 1970. Rather than duplicate the
experience of the Beatles by adopting their look and attitude (as tribute
bands like Rain have), Classic Albums Live concentrated solely on the
music. We treat these albums as if they are sacred, founder Craig Martin
told Vit Wagner of The Toronto Star. Its a rock n roll recital. Were a
cover band as much as the [Toronto Symphony Orchestra] is a cover
band.14 So if Mozart or Bach has provided a standard repertoire for symphony orchestras to draw upon, Classic Albums Live believe the Beatles
have left a pop canon that cover bands can perform to seek legitimacy.
Delving into the essence of the Beatles pop canon has also put lmmakers
on a quest to capture some of that sacred territory. Theater wunderkind Julie
Taymors phantasmagorical stage production of The Lion King brought her
the success required for her to try her hand at movies. Her third picture,

xxiv

Introduction

Across the Universe (2007), is a wildly ambitious jukebox movie built


around 35 songs by the Beatles. As we might expect from the woman who
made Titus and Frida, Taymor designed a passionately wrought musical fantasia on how the Beatles music inuenced the youthful idealism of the sixties. In scope, Across the Universe is aspiring, audacious, and spectacular,
but its a shame that so much of her execution is wrongheaded. Taymor correctly identies the utopian promise inherent in their songs; especially by
illustrating the way people shaped their lives and their ideals around the
transcendent spirit of the music. But rather than tell a coherent dramatic
story that indicates specically what the music meant to these characters,
she ends up with a broad, operatic canvas that reduces the period of the sixties to a series of cataclysmic events. Ultimately, it dwarfs the individuals on
the screen, who come across as simple pawns of history. Across the Universe
is at times like Hair directed by Oliver Stone.
The story concerns a young Liverpudlian named Jude (Jim Sturgess), who
travels to the United States in the mid-sixties to nd his American father on
the Princeton University campus. There, he befriends Max (Joe Anderson),
a middle-class bohemian with a beautiful sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood),
with whom Jude falls madly in love. When the trio eventually ends up in
New York, looking ahead to claim their visions of a better future, the decades murky underside of the Vietnam War and the draft, racial discrimination and the assassination of Martin Luther King, the drugs and
psychedelia diminish their ideals. Throughout the story, the characters sing
various Beatles songs that reveal their hopes, their longings, and their fears.
But Across the Universe would have made for a much stronger picture if
Taymor had worked from a dramatic script that eshed out the characters
and made them a distinguishing force out to make history (as the Beatles
themselves were). Instead, the historical forces swirling around them leave
the cast with nothing more to play than archetypal symbols of an ultimately
dashed idealism.
Taymors failed lm does show us how the Beatles have become part of
our common heritage, yet that legacy can also be expressed in more unusual
ways, as part of the common usage of language. When Canadian lmmaker
Simcha Jacobovici was working on his documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus
in 2006, he claimed that he found nine limestone ossuaries that one time
held the bones of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, their son Judah, and others
from their family. Of course, he was challenged about his ndings by the
press during a news conference in New York in February 2007. When
archaeologists dismissed the possibility that the tomb held Jesus after its discovery in 1981, Jacobovici (and his producer James Cameron, director of
Titanic) claimed they found a constellation of names in the family tomb that
proved its inhabitants. When Cameron explained his view of the ndings at
the press conference, he decided to invoke the Beatles as a means to validating it. Its like nding a John, a Paul and a George, and you dont leap to

Introduction

xxv

the obvious conclusion that thats the Beatles unless you found a Ringo,
Cameron concluded.
For many, the Beatles forged an appealing lifestyle that fans wished to imitate. In Osaka, Japan, back in 1999, a pub replica of the Cavern Club featured a Beatles-clone house band called the Bricks, who played the dream
Beatles concert. They began their show in the style of the groups rough
punk origins in Hamburg in the late fties, and then they recreated the controversial 1966 show at Tokyos Budokan, where erce nationalists who
issued death threats opposed pop music. The Bricks concluded with a replica
of the rooftop concert from Let It Be. Yasuhiro Honda of the Bricks calls
himself a Beatles expert who thinks about the Beatles most of his waking
life. I want to put the Beatles into a black box and send them into orbit so
they can watch over our children in hundreds of years to come, Honda told
Dawn Eden and Simon Moran of Mojo. I want to spread the Beatles dream
all over the world. He adds, incongruously, Its like a religion, like a big
disease, like cancer, like a beautiful, beautiful cancer.15 The Beatles as
beautiful cancer is an intriguing image; it could have even been the title
of this book.
The contents of that image denitely wouldnt have escaped short-story
writer Ann Hood, author of An Ornithologists Guide to Love, when she
wrote about her need to ee from the Beatles. In the beginning, their music
was a source of constant enjoyment for Hood and bonded her with her family. In recent years, however, it became a source of pain and loss, haunting
her like an inescapable specter. It is difcult to hide from the Beatles, she
wrote in The New York Times in 2006.16 But why hide from the music
you love? For Hood, the Beatles had been a valuable part of her life ever
since she was a kid. She memorized their birthdays, knew all the lyrics to
their songs, and collected Beatles cards. With her cousin Debbie, Hood
would argue over whether songs like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields
Forever were good enough to be worth the wait. She mourned the day Paul
McCartney got married, assuming (as many other girls did) that she alone
would get him. When Hood herself married and had children, she would
sing Beatles songs to them before they went to sleep. It was her way of sharing her love for the music. Her young daughter Grace zealously embraced
her mothers passion for the Beatles. She would quiz Ann on the title of
songs. What tune is that where the man is standing holding his head? shed
ask. Ann had to get out her Help! album and unearth Youve Got to Hide
Your Love Away.
By the time Grace was four, she had seen all the Beatles movies, had the
Beatles 1 CD, and owned a photo book of their career. For mother and
daughter, the song they took as their own was the euphoric Eight Days a
Week (Graces brother Sam would join in when they started singing).
Before long, Grace had her favorite Beatle, but it wasnt Paul, like her mothers choice. Oddly, it turned out to be Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass

xxvi

Introduction

player, who died in Hamburg before the Beatles conquered the world. But
one day, Grace saw the movie Backbeat (1993), which told the story of the
early Beatles in Germany and the bond between Sutcliffe and John Lennon.
Only then, when she realized that Stuart was already dead did she switch
allegiances to John. Before long, Grace seemed to know more about the
songs than her mom did.
When George Harrison died in 2001, Grace went into mourning, as if
shed lost a friend, her mother remembered. In April 2002, the day after they
had shared a duet of I Want to Hold Your Hand in the car on the way to
school, Grace took seriously ill with a virulent bout of strep. While she was
strapped to tubes and machines in the ICU, Ann and her husband began
playing her a tape of Love Me Do, even singing it to her, perhaps hoping
the magic of the song would revive her. It didnt; she died soon after. At
her memorial service, her eight-year-old brother Sam sang Eight Days a
Week as loud as he could, so that his sister would hear it wherever she
was. After the memorial, Ann took all her Beatles records and put them in
a box, never wanting to see or hear them again. [T]he very things that
had made me happy a week earlier were now too painful even to glimpse,
Hood wrote in The New York Times. Grace had seized my passion and
made it her own. But with her death, that passion was turned upsidedown, and rather than bring joy, the Beatles haunted me.17 The opening
chords of Yesterday, for instance, now were devastating. A cover version
of the Beatles was enough to drive Hood to seek comfort in talk radio
where the Beatles perhaps couldnt nd her. How foolish I was to. . .have
believed that everything I could ever want was right there in that family
room of my childhood: cousins, TV, my favorite music, she wrote. But
mostly I feel foolish for believing that my time with my daughter would
never end.18
By the end of her story, though, Ann Hood recognized that the magic spell
the Beatles had cast over her made her believe that all that she loved could
last forever. But when her daughter died, it broke that spell, made it seem
false for not coming true. At which point, the Beatles no longer brought
her pleasure, but pain instead. Anyone who loses a child, or a loved one,
can feel that certain songs or movies or books that they shared can be too
painful to bear, but Anns eager enthusiasm over the Beatles wasnt just a
shared passion, it was a common dream between her and her daughter.
[P]erhaps that is love: a leap of faith, a belief in the impossible, Hood
wrote. Or for a grieving woman to believe that a mothers love is so strong
that the child she lost can still hear her singing a lullaby.19 The intense emotions stirred by the Beatles music are based so intrinsically on the listeners
identication with the group that happiness and sorrow can become interchangeable. In a sense, this explains why the Beatles have inspired both love
and hate.

Introduction

xxvii

The durability of the Beatles surpasses pretty much any other music I
know, critic Dave Marsh wrote in 2007. And as much as it belongs to
the waking world, it belongs to dreams.20 Its been close to 40 years since
the demise of the Beatles, yet they continue to exist in an ethereal place
existing somewhere between the waking world and the world of our dreams.
From there, the Beatles continue to operate in the realm of our imagination,
no matter what shape the world happens to be in. Yet because of the Beatles,
we still try to imagine, as well as desire, better worlds to live in. But these
dream worlds, as eeting as they are appealing, Ive set out in Articial Paradise to truly comprehend.

PROLOGUE
Nowhere Land
We risk being the rst people in history [who] have been able to
make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that [we]
can live in them.
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image
When rock n roll began, its promise was pretty basic: the music told us simply that good times lay ahead. With that primary assurance, a captivating
pact was struck with listeners. A deant claim was wagered in those early
recordsthey said the world was going to be a different place than it was today. As early as 1954, Bill Haley proposed a simple pledge, an unadorned
avowal of that claim, when he said wed nd our freedom by putting our
glad rags on and rocking around the clock. The song, though, did more than
just rock around the clock. Youth riots broke out in movie houses after it
was featured in the opening credits of The Blackboard Jungle (1955), an otherwise cautionary story about juvenile delinquency. The same year as Bill
Haley, the Penguins, a quietly graceful doo-wop group with ultimately only
one hit up their sleeve, promised us a world of feasible pleasures when they
asked us in Earth Angel: Will you be mine? In answer, people danced with
their hips pressed just a little bit closer to their partners. When Elvis Presley
rst decided to shake his hips on national television, nations of eager teenagers were given permission to shake theirsand shake them they did.
But for the 15-year-old John Lennon, from Liverpool, England, there was
something more to the promise rock offered than just putting your glad rags
on and wiggling your hips. Lennon was looking for a way out of his frustrated life in his indigent seaport town. Often he found himself dreaming
of being in a plane, ying over Liverpool, escaping altogether. Other times,

xxx

Prologue

he was on a giant horse, galloping unfettered, until his own fears detained
him and he ended up home feeling frustrated and defeated. One night,
though, in May 1956, Lennon discovered a way out, a possible means of
escape, when he caught something extraordinary on Radio Luxembourg,
which played all the American rock, blues, and R&B music that the BBC
didnt allow. Lennon was listening to The Jack Johnson Show when he rst
heard the voice of Elvis Presley singing Heartbreak Hotel.
Lennon had heard of Presley through his friend Don Beatty, who had
shown him Elviss photo in a copy of New Musical Express and told him
how great a song Heartbreak Hotel was. Lennon had only heard Bill
Haleys music to that point. He would remember his mother Julia dancing
to Haley, but the music did nothing for him. As for Heartbreak Hotel,
the title alone came across as phony and corny to the demanding Lennon.
But the great benet of radio then, now lost to generations used to strictly
formatted playlists or iPods, was that on occasion it offered you the serendipity of discovery. There was always the chance youd hear something
you didnt expect to nd, or perhaps would ever nd again. Thats how Lennon nally encountered Heartbreak Hotel that night, and he knew he had
to own that record. When I rst heard Heartbreak Hotel I could hardly
make out what was being said, Lennon recalled. It was just the experience
of hearing it and having my hair stand on end. Wed never heard American
voices singing like that.1 And more than Elviss voice, which to Lennon
sounded like Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, and Tennessee Ernie Ford rolled
into one, he realized all at once that nothing existed for him but rock n roll.
From that day onward, he thought of little else. Besides containing a sound
that encompassed him, it spoke of freedom, sex, and youthful rebellion.
Heartbreak Hotel also opened up something else to Lennon. But he
wasnt sure what it was exactly.
After he launched his meteoric career at Sun Records in Memphis a couple
of years earlier, in 1954, with his startling and still unmatched performances
of Thats All Right and Mystery Train, Heartbreak Hotel became
Elvis Presleys debut single for RCA Records. The origins of the composition
began with a steel guitarist from Georgia named Tommy Durden, who had
been playing country music in Florida since the forties. In 1955, Durden
met Glenn Reeves, a Jacksonville DJ and singer, who promptly introduced
him to Mae Axton, a schoolteacher, also an eager publicist for local country
music performers. Durden told Axton a story about a man who committed
suicide and left a note that said, I walk a lonely street. In trying to imagine
why the man in the story walked to the end of that lonely street, they decided
to write a song about where he might have ended up had he not killed himself. That place with no known address became Heartbreak Hotel. Axton
went to the annual DJ convention in Nashville in November 1955 and
pitched the song to Elvis, who was enticed to record it when he was given
a share of the writers credit. Jack Strapp, who owned Tree Music (and

Prologue

xxxi

sponsored the convention), purchased the tune and Elvis recorded it in his
rst RCA session.
Despite the popularity of Heartbreak Hotel, which would get to #1 on
April 21, 1956, it is not one of Elviss best sides. He puts so much melodramatic affectation into his performance of this torch ballad that it inadvertently comes across as a parody of the blues. But maybe what Lennon heard
in the song was what Leonard Marnham, the English post ofce technician
stationed in Berlin, hears in Ian McEwens 1990 novel, The Innocent. Bored
with his routine life, Marnham switches on the radio one night and, like
Lennon, suddenly nds Heartbreak Hotel. McEwen describes Marnhams
reaction to the song this way:
It spoke only of loneliness and irresolvable despair. Its melody was all
stealth, its gloom comically overstated. He loved it all, the forlorn,
sidewalk tread of the bass, the harsh guitar, the sparse tinkle of a barroom piano. . .The songs self-pity should have been hilarious. Instead
it made Leonard feel worldly, tragic, bigger somehow.2
No question that the track tells an alluring story that can pull you out of
your ordinary life. For one thing, the singer is abandoned by his girl, just as
Lennon himself was by his own mother when he was ve. He found a new
place to abide, right down Lonely Street, there at Heartbreak Hotel. But
the hotel gives the singer no comfort; its a phantom residence. The singer
is all alone, and so destitute he wishes he could die. The idea of this metaphorical hotel of the heart, this new place to dwell, spoke deeply to the
young Lennon, who would hear his own loneliness and desolation in the
song. But also out of that pain, he would hear his own possible, brighter
future. By traveling in his mind to Heartbreak Hotel, John Lennon started
to imagine a place beyond it. Theres a place in this sound, he thought, to
nd ones salvation. Of course there is. Theres a place, dont you know that
its so?
It was February 11, 1963, almost seven years after John Lennon had his
life changed by hearing Elvis Presley sing Heartbreak Hotel on Radio
Luxembourg. Now his group, the Beatles, were about to record their debut
album Please Please Me at EMI Records, not realizing that they too were
about to change the course of popular music. After the moderate chart success of their 1962 single Love Me Do, the follow-up Please Please Me,
recently released, had quickly become a monumental #1 hit. Riding that success, the Beatles were about to record an album of cover songs and original
material to try to replicate their dynamic stage performances. After a notable
stint in Hamburg, Germany, playing some of the seediest nightclubs, rhythm
guitarist John Lennon, bassist Paul McCartney, guitarist George Harrison,
and their new drummer, Ringo Starr (who had replaced original

xxxii

Prologue

percussionist Pete Best), had now become legends in Liverpool. This album
was designed to capture not only the excitement everyone was hearing in
their music but also the excitement that was building around the group.
The rst song they began recording that day was called Theres a Place,
an original Lennon and McCartney composition that took 13 takes to nail
down. Lennon was trying to get the black R&B sound he loved onto the
record. Meanwhile, his writing partner, McCartney, came up with the idea
of lifting Theres a Place for Us from the Original Broadway Cast LP of
Leonard Bernsteins 1957 hit musical West Side Story. The dream place
Bernstein and his lyricist Stephen Sondheim created was an obvious, literal
metaphor, invented to accompany the plays banal civics lesson that meekly
tackled racial and generational discord. Lennon and McCartneys concept
turned out to be far more radical. Theres a Place laid the groundwork
for the Beatles musical and philosophical foundation, and it held all the
secrets to the potency of their appeal. Oddly enough, however, many would
never realize it: the track became their most underrated song. Perhaps
because it was sandwiched on the album between the quaintly romantic ballad A Taste of Honey and the forceful album closer Twist and Shout,
Theres a Place was unnoticed by listeners. But it seems to have been invisible to the group as well. The Beatles never performed it live during the heyday of Beatlemania. The tune never appeared on any compilation albums,
and nobody had ever covered it. In the United States, Capitol Records
ignored Theres a Place altogether until they released a Rarities LP in
1980. It did nd a brief life in America as the B-side of the Twist and
Shout single on the independent Tollie Records in April 1964, which went
to #2 on the pop charts. While some critics drew signicant attention to the
track over the years, most barely acknowledged its existence. Yet this visionary song, with Lennon and McCartneys most urgent, beautifully sung harmonic pleas, paved the way for some great material to come, like She
Loves You, All My Loving, Any Time at All, What Youre Doing,
and Eight Days a Week.
Theres a Place essentially fullled the promise of Heartbreak Hotel,
while simultaneously surpassing it. Like Heartbreak Hotel, Theres a
Place nds the singer in a blue funk, but the place he takes us to isnt
located down some lonely street. Rather than inventing a metaphorical
place, Lennon locates it in his mind. Here was a place with no boundaries,
no clear denition, and a space within which his endless imagination could
take ight. In his mind, Lennon could transcend his sadness. For in his mind,
he states, he nds no sorrow. Tomorrow wont be sad, either, because
theres a place, a place where he can realize his dreams.
Coincidentally, the reclusive Brian Wilson also wrote of an alternate place
where he could go. But where Wilson goes, in the Beach Boys beautifully
understated In My Room, is clearly at a remove from a threatening world
he sees closing in on him. And despite the songs arresting and seductive

Prologue

xxxiii

harmonies, its clear that were not invited to join Wilson in his room. By
contrast, the joy and invention we hear in Lennon and McCartneys harmonies tell us that not only we are invited to this place where theres no sorrow
but true happiness is contingent only on our presence. The sole pleasure we
take from In My Room is the relief the singer nds in getting there. The
ecstasy underscoring Theres a Place is wisely tempered by the singers
anguish as he declares his euphoria. You have to know what youre transcending, he seems to be saying, before you can reach transcendence. In
Theres a Place, blue states are expressed with minor triads . . .rather than
a pentatonic blues style, explains music critic Walter Everett. Perhaps this
is because in this song, Lennon does not have the blues; he has retreated to
his mind, and we suspect that once there, happy memories of his beloved
have let him forget whatever it was that brought him low in the rst place.
Blues aside, both the lyrics and their tonal world express an unusual mix of
happiness and melancholia.3 What Everett describes here is the underpinning of all the ambiguities of the Beatles utopian dream in the sixties. That
mix of happiness and melancholia, where heartache adds depth to pure
joy, and pure joy adds relief to heartbreak, sent Theres a Place past the
manufactured posturing of Heartbreak Hotel.
In less than two minutes, the time it takes to listen to this song, the Beatles
take us to Nowhere Land. But this isnt the Nowhere Land of Nowhere
Man, a Lennon composition that describes an alienated state of mind.
Rather it refers to the Greek meaning of utopiano placea precinct
that doesnt exist yet is a perfect locality. In Utopia, an ironic treatise on
the Elizabethan social order written in 1518, Sir Thomas More dened utopia as a ctional island. Through the character of Rapheal Hythloday, More
travels to this paradise where he nds perfect political, social, and legal systems. Ever since the time of More, when people think of either utopias or
even dystopias, they usually locate them in a real world we can all recognize.
The Nowhere Land of the Beatles music, though, has no literal location. It is
sustained by a delicate balance held between the band and its audience, dependent on a common mind created by the diverse group of men who make
up the Beatles. The Beatles were part of a different kind of revolution than
most of their contemporaries. The true revolution of the sixties. . .was an
inner one of feeling and assumption, according to author and critic Ian
MacDonald. He called that revolt a revolution in the head, the title for
his own book on the group.4
Perhaps it could be argued that the Beatles artistic progress could not
have truly evolved without the audience as their museand their adversary.
If the Beatles had ever embodied any principle beyond the transformative
power of rock n roll, it was that every step in their progress would entail
the inclusion, through engagement, of yet another community, suggests
Devin McKinney in Magic Circles. First they would form a community
among themselves; this would grow into a community that encompassed

xxxiv

Prologue

an imagined mass, an ideal audience, and after all the dues were paid and the
foundations laid, the community would include, or at least invite, everyone
who wished to play a part.5 As a result of this dynamic between the Beatles
and their fans, the implicit message of Theres a Place can be heard only
one way: Nowhere Land exists and the love it offers is only palpable if we
play our part in sharing the experience of going there with Lennon.
John Lennon had always made himself the pivotal gure in the Beatles
utopian dream. With them, he proposed the possibility of community, the
plucky idea that by joining one, you could free yourself. The Beatles and
their fans played out an image of utopia, of a good life, and the image was
that one could join a group and by doing so not lose ones identity as an individual but nd it: nd ones own voice, critic Greil Marcus wrote in a tribute to Lennon shortly after he was murdered. This was an image of utopia
that could encompass every desire for love, family, friendship, or comradeship; while the Beatles were the Beatles, this image informed love affairs
and it informed politics. It shaped ones sense of possibility and loss, of the
worth of things.6 Over time, though, things changed, both for the culture
and for the Beatles. Nightmares grew out of dreams. Promises couldnt be
kept. For some devotees of the band, some were deliberately broken, tilling
the ground for the murderous impulses some felt justied in acting upon.
The screams of fans, at one time demanding the sharing of the unbridled
joy of the groups best music, would now become either screams for blood
or the screams of bloodied victims. During this time, Nowhere Land was a
ghost town, abandoned even by the ghosts. The Beatles were no longer shaping history, but becoming it, their utopian hope turning into a lamentable
loss. In their later music, like All You Need Is Love, they tried to supply
answers, rather than pose open questions. We were left wondering what
the dream was worth. Is a dream a lie if it doesnt come true, Bruce Springsteen once asked in a song, or is it something worse?
The Beatles had nothing to do with hope, John Lennon suddenly
declared at a June 1970 press conference at the Ontario Science Centre in
Toronto, Canada, to announce plans for a peace-and-music festival in the
city with his wife, Yoko Ono. The Beatles made it, they stopped touring,
and they had all the money they wanted, all the fame they wanted, and they
found out they had nothing.7 Two months earlier, Paul McCartney had
announced his split from the Beatles and released his rst solo record,
McCartney, a dramatic move that made clear that the Beatles were ofcially
over. McCartney retreated to his Scottish farm to record a stripped-down
collection of love songs written for his wife Linda, playing all the instruments, i.e., portraying all of the Beatles. But Lennon had abandoned the
band privately before McCartney did publicly, having found that rock n
roll itself was no longer living up to its promise. The idea of being a rock
and roll musician suited my talents and mentality, and the freedom was

Prologue

xxxv

great, Lennon recalled. But then I found that I wasnt free. Id got boxed
in. It wasnt just because of my contract, but the contract was a physical
manifestation of being in prison. And with that I might as well have gone
to a nine-to-ve job as to carry on the way I was carrying on. Rock n roll
was not fun anymore.8
By 1969, the Beatles were not much fun anymore either, nor did they inspire
in each other much in the way of hope. Their manager Brian Epstein had died
of an accidental drug overdose two years earlier, leaving them stranded. Managing their own affairs, starting their own company, Apple Corps, had only
bitterly divided the band. After leaving the road in 1966, they had retreated
into the studio to record their Summer of Love totem Sgt. Peppers Lonely
Hearts Club Band. By 1968, their double-LP The Beatles, the contentious
White Album, had inadvertently ushered in a Summer of Hate. A psychopathic fan named Charles Manson heard the record as a call to murder.
On August 9, 1969, with his cult followers, known as the Family, Manson
murdered ve people in Los Angeles, including actress Sharon Tate, citing
the album as a coded message inspiring him to bring on the apocalypse. On
the walls of the murder scene, the title of two songs from The Beatles, Helter
Skelter and Piggies, were written in blood.
With the horror of the Manson murders simmering that summer, death
hovered in the air. In October 1969, two months after the Beatles nished
recording their last album, Abbey Road, a fan phoned a Detroit radio station
to inform the DJ that Paul McCartney was dead and, in fact, had been for
some time, having been killed in an accident in 1966. An imposter was now
playing his role. Since the Beatles were no longer on the road, their clandestine
lives in the studio were now clearly inspiring different kinds of dreams from
the ones that dramatized Nowhere Land. Citing clues from a variety of
Beatles songs and their record covers, the caller insisted that the man claiming
to be McCartney was being used as a decoy to keep the Beatles myth alive.
Within the month, the University of Michigan newspaper, The Michigan
Daily, featured a mock article by Fred LaBour that was picked up by a number
of international papers and immediately taken to heart by many Beatles fans
who had abandoned all common sense. It became clear at that moment that
the promising courtship of the early days of Beatlemania had deteriorated into
violence, bitterness, and crackpot conspiracy theories. Within a year of Lennons Toronto press conference, while the counterculture was continuing to
regress, the Beatles, citing the irreconcilable differences, broke up.
After the collapse, each member embarked on a solo career. George Harrison uncorked the triple-LP All Things Must Pass in 1970, featuring a number of songs he couldnt get on Beatles records. Ringo Starr put together an
album of sentimental standards for his mother called simply Sentimental
Journey. Lennon, the man who rst dreamed up the Beatles, didnt want to
quit the group quietly. After entering psychotherapy with Primal Scream
therapist Arthur Janov, Lennon didnt just abandon the dream like the

xxxvi

Prologue

others; he decided it was time to end it. In December 1970, he gave a bluntly
dismissive interview to Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone magazine, in
which he put down his former mates, asserting that the Beatles changed
nothing in the world. South Africa still had apartheid, he ranted, people
lived in poverty and corrupt governments had quelled positive change. By
protestingquite rightlythat the Beatles could never enact the social
change many fans thought they would, he was now going on to deny that
their vision had any worth.
That same month, he released his own autobiographical record, named
after his new group, Plastic Ono Band, which began as a stark recollection
of his traumatic childhood. And one listen to the albums intensely austere
songs made it clear that the world of possibility Lennon once heard in Heartbreak Hotel, the inclusive spirit he once proclaimed on Theres a Place, he
was now refuting. He stripped the songs of their quixotic power for the purpose of discovering the naked truth about himself. Mother opened the
album with the peeling of funeral bells, as Lennon ranted angrily at the father
who abandoned him as a boy and at the mother who was killed soon after. I
Found Out expressed his angry contempt for religion and the pop culture the
Beatles helped inspire. Working Class Hero, a mournful old-fashioned folk
ballad, despaired of an authoritarian society that stripped its citizens of their
souls. Culture critic Albert Goldman, in his controversial biography The Lives
of John Lennon, aptly compared the theme of Plastic Ono Band to the Whos
rock opera Tommy. For what is the famous rock opera about? Goldman
asks. A boy traumatized by his mothers cheating loses all his senses but the
most primitive, the sense of touch. He employs this mute yet passionate faculty to become a pinball heroa symbol of rock n roll. Acclaimed by the
worlds youth as a pop star, he continues to evolve, becoming rst a guru
and ultimately a saint. There is the legend of John Lennon to a T.9
On Plastic Ono Band, Lennon set out to reveal himself as a new man. The
music was different from the Beatles, as well, their colorful sound turned
into monochromatic black and white. Besides Lennon, the record featured
only Ringo on drums, Klaus Voorman, an old friend from the Beatles Hamburg days, on bass, and an immensely talented young black pianist who
had played on the Let It Be sessions named Billy Preston. On Plastic Ono
Band, Lennon set out to tear away what he perceived to be the illusory symbols of being a Beatlebut that wasnt going to be easy. The Beatles not
only incorporated all the elements of John Lennons fragmented personality
but they harmonized these elements perfectly, which enabled them to
achieve total self-sufciency, Goldman wrote, explaining the difculty of
Lennons task. 10 Since the self-sufciency of the Beatles was partially
inspired by the image of John Lennon, in order to destroy the Beatles,
Lennon had to nd a means to destroy their image. He did so in a song he
called God.

Prologue

xxxvii

For a man who once claimed in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular
than Jesus and had himself claimed to his mates to be Christ at a business
meeting while tripping on acid, addressing God directly in a song wasnt
far-fetched. But God wasnt simply a Lennon riposte. He used the song
to strip away not only the illusions of religion but also the illusions of pop
deities who, Lennon felt, paraded like gods. God begins with Prestons
stately piano introducing a gospel dirge. Lennons voice speaks over the
melody, suppressing the appealing melismas that once drew such affection
for his Beatles songs. He tells us that God is nothing more than a concept
we use to measure our pain. As if we were too shocked to take in the idea,
he repeats the phrase, seizing bitterly on the nal words our pain. At this
point, the sermon begins. God presents the inverse of a gospel songs afrmations. Reading from a laundry list of injustices, Lennon begins to tell us
what he doesnt believe in anymore: magic, I Ching, Jesus, Hitler, mantras,
yogas, and kings all make the cut. After kings, he mentions Elvis, obviously
no longer worthy of being considered royalty. When Lennon denounces
Bob Dylan, another key gure in the Beatles musical and cultural evolution,
he calls him by his true name of Zimmerman. (His ploy becomes confusing
here since the name Dylan is that artists disguise, the illusion that Lennon
means to strip away.) Then he comes to the key line in the song: I dont
believe in Beatles, he states, his voice rising in the mix over the piano,
which stops cold on Beatles. After this deathly silence, Lennon returns to
tell us what he does believe in now: himselfand Yoko.
Throughout the song, Lennon bites hard on the lyrics, careful not to allow
the lyrical beauty of his voice to come through. He saves his best singing for
a single pensive moment toward the end when, announcing that the Beatles
dream is over, he insists that hes no longer the dream weaver, but a man
reborn. He proclaims that he isnt the walrus, alluding to the character he
playfully portrayed in one of his best songs, but John. Lennons voice rises
beautifully here, and then lightly falls like a leaf caught in a quick breeze,
as he divulges the simple truth that we have to carry on. In what sounds like
an irrepressible sob, a nal somber glimpse back at an era of great promise,
Lennon softly cries out once again that the dream is over, and his brittle
voice breaks into tiny fragments swallowed up by the songs silent decay.
The sound of Elvis Presleys voice once altered John Lennons life. And
despite all his intentions in God, at the end we can still hear Lennons
voice accumulate the power that Presleys had for him. When he recovers
the radiance in his voice, when hes letting it all go, he thinks hes ending
the Beatles utopian vision, closing the book on Nowhere Land. But what
he fails to see is that the dream is still there, and its no longer his alone.
When Lennon recorded God with the purpose of ending the Beatles
storied myth, he didnt consider that hed eventually become a casualty in
the process. In 1980, he was murdered by a deranged fan who felt the former

xxxviii

Prologue

Beatle had betrayed him. Tragically, he wasnt alone. George Harrison succumbed to cancer in 2001, but he had been mortally wounded in his home
a year earlier by another obsessed fan hearing voices. Contemplating Lennon being killed by the gun and Harrison nearly by the knife, Keith Richards
of the Rolling Stones confronted the sick irony of such pleasant guys, who
made such beautiful music and never did harm to anybody, [having] to go
through that kind of violence.11 Richards seemed to be implying that the
Stones, not the Beatles, had always been identied as the bad boys.
In the years following, the world didnt become any easier, or easier to
understand. When you look out into it, you dont see anybody wanting to
hold anybody elses hand. In 2006, a divisive war was raging in Iraq, where
the American government had toppled a vicious dictator with the expressed
desire of restoring democracy. What they unleashed instead was more religious and sectarian violence than Iraq had seen under Saddam Hussein. In
one day, 130 Shiite pilgrims were killed by a suicide bombing in Karbala.
On another, an American private was accused of raping an Iraqi teenager
and murdering three members of her family, bringing back horrifying echoes
of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam a few decades earlier. Bombs killed hundreds on a commuter train in Mumbai, India, in yet another example of
fanatical religious terrorism, while Russia continued to exert its force by cutting off gas to the Ukraine over a pricing dispute. Iran continued its nuclear
research while declaring the demise of Israel. Not to be outdone, North
Korea decided to start testing nuclear missiles. Bin Laden continued to send
death-cult videotapes from his hideout, warning of more terrorist attacks.
Inquiries began into the CIA over 1,000 detected secret ights over Europe
transporting terrorist suspects to countries that allowed torture. Before the
year is end, Saddam Hussein was executed but religious violence continued
to tear Iraq apart. Soldiers of the coalition countries were coming back in
an endless parade of caskets.
One dull November day, in the face of all this turmoil, among the endless
bad news, dull commercials, and impersonal patter, an old Beatles song, the
gorgeous John Lennon number called Because appeared on the radio.
Filled with that blinding romantic spirit Lennon set out to end on Plastic
Ono Band, Because, originally heard on Abbey Road, broke through the
aural clutter. But this version was different from the one on the record. It
was stripped of the lovely baroque harpsichord instrumentation, so the
groups rich a cappella harmonies shone forthas it also sounded on
Anthology 3, the CD box of alternate takes. In the midst of reports of death,
recrimination, corruption, the opening lines jumped out: Because the world
is round/It turns me on. Was this somebodys idea of a sick joke? Yet somehow, despite all the horrible news dominating the airwaves that day, in a
world that wasnt turning anybody on, you couldnt resist the sentiments
expressed in the song; those voices were just too achingly gorgeous to write
off. Listening to the song made it easier to dismiss all the cheap sarcasm on

Prologue

xxxix

talk radio, the monotony of the political pundits, the self-righteous reexiveness of ideologues. The number seemed to blow awaymomentarilyall
the horrors of the present, and took the listener to an eternal place where it
was once again possible to experience the pleasures of harmony. Even with
carnage everywhere, the shimmering beauty of Nowhere Land was again
in view. Lennon hadnt ended the dream back in 1970, only the reality of
the group. The renowned pop melodies were still an inseparable part of
our own dreams. The real world around us might not be changing as wed
hoped it would, but the articial paradise of the Beatles music remained.
As it turned out, Because was the opening song on a new Beatles CD
simply called Love. The music included was the sound track for the Cirque
du Soleil Beatles tribute that had opened at the Mirage in Las Vegas earlier
in June. The theatrical acrobatic dance troupe, founded in 1984 and noted
for combining surrealism and tent-show theatrics, had been eager to mount
a show based on the Beatles music and rst considered it in 2000 when
George Harrison and artistic director Guy Laliberte, both racing car
fanatics, became friends on the Formula One circuit. At the Montreal Grand
Prix, Harrison told Laliberte that he thought the Cirque should contemplate
a show based on Yellow Submarine, the Beatles 1968 animated lm. Once
Apple and the Cirque reached an agreement, however, they moved away
from the idea and concentrated on creating a fantasia on the themes in the
Beatles music. The $27 million production would feature 60 performers in
costumes that would combine sixties pop art with the dusky industrial look
of Liverpool. Characters from their songsLady Madonna, Mr. Kite, Lucy
in the Sky with Diamonds, Eleanor Rigby, and Father McKenziewould
also it through the show. For the music, the Cirque du Soleil contacted
George Martin, the man who had produced most of those great records,
who (due to his age and hearing difculties) brought his son Giles on board
to produce a series of remixes and mash-ups of Beatles songs to shape the
show. These tracks would provide a panorama of soundscapes whose
common thread was the theme of love, the focus of many of their songs. In
2003, father and son prepared about an hour and a half of music for the
show, 80 minutes of which would ll the CD. They approached the project
as if scoring a lm, and indeed the Love album resembles a movie for
the ears.
On rst listen, Love is rather jarring because it toys with our memories of
the songs and their original context. But as much as the individual tunes
have their place on their individual albums, and in our memories, Love is
something different: a scrapbook of song fragments, an elaborate Beatles
mosaic created from an impressionist painting of Nowhere Land. While it
enhances the Beatles mystique, the CD is essentially the sound track of the
stage show. But it has its own thematic coherence as an album. Love draws
for us a picture of the Beatles utopian vision as a convoluted reverie we have
now claimed as our own. It is conceived primarily as our memory of the

xl

Prologue

Beatles, not the bands. In spite of Lennons efforts on God, Love proves
that the dream isnt over.
Love opens with the soft cries of nature, sound effects borrowed from a
recording of Across the Universe, before the harmonies of Because
open the album. Dominic Champagne, the director of the stage show, had
been listening to Because on the Anthology CD and adored the a cappella
harmonies so much he wanted to include it in the program. On the nal
relieved sigh of the vocal harmonies comes the nal piano chord from
A Day in the Life, only played backward. I guess we thought that as it
made such a great ending, turned around it was bound to make a great
beginning, Giles Martin wrote in the CD booklet for Love.12 That monumental chord crashes right into the memorable G eleventh suspended 4th
on George Harrisons 12-string Rickenbacker which opens A Hard Days
Night. As that chord lingers in the air, Ringos rare drum solo from Abbey
Road (on The End) plays over it until the opening riff from Get Back
propels us directly into the song. In just these opening few minutes, Giles
and George Martin unravel a tapestry of conicting fragments, a Beatles hall
of mirrors that reects back to us splinters of distant sounds, of eeting
memories, both happy and sad, that weve stored for years. The effect is
anti-nostalgic because rather than ask us to harken back to the golden days
of the sixties, the album instead tests the worth of these songs today. By daring to break them apart and recongure them, Giles and George Martin are
letting these sounds loose, as if they were I Ching coins being thrown to see
what they might say to us today.
As Get Back rolls toward its conclusion, Lennons cries of Oh yeah
from The Beatles track Glass Onion creeps over the top of McCartneys
shouts of Hello, hello from Hello Goodbye, providing a vivid contrast
between Lennons despondency and McCartneys bright optimism. At this
point, the Renaissance horns from Penny Lane begin to adorn Lennons
cry, Nothing is real, until the creeping strings that end the song turn into
the chamber melody of Eleanor Rigby. With a spirited theme out of
Vivaldi, by way of Bernard Herrmanns trepidatious score for Psycho
(1960), the chamber string arrangement leads us into tragedythe lonely
people whom the solitary Eleanor Rigby laments. At the songs conclusion,
the clamor of children playing in the street is met by the sound of an ambulance going by. Since the melody played over this section is the guitar line
from Julia, a song Lennon wrote about his late lamented mother, the
ambulance might be invoking her death. As it departs, we hear the countin of George Martin in the studio leading us to I Am the Walrus, a Lennon
song whose roots are found in his childhood love of Lewis Carroll, which
brought solace to this bereaved motherless boy.
As the chorus chant that concludes I Am the Walrus mixes in with the
spinning dial of a radio, picking up snatches of Shakespeare, the screams of
the early Beatles crowds return us to the world of Beatlemania, back to

Prologue

xli

those rst concerts, when their world was a stage. We catch the eager introduction of the group at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964, as the band launches
into I Want to Hold Your Hand, the song that rst seduced American
audiences with the Beatles music. As the portion of the song concludes with
the audience screams fading behind them, the Martins give us a clever mashup collage featuring three songs from the middle of the Beatles career. Starting with Drive My Car, the opening song from Rubber Soul, the Martins
capture the group at the height of swinging London in a number with a
clever role reversal. The guy in the song plays chauffeur to his girlfriend
who wants to be a star. Martin adds some lovely touches, including McCartneys Indian-avored guitar solo from Taxman which replaces the original one in Drive My Car, plus the blues-drenched horn shufe from
Harrisons Savoy Trufe that underscores the girls request to have the
guy drive her car. The track then moves quickly into What Youre Doing,
an underrated McCartney track about his relationship with actress Jane
Asher. Almost magically in the same beat as Drive My Car, What Youre
Doing serves as the guys answer to the girls request in Drive My Car, a
response that quickly resolves itself in the third section, The Word. And
the word, of course, is love.
As the sly and sexy Beep, beep, yeah returns us briey to the conclusion
of Drive My Car, the drone of the Indian sitar, associated with Harrisons
incorporeal Within You Without You, takes us into a different love: the
mystical kind the Beatles soon embraced. While taking Lennons vocal
Sun King and playing it backward as Gnik Nus, Love develops a soothing ambience that draws us right into Harrisons airiest love song, Something. As his joyous song of devotion concludes, under the encircling
organ of his Blue Jay Way, we hear traces of Lennon singing Nowhere
Man, leading us into the macabre circus atmosphere of Being for the Benet of Mr. Kite. Lennons carny-barker vocal announces a splendid time
guaranteed for all, but were thrust into the biting, bluesy organ of I Want
You (Shes So Heavy), Lennons obsessive love song to Yoko Ono, while
McCartney shrieks out his desperate lyrics from Helter Skelter under it.
In track after track, the preeminence of their music is balanced by the
urgency of its darker components.
After the appropriately imperative cries of Help! the soft acoustic guitar
of Paul McCartneys lovely Blackbird moves seamlessly into Yesterday,
his lament of loss which hasnt lost any of its poignancy through the years.
The question of whether to include it in the show apparently caused some
concern for Giles and George Martin, because the song is so iconic, so well
known; they feared it would be too obvious a choice. But while Giles was
in Montreal helping the Cirque sound designer set up another show, Martin
began playing around with the PA system and while testing the board, he
decided to play Yesterday on it. When it was over, he looked up to see
that all the other workmen had stopped working to listen. Martin knew then

xlii

Prologue

that Yesterday could still captivate an audience. It had to go into the


show. McCartney rarely revealed himself so nakedly in a song, though in
Yesterday, where he looks back into the past to comprehend what happier, less complicated times meant to him, he was uncovering a coveted
theme hed return to many times throughout his songbook.
Perhaps to provide a parallel theme, but from an opposing sensibility, the
Martins follow up Yesterday with Lennons Strawberry Fields Forever.
Lennons tune also delves into the past, but if the past gives solace to the contemplative McCartney in Yesterday, for Lennon, the past he draws upon
in Strawberry Fields Forever is a malediction. The songs origin is a Salvation Army orphanage Lennon, his friends, and his Aunt Mimi used to attend
to hear marching band music. Martin begins the song with Lennons original
acoustic demo of Strawberry Fields, which now stripped of its psychedelic
adornments, becomes a much more plaintive ballad. As the tune progresses,
though, the producers use an aural equivalent of time lapse photography, as
Strawberry Fields gradually evolves into the orchestral embellishments of
the nished version we remember. But rather than repeating the merry-goround effects of the original conclusion, they incorporate an elaborate mix
of horns from Sgt. Pepper (the album Strawberry Fields was originally
destined for), George Martins Elizabethan piano solo from Lennons autobiographical In My Life, the French horn from McCartneys nostalgic
Penny Lane, the baroque harpsichord from Harrisons Piggies, and
nally the celebratory chorus from Hello, Goodbye. Thus what begins
as a destitute portrait of childhood out of Dickens becomes a childlike collage of colorful melodies that takes us into an enchanted kingdom. The
childhood despair of Strawberry Fields is magically cured.
The drone of an Indian tamboura is met by the whooping cries of Paul
McCartney from the tape loops he provided for John Lennons most radical
musical experiment, Tomorrow Never Knows on Revolver. But just as
Lennon exhorts us to turn off our minds, relax, and oat downstream,
George Harrison arrives on the rhythm track with his Hindustaniinuenced Within You Without You. The mix of the two songs is probably the best mash-up on the CD. At the beginning of the project, I knew
that no one would ever hear my mistakes as wed been secretly shut away,
Giles Martin recalled. So I thought Id start by trying to combine a few
tracks to see what the result would be.13 Besides the kindred spirit between
the two songs, the melodies converge as if part of a portable mobile where
every disparate piece connects.
As the song fades with whooping trills, like that of seagulls ying overhead,
the tentative sound of a harpsichord comes out of the mix as if the player were
still trying to nd the melody. The track begins to establish itself as Lucy in
the Sky with Diamonds, and the harpsichord sets up a blanket of shimmering
stars in the sky. Based on a drawing Lennons son Julian did in school, Lucy
in the Sky with Diamonds was tainted in 1967 with the controversy of

Prologue

xliii

whether it was about LSD (the initials of the title, the surreal imagery in the
lyrics), but while drugs had become a habitual part of the Beatles music by
then, ironically, the song was not enhanced by chemicals. From up in the
sky, we move down into the ocean for Ringos children song Octopuss Garden. Since it is a close cousin to Yellow Submarine, the producers cleverly
add a musical reference to that song here. They begin with the maudlin
Mantovani-like strings used in Good Night, Lennons tune to Julian (which
Ringo sings), but Ringos voice is slowed down to match the melody of his
song, while the rival melody is played by the orchestra. Originally Giles Martin wanted to use the morose string movement that ended Glass Onion, but
he found it too creepy and wisely rested on Good Night instead.
For the next song, Lady Madonna, both Martins have fun with its
structure. Opening with the bridge as a lead-in, the track is reminiscent of
George Martins early experiments with the group, like having them open
She Loves You with the bridge instead of the verse. Harrisons majestic
Here Comes the Sun is a folk mantra that Giles Martin cleverly links to
his earlier spiritual tome, The Inner Light (which was the B-side of the
Lady Madonna single). Lennons anthem Come Together has far more
presence here than on Abbey Road and toward the end the producers mix in
elements of Dear Prudence, Cry Baby Cry, and McCartneys song fragment, Can You Take Me Back, all from The Beatles. Out of the competing melodies, which sound like a mixed chorus of nursery rhymes, comes a
blast of distorted guitar that opens Lennons incendiary Revolution. The
chastising of violent revolutionaries astutely segues into Back in the
U.S.S.R. which uses the musical spirit of Chuck Berry to lampoon the pioneer revolutionary state of the Soviet Union.
After writing the orchestral arrangement for both Yesterday and
Eleanor Rigby, George Martin was called upon to write a new score for
an alternate acoustic version of Harrisons While My Guitar Gently
Weeps. The released version, from The Beatles, was a rock anthem featuring Eric Clapton on lead guitar. But the earlier demo, which featured just
Harrison on his acoustic guitar and McCartney on a harmonium, is more
satisfying. While My Guitar Gently Weeps was always a catchy, if overly
dramatic expression of self-pity, but in this much simpler version, the tune is
less ostentatious and more pensive. Martin was initially resistant to writing
another string score. But encouraged by his son and Harrisons widow,
Olivia, he went ahead. Yesterday was the rst score I had written for a
Beatle song way back in 1965 and this score forty one years later is the last,
Martin remarked.14 With the addition of his understated and elegant string
arrangement, the song nally achieves a ripe poignancy that permits it to
serve as the mirror opposite of Here Comes the Sun. If the latter celebrates
the rebirth of the spring, the former now sadly contemplates mortality.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps on Love becomes a deeply touching epitaph for Harrison.

xliv

Prologue

If death underscores While My Guitar Gently Weeps, it becomes the


subject of A Day in the Life. Based on the death of the young socialite
Tara Browne, an Irish friend of the Beatles killed in a car crash, A Day in
the Life explores the fragile, eeting nature of the moments that make up
a life. Out of the rising orchestral din of the concluding note in the song,
McCartney follows with Hey Jude, the most majestic anthem in their
catalog. Although the song today raises as many groans as cheers, Hey
Jude (which was written for Johns son Julian, after his parents divorced)
is a huge afrmation of hope. Unlike Lennons explicitly political anthem
Revolution, which was the B-side of the single, McCartneys song, with
its extended chorus, was taken up as the chant among Czechs protesting
the Soviet invasion in August 1968. After the reprise of Sgt. Peppers
Lonely Hearts Club Band, Love concludes with another anthem, the rather
naive All You Need Is Love, which brings the album full circle with the
opening track of Because. In All You Need Is Love, like Because,
the Beatles seek to surmount the travails of everyday life. When they rst
recorded this song in 1967, it had that effect on George Martin. One week
before he recorded the song for a national television broadcast, Martins
father took ill and died shortly thereafter. I was shattered, devastated,
Martin remembered. Perhaps the work on All You Need is Love was my
lifeline.15
The Beatles music over the years has become a lifeline for many people, as
Heartbreak Hotel had been for Lennon when he was a boy. What Love
proved upon its release was that their musical wizardry had retained a distinctly hopeful quality. But it was a hope that lives only in the realm of our
imagination. The Beatles music didnt, nor could it, make our lives and
the world around us betterit could, however, change our outlook on the
world for the better. Even so, many still heard a promise in the Beatles
music, but it was a pledge that the group (which broke up acrimoniously)
couldnt keep. All promises that dont come true, though, cant be considered equal. Film critic Pauline Kael once concluded her consideration of
Warren Beattys Reds (1981), a movie about the ultimate betrayal of political ideals, by saying that promises broken are not the same as promises that
cant be kept. In the years ahead, when it came to the Beatles, we came to
learn the difference between those two types of promises. So did the Beatles.

CHAPTER 1

Once There Was a Way


Ah, Love, could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bitsand then
Remold it nearer to the Hearts Desire!
Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat
Once there was a way to get back homeward. At least, thats how the song
went. For Paul McCartney, since the Beatles broke up in 1970, getting back
homeward had become a fruitless task. All his life, as his career scaled musical heights not imagined, McCartney continually looked to the past for some
point of reference, or maybe for some profound meaning to make sense of
how far hed come as an artist. Who could blame him? With the Beatles,
he not only was living out a dream but the dream took on a life that made
him feel larger than he truly was. His songs once had a power that they
couldnt attain now that he was on his own. Writing in the Beatles was about
more than just honing his craft. Being in the Beatles fullled McCartneys
ambitions and gave full shape to his creative impulses; it completed him.
With the band gone, looking back might seem futile. But without a sense
of the past, McCartney couldnt see a future.
Unlike John Lennon, who consistently sought to escape his own history,
McCartney always looked for a means to return home. But where was
home? And what did home actually mean? In Yesterday, a young man
reects on innocent times, when personal troubles were nothing more than
a distant blur. By nding refuge in that past, he might eventually become
the man hed hoped to be. But where was this place? Early on Lennon
identied a dwelling for himselfin his mind. He sought satisfaction there

Artificial Paradise

in a song like Theres a Place because he could discover none in the real
world. McCartney, on the other hand, nds no true refuge anywhere in
Yesterday, only the need for a place to hide away. Even on an earlier
composition, Things We Said Today, which seemed anchored in the
present, he includes hints of yearning back. It was a slightly nostalgic thing
already, a future nostalgia, McCartney told friend and journalist Barry
Miles. [W]ell remember the things we said today, some time in the future,
so the song projects itself into the future, and then is nostalgic about the
moment were living in now, which is quite a good trick.1 The thought of
looking into the future, while living in the present, but always looking back
to the past, was actually less a trick than the continued state of Paul McCartneys mind.
An unnished McCartney song fragment, recorded in 1968 during a studio
session for The Beatles, found its way onto the record between Lennons
pensive Cry Baby Cry and the musique concrete of Revolution 9. The
song, which arrived suddenly like a cry from the beyond, repeated a phrase
over an acoustic arrangement borrowed from I Will (a song McCartney
had just been recording). It was the phrase, Can you take me back where I
came from, can you take me back? But this lovely yet eerie ballad, heard
in a faint echo, seemed weightless, practically haunting itself. Take you back
where? it left you asking. After the mournful weight of Cry Baby Cry,
Can You Take Me Back seemed a faint plea from a ghost ship, a desperate
appeal for solace that would never nd resolution. Before you could even
grasp where McCartney needed to go, his voice gently faded into the background, and then suddenly vanished from the record.
By 2005, rather than continuing to compose songs that sought a way
home, McCartney began literally trying to get back. He had experienced
too much grief to endure in recent times. It had been 25 years since Lennon,
his former writing partner and creative adversary, had been murdered. His
loving wife and collaborator Linda McCartney had died of breast cancer in
April 1998. George Harrison, his childhood friend and fellow Beatle, was
also dead from cancer. His new marriage to model Heather Mills was
quickly coming undone. McCartney may have started to wonder if he
actually had become the character in Yesterday. The troubles he wished
were far away now covered his life with heartbreak and loss. The dream life
he had once accomplished for himself didnt conform to the life he was now
living as a popular solo musician. So McCartney had the idea to retrace his
professional steps. A new album and a special concert to promote it might
provide clues to solving the puzzle of his life.
The rst step in this direction, though, actually began a few years earlier in
1999, in the same dank basement cellar where manager Brian Epstein had
rst heard the Beatles in 1961: Liverpools Cavern Club. The material
McCartney had chosen to take to the Cavern (which had since been renovated) was tting for the occasion. It was, in fact, some of the same music

Once There Was a Way

Epstein would have known. McCartney had just recorded a new album
called Run Devil Run, a sparkling catalog of hard-driving rock songs from
the fties. He came to excavate the seminal work of his life as a way to
reconnect to the very source of what he loved most (as Lennon had also done
less successfully on Rock & Roll back in 1975). Run Devil Run revealed to
the listener McCartneys polished showmans instincts in picking songs that
best dened his varied strengths. His tastes may be erratic, with a tendency
toward the maudlin, but his sense of his own personal musical roots is sure.
Its what earned him the right to lead his own band.
McCartney brought together a talented ensemble, including Pink Floyd
guitarist Dave Gilmour, guitarist Mick Green, pianist Pete Wingeld, and
drummer Ian Paice, and put them through the same rigorous recording
schedule the Beatles had once adhered to. They would play through all the
giants of fties rock: Gene Vincent (Blue Jean Bop), Larry Williams
(She Said Yeah), Ricky Nelson (Lonesome Town), Fats Domino
(Coquette), and, of course, Elvis (All Shook Up, I Got Stung,
Party). There was also one McCartney original (What It Is). He would
later say about revisiting this developmental music that it [was] the magic
drama they created in the music that was important, not the person.2 This
was McCartneys way of saying that Run Devil Run was more than just a
nostalgic tribute album to the heroes of his past; the album also connected
him to the intimate moments of his own past, where dream and intent had
converged, where the Beatles magic dream of Nowhere Land had fully
surfaced. [I]t wasnt always the song or how good the singer was, it was
how good my memory of it was, whether it was a really glowing hot ember
of a memory, McCartney told Jim Irvin in Mojo.3
That glowing hot ember was burning pretty bright in 2005, too, when he
decided to record an album of new songs titled Chaos and Creation in the
Backyard. Rather than produce the record himself, he brought on board
Radioheads Nigel Godrich. With Godrich, McCartney sought to move
away from the melodic lyricism of his more traditional songs and experiment instead with creating innovative tunes with layered patterns. I think
thats what Nigel wanted, McCartney told Jon Wilde in Uncut. A friend
of mine heard it and said, Its like youre taking me to a place with this
album.4 The place he was taking us to wasnt home, exactly, but maybe
it traced the beginning of how to get there. The front cover of the CD
provided a small clue. It was a stark black-and-white photo, taken by his
brother Mike in 1962, featuring Paul sitting alone in the backyard of
his parents house, below a clothesline full of drying sheets, strumming his
acoustic guitar and singing a song. The picture was taken through a window
shielded by some net curtains, made by his late mother Mary; in the frame,
they appear to be silhouetting her talented son. The photo, taken the year
the Beatles would release their rst single Love Me Do, shows Paul looking off beyond the yard (perhaps dreaming for the moment he would no

Artificial Paradise

longer be alone). What the CD cover tells us is that, for McCartney, chaos
underscored his life after the early death of his mother from breast cancer.
But music was his salve for healing those wounds. He abandoned the isolation of that backyard when he embraced John Lennons the Quarry Men
as his new residence. Grief and the hope for salvation became the cornerstone of the Beatles music. That same mixture would form the ambience
of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
To launch the CD, McCartney decided to give a small concert for an
invited audience and lm it at Abbey Road Studios. The event served as a
coming home to where the dreams of Nowhere Land truly began, where
chaos actually turned into creation. As McCartney walked onto the studio
oor, he looked out toward the invited guests, pleased to be there but overwhelmed to nd himself in surroundings that held indelible memories.
Thats where the grown-ups lived, McCartney said, pointing up to the
control room and reminding the audience of the time he was a kid about to
make his rst record. He talked about his nervousness in recording Love
Me Do because, in order for Lennon to play his harmonica in the chorus,
McCartney had to sing the title over it. He then glanced around the studio
oor, wistfully taking it in. He imagined Lennon singing Girl in one
corner, Harrison plucking his guitar in another, and right behind him, he
could picture Ringo keeping time. As the past appeared almost ready to
swallow him up, McCartney quickly announced, I want to try things a little
bit different.
After introducing Nigel Godrich, who would record certain effects and
play prepared tape loops, McCartney grabbed an acoustic guitar and
launched into a new song from the album. Friends to Go, which he
described as a George song, was a fascinating McCartney tune. Addressing the singers need to reveal himself, because hes been hiding and waiting
for friends to leave, the number seems to have a lot in common emotionally
with Lennons Youve Got to Hide Your Love Away. Friends to Go
makes you aware of the gaps in McCartneys creative life because he was
now exposing them in this song. He followed it up with How Kind of
You, a song about being grateful for someones love and friendship. Theres
an elegiac beauty to this song. It tells us something of his desire for the community of friends, and how the loss of his mates has deprived him of it. Meanwhile Godrich uses loops of an epiphonic acoustic guitar to add textures that
sound like pouring water washing away the pain. After nally rendering
himself defenseless, McCartney began to launch into his musical past.
First, he began rubbing the top of a series of empty wine glasses with his
ngers, recording a drone effect, before performing Band on the Run as
a rousing sea shanty. Later he transformed Lady Madonna from its original barrelhouse tribute to Fats Domino into a blues dirge. He danced as
lightly as Fred Astaire through Eddie Cochrans turns of phrase in Twenty
Flight Rock, the cover song that got him into Lennons group. Later he

Once There Was a Way

unveiled Bill Blacks original stand-up bass, the one featured in Heartbreak
Hotel, when Black was in Elviss band. McCartney wrapped his arms
lovingly around the neck and performed his own version of the song.
He was enjoying the freedom of opening up territory, connecting with the
crowd, and taking them into new and interesting facets and interpretations
of his work. He was reinventing himself, and his music, in the very place
where he had rst begun recording it. With a new authority, he used the
occasion to invoke his old partners who were no longer there. To accomplish
that goal, toward the end he created a song on the spot where, with the
magic of overdubbing, he got to play bass, rhythm and lead guitar, plus
drums, to becomein spirit, anywaythe Beatles. But as enjoyable as this
track was, McCartney knew that he couldnt outjump the shadow the
Beatles had created. After all, what was he singing? Gotta go home, he
cried happily. Gotta get back.
One poignant moment stood out from all the others. Early on, he started
to play an old song, In Spite of All the Danger, that many in the audience
didnt know, summoning his former mates without being consumed by their
loss. Recorded in 1958 with the Quarry Men, In Spite of All the Danger
was the groups rst record. And in it, the only tune that McCartney and
George Harrison ever wrote together, lay the genesis of the utopian promise
the Beatles would set forththen tried in vain to live up to. Encouraging the
throng to sing along with him, McCartney sang that in spite of all the
danger, hed do anything for you, anything youd want him to, as long as
youd be true. The lyric never once indicates what the danger is, but we
assume that its looming, ready to pounce, if that promise isnt fullled. Even
in 1958, perhaps, McCartney recognized that the danger in any dream
especially a romantic oneis the fear that it wont come true, or more to
the point, that it wont last. In Spite of All the Danger is about how the
Beatles story began, and in a way, its about how it ended. Yet that night,
McCartney offered that hope once again and the audience afrmatively
joined in, forgetting the heartbreak that inevitably follows the promise that
song made. And at that moment, the longtime burden of being a Beatle
appeared to be lifted: McCartney had happily recalled a point in time when
he was one. He was home.
For McCartney, as well as for the other Beatles, Liverpool was literally
home. Thanks to the band, today the city is a tourist haven, apparently
second only to the Tower of London for sightseers in England. Of course,
the citys history is hardly a cause for celebration. One has to remember that
while Liverpool spawned the Beatles, the Beatles ultimately wished to break
free of Liverpool. Yet the band never dismissed their roots and rightly so.
One could always hear the character of Liverpool in their songs, the sense
that as things could always get worse, well try our best to make them better.
Its a common characteristic thats quite germane to the city, a quality

Artificial Paradise

Alistair Cooke once described as cheerful pessimism. The cause of that


cheerful pessimism came directly from their disparate economic and
cultural life. It brought to the city industrial growth, but paradoxically it
also brought waste; it brought cultural potential, but often left squandered
hopes. The ambiguous roots of the Beatles aspirations began right here.
One day Liverpool would set the foundation for their greatest artistic
triumphs and provide the bedrock for their worst failures.
Liverpools checkered heritage begins in the eighteenth century, when the
slave trade from Africa became mixed with the cotton market from North
America. When abolition became law in 1807, slaves were not allowed to
land in England, but since cotton was sent to manufacturing cities like
Manchester and Birmingham by railroad, other immigrants made their way
to the jobs. By 1820, the dockyards and the Cotton Exchange attracted close
to 160,000 Irish immigrants from across the channel to make the kind of
money they couldnt make in Ireland. Cotton would be the trade that Jim
McCartney, Pauls father, would begin to ply. But the Irish would also
become the despised in Liverpool and were the victims of both unrest
and hopelessness. During the Depression years, with the merger of the
Cunard and White Stripe shipping lines, the luxury liner trafc was being
rerouted to Southampton. This decision changed the industrial base of Liverpool diminishing their economic status. The only way that they could retain
their former status was by becoming the anchor of the countrys naval operations. But that change inadvertently created an adverse effect when relentless German air raids lead to massive destruction. By 1941, thousands were
killed and the city was reduced to rubble. After the war, it took years to relocate over ten thousand persons.
During that period, Liverpool became part of a metropolitan area called
Merseyside with a population of about a million and a quarter. When
the United States entered the war, Americans were stationed there. They
were a source of great fascination for Liverpudlians. Given the hardship
theyd endured under German bombs, the brash and stylish manner of
Yankee soldiers was something for locals to look up to and admire.
The people living within these connes saw the seaport as a threshold on
the horizon, biographer Bob Spitz wrote in The Beatles. Beyond it, an
invisible world beckoned. Not a day passed when detachments of
tall-masted ships werent diligently on the move, bound for one of the
globes imagined corners.5 Those imagined corners of the globe might have
set the groundwork for the Beatles Nowhere Land, which took place for
them not in Liverpool, but ironically enough, in Hamburg, Germany.
But during the mid-forties, through all the devastation, the rationing, and
the nightly rain of bombs and casualties, Englands dreaming hadnt
really grown beyond surviving on the obliterated streets in which they
lived. So when the Americans then came calling, they were the objects of
derision as much as envy. They were also a reminder of everything that

Once There Was a Way

Liverpool didnt have, even if they represented what Liverpudlians might


truly want.
No movie caught the ambiguous corners of that conict, where longings
can also breed repression, better than Jim OBriens The Dressmaker
(1988). John McGraths script, which is based on Beryl Bainbridges 1973
novel The Secret Glass, is set in Liverpool in 1944 during the nightly blackouts and food rations. The story centers on two sisters, Nellie (Joan
Plowright), the dressmaker of the title, and Margo (Billie Whitelaw), the
younger sibling, who works on an assembly line in a munitions plant. While
Nellie makes other peoples dreams come true with her assembly of dresses,
she has no future dreams of her own. Nellie is basically a seething spinster
whos rigidly devoted to past decorum and respectability, that is, the manners that she feels have been disrupted by the war. But her good taste serves
as character armor to mask murderous rage. Margo is her opposite, boisterous, up for a song, and a good time gal looking for the next party. Yet shes
also vulnerable. While in Nellies care, her husband had died from mustard
gas poisoning suffered in World War I. On account of that tragedy, the
sisters have continued to carry a simmering contempt for each other.
At least, it simmers until they do battle over their meek 17-year-old niece
Rita (Jane Horrocks), who was left in their care by her father (Pete Postlethwaite), after Ritas mother died. When Rita falls in love with Wesley
(Tim Ransom), a young American soldier from Mississippi stationed in
Liverpool, it ignites the tension between the two siblings.
Like the character of the city itself, Rita is waging an inner war between
freeing her desires to express her sexuality like Margo or becoming as prudish and as hard as Nellie. Rita is strongly attracted to Wesley, who represents
an exotic American to her. Hes a symbol of the very freedom she dreams
for. But she is also terried of his sexual advances toward her. Since Nellie
is a self-righteous custodian of old values, she becomes an emotionally suffocating presence in the house. Film critic Hal Hinson, in The Washington
Post, described perfectly the priggish Nellie by dening her as a woman with
a streak of mania in her bustling. . .bent over her sewing table, her mouth
stuffed with pins, she seems deranged, driven mad by her efforts to keep
things stitched together. 6 The desperate Rita goes to Margo for help
because things for her are becoming emotionally and sexually unstitched.
By doing so, she hopes that Margo will understand her fears and help her
win Wesley. But Margo, despite her libidinous temperament, is too timid
to stand up to the power of Nellies disdain for her. Nellie naturally
triumphs in the end.
Its easy to see how the Beatles could emerge out of the bone-chilling
world depicted in The Dressmaker. While they are products of the repressive
culture that Nellie represents, they also embraced the free-spiritedness of
Margo, who has a striking resemblance to Julia, John Lennons late mother.
But theres something of Rita in the Beatles, too. It isnt her awkward

Artificial Paradise

shyness, or her forlorn whimpering that prevents her from sustaining joy;
rather, its in her strong desire to imagine a way out of misery. Despite
Wesleys continued attempts to break up their relationship by standing her
up, never calling, or even irting with Margo when he comes to family
dinner, Rita still maintains the faith that hell still one day want to hold her
hand. As the Beatles looked beyond their own environment, to dream of a
world where they could prevail, they had to carry the ghosts of the past that
they escaped from. In the last moment of The Dressmaker, when Rita wakes
up from a horrible nightmare with a hideous scream, its a scream that
releases her momentarily from a bad dream. But the scream is itself a manifestation of the kind of bad dream she wont escape. That scream would nd
its own release in the Beatles shouts of freedom in Twist and Shout and
Money. But it would also nd its echo in Lennons twisted, painful
screams toward the end of Mother, on his solo 1970 Plastic Ono Band
album, when his cries arent about nding freedom, or even resolution. They
were the screams of a man who, as Albert Goldman said, couldnt get the
past out of his system.7
The fear and repression that the Beatles sought to escape was not abstract.
Their era had been on close terms with [that fear] since the rst thump of a
Nazi boot at the far end of the European corridor, wrote Devin McKinney
in Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History.8 The Beatles came into
a world that was being bombed continuously between 1940 and 1944.
As McKinney points out, Britains major cities were brought to the edge of
infrastructural collapse. The threat of death continually lingered in the dead
silence of national blackouts. After the invasion of Poland and the capitulation of France, Britain feared that it could be next. Clothing, electricity, and
food became luxuries, and starvation was staved off by cans of Spam. In the
midst of this horror, the Beatles were born. [John Lennon] rst took
breaths in a world full of fearful screaming females, and found the rst name
of his countrys revered prime minister [Winston Churchill] afxed patriotically to his person, McKinney remarked.9
After watching their parents sacrice both life and livelihood to fend off
Hitler, the next generation wanted nothing less than their freedom. But it
wasnt the security and comfort their parents craved for that they were after.
The generation of the Beatles wanted to test the worth of the values theyd
just inherited. They werent content to grow up with a legacy handed to
them only out of sacrice. The risks they wished to take, in testing those
limits, would come from the pleasurable sensations they heard in rock n
roll music. We were the generation who didnt really suffer from the war
and we didnt want to have to keep being told about Hitler, George Harrison recalled. We were more bright-eyed and hopeful for the future, breaking out of the leftover Victorian mold of attitudes and poverty and
hardship.10 Those bright-eyed hopefuls had found their bearings the very

Once There Was a Way

moment that the Labour Party started pulling the plug on the British Empire
in 1945. Before long, the new government started providing health care and
education, as well as reforming the class system. During the fties, amidst a
burgeoning welfare state, a Conservative government promoted a consumer
culture that was built on the postwar American model. By the sixties, that
bold decision would launch a renaissance in British popular culture.
In the postwar fties, besides boredom, deprivation, and bomb holes for
playgrounds, American movies and the music of Elvis Presley, Fats Domino,
and Little Richard stepped into the cultural breach. These artists offered
something to aim fora world to conquer. The world the Beatles had come
from was bleakly monochromatic. It was the grim purpose following the
war of joining the National Service, of being molded into the armys idea
of being a man. You have to remember that wed watched all that happen
to Elvis, Paul McCartney explained. Hed been this ultimate rebel gure
who wed all worshipped. Then they made him cut his hair and he had to call
everyone sir and he was never really the same again . . .Before we knew
what was happening, we were like errant school kids off the leash.11 With
the end of compulsory service, here was a prospect of something novel,
perhaps something better. [I]t was like a paradise had been created for
young people, McCartney continued. There were all these possibilities
opening up that our parents could only have dreamed about. Suddenly, our
entire world was bright colors.12
The generation of the Beatles in England was the rst to dream in technicolor. They could dodge the National Service, as well as avoid getting a dull,
respectable job. For the rst time, they could even imagine a career in rock n
roll, instead of a predictable life of drudgery. To the individual Beatles, music
stoked their imagination. Harrison would discover that Big Bill Broonzy had
the key to the highway, Josh White sang like a man satised to have just one
meat ball, and Hoagy Carmichael revealed the wonders of stardust. McCartney would listen to his father playing Stairway to Paradise on the piano
and believe that paradise was possible. Ringo, a seriously ill and aspiring
drummerwho no one expected to live to see twentywould hear Gene
Autry lamenting South of the Border, and he could imagine himself among
the backup singers cheering Autry across the county lines. Lennon, of course,
would have his rendezvous with Elvis Presley singing Heartbreak Hotel,
and would hear his escape from Liverpool. Pop music denoted more than
preferred entertainment or even stylistic rebellion, Mikal Gilmore wrote in
Night Beat. It signied the idea of autonomous society. British teenagers
werent just rejecting their parents valuesthey were superseding them,
though they were also acting out their eminence in American termsin the
music of Presley and rockabilly; in blues and jazz tradition.13
The image of Elvis loomed large in Liverpool and manifested itself
through the Teddy Boys. Although the teds began a little earlier in 1954,
these gangs of young boys dressed in long Edwardian jackets (from where

10

Artificial Paradise

they would take their name) would start ghts at local dances. The teds
personied a classic example of adolescent rebellion, wrote biographer
Bob Spitz in The Beatles. [T]hey drank, brawled, screwed, deed convention, and acted out by dressing like ghoulish undertakers. . .Its mongrel style
was adapted from a fusion of postwar London homosexuals, who wore
velvet half collars on Edwardian jackets, with the biker gangs as depicted
by Marlon Brando in the lm The Wild One.14 The hypermasculine swagger of Brando in The Wild One, a strut that deed all authority, also had a
huge impact on Presley, which Lennon immediately recognized, as did other
Teddy Boys. But just as Heartbreak Hotel spoke to Lennon over the
radio, the appealing idea of revolt in Britain was seen and heard on stage
in John Osbornes autobiographical Look Back in Anger. Working-class
realism was breaking up the protocol of British politesse, the very world that
Nellie of The Dressmaker was trying to keep stitched up. Osborne was
answered, too, by author Colin Wilsons novel The Outsider, a book that
didnt so much speak to alienation as it did to disenfranchisement. It offered
not a realists bible to social change, but a skeleton key to Nowhere Land,
where an impressionistic view of the world existed beyond class distinction,
to a place where a new reality could be attained. But rst, what was needed
was a sound to express both that disenfranchisement and the brave new
world that this new generation was envisioning. It couldnt have come from
a less likely source.
Like most young kids, future-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was
looking for something hopeful out of the depressive atmosphere of postwar
Britain. It was still those somber post-war days of rationing, Page said
while bleakly recalling the period. Then this explosion came through your
radio speaker when you were 11 or 12.15 That explosion was Lonnie Donegan. In July 1954, as Elvis was laying down his rst landmark tracks at Sun
Records in Memphis, a Scottish banjo player and singer named Anthony
Lonnie Donegan was starting his own minor musical revolt by lling up a
few minutes of dead studio time with music that, like rock, had its roots in
American blues and folk. It was called skife, a crude adaptation of basic
blues and folk songs, where the folk rhythms were radically sped up on
makeshift instruments. Buskers on street corners often embraced skife as
the music of choice for drawing coins.
When Donegan began his career playing traditional New Orleans jazz
with the Chris Barber Band, he started introducing skife into their stage
repertoire. In January 1956, Donegan had recorded the Leadbelly folk song
Rock Island Line as a single for Decca Records. Rock Island Line was
given a quick country and western swing arrangement right out of Bob
Willis and the Texas Playboys. When the song became a huge hit, skife
bands suddenly started popping up in a number of British cities. When
Donegan recorded Cumberland Gap in 1957, another traditional folk

Once There Was a Way

11

song done with a skife arrangement, Lennon began to believe he could play
this music. After all, you didnt have to have expensive instruments to
perform it. Skife was the beginning of the whole Liverpool scene in the
end, because once the bands realized that they could form a group cheaply,
just washboards and tea chests, it was next to nothing and you could have
a band, explained music promoter Sam Leach, who started promoting skife in Liverpool in 1957. So, from the 600 or 700 skife groups came the
nucleus of about 300 rock and roll bands two or three years later.16 One
of those bands would be the Quarry Men.
Lennon formed the Quarry Men in May 1957, and they consisted of
friends Eric Grifths, Colin Hanton, Rod Davis, Pete Shotten, and Len
Garry from Quarry Bank High School for Boys. They made their debut at
a street carnival on Rosebery Street in Liverpool, copying songs they heard
on the radio. Often they would mangle the wordslike those to the
Del-Vikings smoothly seductive Come Go With Mebecause their lead
singer, John Lennon, had a bad memory and even worse eyesight. They were
playing this composition the day Paul McCartney rst met Lennon at the
St. Peters Church Field Garden fete on July 6, 1957. Could there have been
a more apt song (in melody and title) to lure a partnership that would soon
change the world? Ivan Vaughn, a mutual friend of both Lennon and
McCartney, had invited McCartney down to hear the group guring he
might like to join. The band was playing two sets in the afternoon shortly
after the crowning of Miss Sally Wright as the Rose Queen and the Fancy
Dress parade.
The 14-year-old McCartney was taken by Lennons inventiveness as he
stumbled his way through Come Go With Me. As John mangled the lyrics
with typical Lennon sardonic humor, the improvised words quickly tumbled
out. Come little darlin, come and go with me, down, down, down, down
to the penitentiary, hed sing while confusing a seductive love song with a
prison blues. McCartney had actually come from a musical family. His
father, Jim, besides working in the cotton trade had been a brass-band musician. Many years later, Paul would pay tribute to his father by creating Sgt.
Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. His grandfather also used to play an
E-at bass in a brass band, an instrument that would eventually nd its
way into Pauls hands. But rst, Jim McCartney had bought his son a
trumpet. Paul would rst learn When the Saints Come Marching In, and
some other standards, but his lips had never felt comfortable and he realized
that there was no way he could sing and play the trumpet at the same time.
Next he tried the guitar, but since they only made them right-handed, Paul
had a technical problemhe was a leftie. McCartney gured out that if he
turned the strings around he could actually feel more comfortable playing.
When he happened to see The Blackboard Jungle, with the opening credit
music of Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets, he heard
the call of rock n roll.

12

Artificial Paradise

After the show, McCartney was introduced to Lennon, who was somewhat inebriated. In a brief 20-minute session, with Johns closest friend Pete
Shotten present, Paul got out his guitar and played Eddie Cochrans
Twenty Flight Rock, impressing Lennon by knowing all the words.
He also tore through Gene Vincents 1956 hit Be-Bop-A-Lula, a track that
Lennon adored. But he was equally impressed that McCartney could explain
chords, and apparently, play the trumpet and piano. Was it better to have a
guy who was better than the people I had in? Lennon asked himself.
To make the group stronger, or to let me be stronger? Instead of going for
an individual thing we went for the strongest formatequals.17 Equals.
This became the rst brick in the foundation of the Beatles.
With Lennon, McCartney would skip school. And theyd play songs
together at Pauls place. The tunes they especially liked were those of Buddy
Holly because there were fewer chords and they could make it all the way
through the number. During this period, they would write some of their
early songs like Love Me Do. In early 1958, McCartney introduced
Lennon to George Harrison, his guitar playing younger friend, with the hope
of having him join the group. Harrison apparently knew more chords than
even they did. But Lennon initially thought Harrison too young to join until
he performed perfectly Bill Justiss beautifully languid Raunchy. Harrisons quest for perfection on the guitar came out of the sheer boredom he
endured at school. Early in his teenage years, he had made up his mind that
the only job he wanted was to play guitar in a rock band. His rst guitar was
purchased in 1956, the same year he met Paul McCartney at school. When
he learned about McCartneys musical background, they started playing
together. Soon enough, they learned that they both liked Gene Vincent and
Eddie Cochran.
But as Lennon and McCartney were both becoming fast friends and musical partners, they also shared a common tragedy. McCartneys mother was a
midwife nurse, a dutiful woman, who had a lasting impact on her son. While
his father might have developed his sons interest in music, it was his mother
who encouraged his drive to succeed at it. Her determination in life had its
downside, though, when she continued to work despite the suspicion that
she may have developed breast cancer. Ultimately, she would die of the
disease on Halloween night in 1955. Deeply wounded by his loss, McCartney built a wall around himself and turned to music to become lifted out of
his grief. Sometimes he would lock himself in the bathroom just so he could
play his guitar. Johns mother, Julia Stanley, also had an indelible effect on
her son. Unlike Pauls responsible parent, though, Julia was an impulsive
woman who married seaman Freddie Lennon in 1938. John was their only
child and by the time he was ve, his mother gave birth to another child by
another lover. When his parents separated, Lennon was left in the custody
of his strict Aunt Mimi. His mother was both charismatic and unconventional, and she had a deep love of music that she imparted to her son. Her

Once There Was a Way

13

death in 1958, where she was accidentally run over by an off-duty policeman, shattered the young Lennon who was only just becoming close to his
mother again. McCartney always saw their mutual tragedies as their special
bond. We both had this emotional turmoil which we had to deal with, and
being teenagers, we had to deal with it very quickly, McCartney
explained.18
But being teenagers, with opposing temperaments, their shared bond
would also be their axe to grind with each other. In the early years of building what would become the Beatles group dynamic, they would channel
that rivalry into a mutual plan for constructing and strengthening the group.
They were the perfect foils for each others disaffections, biographer Bob
Spitz wrote. For Paul, who had lost his mother to an illness, and for John,
whose home life was fraught with emotional confusion, their relationship
created an alternate reality, free of such tensions.19 That tension would nd
expression however in the songs they wroteboth alone and together.
In the winter of 1958, the same year he heard Gene Vincents raw and
hungry Be-Bop-A-Lula, McCartney composed a buoyant love song, with
hints of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, called I Lost My Little Girl.
McCartney would perform the song live on MTV for his Unplugged show in
1991 (curiously right after doing Be-Bop-A-Lula). He pointed out to the
audience that, although the song has sweet innocent lyrics, the chords go
down as the melody goes up. But you cant mistake the lightness in McCartneys touch. Rather than use the song to plumb the depths of his pain, as
Lennon might, McCartney sought a refuge. He essentially hid inside his
music, letting his artistry help him overcome whatever psychic disturbances
might lie beneath. There have been times when Ive been feeling down, and
then Ive heard a particular song and it has lifted me, McCartney once
remarked.20 Lennon though used his art to relentlessly plumb his soul with
the belief that he would nd the purity of truth there. As a partnership, they
sought to discover a means to consolidate their differences, to establish a
common front, even an identity to house those divergences. This belief in
the unity of diversity actually helped Lennon and McCartney sow the seeds
for the utopian ideas that would emerge in the Beatles music. That summer,
the rst seed would be sown.
On August 7, 1957, the Quarry Men debuted at the Cavern Club located
on Matthew Street in the seedy warehouse district that was once the original
fruit district. Alan Sytner had opened it in 1957, when he got the idea from
the Parisian jazz club, Le Caveau Francais. A few years later, the Cavern
was taken over by Ray McFall, who changed the club from jazz to skife,
then ultimately to rock. When they made their debut at the Cavern Club,
the Quarry Men were part of that evolution from skife to rock. Beatles
biographer Bob Spitz described the Cavern as a club right out of some
modern horror movie set:

14

Artificial Paradise

Most of the way down the steep, dark stairway there was no clue the
passage actually led anywhereno sound rose from the darkness, no
ickering light at the end of the tunnel. The only sign of life was a
stench that grew fouler and muskier as they progressed downward.
Eventually the stairs bottomed out into a vestibule of sorts, which
emptied in the club, itself a dank cellar in three sections separated by
archways.21
There was enough room for about 40 people in the middle section where
the 14 square feet of stage, built into an arch, was bisected by a wall. The
outer sections were saved for dancers and observers. There was barely
enough head room because of the low ceilings. But the acoustics, and the
sight lines, were perfect for loud hothouse rock n roll.
By the summer of 1958, having now played live at the Cavern, the Quarry
Men set out to make a record. Back in 1955, 60-year-old Percy Phillips ran
an electrical goods store in Liverpool. When he saw that there was an interest in local country and western groups wishing to record songs, he bought a
portable tape recorder, a disc-cutting machine, some microphones, and a
four-way mixer. He installed this portable studio in the living room of his
Victorian home on Kensington Street just outside the center of Liverpool.
Phillips would then record the songs on a 78 rpm shellac disc with a single
microphone. When the news of this facility got out, groups like the Quarry
Men eagerly set out to make a record to promote themselves. At this time,
the Quarry Men consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, pianist Duff Lowe, and drummer Colin Hanton. They paid a total of
17 shillings and six pence to cut two songs. The two songs chosen were
Buddy Hollys Thatll Be the Day, the rst smash hit for the Texan in
1957, and the McCartney/Harrison original, In Spite of All the Danger.
Hollys sassy deance (quoting in the title John Waynes key phrase
spoken in John Fords 1956 western The Searchers) after being dumped by
his girlfriend was a perfect t for Lennon to sing. In fact, Julia had taught
the song to him shortly before she died. His mother had learned the banjo,
a beautiful mother-of-pearl, four-stringed instrument, from her grandfather.
She used to play Thatll Be the Day by Buddy Holly, Lennons half sister
Julia Baird recalled. I remember us standing over [John], making him play
it again and saying, Yes, it will hurt. Press harder. Press harder. Yes, it hurts.
Get the tone clear.22 The version the Quarry Men perform is admirably
close to Hollys, but Lennon is too worshipful of Holly to truly make it his
own. But In Spite of All the Danger is a whole other matter. Written
largely by McCartney, with the guitar solo composed by Harrison, the song
builds on musical ideas heard in Elvis Presleys Tryin to Get to You,
which he recorded in 1955 at Sun Records, and released as a single in
September 1956. The song was originally rehearsed many hours at McCartneys home at Forthlin Road before the day of recording.

Once There Was a Way

15

In Spite of All the Danger, which can be heard on the Beatles Anthology
1 CD box, is a strange hybrid of a country ballad backed with an R&B
doo-wop chorus. Unlike Thatll Be the Day, this song has a more distinct
texture (plus there is no rock hero to look up to). McCartney uses Elvis only
as a starting point where Lennon looks to emulate Buddy Holly. In Spite of
All the Danger shows us a group thats feeling their way toward guring out
who they are, what they sound like, and maybe even what theyll become.
Of course, when McCartney performed the song in Abbey Road in 2005,
he had already caught up to its meaning. After all, the Beatles were the ultimate response to the promise posed in that tune. But in 1958, we can hear
those young innocent voices trying to make a plea that, as yet, had no precedent. The sound is of a group more interested by what it has yet to search
out than what it has too easily found, Devin McKinney wrote in Magic
Circles. [Its] a group excited by the danger of staking every hope on nothing
but their talents, themselves, each other; a group willing to brave its fear of
failure and horror of obscurity on the long, long chance that their voices will
be heard. Listening to it now, we hear John, Paul, and George forging a vow
from the meddle of their ambitionsIll do anything for youand addressing it to a single person. If youll be true to me. . .A vow, like an ideal, means
nothing if it goes untested.23 The tests, of course, would soon come.
Beyond the airwaves of Radio Luxembourg, rock, blues, and R&B
records found their way to Liverpool in the duffel bags of black American
sailors arriving in port. Being a seaport, Liverpool had easier access to those
records than London. Liverpool also had a savvy DJ named Bob Wooler
who would travel from club to club with a vast assortment of American
songs. The beat scene would emerge out of this cultural brew with bands
like the Bluegenes, named after Gene Vincent (until they went mainstream in
1963 as the Swinging Blue Jeans), plus Rory Storm and the Hurricanes,
which featured one Richard Starkey (i.e., Ringo Starr) on drums.24 By the
early sixties, Liverpool would have close to 300 bands, but the groups didnt
so much create a revival of rock in England, but glory in its tradition, create
a link, or a slim continuity between themselves and a heritage they thought
would launch them into the future as the next wave of R&B artists.
Unfortunately, the popular music of the late fties and early sixties was
the feathery pop of Cliff Richard and the Shadows. The Quarry Men, and
others like them, idolized Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and the
Everly Brothers. In particular, McCartney added Little Richard and Peggy
Lee, while Lennon loved the manic energy of Larry Williams. Harrison
brought in the doo-wop and girl group sounds of the Shirelles and the Chiffons. When the Beatles arrived, they didnt simply copy the sound of these
groups, rather, they sought to nd their own voices within songs like
Honey Dont, Roll Over Beethoven, and Long Tall Sally. Many British blues bands, such as the Yardbirds, were initially content trying to pay
homage to the black artists they admired (until the Yardbirds found their

16

Artificial Paradise

true vocation in pop with For Your Love in 1965). But their cover
versions of the blues music they loved were so ardently bland that they
became a modern form of minstrelsy. These groups wanted to sound black
and blue, but couldnt help appearing white and fake. Sonny Boy Williamson was often fond of saying that the British kids wanted to play the blues
so bad, the blues ended up sounding bad. The Beatles, on the other hand,
always sounded like the Beatles. Whether they got deep inside Smokey
Robinsons Youve Really Got a Hold on Me or matched the chiming
vocals on the Cookies Chains, by swapping both gender and color, the
Beatles were never just paying tribute. They saw themselves as inheritors
building their own version of the sounds they loved.
What specically did the Beatles inherit? When Elvis Presley arrived in
1954 with his rst record, Thats All Right, he had successfully integrated
the black blues into country swing. Some say the most important factor here
was that it enabled a white man to sound black. I think the more signicant
act here is that, in the same year the Supreme Court had outlawed segregation, a white man deantly acted on its pledge. In the years to follow, Elvis
would rock (Hound Dog), turn gentle (Love Me Tender), or become
melodramatic (Heartbreak Hotel), creating a style that was gleefully
unpredictable and open to possibilities. The power of [Elviss] music lay
in its directness: rhythm and harmony were boiled down to basic essentials
and used to convey primal human passionsimpatience, pride, sexual
yearning, simple pleasures, confusing doubts, and sheer hilarity, critic
Tim Riley wrote in Tell Me Why. The recording medium rock n roll was
invented in proved to be the perfect outlet for these passions. 25 That
medium, of course, was radio. Suddenly young listeners could hear a singer
celebrate those passions, without inhibition, magically into the air for all to
hear. But Elvis was only one man breaking through, not a group, so the
larger sense of community the Beatles would represent didnt come from
Presley. He opened the door for those larger possibilities of freedomand
fell victim, ultimately, to its traps.
The cadences of Buddy Hollys voice provided nuances Lennon and
McCartney tried to create in their own harmonies. But they were also
impressed that he wrote his own songs that he performed with the Crickets.
[Holly] had a permanent, identiable backing group, critic Steve Turner
explained. John (who was short-sighted) was encouraged that a bespectacled singer could become a rock n roll star and the initial naming of the
group Beetles was inspired by Buddys Crickets.26 Lennon and McCartney were also very taken with the Everly Brothers (Bye Bye Love, Wake
Up, Little Susie) because of their close-harmony style that was inuenced
by Appalachian country and Celtic folk. They sang songs of heartbreak,
but with such beauty that the music surmounted the pain without ever denying its existence. Perhaps that was only possible because, like Lennon and

Once There Was a Way

17

McCartney, the Everly Brothers also had opposing temperaments that they
channeled into their songs. Lennon and McCartney consumed the Everly
Brothers hits, but also the B-sides of their singles like So Sad (To Watch
Good Love Go Bad). In their fantasy, Paul would play Phil Everly and John
would be brother Don.
As with the Everly Brothers, Lennon and McCartney locked horns as
much as they harmonized in song. The thing about me and John is that
we were different, but we werent that different, McCartney told Jon Wilde
in 2004. I think Linda [McCartney] put her nger on it when she said me
and John were like mirror images of each other. Even down to how
we started writing together, facing each other, eyeball to eyeball, exactly like
looking in a mirror.27 Devin McKinney saw them as neither mirror images
nor complete opposites. [Lennon and McCartney] were complementary
coevals: two halves of a bipolar split, each with the potential to run manic
or fall depressed, but each clinging to its fundamental identity when times
got tough, McKinney wrote. Troubled, John always went back to rock
n roll, the simplest wordings and most basic chords, the most immediate communication. At such times he favored realityor his artists idea
of realityover fantasy. Paul did the opposite, gravitating to the fantastic
over the tangible, to impeccable pastiche over personal essay.28
But as certain opposites attract, they also complete each other, compensating for the deciency in the other, in order to take themselves beyond a
world each knows only too well. That dynamic was there right from the
beginning. Johnny Gentle, one of the rst singers who played with them in
1958, took notice of this. It was always Lennon and McCartney, even then,
Lennon and McCartney, Gentle told Beatles biographer Bob Spitz. They
wouldnt even look at [the others] to determine where things were going.
Everything was designed around the two of themand the others had to
catch up on their own. 29 Their future record producer George Martin
would compare them to Gilbert and Sullivan, as opposed to Rodgers and
Hart, for reasons of their creative rivalry. When they were both Beatles
their rivalry was channeled towards the betterment of the Beatles as a totality, critic Ben Gerson would write in Rolling Stone in 1971 about Lennons
How Do You Sleep, a vitriolic invective against Paul McCartney, on his
solo album Imagine. Apart, it is only destructive.30 The way Lennon and
McCartney wrote songs didnt follow the same pattern as Rodgers and Hart,
where one did the music and the other did the lyrics. If I get stuck on the
middle-eight of a new number, I give up, knowing that when I see John he
will nish it off for me, McCartney told a journalist in 1964. Hell bring
a new approach to it and that particular song will nish up half and half,
Lennon and McCartney.31
As for their singing styles, Lennon and McCartney developed along the
lines of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly in an attempt to acquire a
harmony that surpassed their contrasting nature. Lennons was particularly

18

Artificial Paradise

expressive, with soulful graces, melismas, Preslian roulades, sprezzatura, and


timbre shadings, musicologist Walter Everett wrote. McCartney broke into
falsetto to overdrive his Little Richard-style shouts, but Lennons falsetto was
more rened and melodious, usually restricted to transitional woos in emulation of Roy Orbison.32 According to biographer Bob Spitz, when one
singer took over the song, the melody would expand demanding the other to
join in. But the second voice didnt seek to harmonize with its partner in the
traditional sense where the edges of the song would get smoothed out.
The timbre of their contrasting voices built to an unbearable tension within
the song that constantly demanded releasesomething you could hear ultimately in the ecstatic screams and head-shaking of Twist and Shout and
She Loves You.
The Beatles synthesized the innovations of their antecedents out of love
and necessity. By the end of the fties, their heroes were missing in action:
tamed by the army (Elvis Presley), dead (Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and
the Big Bopper), disgraced (Jerry Lee Lewis), in jail (Chuck Berry), or they
found religion (Little Richard). The charges of payola against pioneer DJ
Allan Freed also changed pop radio. Pop music started shifting toward the
resurrection of Tin Pan Alley with songwriters scrambling to the Brill Building in New York, where Carole King and Gerry Gofn provided sweeter
sounds for various pop performers like Frankie Avalon. By 1962, in Britain,
the Beatles would begin to overturn that trend. First, by covering some of
those songs themselves and transforming them. Secondly, they would
perform their own material. Before the Beatles were through, the rule of
the Brill Building ended with many of those same songwriters (Carole King,
Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond) recording their own material. Up to that
point, you could write songs for everybodyrock & rollers, soul singers,
pop singers, recalled Al Kooper, once a writer in the Brill Building, but
who would make history playing organ on Bob Dylans Like a Rolling
Stone. But the Beatles and the Stones wiped all that out.33
Before they led what was commonly referred to as the British Invasion,
they were still the Quarry Men looking for gigs. By August 1959, the band
narrowed down to John, Paul, and George, when the others abandoned the
cause to start new lives. The new, improved Quarry Men played their rst
engagement at the Casbah Club in Liverpool, which was owned by Mona
Best. Her son Pete Best just happened to be a drummer. For the moment, it
just happened to be what the group needed.
Besides requiring a drummer, the band also needed a bass player. Back in
January 1960, Lennon talked his painter friend Stuart Sutcliffe, a classmate
at the Liverpool Institute, to join the group. When he sold one of his paintings for 65 pounds sterling at the John Moores Exhibition, it gave him
enough money to buy a bass guitaran instrument he couldnt play.
Coming from a Victorian background, Sutcliffe had a civil servant father

Once There Was a Way

19

who was serving in the merchant navy and a schoolteacher for a mother.
Although painting was his true passion, his deep friendship with John
convinced him to join the Quarry Men. When they met, Stuart stood in
sharp contrast to Lennon (just as McCartney did). While John was angry,
violent, and often drunk, Sutcliffe was sensitive, an intellectual, and passionate about the art world. In hindsight, he was an early surrogate for Lennons
partnership with Paul McCartney when the Beatles became renowned. For
one thing, Sutcliffe had a keen interest in art that McCartney would later
develop after living with Jane Ashers family. He was the groups rst bassist, an instrument he would soon pass over to the more musically superior
McCartney. And he would die tragically in 1962, just as Paul will later be
rumored to have done in 1966.
John had more of an intuitive grasp of the artistic world, plus contempt
for its pretensions. But it was Sutcliffe who already had the means and discipline to get there. More importantly, in terms of the ultimate hopes of the
Beatles, Sutcliffe had already graspedand openly acceptedan equal
enthusiasm for the world of high art and the lower road of rock and roll.
To him, Michelangelo and Eddie Cochran, cathedrals and Italian shoes,
although obviously unalike, could be treated with the same seriousness,
wrote Steve Turner in The Gospel according to the Beatles. He was a studious teenager who nevertheless dressed like James Dean, a fan of European
art movies who could rave about Elvis.34 While Sutcliffe would have never
lasted as a Beatle because of his musical deciencies, his egalitarian spirit,
where all forms of culture could coexist and be accepted as equal, was the
vision of what the Beatles would come to mean.
Shortly after Sutcliffe joined the band in March, they started rehearsing
and recording their efforts at McCartneys house with a tape recorder that
he borrowed. These primitive recordings, available on Anthology 1, as well
as various bootlegs, show a group restless to nd their own voice. McCartney barrels through Ray Charles Hallelujah, I Love Her So with a brisk
brio. His own composition, Cayenne, an instrumental he wrote before
meeting Lennon, shows the inuence of the Shadows while simultaneously
surpassing them. Youll Be Mine is a lark, a parody of the Ink Spots, with
McCartney using that exaggerated vocal style he would later perfect on
Oh! Darling. Lennon also does a spoken refrain that spoofs the Velvetones The Glory of Love. Its a clever, yet sloppy, attempt at the comedy
stuff theyd do better on Yellow Submarine and You Know My Name
(Look Up the Number). Perhaps the most interesting track is McCartneys
Ill Follow the Sun, which he wrote in 1959, and is only available on
Beatles bootleg recordings. Although the rerecorded song would ultimately
turn up on Beatles for Sale (1964), as a quaintly pensive ballad, here it has
the attack of pure rockabilly. While telling his loved one goodbye, that hes
off to follow the sun, McCartney unwittingly introduces a clever double
entendre. The sun hes following in this early version seems to be Sun

20

Artificial Paradise

Records in Memphis, since the song, in style and voice, resembles one of
Elviss early sides.
In April 1960, the Quarry Men decided to change their name to the
Beatles for a number of reasons. They had always liked the name of Buddy
Hollys band, the Crickets, so it served as the perfect homage. In his own
denitive poetic fashion, Lennon said that Beatles with an a came to him
from a man on a aming pie. But the real reason was that the a dened
them as a beat group. It was John and Stuart who thought of the name,
McCartney claimed. They were art students and while Georges and my
parents would make us all go to bed, Stuart and John could live the little
dream we all dream: to stay up all night. And it was then that they thought
up the name.35 But the name Beatles also has its origins in The Wild One
where the female followers of Lee Marvins motorcycle gang are called
beetles. That same year, the group also met Royston Ellis, Englands
own version of Allen Ginsberg, a writer and poet who met the group in the
summer when he performed his poetry at Liverpool University. Notably,
Ellis introduced the Beatles to drugs such as the Benzedrine inhaler. The
band admired Ellis because he brought an awareness of the link between
rock n roll and literature. When they met, Ellis had written a book called
The Big Beat Scene, which provided a survey of the British Beat music of
the late fties. Ellis entertained the idea of having the Beatles perform behind
him as he read his poetry, but before they could play Steve Allen to Elliss
Jack Kerouac, the band got the break they were looking for.
Allan Williams, who owned a coffee bar in Liverpool called the Jacaranda, was also a music promoter. Since he was near the art college, the
bands used to come to play in the basement for free. That summer, Williams
was putting together a big tour for Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, when
Cochran was tragically killed in a car accident. In a panic, Williams
contacted the booker Larry Parnes who supplied a replacement group
calling themselves the Beatles. He told them they should call themselves the
Silver Beatles. Whatever name was required, they were in. Lennon taught
Sutcliffe the only two chords he knew and suggested that he turn his back
to the audience so they wouldnt be able to see that he couldnt play. Larry
Parnes was impressed with the group and offered them a role backing the
popular singer Billy Furyif they got rid of Stuart. But the band stuck
together and turned Parnes down. They were given a job instead backing
singer Johnny Gentle for a tour of Scotland. The group might have continued traveling the countryside, if they hadnt heard about a whole other scene
waiting for them in Hamburg, Germany.
Allan Williams had about 300 bands all over England. While scouting
dates and locations for them to play, he kept hearing about German seamen
arriving at port in Liverpool talking about all the work to be found in
Hamburg for hungry musicians. With the possibility of more money to be

Once There Was a Way

21

made abroad, Williams started setting up gigs for them in Germany. When
the Beatles asked about the possibility of including them, Williams said they
needed a drummer. Pete Best had only been playing with them periodically,
so to get the Hamburg gig, they made him their ofcial drummer. From the
moment the Beatles arrived in Hamburg, its shady enchantment beckoned
to their adolescent hunger for experiences both forbidden and hidden
exactly what the Beatles themselves would release in the culture at large
within a few years.
When the Beatles entered Hamburg, a prosperous commercial city that
since the nineteenth century had attracted ships with cargo and people, it
was as if they had stepped into a dark mirror. Hamburg offered them a
reverse image of the repressive postwar Britain theyd known. Suddenly they
entered a world of free sex and prostitution, drugs and alcohol. All of this
and more awaited these innocent lads who grew up on food rations. If anything, Hamburg helped to level the schoolboy hierarchy that had governed
their relations in Liverpool, since the differences in their ages meant nothing
in a place where, by local standards, all ve were babes in the woods, wrote
Jonathan Gould in Cant Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America.36
The German audience they faced in Hamburg was still living in its own
mirror. They existed in the silhouette of a history that was shared with the
Beatlesthe war and the Holocaust. Germany still wasnt that far removed
from those horrors, but now the German audience wished to distance itself
further from the violence it perpetrated a decade earlier. The Beatles,
though, sought through the force of their stage presence, a certain retribution for the violence that was perpetrated upon them. They traded curses
and outrages with their crowds, wrote Devin McKinney in Magic Circles.
Lurched about like cartoon cripples, hollering holy hell into the sunrise,
Lennon in particular must have found it a kind of heaven: demented mind
theatre, Goon Show without censor or good taste, as he goose-stepped and
played Der Fuhrer to the crowds.37 Playing off the Nazi horrors of the
recent past, the Beatles turned the audience into their adversaryand their
muse. In the process, they found their identity as a group. By treating this
drunken mass as their foe, they discovered a way to mold their own distinct
differences into one soul. Their ultimate goal was to become a musical force
that would conquer the world.
The Beatles played in the Reeperbahn, the red light district of Hamburg,
lled with gangsters, prostitution, drugs, and booze. The group partook of
the booze because the clients liked to show their appreciation. Before long,
though, they also sought favors with the women and downed uppers to keep
their energy going. Hamburg was the training ground for the band, Allan
Williams recalled. It was a 24-hour scene, non-stop, and it kicked off at
something like 8:00 in the morning and carried on till 8:00 the next morning.38 Apparently, after the Berlin Wall went up, the gangsters from East
Germany immediately settled into the West and into the Hamburg scene.

22

Artificial Paradise

As a result, crime became lucrative, especially the gun running due to the
Algerian War. Then along came these little innocent Liverpool lads,
Williams remarked.39 What made Hamburg signicant to the future of the
Beatles was that they could develop an eclectic repertoire of material. Given
the venues they played, including strip clubs, gay and transvestite bars, and
mud wrestling parlors, they were able to perform the hard rock they liked
and (thanks to various requests) the comic pop of Besame Mucho. In the
dim underbelly of Hamburg grew the idea of Nowhere Land, where music
from anywhere, and at anytime, was possible to play.
For two months, they performed at the Indra Club, until it was closed
because of noise complaints. The Indra especially had something of an ironic
avor for McCartney. [I]t had a big elephant over the street to signify
India, McCartney recalled. Later, with our India inuence, it seemed
funny that that should have been our rst place. 40 While playing
there, however, they stayed in the less-than-regal surroundings of the
Bambi Kino. We were put in this pigsty, Lennon recalled contemplating
the backstage of the Bambi Kino, which was also part cinema. We were
living in a toilet. . .We would go to bed late and be woken the next day by
the sound of the cinema show.41 McCartney remembered the aroma all
too well. [Y]ou could always smell them, he explained. [Our] room
had been an old storeroom, and there were just concrete walls and nothing
else. No heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint, and two sets of bunk beds,
like little camp beds, with not many covers. We were frozen.42 Not only
were they cold, they often werent very clean either. I never used to
shower, Harrison admitted. There was a washbasin in the lavatory at
the Bambi Kino, but there was a limit to how much of yourself you could
wash in it.43
Hamburg had opened their eyes to the seedier side of show business.
By doing 12-hour sets, though, the band developed their chops, kept the
Germans engaged, and sometimes enraged them with their antics. The
Hamburg days, in retrospect, were probably the most important times of
our lives because it was what you could call our apprenticeship, Harrison
asserted. We worked very hard and we worked long hours. We played for
eight hours a night, seven days a week for over four and a half months on
our rst go-round there. We really got a lot of material down, a lot of
material we would never have learned if we hadnt gone there.44 Because
of their growing popularity, the Beatles had to move to a bigger location,
but with similar clientele, the Kaiserkeller. There they alternated with Rory
Storm and the Hurricanes, whose drummer was Ringo Starr. Ringo would
often stay late into the evening, after everyone else went home, to hear the
Beatles play some of their bluesier numbers, meaning all the B-sides they
knew. What the early crowds heard was a repertoire of Gene Vincent, Little
Richard, the Everly Brothersperhaps even an instrumental take on
Moonglow. On some nights, Ray Charles epic What Id Say became

Once There Was a Way

23

an hour and a half tour de force. They kept up the pace by taking Preludin, a
slimming drug that had the impact of speed.
It was at the Kaiserkeller where the Beatles fortunes started to change.
Bohemian art student Klaus Voorman, who lived near the club, was heading
home when he heard something new to his ears that enticed him to the club.
As I walked along, I heard this rock music, Voorman remembered. All
the rest of the places were mostly strip clubs and such. I heard this band
playing and thought [they] sounded great. [But] I was scared to go into the
place.45 His fear was justied. Most of the art students attended the jazz
clubs because jazz best dened their outsider bohemian lifestyle, whereas
rock was that commercial, roughhouse stuff. Although Voorman experienced discomfort in these shabby surroundings, it would be magically transformed when the Beatles came on. They were giving a lot of enjoyment to
the audience which was a hard thing to do, he recalled. They just wanted
to give pleasure, and thats what they did.46 Voorman lived in the attic of
his 22-year-old photographer girlfriend Astrid Kirchherrs home. One night,
after hed become better acquainted with the group, he talked her into going
with him. I was pretty frightened when he asked me to go there, Kirchherr
remembered. I didnt converse with the Beatles the rst time, but I immediately thought how wonderful they were and how much I would like to really
get to know them.47 She would get to know them better by taking a series
of dramatic photos that captured both their toughness and their humor.
Although it was Klaus who introduced Astrid to Stuart Sutcliffe, who would
eventually be her lover, it was the music that initially overpowered her.
I had never seen performers like them before. I was into jazz and classical
music . . .It was like a merry-go-round in my headseeing the Beatles
perform and liking them as people, Kirchherr recalled.48
Like her friends, Kirchherr was an existentialist. Existentialism was our
way of expressing our difference from the old Germany, Kirchherr
explained. Our major inuence was France. America was too far away,
and it couldnt be England for they were our enemies.49 The Beatles, arriving from that enemy country, dramatically altered their perception. Unlike
the existentialists, or exis as they were called, who offered doubt and
uncertainty, the Beatles were a powerful afrmative force. You could later
hear it in the boisterous enthusiasm of their music, in the yeah, yeah,
yeahs of She Loves You, in the shake of their heads crying ooooh in
that songs bridge, or in the primal screams of release in Money (Thats
What I Want). Out of the rubble of the blitz in Britain, and the dolorous
subculture of Hamburg, the Beatles found cause to say yes. The band
created such noise in Hamburg that the news quickly traveled back to Liverpool. In January 1961, when they returned home to play the Litherland
Town Hall, the enthusiasm was simply uncontrollable. This is pure excitement, remembers Bill Harry, who would start the Liverpool music paper
Mersey Beat in July of that year. It was like an underground movement.

24

Artificial Paradise

The kids had something that belonged to them, and the Beatles were gradually emerging as the big group coming out of the little cesspools like the
Casbah Club and the Jacaranda Club into the big halls.50 But with the
excitement also came the danger, their constant companion. One evening,
Sutcliffe was giving his guitar to Pete Best to put in the van when he got
jumped and badly beaten up by some Teddy Boys. He was so viciously
attacked, especially around the head, that he likely procured a fractured
skull. It was likely this erce beating that lead to the brain hemorrhage that
killed him 10 months later.
On February 21, 1961, they were back at the Cavern Club, where the
Quarry Men had debuted four years earlier, backing up the Bluegenes. Introduced by local DJ Bob Wooler, the band deantly charged onto the stage
dressed in black leather. After kicking off with Johnny B. Goode, they
immediately changed gears with Till There Was You from The Music
Man. The force of Barrett Gordys Money followed right after McCartney
nished crooning Over the Rainbow, as Lennon mocked him. The
Beatles were a human jukebox, Albert Goldman wrote in The Lives of John
Lennon. They played song after song without rhyme or reason: rock n
roll, rhythm and blues, country and western tunes, pop songs, radio themes,
music hall novelties, and anything else that struck their fancies . . .It was
precisely their spontaneous humor and free-associative word-and-song play
that made their shows so different from what any other rock band had ever
done beforeor has done since. 51 With that triumphant homecoming
under their belt, it was back to Hamburg, where another step of their dream
beckoned.
At the start of the sixties, producer Bert Kaempfert, a prominent bandleader and performer, known for the #1 hit Wonderland By Night, plus
composing Wooden Heart for Elvis Presley, was looking for exciting
new artists to record for Polydor Records. When the Beatles were playing
the Top Ten Club, Bert started hearing about the furor they were generating,
so he decided to check them out. At that time, the Beatles were backing
singer Tony Sheridan, a self-consciously theatrical performer who copied
the style and manner of Elvis. Since there were no German groups performing rock like the band he heard that night, Kaempfert decided to try and sign
them for the German market. But just before the sessions, Sutcliffe quit the
group to study at the Hamburg Art College. His decision saved the Beatles
the trouble of demoting him. The group knewespecially McCartneythat
Sutcliffes lack of skill was holding them back. But since no one wished to
inherit the mantel of bass guitarist, it reluctantly fell to Paul, who would
never abandon the post. The recording session was done on June 22, 1961,
in a school hall rather than a studio. The group was set up on a stage with
the recording equipment resting in a back room. They did one run-through
of a traditional standard called My Bonnie and nished it in three takes.

Once There Was a Way

25

Sung by Sheridan, the rock arrangement of this chestnut was done in a mock
Elvis-style. Since the song was a popular request by drunken sailors, the
Beatles answered Sheridans cries of bring back my Bonnie to me, like
sodden sea dogs. The single made it to #32 in the German charts, but it
wasnt released in the United Kingdom.
They followed up that recording with Sweet Georgia Brown, done later
in the studio, along with When the Saints Go Marching In, Nobodys
Child, Jimmy Reeds Take Out Some Insurance, and Why Cant You
Love Me Again. For backing up Sheridan, the Beatles also had the opportunity to record some other sides without him. They chose Aint She Sweet,
a standard written in 1927 by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, and sung by
Lennon, who discovered the tune through the 1956 Gene Vincent cover.
Gene Vincents recording of Aint She Sweet is very mellow and highpitched and I used to do it like that, Lennon recalled. [B]ut the Germans
said, Harder, harderand they all wanted it a bit more like a marchso
we ended up doing a harder version.52 The number would remain in the
Beatles repertoire until the next year. They also recorded the instrumental,
Cry For a Shadow, which was written by Lennon and Harrison as a tribute to Cliff Richards band the Shadows. The song came about quite by accident when Harrison was trying to play a Shadows song for Rory Storm in
Germany and he couldnt remember it. This unimaginative pastiche would
in time also become barely memorable. The Beatles never collected any
royalties on the sales of My Bonnie, but instead acquired 200 marks in
session fees.
The recording did little to reveal what would make the Beatles a group
that would storm the planet because they were merely providing the backbeat for Sheridan. In the meantime, My Bonnie, being issued only in
Germany, didnt have much chance to be heard in the United Kingdom.
But when Pete Best sent a copy to the Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, he excitedly
played the song one night at the Aintree Institute and Litherland Town Hall.
At rst listen, local followers of the group immediately clamored to buy it.
One of those followers was 18-year-old Raymond Jones. On October 28,
1961, Jones walked into NEMS (North End Music Store) to nd the record.
Every Saturday, he arrived like clockwork buying records that he had heard
the Beatles play, especially those by Carl Perkins and Fats Domino. His
sisters ex-husband told him that the Beatles had made their own record of
My Bonnie, so Jones went to NEMS to see if they had it. The owner, Brian
Epstein, then asked Jones who the Beatles were. Jones told Epstein that they
were the most fantastic group, arousing the curiosity of this rather selfeffacing shop-owner. Although Epstein had read about them in Mersey Beat,
this was the rst time any customer brought them to his attention. He sent
his personal assistant, Alistair Taylor, on a hunt for the record. Taylor
discovered that not only was it not available at their store, the catalog listed
it as recorded by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. Taylor found out

26

Artificial Paradise

that it was a German import and ordered a box of 25. When they arrived,
they were gone in a half an hour. After that, Epstein and Taylor prompted
Polydor in England to begin pressing copies domestically. While it took
some convincing, they eventually began printing them.
Epstein had been taking a bigger interest in the growing rock scene in
Liverpool since Bill Harry started bringing copies of Mersey Beat to the
store. According to Jim Gretty, a salesman and guitar teacher at Hesseys
Music Store in Liverpool, Epsteins desire to manage a band came out of
conversations had with him before Raymond Jones even entered NEMS.
According to Gretty, Epstein asked him about some of the better bands in
Liverpool. Gretty mentioned a few like the Fourmost, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Rory Storm. He also casually mentioned the Beatles. Epstein
asked Gretty where he could see them. Gretty acquired tickets for a fundraiser concert they were performing at on October 15, 1961 at the Albany
Cinema at Maghull. It was there that Gretty claimed Epstein saw the Beatles
for the rst time, while in the company of Member of Parliament, Bessie
Braddock, and a number of other invited guests. After the show, Epstein
expressed interest to Gretty to manage the Beatles. Epstein meanwhile
insisted that he rst saw the group at the Cavern Club on November 9,
1961, as does every other reliable biography, because of Raymond Joness
enthusiasm for the group. The rst thing that struck me, really, was that
they had a very honest and unrehearsed sound, Epstein remembered.
I thought that if I liked it, and all these teenagers liked it, then there was
something worth exploring.53 Epstein arrived at the Cavern with Alistair
Taylor. We looked out of place in white shirts and dark business suits,
Taylor recalled. The Beatles were playing A Taste of Honey and Twist
and Shout, but we were particularly impressed that they included original
songs.54 On December 13, 1961, Epstein signed the group.
Brian Epsteins career as the Beatles manager was as serendipitous as the
Beatles own convergence as a group. Epstein, who came from a middle-class
family, left school at the age of 16, with the hopes of becoming an actor. But
his family had different ideas. They pushed him to join the Epstein furniture
business. Brians grandfather had started the NEMS stores, which began in
the furniture trade, but eventually expanded to include other furnishings
and accessories like records. Epstein got bored, however, and continued to
dream about acting. He actually did an audition test for RADA (Royal
Academy of Dramatic Arts), passed, and even joined. However, he couldnt
fully adjust to the life in the dramatic arts because he didnt discipline
himself to stay with it. The family then put him back in the business running
the records division of NEMS in Whitechapel, something that interested him
more. When Epstein nally had his opportunity to manage the Beatles, he
partially transformed them into a fantasy image that he desired for himself.
Epstein allowed the individual Beatles an opportunity to create a popular
image in roles that Brian had fashioned for them to play. He took the

Once There Was a Way

27

irreverent spirit of the Beatles and integrated into that spirit a more cultured,
acceptable image.
The rst major change was to get them out of their leather gear into
respectable Pierre Cardin suits. Smoking was banned not to mention their
swearing onstage. But what was most curious about this particular transformation of the Beatles was the way it provided an ideal mirror to reect
Epsteins own fractured life. A closeted homosexual, with an attraction to
the sadomasochistic side of gay life, the public image of Epstein was, by
contrast, an urbane, cultured man. Besides growing up gay, Epstein came
from a prominent Jewish family in a working-class city with deeply
ingrained anti-Semitic attitudes. This elegantly dressed young man, with
rened tastes, secretly frequented public washrooms in West Derby, a Liverpool suburb, to seek sexual satisfaction. On one occasion, he even got
robbed and assaulted. With the Beatles, Epstein sought to consolidate the
split in his personality between the roughhouse life he privately desired and
the rened life he publicly wanted. Its no small irony that this lavishly
cultured man, who sought his sexual pleasure in the secret connes of public
bathrooms, took a fancy to a group that had emerged out of the public
toilets of Hamburgonly to be culturally attired in his care. The one area
Epstein didnt change, though, was the one most discussed: their haircuts.
Its often been written that Astrid invented the Beatles hairstyle, but the
truth is that all the boys in Hamburg had that fashion. Klaus Voorman,
Kirchherrs boyfriend before Stuart, wore that long, cereal-bowl look before
the Beatles did. Voorman looked so cool that soon both Sutcliffe (whod
now become Astrids lover) and Harrison wanted Astrid to cut their hair in
the same manner. Lennon and McCartney decided to hold off until October
1961 when they went to Paris. Astrid and Klaus got their friend Jurgen
Volmer to do the deed.
The rst order of business for Epstein, though, was to get the group out of
their contract with Bert Kaempfert, since Polydor had more interest in Tony
Sheridan than with the Beatles. At which point, Epstein set up an audition
with Decca Records in London. Epstein discussed the idea with Mike Smith,
an A&R man from the company, to come hear the group at the Cavern.
Smith really liked the band so he secured the audition for January 1, 1962
at 11 a.m. On their way, the group got caught in a snowstorm that made
them arrive late. Epstein was livid with their tardiness. When they did show
up, they found the studio freezing. They also preferred to do their rock
numbers, but instead, Epstein insisted they perform a varied repertoire to
reect their live shows. While this may have worked in the context of a live
concert audience, in this impersonal studio setting, the group seemed lost,
unsure, and as at as stale champagne. It didnt help either that they were
restricted to one take only. Far from sounding like a pack of erce rockers
in full cry, these Beatles came on like a hotel band in the Catskills, wrote
Albert Goldman in The Lives of John Lennon. 55 They performed

28

Artificial Paradise

McCartneys Like Dreamers Do, a pert pop number written in 1957,


which had its origins in Stairway to Paradise. Like Dreamers Do was
also one of the rst numbers they performed at the Cavern. The Applejacks
eventually covered it and it became a Top 20 song in July 1964. The Sheik
of Araby, sung by Harrison, was a 1922 standard by Ted Snyder, who was
Irving Berlins New York writing partner. But Harrison based his own rather
strained arrangement on the music hall version done by his friend Joe
Brown, who often played with the Beatles on their rst British tours. Brown
had been popular on variety shows like Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! which
was heavily inuenced by the ukulele songs of George Formby in the thirties
and forties. (Brown would perform a Formby standard at the tribute concert
to Harrison a year after his death at Royal Albert Hall in 2002 to bring their
friendship full circle.)
The Beatles did a full range of selective material, the Teddy Bears
To Know Her Is to Love Her, Bobby Vees Take Good Care of My
Baby, Chuck Berrys Memphis, Tennessee, Carl Perkins Sure to Fall
(In Love with You), the Coasters Three Cool Cats and Searchin,
Dinah Washingtons September in the Rain, and Buddy Hollys Crying,
Waiting, Hoping. They also included more original songs like Lennons
Hello Little Girl. Written by John in 1957, it was the rst original tune
to be done by the Quarry Men. Hello Little Girl was based loosely on
the Cole Porter song Its De-Lovely, which his mother taught him from a
recording of the stage musical Red, Hot and Blue by Carol Gibbons and
the Savoy Hotel Orchestra in 1938. (Bob Hope had sung the original
version.) Lennon made attempts to give the tune the vigor of Buddy Hollys
Maybe Baby, but it lacked the free-spirited bounce of Hollys best work.
While their Decca sessions didnt differ in concept from their remarkable
debut album Please Please Me, the versatility was constrained here, as if
the Beatles couldnt imagine an audience beyond those chilly studio walls.
Listening to these tapes, you cant hear their goals, their personality, or even
the force of their sound.
That same day, Mike Smith was auditioning the London-based Brian
Poole and the Tremoloes, and Smith decided to sign them because their audition was simply better. Since the Beatles lived in Liverpool, he also gured it
would cost the company too much money to even have them commute. His
own manager Dick Rowe agreed. In judging the sound of that audition,
Rowe was correct in assuming that there was nothing distinctly exciting
about the Beatles. But he was wrong in assuming, as he told Brian Epstein,
that guitar bands were on their way out. As he was to discover, it was quite
the contrary. They were on their way in.
The rejection by Decca may have been deating, but it didnt deter the
Beatles from storming through Britain playing clubs and appearing on BBC
radio pop shows like Teenagers Turn. By the spring, they were heading
back to Hamburg for a residency at the newly opened Star Club. When they

Once There Was a Way

29

arrived on April 11, Astrid met them at the airport to give them the news
that Stuart had died of a brain hemorrhage a day earlier. The news was shatteringespecially to John Lennon. Besides being one of his closest friends,
Sutcliffe was the early spirit of the Beatles. His bohemian panache and openness was what the Beatles aspired to be for themselves. But Stuart wasnt the
man to help Lennon carry the Beatles, he passed that role onto Paul McCartney, just as nimbly as he handed him his bass guitar. When youre so
young, like we all were then, death is so far away that you never think about
it, Astrid recalled. That is why it was like a dream for all of us.56 Yet
Sutcliffe was a reminder that death was always an abiding part of the dream
of the Beatles, just as the bold energy of life was a huge part of their sound.
In the next few years, out of life and death in Hamburg, the Beatles would
begin to make good on the promise that their music held out.

CHAPTER 2

Like Dreamers Do
Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
Noel Coward, Private Lives
Their namesake was bugs. And like bugs, they came from the subterranean
underworld of cellars and seedy bars; toilets and beer vomit; sweat
and mould. Yet they rose from the squalor and inltrated the mainstream
world disguised in suits and matching haircuts. Their goal was to make
history, their own history, built on a shared wavelength, and to bond with
an audience in which they promised to bring pleasure. In spite of all the
danger, theres a place. Well take you there. The basis of Nowhere Land
was rst created in the persona of the Beatles themselves, their utopian ideals
which were based on the fundamental idea of unity in diversity. [In the
place of harmony] was a distinction so contrary, a conict so profound, that
the friction it produced built up an armor, Bob Spitz wrote in his Beatles
biography.1 Besides Lennon and McCartney meshing their own personalities, there had to be a group identity for the band to accomplish what it
did. As a kind of safety barrier we had a lot of in jokes, little signs, references to music, we had a common bond in that and it was very difcult for
any outsider to penetrate, McCartney explained. 2 As with any bug
colony, they stuck together.
Unlike a bug colony, however, they didnt seek isolation. At least, not in
the beginning. They sought an audience, but not just a crowd to blindly
worship them, or one to eagerly admire their musical versatility. When they
saw Elvis shake up a generation, they wanted to keep them shakingbut
how? Elviss audience in 1962 denitely wasnt shaking anymore. When
the King returned from his stint in the army, all that was left was his tired

Like Dreamers Do

31

Hollywood movies, bum icks that rendered him so innocuous that all he
could do was go Blue Hawaii and have Fun in Acapulco. Elvis had sent
out cultural shock waves in the fties, but he didnt write his own songs
and had no understanding of the social dimensions of his performance,
critic Steve Turner remarked.3 To a degree, Elvis followed familiar road
maps provided by earlier idols like Frank Sinatra, or maybe Rudolph Valentino. The old stars were content to accept their fates, leading lives of
mysterious seclusion that left their images spotless, blank screens inviting
the projections of the mass mind, wrote culture critic Albert Goldman.
The modern star, younger, less disciplined, more self-involved, has often
rebelled against the tyranny of his image, behaving in ways that contradict
his perceived identity.4 By 1962, the Beatles rejected a path that lead to
conventional acclaim. In doing so, they also began to see themselves in their
own audience. If you listen to those early songs, youll hear them reaching
out to us. The Beatles set out, with a strange, undeniable force, to take us
to a higher plane. They chose to leave behind the turbulent clubs of
Hamburg, and the dank basement of the Cavern in Liverpool, to seek a
communion with the world. With all the dreamers in this world, they would
imagine a better one. If they became the greatest thing in rock n roll it was
because they chose to live in lth and perform in fear, and then make music
that was undeniable because it had been put daily to that test, Devin
McKinney explained in Magic Circles.5
To pass those tests, they developed a roster that was discriminating, a
repertoire that covered a huge spectrum of music, from Broadway to
balladry, ragtime to R&B, Tin Pan Alley to classic rock. In his book, Tell
Me Why, Tim Riley describes quite succinctly the process by which the
Beatles found their own voice in the works of others:
The more they polished their imitations of songs, the closer they came
to an individual sound. The more John sang Richie Barretts Some
Other Guy, the more he invested his own jealous longing into it;
the more Paul sang Little Richards Lucille, the more he avored it
with his giddy brand of camp. George couldnt help sounding like
George even when he mimicked Eddie Fontaines Nothin Shakin
(But the Leaves on the Trees). What they learned from the records
they copied was not merely how to sound like someone else but how
to play and sing, how to put a song forward. Dont copy the swimming teacher, learn how to swim! is how John later put it.6
By learning to swim, they invited us to join them in the water. The spirit of
community they created in the process of becoming who they were in their
artistic collaboration started us dreaming of such an articial paradise. Once
they achieved their goal, the Beatles proved themselves different from the
pop stars of the past.

32

Artificial Paradise

Before that history would be made, though, the Beatles sought to rebound
from the disaster at Decca Records. While they were back in Hamburg playing the Star Club in May 1962, Brian Epstein told them that he had just
arranged another audition, this time with EMI Records in June. What he
didnt tell them was that it was a tryout with no guarantees for a contract.
EMI studios werent originally conceived for recording music. In 1831, it
was a nine-bedroom residence with servants quarters, including a wine
cellar and ve different rooms for parties and receptions. The dwelling
wasnt converted into a recording studio until 1928. For McCartney, it
seemed way too small when he entered. Pete Best described it as stepping
into another world. On that rst session, which took place on June 6,
1962, the Beatles unveiled their all-purpose repertoire, launching feverishly
into Besame Mucho, a popular number with their German crowds.
Consuelo Velasquez and lyricist Sunny Skylar wrote this 1940s Latin rumba
tune and it rst appeared in the lm Follow the Boys (1944), an all-star
revue featuring George Raft. In the lm, Raft organizes USO shows that
feature Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Dinah Shore, and Jeanette
MacDonald, who sings Beyond the Blue Horizon. Besame Mucho
would also become a hit for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. A song with a long
shelf life, Besame Mucho would be resurrected years later in Alfonso
Cuarons intoxicating update of Charles Dickenss Great Expectations
(1998), where the bitterly lovesick Miss Dinsmore (Anne Bancroft) repeatedly plays the song on her record player. She does this to endlessly remind
herself of the man who abandoned her on her wedding day. The Beatles
often introduced it in Hamburg as a goof, to lift the mood of the band in
the early morning shows. While their version at EMI had more verve than
the group showed earlier in the year at Decca, the song was still no more
than an impersonal curiosity. They had yet to master in the studio the identity they found for themselves in front of a live audience.
They introduced an original composition, Love Me Do, which had a bit
of the avor of the Everly Brothers, but Pete Bests erratic drum lls in the
middle section seemed to throw the group off. Two other Lennon and
McCartney tracks, Ask Me Why and Please Please Me, were introduced, but seemed to it by without raising an eyebrow. One Parlophone
producer, Ron Richards, thought they did a competent session, but none of
the songs had truly grabbed him. Engineer Norman Smith was even less
impressed. The session producer, George Martin, concurred that although
he liked their voices, he found their own material pretty forgettable. When
the production collective met with the group after the recording, they
decided to be brutally honest. Afterward, Martin asked in fairness if there
was anything they didnt like. Harrison quickly quipped, I dont like your
tie for starters. When Martin realized that Harrison was cracking a joke,
which was the Beatles particular manner of confronting adversity, it broke
the ice. It was the same posture they would use in press conferences during

Like Dreamers Do

33

the madness of Beatlemania. Richards, Smith, and Martin were now


convinced that somewhere in that joke also lay something unique. They
decided to sign them on the basis of their irreverent personalityjust the
attitude that inspired Martin to become a producer in the rst place.
George Martin was a very tall, upstanding, gentlemanly taskmaster.
Rather than carrying the demeanor of a record producer, he gave the impression of having trained dutifully to be a private school principal. But Martin
absolutely adored music. A huge fan of Ravel and Rachmaninoff, he studied
oboe and piano at Londons Guildhall School of Music. Until the Beatles,
though, the closest he ever came to pop music was spinning discs by Cole
Porter and Johnny Dankworth. Martin was hired by EMI in 1950 to work
with the German imprint label Parlophone. This label had grown so negligible to EMI that they stuck its most insignicant acts on it, including light
classical music and some of Britains most obscure artists. When EMI set
up Capitol Records in the United States in 1956, the most popular acts got
nowhere near Parlophone. Capitol even had the legal right of refusal from
their own parent company, a decision that would later have a hampering
impact on the Beatles getting their early singles released in America. But
rather than bail out of the job due to hopelessness, Martin found that he
actually enjoyed operating in the shadows, where he was unfettered by executives who didnt really care what he did. When I started in the music business way back in 1950, there was no such thing as a record producer,
Martin recalled. All that person did was to troubleshoot, make sure the
engineer did a good job, and make sure the artist was happy. So gradually
the producer evolved into being something a little bit more creative.
He had to become a force in his own right and become a partner with the
musicians.7
What Martin opted for, out of practical necessity and inquisitiveness, was
producing comedy records. Who would have guessed that this formal gentleman even had a sense of humor? Not only did he enjoy producing comedy,
those records were quite popular in England, plus very cheap to make.
In the mid-fties, his rst hit comedy album was At the Drop of a Hat,
featuring Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, which stayed on the British
charts for close to 25 years. More popular, of course, was the comedy group
Beyond the Fringe, with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Jonathan Miller,
whose sharply absurd and irreverent humor scored big on university
campuses. Within a few years, hed be working with the equally outrageous
Goon Show featuring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. After the war, Liverpool had quickly become a hotbed of anarchic comedy from the likes of the
quick-witted Tommy Handley. His forties radio show Its That Man Again
sent up British social mores with the kind of cynical satire then more
common in America. When Handley died in 1949, the Goons would
continue that tradition, beginning in 1951, with their legendary BBC
radio show.

34

Artificial Paradise

Although Martins comedy albums started making money for EMI, he still
had his heart set on recording music. By the time Brian Epstein brought the
Beatles to Martins attention, it was their love of Martins taste in comedy
that helped melt the ice. Ultimately it would become an ideal partnership.
But all jokes aside, one aspect of the group still didnt impress Martin: their
drummer. Pete Best may have had some of the charisma of Stuart Sutcliffe,
but he had none of Sutcliffes air and imagination. Mostly, he was only
marginally more talented on his instrument than Sutcliffe. Best could
certainly keep a steady beat, but he was a recessive musician, playing what
he had to play. One sensed, especially listening to the audition tape of Love
Me Do (heard on Anthology 1), that Best was moving to the beat, as it
were, of his own drummer. He could seldom respond to the needs of the
rhythm section. His randomness created a breach in the tight circle the
Beatles were becoming. However, Best was hugely popular with fans
because of his dark good looks, but if the Beatles were going to fulll their
ambitions to be the greatest pop band, he would have to go. On August
16, 1962, Best was red and replaced by Ringo Starr.
Familiar and friendly with Ringo from their gigs in Hamburg, they knew
that he could provide the steady backbeat needed to drive home the power
and excitement of their songs. Starr played the drums with great sensitivity
to the individual players in the group. He keeps awless timenever giving
in to the tendency to rush or slow downan essential element of driving
rock n roll, Tim Riley wrote about Ringo in Tell Me Why. He doesnt
dominate his set the way The Whos Keith Moon did, nor does his relatively
earthly musicality compete with that of a jazzer-turned rocker like Charlie
Watts of the Rolling Stones.8 Quite the contrary, Ringo became a perfect
t for the Beatles because hes adaptable without sacricing his unmistakable personality in the process. I only have one rule and that is to play with
the singer, Ringo explained. If the singers singing, you dont really have
to do anything, just hold it together.9 Besides holding it all together, you
could always identify Ringo on the drums, without needing a solo to do so.
A cursory listen to Rain, the explosive opening roll of She Loves You,
the denitive bass/snare combination that begins What Youre Doing, or
the lyrical responses to Lennons fretful singing in A Day in the Life
reveals a drummer whose personality is continually stamped on every
composition. Not surprisingly, when he did do drum solos, as on Birthday
or The End, he sounded least like himself, and therefore less interesting.
Ringo was the guy who made you think about drumming, Genesis percussionist Phil Collins explained. Before him it was Gene Krupa and Buddy
Rich, and [British] drummers like Tony Meehan and Brian Bennett who
were ashier. . .I never thought of Ringo as good or bad, simply right for
the songs.10
Before he could hold a band together, though, Ringo had to pull together
his own life. Ironically, it was his ill health that fated him to be a

Like Dreamers Do

35

percussionist. While in the hospital in 1954, because of a horrible bout of


peritonitis, Ringo learned to play the instrument. To keep us entertained,
[the hospital staff] gave us some schooling, Ringo recalled. A teacher
would come in with a huge easel, with symbols for instruments shown on a
big piece of board. She gave us percussion instruments: triangles, tambourines and drums. She would point at the yellow and the triangle would
sound, and she would point at the red and the drum would sound. Id only
play if they gave me a drum.11 While his real name is Richard Starkey, he
came by the name Ringo while in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Always
one to wear many rings, it became an apt stage name.
George Martin had told Brian Epstein that he had a session drummer who
could sit in until the group found a replacement for Best, but the Beatles
were already considering replacing him with Ringo. George Harrison had
in fact been pushing to get Ringo into the group for quite some time.
At the time the Beatles approached him, Ringo was playing a series of gigs
with the Hurricanes, plus entertaining offers from King Size Taylor and the
Dominoes. Gerry and the Pacemakers were even considering getting Ringo
as their bass player (even though he didnt play the instrument). But once
he nished his dates with the Hurricanes, Ringo shaved off his beatnik
beard, cut his hair to match the Beatles style, and he immediately joined
the band. While history now tells us that the right decision had been made,
it didnt make it any easier on Pete Best. Here was the guy who had sweated
it out in Hamburg, only to get booted out as they were on the cusp of
success. Some, like Mona Best, thought her sons ring had more to do with
Petes popularity with the girls. But McCartney begged to differ. Pete Best
was good, but a bit limited, he explained. When Ringo joins us we get a
bit more kick, a few more imaginative breaks, and the band settles.12 After
Epstein broke the news to Best, the Beatles rst gig at the Cavern with Ringo
turned into a huge donnybrook as their fans cried out for Pete. When Harrison tried to quell the noisy mob, all he got was a black eye from an angry
Best fan who popped him.
On September 4, 1962, the Beatles went back into the studio to record
their rst single. George Martin suggested that they record a Mitch Murray
song he acquired from his good friend, publisher Dick James, called How
Do You Do It? In the beginning, Martin didnt think the groups original
material was strong enough, whereas this light pop confection he viewed as
a denite #1. But the song didnt sit too well with the group because it was
too conventionally popish. One listen tells you that How Do You Do
It? is a bland concession to chart success, rather than a song that could
dene new standards for chart success. It didnt give them the freedom to
express themselves the way they wanted to, Martin explained. They really
wanted to write their own songs, not from a greed point of view, but because
they felt it depicted their musical direction [better].13 The Beatles wanted
to record music that best dened their persona. Well, it may be #1 but we

36

Artificial Paradise

just dont want this kind of song, we dont want to go out with that kind of
reputation, McCartney remembered telling Martin. Its a different thing
were going for, its something new.14
The Beatles recorded How Do You Do It? anywayout of duty.
On the song, though, they sound like schoolboys, serving a detention and
writing obligatory notes on the blackboard explaining why they should
behave more often. In their hands, the tune became lifeless, a dull exercise
in technique. How Do You Do It? is the kind of gentle formula pop the
Beatles were attempting to transform. [It] was more George Formby than
anything else, McCartney told Barry Miles. We knew that the peer pressure back in Liverpool would not allow us to do How Do You Do It?
We knew we couldnt hold our heads up with that sort of rock-a-pop-aballad. We would be spurned and cast away into the wilderness.15 As a
result, their performance was done with what critic Ian MacDonald rightly
pointed out as obliging efciency [and] affable indifference.16 How Do
You Do It? is so tepid that a mediocre band could take comfort in it, allow
the song to dene them, rather than the other way around. It is perhaps for
this reason that the pleasant, amiable, but ultimately innocuous Gerry and
the Pacemakers took the song to the top of the charts in April 1963.
What they wanted to put out instead was Love Me Do. Written by Paul
in 1958, when he was 16, it was the proud product of an act of truancy.
McCartney composed it while skipping school at the Liverpool Institute.
The band rst performed it during the Beatles third trip to Hamburg in
April 1962, but had never recorded it, except in a home rehearsal taping.
It was clear why Love Me Do was the better song. The track has a bluesy
swing that anchors its sweet harmonies. Love Me Do was quite a cunning
record, remarked Ian MacDonald. [There was] a candour [that] perfectly
complemented the groups forthright image, setting them apart from everything else on offer.17 Lennon usually took the vocal until Martin suggested
a harmonica opening. Although McCartney possessed a harmonica, John
was the better player. John was quite a good harmonica player, which
showed itself in Love Me Do, though not really until then, McCartney
told Barry Miles. John expected to be in jail one day and hed be the guy
who played the harmonica.18 Since childhood, Lennon had been interested
in the instrument. One time, a student boarder in his home had one, and he
promised to buy Lennon a mouth organif John could learn to play a tune
in one day. To top the bet, Lennon learned two songs and the kid kept his
promise. By early adolescence, Lennon was playing popular tracks such as
Vaughn Monroes Cool Water (1948) and Johnny Rays Walking My
Baby Home (1952). But the sound Lennon captured here was directly
inspired by the American singer Bruce Channels 1962 hit, Hey Baby,
which had a sweet, blues harmonica solo by Delbert McClinton.
Hey Baby was a catchy mixture of blues shufe and country swing, but
the key to the songs appeal, for Lennon, was the slightly mournful tone that

Like Dreamers Do

37

Channel rises above. In asking a girl he likes to go out, Channels vocal tells
you that he fears the answer, and the news aint good. The hanging wail of
McClintons harmonica expresses both the depths of his desire and the
extent of his dread. Lennon had a chance to meet McClinton in June of that
year, three months before they recorded Love Me Do, when the Beatles
shared a bill at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton with Bruce Channel.
He wanted me to show him whatever I could, McClinton remembered.
He wanted to know how to play. Before our time together was over he
had his own harmonica ready in his pocket.19 But if John was to play the
mouth organ, it meant that Paul had to take over the line, so please, love
me do. I can still hear the nervousness in my voice! McCartney recalls
today. At least there was some credibility in the fact that it was a bluesy
song rather than How Do You Do It? So that was it, we were started and
our credibility as songwriters had started then. So we realized, Wow, we
could get good at this.20
But George Martin was still having reservations about having Love Me
Do, as their rst single. Its possible Martin may have been lukewarm
toward the song because of the sloppy recording they got during the bands
audition with Pete Best. Unfortunately, when they tried it again with Ringo,
right after recording How Do You Do It? it wasnt much better. Perhaps
because of nerves, or simply the result of a bad day, Starr just couldnt nail
it. He was erratic and rushing the choruses in the song. Martin was patient,
though, deciding that they should work on it, come back in a week, and try
again. Yet Martin feared that he may be dealing with another Pete Best scenario, since he didnt know Ringo as well as the rest of the Beatles. To cover
himself, Martin invited Andy White, a session drummer, to sit in when the
band came to rerecord it. Unfortunately, Ringo wasnt informed and he
showed up to the session to nd another drummer in his placeand only a
little tambourine for him to tap. This caused some friction between
the amiable percussionist and his new producer. I was devastated that
George Martin had his doubts about me, Ringo recalled as if it were
yesterday.I came down ready to roll and heard, Weve got a professional
drummer. He has apologized several times since, has old George, but it
was devastatingI hated the bugger for years.21 In time, Martin would
come to assess Ringos denitive contribution to the group quite differently.
On this day, they would record the song twice. The single featured Andy
White on drums, but the version on the Please Please Me album would
feature Ringo. In 1998, Ringo returned to the song by covering it on his Vertical Man album. Ive got the hang of it now, Ringo said wryly to Patrick
Humphries in Mojo. We worked out the key and did it quickly.22 Originally they rejected the idea of duplicating John Lennons harmonica line,
because Ringo didnt want to copyor be diminishedby the original.
But after trying it without the harp break, he felt ridiculous avoiding it and
the harmonica was back.

38

Artificial Paradise

As the B-side, another McCartney composition, P.S. I Love You, was


chosen. Written while in Hamburg in 1961, P.S. I Love You took its title
from the 1934 Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer song that the Hilltoppers
rode to the top of the charts in 1953. The Beatles song is a slight, yet captivating serenade that became a standard in their early stage shows. The number has a lilting Latin arrangement, with Ringo providing a cha-cha rhythm
on the maracas. Lennon perceptively thought that P.S. I Love You was
Pauls attempt to write a song like the Shirelles Soldier Boy. It certainly
shares with the Shirelles song an acute understanding of anguish typical of
the Beatles, where the singer professes a dedicated devotion while suffering
heartache. P.S. I Love You is perhaps a thematic warm-up for All My
Loving. Music critic Walter Everett, however, did recognize something
more sophisticated at work. According to Everett, the contrasting phrase
lengths in P.S. I Love You yielded an asymmetrical structure that
allowed McCartney both an introspective unfolding of his desires and an
ambiguous quest for words that took him deeper into his thoughts and
emotions. I believe this asymmetrical nature of the Beatles rhythmic/harmonic expression, a hallmark of their style and one not typical of other
pop hits, helped them forge a more direct bond with their listeners, Everett
explained.23 Ian MacDonald heard the temperamental differences between
Lennon and McCartney being expressed. In the middle-eight, where Lennon
and McCartney establish a call and response, McCartneys sense of optimism is apparent in the rise and fall of his bass lines. Lennon, however, relies
more on his lazy irony with an inclination towards the minimal intervals
of everyday speech. 24 MacDonald indicates that although the melody
covers more than one octave, Lennon only harmonizes on one note.
P.S. I Love You, which like Love Me Do featured Andy White on
drums, would be released on October 5, 1962. It entered the charts in Britain
on October 24 at #27 before almost vanishing immediately. In the United
States, it would be issued as a single in June 1964 on the independent Tollie
label. (EMIs American afliate, Capitol Records, had rejected it.) Although
P.S. I Love You became an early favorite of many female fans, McCartneys girlfriend at the time, Dorothy Dot Rhone, thought it was written
for her. McCartney rmly denied it. Its just an idea for a song really, a
theme song based on a letter, like the Paperback Writer idea, McCartney
explained to Barry Miles. The letter is a popular theme and its just my
attempt at one of those. Its not based in reality.25 The promise the Beatles
offered in their music might not have been based in reality, but the
emotional force of that promise was. Dot Rhone may have heard P.S. I
Love You as a song that spoke specically to her, but within a few years,
she wouldnt be the only one making such claims of the Beatles music.
When Joe Strummer announced the arrival of the Clash in 1977, gleefully
joining the Punk Revolution that was launched by the Sex Pistols, he did it in

Like Dreamers Do

39

a song called, naturally enough, 1977. The purpose of punk was to clean
house of the rock dinosaurs that no longer stood for the ideals they once
claimed. For the British bands that came out of the rubble of the burst
dreams of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other pretenders to the throne,
they were worthy of a safety pin through the cheek. Punk proudly stood for
nothing, no future, just the bare necessity of pedal-to-the-metal rock. But the
Clash refused a claim toward rock nihilism in favor of a new political direction, a tabloid Marxism, to address how Englands dreaming had been transformed into expedient cynicism. To do that, 1977 set out to lay waste to
the pioneers of the past who made the mistake of dreaming in the rst place.
No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones, Strummer announces off the top
like a Depression-era newsboy bellowing the headlines of the papers he
needs to sell. Its a bald claim, one hed reiterate a few years later in the
authoritative London Calling, when hed bring forth an apocalypse while
telling us that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust.
In 1977, one of those dinosaurs, Elvis Presley, had just died. His death
likely prompted 1977, as it would inspire Neil Young to write Hey,
Hey, My My (Into the Black) two years later (a song that explicitly linked
the story of Elviss demise with the rise of the Sex Pistols). The King was
dead, but what about the Rolling Stones? That year, after a few desultory
records, they came out with a live double-album, Love You Live, that was
pretty much dead on arrival. The only pulse found on it was heard on one
portion of the record, where they played a surprise show at Torontos El
Mocambo tavern on Spadina Avenue, and briey made a groupie out of
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeaus wife, Margaret. Drawing on the
R&B and blues covers of their past, they demonstrated with ery assurance
that they were hardly corpses about to be consigned to the graveyard.
Within a year, they would even join the punk brigade with Some Girls, one
of their sauciest and boldest records in years. As for the Beatles, well, theyd
been given up for dead almost a decade by then. Aside from the occasional
bleat for a reunion concert, the stores had just stocked a repackaged collection of love ballads calledsimplyLove Songs, plus a collection of live sets
from the era of Beatlemania that made up The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. In short, the group was a perfect fossil for the cross hairs of
punks rearm until a lost tape turned up out of nowhere to refute Joe
Strummers claim.
A few months after the release of Love Me Do, in mid-December, the
Beatles returned to Hamburg to open a 14-night residency at the Star Club.
Between the Love Me Do session and the German date, the Beatles had
been touring relentlessly throughout England and making glowing appearances on TV shows like Discs A Go Go and the childrens program, Tuesday
Rendezvous. As their popularity started to ourish, their arrival in Hamburg
was no longer celebrated as young innocents trying to nd their chops, but
instead a band ready to chop down anything in their path. Their rst show

40

Artificial Paradise

kicked off on December 18, 1962, with a urry of excitement. By the time
the week was out, John Lennon was appearing on stage with a toilet seat
draped around his head to demonstrate his displeasure with the management. Besides being a piece of dada stagecraft that Johnny Rotten could be
proud of, the use of the toilet seat was a clever touch given the Beatles
lavatory beginnings in their early days in Hamburg. It was as if Lennon were
telling the crowd: Once you led the Beatles to the toilet, but now were
bringing the toilet to you. They were taking on the world.
On New Years Eve, they agreed to record the event, employing Ted King
Size Taylor, who was the lead singer with a band that sometimes opened for
the Beatles at the Cavern in Liverpool. For years, the tape had been considered lost, then forgotten, until it was found buried in debris in a Liverpool
ofce in 1972. The German label Bellaphon got their hands on the tape and
released the record as The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg,
Germany, 1962.26 On record, the sound the Beatles made that night at the
Star Club reduced Joe Strummers brazen proclamation in 1977 to hyperbole. Besides ripping through some new songs from the pumping I Saw Her
Standing There to the soulful Ask Me Why, the Beatles took the crowd
through the entire canon of Western pop music. They would jump, from
genre to genre, without a care for personal taste, or prejudice. Out of a ribald
take of Chuck Berrys Little Queenie, Marlene Dietrichs torch number
Falling in Love Again, from The Blue Angel (1929), gets introduced.
Heres a song where lm critic Pauline Kael once described Dietrichs
smouldering voice as one lled with sadistic indifference suggest[ing]
sex without romance, love, or sentiment.27 That indifference was quietly
answered by McCartneys earnest romantic interpretation.
The Beatles changed gears all evening: Red Sails in the Sunset would
shake hands with Carl Perkins Everybodys Trying to Be My Baby; Gene
Vincents Be-Bop-A-Lula would be on hand to cross paths with Ray
Charles on Hallelujah, I Love Her So. Unlike the future punk bands that
would shun romanticism, declaring it ostensibly fake, the Beatles, with their
own punk fury, injected romanticism or defeat into any type of song they
wished to put in their ammunition dump. For the Beatles a song had to be
reduced to a vehicle for expression with all emotional meaningthe songs
power to connect in some deep way with whoever heard itimplied by the
performance, Devin McKinney wrote. Either it would rock, or it would
do nothing at all.28 On this evening, from Twist and Shout to Besame
Mucho, they would risk total failure to achieve greatness by taking on
any song from the pop catalogeven placing their own in that roster, daring
the audience to deny that their songs deserved a place there. The reason
[our later] records were so musically diverse was that we all had very diverse
tastes, McCartney explained. Wed served our apprenticeship in
Hamburg where businessmen would come to the club and say, Can you
play a mambo? Can you do a rhumba? And we just couldnt just keep

Like Dreamers Do

41

saying no . . .we had to learn these different styles. 29 They turned those
diverse styles into their own style. The Beatles effortlessly fused the past to
the present, while simultaneously looking ahead into the future. If they hit
a wall, they were determined to turn it into a bridge to cross.
Before the Beatles headed off to Hamburg, they went back into the studio
to record a follow-up to Love Me Do. While their debut wasnt anything
groundbreaking, George Martin heard the stirrings of something new and
exciting. Lennon had a song he was working on called Please Please Me.
In the great tradition of rock songs about sex that cleverly mask their intent,
Please Please Me is probably the best #1 song ever written about oral sex.
Given the sly innuendo of Fats Dominos Blueberry Hill or Smiley Lewiss
One Night of Sin, its likely that Lennon was being equally crafty.
McCartney wasnt so sure. If [critics] had wanted to they could have found
plenty of double meanings in our early work, he remarked. Everything
has a double meaning if you look for it long enough.30 However you want
to read the song, its cascading harmonies are intoxicating. While Lennon is
craving satisfaction from his lover, in the grain of his voice, we can also hear
that he can imagine what it will feel like.
Lennon wrote the song at his Aunt Mimis house on Menlove Avenue. But
the origins of the tune are light years from what it would become. The
arrangement was originally shaped in the melodramatic style of Roy Orbisons 1960 singles Only the Lonely, Blue Angel, and Im Hurtin.
(Lennon also borrowed a line from Buddy Hollys Raining in My Heart
for the chorus.) But the tracks inuence actually goes back to the opening
line in Bing Crosbys 1932 song Pleasea tune his mother Julia used to
sing to him. I was always intrigued by the words of [sings] Please, lend
your little ears to my pleas. . .I was always intrigued by the double use of
the word please. So it was a combination of Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison, Lennon recalled.31 However, Lennon didnt have the near-operatic
range of Orbisons falsetto. Orbison brought a lonely, tormented spirit to
the communal aspect of rock. But Lennon had a way of getting to the same
depths of romantic desperation. If you imagine it much slower, which is
how John wrote it, its got everything, the big high notes, all the hallmarks
of an Orbison song, McCartney told Barry Miles.32
The Beatles tried to record Lennons original idea during the session for
Love Me Do, but Martin wasnt impressed with it. He suggested speeding
up the tempo to alter the melodramic pull of the song and turn it instead into
a call and response between Lennon and McCartney and Harrison. [S]
uddenly there was that fast Beatles spirit, McCartney recalled. I did the
trick of remaining on the top note while the melody cascaded down from
it. A cadence.33 Rather than simply mimicking the forsaken heart of Roy
Orbison, the song now resembled a Buddy Holly rave-up as interpreted
by the Everly Brothers. In fact, it owes something to the Everlys 1960

42

Artificial Paradise

hit Cathys Clown, a song about a man mournfully refusing the love of a
woman who has betrayed him. John and Pauls verse duet gains on the
Everly formula: Paul stays on the initial high note as John pulls away
beneath him. . .putting the Everlys Cathys Clown lilt to a brighter beat,
critic Tim Riley wrote in Tell Me Why.34
Lennon makes no attempt to sound charming, or coy, in his demands for
equal attention from his lover. He wants to stir the pot and get you reacting
to the emotions he stirs. Yet the demand is so irresistible that the lover would
be a fool to deny him. As in Love Me Do, the secret heart of Lennons love
call is in the sweet sound of his harmonica opening each verse. George
Martin had come up with the idea so that Lennons mouth organ could mask
Harrisons clumsy guitar melody. After the recording, Martin exclaimed,
Congratulations gentlemen, youve just made your rst #1! The record
rightly tore up the charts in the United Kingdom the week of January 11,
1963, and landed the Beatles with publisher Dick James to form their own
copyright company called Northern Songs. While they were touring with
the 16-year-old sensation Helen Shapiro, Please Please Me had hit #1.
They were immediately plucked from the road to record their rst album.
Perhaps as part of a joke, or maybe a stab at retribution, engineer Norman
Smith sent an early promo copy of the song in a plain wrapper to Dick Rowe
at Decca Records, the man who had turned down the Beatles. We hoped he
would think it was from a struggling artist looking for a break, and that
maybe he would turn them down a second time! Smith recalled. I honestly
cant remember what, if anything, he replied.35 History does recall: Dick
Rowe didnt fall for it. The tune was offered with more sincere intent to
EMIs American afliate Capitol Records, but they refused it, believing the
Beatles to be nothing more than a passing fad. Besides, as Ian MacDonald
claimed, the American executives found the production too raw and
raucous for a white group.36 Within a few months of Please Please Me
charting in Britain, Roy Orbison would join them on a three-week tour of
the United Kingdom. As to his own impression of the group? The Beatles
could well be tops in America, Orbison said rather prophetically to the
New Musical Express. These boys have enough originality to storm our
charts with the same effect as theyve done here. . .They have something that
is entirely new even to us Americans. . .I am sure this will be hailed as the new
British sound in America.37 Within a couple of years, of course, they were.
Orbison would never leave the Beatles orbit. He would play with George
Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne as part of the genially selfdeprecating ensemble, the Traveling Wilburys in 1988, just before his sudden
death of a heart attack. In tribute to Orbison, Lennon returned to his operatically romantic style when he wrote his last single, (Just Like) Starting
Over, as a reconciliation letter to Yoko Ono, before his murder in 1980.
For the B-side to Please Please Me, the band chose the R&B ballad
Ask Me Why. Although it was rst premiered back in June, on the BBC

Like Dreamers Do

43

show Teenagers Turn, the track was demoed the same month as their rst
EMI session. Written by Lennon and McCartney in the spring of 1962, this
soul ballad shows the strong inuence of Smokey Robinson and the
Miracles, who were one of the more poetic Motown groups the Beatles
would cover in the early days. In particular, you can catch Lennon duplicating Robinsons singing style with his phrasing on lines like I. . .I-I-I and
You. . .oo-oo. The guitar melody also borrows from the Miracles 1961
song, Whats So Good About Goodbye.38 Ask Me Why is one of those
rare love songs about how the happiness of true love can also bring pain
when its something youve never experienced before. Lennon teeters
between exhilaration (I cant believe its happened to me) and heartache
(My happiness still makes me cry). The paradoxical aspect of Lennons
expression of devotion, where pain and pleasure commingle, has its source
in all likelihood in Lennons unresolved childhood. But this duality would
continue right up to Julia in 1968, when the seashell eyes of his own
mother would meet the ocean child of his new lover Yoko Ono.
Usually the single was the choice of record buyers in the early sixtiesand
the B-side was often the wastebasket for litter. As the Beatles started releasing
their 45s, radio programmers were having difculty deciding which side to
play. Lennon and McCartney often used the two sides of the single to answer
each others songs. As Please Please Me sat happily for two weeks at the
top of the charts, providing a quick x for listeners, the Beatles were about
to introduce a new generation to more long-term pleasures.
The late British poet Philip Larkin beautifully summed up the liberating
spirit of the Beatles in 1963 with his poem, Annus Mirabilis. It captured
that magical moment between the lifting of the ban on D. H. Lawrences
erotically charged Lady Chatterleys Lover and the Beatles debut album.
It was signicant that Larkin would mention Lawrences controversial
1928 novel. Here was a book that shook up the demure social climate of
its time and found itself expurgated in 1932. The full text of Lawrences
richly erotic tale of a love affair between Constance Chatterley, a rich landowner with a crippled husband, and her sexual awakening with her gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, didnt get restored in Britain until 1960. Like
Lawrence, the Beatles sought to loosen the grip of class prejudice to dramatically alter the sexual mores of British decorum. To do that, the band decided
to introduce themselves on their rst album exactly the way they had on
stage in Hamburg. The record would document the full excitement of a
Beatles show. Facing an audience, thats when the Beatles found their group
soul. With an album, listeners could imagine the show in the connes of their
own home.
George Martin had initially considered doing the album live at the Cavern
Club, but unfortunately time constraints made it impossible to work out the
acoustics for the recording. In the end, they decided to make it a studio

44

Artificial Paradise

debut. The album, Please Please Me, titled after their rst #1 single, was
recorded in three three-hour sessions (plus an additional hour)beginning
at 11 a.m. and wrapping up at 10 p.m.on February 11, 1963, right before
the group headed back out on the road. But since the group was used to playing all night in Hamburg, the task wouldnt be that difcult except that Lennon had a bad cold on the day of recording. In many ways, the goal of Please
Please Me was to duplicate successfully what the Beatles failed to accomplish during their Decca audition. They wanted to recreate the excitement
generated live on stage with their varied repertoire.
According to McCartney, to work out the songs for the session, John and
Paul sat with the group spending 20 minutes to a half-hour on the set list.
While the duo would pluck away on their guitars, Ringo would tap his
drumsticks on a chair or packing case. George would get his guitar and
watch the chord progression of the song to see what he could contribute.
At which point, Martin would see what they had. Martins role within the
group cant be overemphasized. Once they completed their arrangement of
a song, he would often play along with the Beatles while Norman Smith,
his assistant until 1965, would adjust the sound levels and direct the recording. Before long, each Beatle would retreat to their corner with their instrument and within the hour they would have the arrangement of the song.
As was the case with their early singles, Please Please Me was recorded live
as a two-track recording. Each guitar player had a microphone placed
directly in front of their amplier, while the remaining mike was hung over
Ringos drums. One track would contain the whole instrumental section,
while the other track would hold their singing voices. This allowed Martin
and his engineers to properly balance the sound when they were mixing the
songs down to mono. In doing this, they could create a cleaner live sound
than they could have if theyd done it at the Cavern.
Since the record was to be a composite of a live performance, it starts off
with McCartneys celebrated one-two-three-fah opening to I Saw Her
Standing There. Besides starting the album with a raucous dance number
to get people jumping on the oor, the tune also shows what McCartney
had learned listening to Little Richard. Originally titled Seventeen, the
song has some of the gleeful ribaldry of Richards Miss Ann. Iris Caldwell, the sister of Rory Storm, had inspired McCartneys song. In 1962, Iris
just happened to be 17, not to mention, a trained dancer. Paul rst saw her
performing the twist at the Tower Ballroom at New Brighton, just outside
Liverpool. Often, McCartney would drop by her house with John to write
songs. Although they dated, the relationship was never considered serious.
One night, though, while leaving her place and driving home, he got the rst
lines of his song, Well she was just 17/And shed never been a beauty
queen. Not bad, he thought.
I Saw Her Standing There was completed in September 1962 while
McCartney and Lennon were skipping school at Pauls home at 20 Forthlin

Like Dreamers Do

45

Rd, in Allerton, Liverpool. It was written on their acoustic guitars with Paul
later trying it out on the piano. In composing the tune, McCartney was also
taken by the opening lines of the Coasters libidinous Youngblood (which
the Beatles covered many times) and probably Chuck Berrys rowdy Little
Queenie (where the girl was far too cute to be a minute over seventeen).
The bass line was borrowed from another Chuck Berry hit Im Talking
About You (1961). McCartney was trying to come up with a personal song
that would immediately draw in the female audience. But Lennon didnt
think the opening line McCartney wrote that night would score with
anybody. It sounded like a good rhyme to me at the time, McCartney
recalled. But when I played it through to John the next day, I realized that
it was a useless line and so did John. So we both sat down and tried to come
up with another line which rhymed with 17 but which meant something.39
Since 16 was the sexual age of consent, Lennon felt the song needed some
provocative insinuation from a bragging teenager. He replaced the formal
shed never been a beauty queen with the wink of you know what
I mean.
Martin thought the track was a potboilerbut its still a beauty. While
the band happily surrounds him, listening in on his exploits, McCartney
sings with the full condence of a young man satised to be the cock-ofthe-walk. Although many critics over the years suggested that the early
Beatles material was puppy love next to the sophistication of the songs on
Rubber Soul or Revolver, they are being far too literal about the simplicity
of the lyrics. If you listen to the delivery in the song, when McCartney says
his heart went boom as he walked across the dance oor, it hits you like
a cannon shot. Most love songs of that time, when it came to matters of
the heart, preferred that it just went pitty-pat. When he sings about holding
her hand in his, he draws out the word mi-i-i-ne-ee-eeen, savoring the
touch of her ngersand maybe more than that. . . .[T]he anticipation in
[McCartneys] voice instantly signals that something big is about to
happen, wrote Tim Riley. There is a simple, almost unconscious naivete
to his gusto, but it has become a classic call to rock, and it continues to
resonate in the history it helped to shape. Aside from the palpable thrill in
his voice, the count-off shows just how important the beat is to everything
that follows.40 If D.H. Lawrence sent streams of voltage through the literary world with his words, the Beatles sent the same intensity through the
British pop scene with their beat. [I Saw Her Standing There] threw down
a gauntlet to the chintz-merchants of Denmark Street with their moody,
misunderstood Johnnies and adoring angels of sweet sixteen, critic Ian
MacDonald stated bluntly. No quaint emotions here.41 By the end of
1962, I Saw Her Standing There became a regular staple of the Beatles
live repertoire. Sometimes, as was the case with Ray Charles Whatd I
Say, their versions could run up to 10 minutes in length. The Graham Bond
Quartet, with singer Duffy Power, recorded the song on April 26, 1963 on

46

Artificial Paradise

the Parlophone label, but it didnt have quite the spark to be anywhere near
as big. The Beatles version would eventually become a hit single in the
United States, as the B-side to I Want to Hold Your Hand, in January
1964 (when Capitol Records nally got around to releasing it).
The next track, Misery was a tongue-in-cheek melodrama that was
written by Lennon and McCartney (with some help by two of the Hollies,
Allan Clarke and Graham Nash) on January 26, 1963, while backstage
before a concert at the Kings Hall.42 Misery is a gentle parody of popular
heartbreak songs like Brenda Lees 1962 dirge All Alone Am I. Even the
la-la-la-la-la outre affectionately pokes fun at the Gladiolas 1957
doo-wop number, Little Darlin. Lennon and McCartney turned [the
song] into a chip-on-my-shoulder piece of romantic paranoia, music critic
John Robertson explained. Whats remarkable is not the simplicity of the
song structure, or its admission that even big Lennons cry, but the sheer fact
that a song about misery can sound so damn optimistic.43 The optimism in
this song comes from the Beatles own open sense of humor. In Misery,
they mock pop conventions without mocking the emotions germane to
pop. Even George Martins playful dramatic piano triplets that answer
Lennons mournful reminiscences are as gorgeous as they are a punch line
to the songs joke. Initially, Misery was composed with Helen Shapiro in
mind, but her A&R man, Norrie Paramor, turned it down before she ever
heard it. That refusal became a somewhat unfortunate move because
Shapiro, who possessed a deep tenor that earned her the nickname
Foghorn at school, was an ideal candidate for the tune. Kenny Lynch, a
black R&B singer, who was one of the opening acts on the Helen Shapiro
tour, picked up Misery instead. He recorded it in March 1963. Although
it wasnt a hit, he had the distinction of being the rst performer to ever
cover a Beatles song.
Anna (Go to Him) is the albums rst cover version. Written by Arthur
Alexander, a black singer/songwriter from Florence, Alabama, Anna
(Go to Him) was released by Alexander as a single on September 17,
1962 on Dot Records. With his lovely, smooth tenor voice, he would quickly
develop a strong following in England. The Rolling Stones would record
You Better Move On a year later, while the Beatles did his A Shot of
Rhythm and Blues and Soldier of Love for BBC Radio. Although Lennon
sings the song, the group discovered him through their resident R&B collector, George Harrison, who had a few of his recordings. The Beatles were
quite taken by Alexander because, like Chuck Berry, Alexander had as much
country in his soul as he had soul. Inuenced primarily by Eddy Arnold and
Gene Autry, Alexander sang with raw emotion that was distilled of any
affectation. If the Beatles ever wanted a sound, it was R&B, McCartney
explained. [T]hat was what we listened to, what we wanted to be like
Arthur Alexander. 44 As Beatles biographer Bob Spitz pointed out,
Alexanders songs were direct, heartfelt and earnest, infused with great

Like Dreamers Do

47

melodies.45 But Lennon might have heard something else that drew him to
this stirring performer.
Alexanders songs werent just declarations of hope and loss, they examined what those very emotions cost. I was trying to get a x on how I really
felt about love in general, Alexander explained after he wrote Anna.
There had been no other girl who had meant as much to me as she did.
That line, All of my life Ive been searching for a girl is true. I was real
young and naive, and when I got to that part, that thrilled me so much.46
The tone of Alexanders voice in his version carries the same noble sentiments of Humphrey Bogart releasing Ingrid Bergman to Paul Henreid at
the end of Casablanca (1942). Lennon, however, is not as convincing in
the part. Alexanders moody romantic resignation held obvious appeal
for the rebel in Lennon, but the discreet display of sensitivity in the lyric
the singer attempting to melt Annas heart by assuring her that he cares more
for her happiness than his ownfound no echo in Lennons dealings with
women at the time, Ian MacDonald correctly intimated in Revolution in
the Head.47 What Lennon does, however, is give himself over to the anguish
of the circumstance, instead of stressing what Anna means to him. By the
end of the song, we dont feel any nobility in Lennons gesture, only his abdication to fate.
In the songs Chains and Boys, the Beatles take a radical departure
from standard pop norms of recording other artists. Rather than strictly
covering songs by other male artists, who might have female backing vocals
(like Ray Charles), they reached out to all-girl bands like the Shirelles and
the Cookies. Besides giving their work a more encompassing view of love
relations between the sexes, they could also step inside womens shoes and
look at love through their eyes. On their rst two records alone, they covered
ve girl group songsand for good reason. The girl group sound was
borne equally from knowingness and naivete, explained critic Vivian
Mackay. Like teenage life, it was violently honest, lived faster and more
vividly than anyone over 25 can imagine.48 Girl group bands came out of
the Tin Pan Alley of the Brill Building between 1958 and 1965, and would
include the Chantels (Maybe), the Shirelles (Will You Still Love Me
Tomorrow?), the Paris Sisters (I Love How You Love Me), the Crystals
(Theres No Other), and the Sensations (Let Me In). While their compositions were mostly written by contract songwriters, these women could
turn those tunes into what Greil Marcus called music of celebrationof
simple joy, of innocence, of sex, of life itself, at timesbut most often it
was the celebration of The Boy.49 The Boy was as mythic to these bands
as the Girl would be to the Beatles, an ideal, a perfect partner for Nowhere
Land. It was utopian stuffa utopia of love between a boy and a girl, a
utopia of feeling, of sentiment, of desire most of all, Marcus continued.50
The warmth in the sound of these records also made the rock n roll by
male groups and singers rote by comparison. In that quest for a utopian

48

Artificial Paradise

spirit in their music, the Beatles found that these songs t right in with
that quest.
Chains, which was written by Gerry Gofn and Carole King for Little
Evas (The Locomotion) backing group, the Cookies, became a minor
hit for them in October 1962. Its a song about possessive love, where the
singer cant escape the desire of her old boyfriend in order to reach out to
her new one. Since the Cookies sound is so innocent, the creepier aspects
of the tune (which could be read as a tale about a stalker-as-boyfriend) are
downplayed. The singer seems to be saying that, as much as shes attracted
to this new guy, shes amazed that shes still so strongly desired by her
current partner. In the Beatles version, sung by George, with his limited
range, the song lacks the sterling harmonies of the Cookies. But Harrisons
self-consciousness in his delivery compensates for that. He sings like he cant
believe what his baby is doing to him. As for Boys, the Shirelles, who
included it on the B-side of their sublime 1961 masterpiece Will You Still
Love Me Tomorrow? performed it as a funky blues with a purring sax solo
that told you that these gals are happy world travelers when it comes to
guys. The Beatles reverse the songs meaning. Theyre celebrating guys on
the prowl. Sung with a modest gusto by Ringo, who once performed it in
Hamburg with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Starr sounds tickled that
he gets to swagger so proudly. As the group howls and hoots around him,
Ringo gets so delirious that he can barely keep up. At one point, out of
breath chasing those birds, he hands the proceedings to George for a solo.
Boys shows us that [Ringo] came out of a classic mold of rock singers
those whose power is rooted in their lack of talent, not lessened by it, Greil
Marcus wrote in Rolling Stone.51
For much of their career, the Beatles (in their ofcial UK releases) left their
singles off the albums. But on Please Please Me, to make up space, and save
time, they included the title song, Ask Me Why, P.S. I Love You, and
Love Me Do. The next new song was Baby Its You, another girl group
composition by the Shirelles. Written by Burt Bacharach, Mack David, and
Barney Williams (Shirelles producer Luther Dixon writing under a pseudonym), the tune is basically about a guy who does nothing but cheat on his
girlhowever, she still loves the guy. Girl group songs, in many ways, got at
the honest and strange anomalies in romance better than any other pop music.
The singer, who is often wronged, still implicates herself by giving in to the
uncontrollable desire of her own libido. Since jealousy is the motivating emotion in Baby Its You, Lennon brings a deance to the song that the Shirelles
can only hint at. Shirley Alston, in her ethereal voice (which critic Tim Riley
compares eerily to Yoko Onos),52 gamely dees her lovers indelities while
the chorus chants back, cheat! cheat! Rather than hide in the heartbreak
of this unrequited love, Lennon conveys the price of having such strong
romantic desires. When he says that he wants nobody else, he practically
shrieks the lyric as if losing her will cost him more than he can bear.

Like Dreamers Do

49

John Lennon wrote Do You Want to Know a Secret? in August 1962,


while beginning his married life with Cynthia Powell, who had recently discovered she was pregnant with Julian. Lennons song is inspired by Larry
Morey and Frank Churchills Im Wishing, from Walt Disneys 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Wanna know a secret?/Promise not
to tell?/We are standing by a wishing well), where Snow White is singing
to the doves while working as a maid in the kitchen. Yet, as with Bing Crosbys Please, the song was taught to Lennon by his mother. Although
Harrison would sing it, perhaps too tentatively, as if he wasnt sure he could
let us in on any secret, the tune sums up the Beatles ethos. [T]he secrets the
Beatles shared had to be toldin a way, sharing the secret was the secret,
wrote Dave Marsh in his book The Beatles Second Album. The secret is,
when you nd such joy as this, it makes you feel not alone with your dreams
but as if the entire world wants to join in. 53 Thats how, according to
Marsh, our dreams were made more real and palpable.
While the Beatles couldnt put those thoughts across in their performance
of the song, another young Liverpudlian tried in the summer of 1963. Billy J.
Kramer, whose real name is William Ashton, was ready to pack in the idea
of a music career and take a job with British Rail. One night, Kramer ran
into Brian Epstein at the Grapes, a pub near the Cavern Club. Epstein
suggested that Kramer hook up with a band called the Dakotas. While the
Dakotas found Kramer, in his gold and pink lame suit, not to their style
exactly, Epstein promised he could change him into something that would
be right up their alley. They began by rehearsing at the Cavern and ultimately found some common ground. Epstein told the Dakotas that if they
backed Kramer, they could nally make some records. Kramer would record
Do You Want to Know a Secret? after returning from a tour in Germany
with the Dakotas in early 1963. While he didnt think much of the song,
EMI offered him a contract upon hearing it. The acoustic demo Kramer
was given was recorded by Lennon over a different kind of wishing well
a toilet, which Lennon ushed as he completed the song. When Kramers
version reached #2 that summer, it was the rst Lennon/McCartney cover
song ever to make the Top 10. It took a long time to record because it
was the rst time Id ever been in a studio, Kramer recalled. I couldnt
make certain notes because I was so nervous and uptight.54 Truth be told:
Kramer may have been polished but he always conveyed blandness, especially with his cloying performance of the hit Little Children. When you
listen to Do You Want to Know a Secret? you also cant help ask: This
man has secrets? Do I really care to know what they are? Harrisons shyness
may take the mystery out of any secret in the song, but you at least feel he
might possess some.
Theres not much mystery to A Taste of Honey, other than it reected
Paul McCartneys love of romantic kitsch. (Lennon would call it A Waste
of Money.) Written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow, A Taste of Honey

50

Artificial Paradise

was likely inspired by the 1958 British play by Shelagh Delaney that reached
Broadway in 1960 and would become a popular Tony Richardson lm the
following year, starring the Liverpudlian actress Rita Tushingham. A Taste
of Honey is set in the fties in Manchester, England. Its the story of Jo, a
young working-class girl, whose mother, Helen, abandons her after nding
a rich and younger lover. As Jo begins her own affair with a black sailor
she meets in school, it soon develops into a marriage proposal. However,
Helen denounces the marriage and the sailor heads off to sea. Jo soon
discovers shes pregnant and nds lodgings with Geoffrey, a gay acquaintance, who takes on the role of her companion to legitimize her illegitimate
pregnancy. A Taste of Honey tackled questions about sex and race and the
nuclear family in sixties Britain, and its questions seemed to perfectly
coincide with changes in attitudes represented by the Beatles.
A Taste of Honey only made the album when George Martin refused
McCartneys request to record the Marlene Dietrich torch number, Falling
in Love Again, which the group had just performed at the Star Club. While
its possible that McCartney learned the song from seeing The Blue Angel, it
is more likely that he saw her sing it on German television during a UNICEF
gala in Duesseldorf in 1962. McCartney briey argued about the selection,
but Martin convinced him that the Dietrich number would come across as
corny and that A Taste of Honey would be more suitable to the record.
Since the Beatles were more concerned about getting their original songs on
the record, they relented. A Taste of Honey, which stresses the hope that
the sailor will return to Jo, is given a passable read because McCartney
underplays the pathos and stresses the catchy melody. Their arrangement
was based on the 1962 version that clarinetist Acker Bilk (Stranger on the
Shore) was having great success with while the Beatles were recording
Please Please Me.
Theres a Place set the foundation for the Beatles utopian dream, but it
was rarely performed or ever heard. In the song, Lennon tells us that true
freedom begins when one nds it in the mind, something he would continue
to remind us of through songs like Im Only Sleeping, Rain, Tomorrow Never Knows, and Strawberry Fields Forever. If Please Please Me
invitedno, pulleddancers onto the dance oor, Twist and Shout got
them shaking once they got there. Written by Bert Russell and Phil Medley,
Twist and Shout had been a hit for the Isley Brothers in the spring of
1962. Their delightfully funky little number, which drew on the dance craze
rst spawned by Chubby Checkers cover of Hank Ballard and the
Midnighters The Twist, got people happily swinging. The Beatles,
though, would take it to the level of frenzy. Although the song is associated
with the Isley Brothers, the Beatles took their arrangement from a version
performed by the Swinging Blue Jeanswhile also adding a little touch of
Richie Valens La Bamba. (The Beatles had offered the Blue Jeans their
version of Hippy Hippy Shake in the trade. No contest.)

Like Dreamers Do

51

Due to Lennons cold, his voice was just about shot when they arrived at
this throat shredder. The band had just nished recording Baby Its You
and Martin knew that they had to get it in one take. Lennon rst gargled a
carton of milk, then stripped off his shirt and walked to the mike. He then
signaled to the band, then to Martin, and nally looked to Norman Smith.
He was ready to go. Holding nothing back, Lennon tore into the song, past
the point of singing it, but letting the notes tear away at his raw larynx,
creating the sensation of pleasure and pain swirling in a whirlpool of throbbing notes. The sound behind him was so explosive that one couldnt tell if
he was pushing the band or if they were gleefully bulldozing him to the end
of the song. When Lennon builds to the scream in the chorus, McCartney
and Harrison join in like a demonic duo daring to take the song past itself,
into something resembling righteous possession. As they nally get to the
end, to the nal gathered howls, Ringos drums slam down hard, hammering
nails into the oorboard of their mythical dance hall. McCartney yells a nal
victorious Hey! while Lennon lets out a barely audible gulp, and collapses,
now fully spent on the fade. Not surprisingly, Twist and Shout would close
their concerts until 1964, when Little Richards Long Tall Sally would earn
the honor. And who could argue? When they performed it, they always began
with that rising scream, as if taunting us to see if we thought they could reach
that crescendo yet again. Indeed they would hit it every time.
When it was released on March 22, 1963, Please Please Me stayed at the
top of the charts for a record 51 weeks. Its success was marked by the
Beatles desire to take listeners to a place where pleasure could grow magically out of songs of heartbreak, where rock, pop, and balladry could coexist
as part of the same egalitarian spirit. The risks taken in this music were only
the beginning of where those risks would take themand us. As a map of
their music, it expresses little doubt that it knows how to get where its
going. Most of us couldnt wait to nd out where that would be.
Some groups arrive at an album as accomplished as Please Please Me, but
thats where the Beatles began. The stakes were already high, which meant
that the distance they could go was unimaginable. The cover art for the
album was originally set at the London Zoo, outside the insect house, but
the Zoological Society of London turned George Martin down (despite his
being a Fellow of the London Zoo). As an alternative, Angus McBean shot
a color photo of the band looking down from the stairwell inside EMIs
London headquarters in Manchester Square. Since they came out of a basement, it was only tting that the cover photo of their debut album showed
them from an elevated position looking down.55
Their next single followed quickly just a month after their debut album.
From Me to You was written on February 28, 1963, while the band was
on the Helen Shapiro tour going from York to Shrewsbury. The title came
from the letters column in the weekly pop paper New Musical Express titled

52

Artificial Paradise

From You to Us. While reading the February 22 issue, which advertised
their tour dates, Lennon and McCartney began trading lines until the lyrics
were completed upon arrival at Shrewsbury. Shapiro heard perhaps the rst
performances of From Me to You and Thank You Girl, the song
destined to be the B-side. Lennon and McCartney asked her which tune she
preferred as the A-side and she chose From Me to You. Initially,
Harrisons guitar served as the intro, but Martin thought it sounded too
obvious and too familiar. There was no freshness in it. Instead, he suggested
that Lennon and McCartney sing Harrisons guitar notes, making it one of
the rst modern pop compositions where the singers opened a song by mimicking the melody.
In April 1963, it became their second #1 hit in the United Kingdom and
truly began the mass hysteria of Beatlemania. The track was a further renement of the promise they offered in In Spite of All the Danger, Love Me
Do, and Please Please Me. From Me to You offered us a bond that
was unconditional, giving us anything we wanted, we just had to call and
theyd send it with love. The physicality of their sound, the frank desire they
expressed, had touched a further desire in us to abandon ourselves, to offer
our screams as a release, and to become one with the pulse of their tactile
force. Thank You Girl, though, seemed an afterthought next to From
Me to You. The tone is too polite, almost afraid to match the peak of
yearning reached in From Me to You. One thing was becoming clear,
when Lennon tried to fake it, he sounded fake.
The other thing he couldnt mask, however, was his anger. While sudden
fame had satised his wish to touch the dream world that Elviss Heartbreak Hotel held out to him, he still had to live in the real world. That same
April, after Cynthia gave birth to Julian, Lennon went on vacation to Spain
with Brian Epstein. As John had his dreams, so did Brian. Since he had to live
out the agony of keeping his homosexuality secret, it was sublimated into his
devotion to the band. While Epstein never felt a strong attraction to
McCartney, Harrison, or Ringo, Lennon had the kind of complex and
violent characteristics that strongly appealed to him. He knew that Lennons
tough guy stance, his occasional homophobic remark, had masked some
ambiguous notions about his own sexuality. While the band was largely
unaware of Epsteins gay lifestyle, Lennon was indeed very conscious of it.
A few years earlier, when Cynthia, himself, and Pete Best were getting a lift
home from Brian, Epstein asked Best if hed like to stay the night with him.
Best told Epstein politely that he wasnt interested.
The dynamic between Lennon and Epstein was put to the test during their
trip. In Barcelona, they would spend evenings sitting in sidewalk cafes spotting potentially gay men, with Lennon asking his manager what made them
attractive, or what didnt. Lennon would claim years later, in interviews
before his murder, that he was playing journalist, thinking like a writer,
imagining the experience of being homosexual. But Albert Goldman in The

Like Dreamers Do

53

Lives of John Lennon went much further, stating that Lennon and Epstein
actually did have an affair in Spain. They were sexually involved for the
balance of Brians life, and their relationship was a controlling one, with
John playing the cruel master and Brian the submissive slave.56 Goldman
sourced Allen Klein, the future manager of the Beatles, when he stated that
Lennon expressed a need to control the man who had their career in his
hands. Although Epsteins sadomasochistic characteristics and Lennons
nascent sadism made all of this plausible, there is no reliable corroborating
evidence to back this up. As for Lennons own divided personality, perhaps
an episode three months after the Spain trip shed some light on his own
sexual ambivalence and the violence at the heart of it.
On June 18, McCartney was celebrating his twenty-rst birthday at his
Auntie Gins house in Huyton. With a huge guest list of all the major bands
and DJs in Liverpool, the party was a happy affair except for the darkening
mood of John Lennon. Arriving with Cynthia, he began to drink and get abusive toward her until he eventually settled into a corner to sulk. On his way to
the bathroom, he ran into local DJ Bob Wooler who asked Lennon, How
was the honeymoon, John? From that innocent question, Lennon assumed
Wooler was making a passing remark about his trip to Spain with Epstein, thus
insinuating that Lennon was gay. John immediately smashed Wooler in the
nose, then grabbed a shovel that was laying in the yard and began beating the
prone DJ to death. It took three partygoers to restrain him. Wooler had suffered
a broken nose, three broken ribs, and a cracked collarbone. After the ambulance had taken Wooler away, Lennon began groping a girl who was with Billy
J. Kramer, as if to desperately prove that he wasnt gay. When Kramer intervened, Lennon told Billy that he was nothing and that the Beatles were tops.
The next morning, Brian Epstein was confronted by a press storm, including lawyers for both Bob Wooler and Billy J. Kramer. When Epsteins publicist, Tony Barrow, tried to get Lennon to apologize, he initially refused.
He was unrepentant, accusing Wooler of calling him a queer, and so,
naturally, struck back. Besides the bad publicity for the Beatles, Epstein
(being in the closet) feared the repercussions of Lennons stance. Don Short,
of Londons Daily Mirror, ran a story on the back page that painted a
picture of an apologetic Lennon (and later would earn Short a prominent
place in the Beatles press entourage). The article was called Beatle in
BrawlSorry I Socked You! In the piece, Lennon is quoted regretfully
telling Wooler that he had gone too far. The quote, though, actually
belonged to Tony Barrow. Epstein got Wooler, who was marginal next to
the rising pop fortunes of the Fab Four, to agree to a settlement of two hundred pounds. The rst sign of the Beatles success revealed that their utopian
dream would lie in the music, not in the world they occupied.
Shortly after the Wooler assault was settled, Lennon and McCartney
immediately set down to composing their next single. That June, an idea

54

Artificial Paradise

would germinate in McCartneys mind as the group travelled in a van back


to their hotel room in Northern Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The band was about
to have a rare day off before heading to Leeds. So McCartney took the occasion to write an answer song, where one person talks about love and the
other replies. Lennon and McCartney sat on separate beds at the Turks
Hotel facing each other with their acoustic guitars. Up till now, their rst
three singles about love followed the standard pop tradition of being in the
rst person, that is, they allowed the listener to imagine him or herself as
the subject of the song. In She Loves You, McCartney decided to switch
the focus from me to you and to she and you. The listener became
an observer on the relationship. This bold shift of perspective dramatically
changed the love song from one that speaks to us in a private place to one
that is inclusive of others. In She Loves You, we feel something at
stake in the survival of this love affair, even though it isnt our love affair
to share.
Suggestive of My Boyfriends Back, McCartney actually based his idea
on Bobby Rydells June 1963 hit song, Forget Him, where the singer tells
a girl to forget a boy who doesnt truly love her. However, Rydell lectures
the girl, and with the help of a female backing chorus, just airs his
complaints. In She Loves You, the Beatles transcend the conventions of
the message song, where spurned lovers are given nger-wagging advice,
into something more daring. She Loves You is an afrmation of action,
of belief, of saying to this guy that if you dont declare your love for this
woman, I certainly will. Within a few days of writing it, the band was
recording the track in the studio on July 1, 1963. She Loves You was a
brilliant song and certainly one of the most vital the Beatles had written so
far, George Martin enthused. It was the kind of song that not only
aroused emotion when you rst heard it, but the way they actually sang
and the way they shook their heads and so on, the young girls would be
moved enormously by it.57
The signicance of those primal cries of yeah, yeah, yeah, soon to be a
Beatles trademark, is an invitation to experience the pure ecstatic power of
what they feel love could offer. And they did this by blowing away the polite
formalities of simply stating, yes, yes, yes, and instead inserting the bolder
yeah, yeah, yeah. They insisted that we had no choice but to embrace the
tidal force of sensual pleasure. She Loves You also radically alters the way
most pop songs are structured. Rather than begin with the verse, which naturally leads into the chorus, they begin with the chorus. Its a technique they
would also employ successfully later on Cant Buy Me Love. To conclude
the song, however, they revert to something quite conventional, but for a
different purpose. In using the traditionally optimistic sixth chord, the
Beatles deliberately draw on an archaic device from out of the Swing Era.
But they are not simply manufacturing a cliche, instead theyre illustrating
that, what had once been a cliche of the early love song, could today be

Like Dreamers Do

55

supported by something dramatically new. I thought that was pretty


corny, Martin recalled. It was almost like Glenn Millers orchestration,
and I told them Id heard that so many times in my life and did they have
to do that, but theyd never heard it before. They thought it was pretty smart
and, of course, they stuck to their guns. And they were quite right, because it
became a hallmark hit.58 With that clever combination of radical innovation and traditional song craft, She Loves You became the perfect distillation of the Lennon/McCartney temperament. It beautifully illustrates
McCartneys desire to shape third-person material, but it also contains
Lennons opposing view of making a song vividly real by infusing it with
personal experience. Their partnership would forge a boldly modern
romanticism that shunned solipsism in popular song in favor of a radically
more expansive view.
Although She Loves You would be a massive hit that summer in the
United Kingdom, EMIs Capitol Records in the United States turned down
the single. However, their Canadian afliate wisely released it as a single in
September 1963. CKWS in Kingston, Ontario was then to put it into regular
play rotation. As it slowly crept up the charts, CHUM radio in Toronto
introduced the song to listeners at the beginning of December where, within
two weeks, it had jumped from #42 to #15. By Christmas, it was #5.
On January 13, 1964, She Loves You had reached #1 where it stayed for
nine weeks. It wouldnt become a hit in the United States until after the
explosion of I Want to Hold Your Hand. In February, the track would
be included on the Canadian album, Twist and Shout, which consisted
mostly of the songs from Please Please Me (leaving off I Saw Her Standing
There and Misery), while adding the single From Me to You. It was
the second Beatles album released in Canada.
For the B-side of She Loves You, they selected Ill Get You, another
song that reveals something of the divided soul of this dynamic writing team.
Ill Get You is one of the earliest songs to formulate Johns belief in creative visualizationthe idea that by imagining the changes we want to see,
we can actually bring them about, wrote Steve Turner. For Paul . . .the
use of the word imagine evoked the beginning of a childrens fairy tale
and offered an invitation to a ctional world.59 Dave Marsh heard Ill
Get You as a stalker tale. While not in the same category as the Polices
Every Breath You Take or the Stranglers ominous take on Burt
Bacharach and Hal Davids Walk On By, the lyrics do have a spooky prescience. [W]hats now creepy about Lennon as stalker is, among other
things, the way he died, Dave Marsh wrote.60 But Marsh also puts his nger on the usual paradoxes with Lennons bravado, the jealous boasting,
and his human need that intertwines with his swagger. Johns singing
throughout Ill Get You is very gentle, and he doesnt sound truly desperatehes pleading and theres no hint of false bravado, only real
conviction.61

56

Artificial Paradise

After making their last appearance at the Cavern Club on August 3, 1963,
the Beatles settled down to record their next album. If Please Please Me was
designed to give listeners an idea of the Beatles stage show, their second
album would be conceived as a studio project. The rst album was really
a recital of their repertoire, George Martin explained. We werent thinking in terms of an album being an entity in itself back then. We could record
singles, and the ones that werent issued as singles would be put onto an
albumwhich is how the second album, With the Beatles, was put
together. 62 With The Beatles, which they began recording back in
mid-July, was conceptually shaped as a tribute to the groups love of R&B
(with the exception of Till There Was You). The cover versions were
decided by whoever liked the particular song. While John, Paul, and George
had their interest in rock and R&B, Ringo would soon introduce the band to
the country artists he liked which would have some inuence on the writing
of All My Loving. With The Beatles was a musical cyclone next to Please
Please Me. The sheer emotional drive of the record was pitched as high as
the decibels in the songs, which took love, doubt, desperation, and regret,
and turned the record into pure ecstasy.
Lennons cry of It Wont Be Long jumps out of the speaker before the
band seems to realize the songs already started. Written by Lennon as a
possible follow-up single to She Loves You, It Wont Be Long revels in
that tunes triumphant yeah, yeah, yeah refrain (as did Ill Get You).
Although its a striking composition that expresses the sheer joy of nding a
partner who reciprocates your desires, there is also an underlay of torment
in Lennons tone. Lonely and rejected, he sits at home waiting for the girl
who has walked out on him to come back and make him happy, critic Steve
Turner wrote in A Hard Days Write. As in so many later songs, he
contrasts the carefree life he imagines everyone else is having with his own
anguish, believing that once hes reunited with his loved one all his problems
will be solved.63 What Turner is describing here becomes the full tenor of
Nowhere Land, imagining a place where all difculties can be resolved. The
razor sharp harmonies make that seem quite plausible. It Wont Be Long
has its roots in pure R&B, which may be why it bares a melodic relation to
Arthur Alexanders Soldier of Love, which the Beatles had covered at the
BBC for the program Pop Go the Beatles. This is the rst song where Lennon,
with the help of George Martin, discovered how to double-track his voice, a
voice in which he never felt comfortable singing. When he found that he
could create a rich harmony by this method, he rarely abandoned the technique again. It Wont Be Long also has the pleasure of introducing
Lennons passion for wordplay, matching be long and belong, which
ultimately resolves the painful distance between loved ones. Like Theres a
Place, this irresistible track was oddly absent from their live performances.
All Ive Got to Do becomes a quiet exhale of breath after the exuberant
shouts of It Wont Be Long, but the yearning is equally intense. Composed

Like Dreamers Do

57

by Lennon in 1961, All Ive Got to Do sets out to capture, like Theres a
Place and Ask Me Why, the Motown soundespecially the seductive
mood of Smokey Robinson, who Lennon continues to emulate. John draws
thematically from the Miracles You Can Depend On Me, which would
also serve his later Any Time at All. There are some truly innovative
arrangements in this song that set it apart from the work in which hes
paying tribute. For instance, when Genesis drummer and vocalist Phil
Collins rst heard the album, when he was 12, he was inspired by a drum
technique that Ringo employed. On All Ive Got to Do [Ringo] does this
very clever snare-drum, hi-hat, bass drum part, which was very off-thewall for that time, Collins explained.64
If Lennons most optimistic songs are often tinged with fear and doubt,
McCartneys most pessimistic tunes are usually lled with condence.
All My Loving is probably the most joyful song hes ever written about
abandoning your lover. And it began life as a poem. McCartney wrote the
lyric while on the bus during the tour in England with Roy Orbison, and by
the end of the day, he had the music to complete it. Despite its irresistible
appeal, McCartney never saw the song as a possible single. The potential of
All My Loving didnt truly occur to him until he watched the audience at
their Ed Sullivan Show debut go completely crackers when they opened their
set with it. Conceived as a country and western song, with a rhythm section
nicked by Lennon from the Crystals Da Doo Ron Ron, the tune aches
with longing. The sweet desire in McCartneys voice is answered by Harrisons supple guitar solo, which is as beautifully economical as James
Burtons deft touch in Ricky Nelsons Hello Mary Lou. His lead on songs
like All My Loving is so nally considered, it simply cant be improved
upon, guitarist Robbie McIntosh, who would play for McCartneys Wings,
told Mojo in 1996. George is often overlooked because his guitar parts are
so nely tailored, but if you listen carefully you conclude that theyre perfect.
His guitar style came from an era that has now probably gone forever, before
guitarists used to take up a load of tracks on the tape machine for different
solos, and its almost impossible to nd that sort of discipline these days.65
All My Loving was also McCartneys rst song for Jane Asher. In 1963,
Asher was 17, much like the girl in I Saw Her Standing There, an aspiring
actress who happened to see the Beatles perform on April 18, 1963 at Royal
Albert Hall (a show the BBC was recording for broadcast). Asher was
already appearing in numerous plays, starred in television dramas and a
few lms, plus she was a guest on BBCs Juke Box Jury. Listed as the
best-known teenage girl in Britain by Radio Times, the BBC programming
magazine, they asked her to write about her experiences seeing the Beatles at
Royal Albert Hall. Her review was pretty succinct: Now these I could
scream for. Asher would nally meet the group at a later show at Royal
Court Hotel in Chelsea and started dating McCartney shortly after. Before
the end of the year, McCartney would move into the Asher household at

58

Artificial Paradise

57 Wimpole Street in Londons West End. Her family would open up for
Paul the world of art and theater. Indeed that may be one reason that this
song is so optimistic about the future.
If All My Loving is optimistic about the future, George Harrisons rst
composition for the group, Dont Bother Me, speaks for its title. Harrison
composed the song in August 1963 at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth while the group was playing a series of shows at the Gaumont
Cinema. While sick in bed (and likely not wanting to be bothered by
anybody), Harrison claimed it was an attempt to see if he could actually
write a song. Dont Bother Me is a pretty good rst effort, a rock rhumba
motored along with the rhythm of African percussion. In retrospect,
his contribution can be heard as foresight, early in the game, for
privacy from what he would later perceive as the madness of Beatlemania.
Lennons Little Child follows with the notes of his harmonica opening
the song like a saw cutting through wood. The dashing dance track was
originally intended for Ringo to sing, until Lennon had second thoughts.
According to McCartney, some of the composition was inspired by British
folk singer Elton Hayes Whistle My Love, a song from Walt Disneys
Robin Hood. However, theres no doubt that the Im so sad and lonely
line comes right out of the Everly Brothers Then I Kissed Her.
While its easy to assume that only McCartney would have been attracted
to a ballad like Till There Was You, both he and Lennon had been steeped
in the history of Broadway tunes. For McCartney, it came from his father,
who played many traditional standards in his jazz band. As for Lennon, it
came from his mother who taught him a variety of songs on the ukulele.
Taken from Meredith Wilsons 1957 Broadway musical, The Music Man,
McCartney discovered it through Peggy Lees 1958 Latin-avored version.
The musical is about Harold Hill, a con artist, who tries to sell a small Iowa
town the idea of starting a childrens band, where he would supply all the
instruments and uniforms. What he doesnt take into account is falling head-over-heels for Marian, the towns scrupulous librarian.
A rather lackluster lm version, which starred Robert Preston (who played
the lead character with all-American gusto) and Shirley Jones, made it to
the screen in 1962. Since Till There Was You was written as a duet
between Harold and Marian, McCartney duplicated the idea by arranging
the duet to take place between his and Harrisons amenco acoustic guitars,
while Ringo provides soft and steady percussion on the bongos. Although
McCartneys taste often ran toward kitsch, Till There Was You is more
a romantic reverie than a concession to sentimentality. Theres a delicacy
in the singing thats sensitively matched by the beautiful precision of the
playing. Apparently when Harrison bought his acoustic guitar at Frank
Hessys Music Store, the shopkeeper, Jim Gretty, taught him some specic
jazz chords that came in handy for the arrangement on Till There
Was You.

Like Dreamers Do

59

Out of the soft classicism of Till There Was You jumps Please
Mr. Postman with a desperate cry of Wait! over Ringos urgent drumbeat. Sung by Lennon, this cover of the Marvelettes rst #1 song in December 1961 has an urgency that dramatically changes the original intent of the
song. The Marvelettes were a Motown girl group led by Gladys Horton that
hailed from Inkster, Michigan. In their version of Please Mr. Postman,
lead singer Horton goes for charm in conveying her despair. If the letter
doesnt arrive, you know shell get by. You can pretty much gure out that
its the boyfriends loss if he doesnt write her. Horton is pretty cool, for a
woman in despair over the silence of her lover, critic Dave Marsh
explained. The other Marvelettes sing like theyre just. . .wanting to help
out the lady with the problemtheyve seen it before, theyve been this
woman, their job now is just to get the mailmans attention, snapping
Wait! and adding oh yeah to her every plea and explanation, the girlgroup equivalent of shouting amen and hallelujah. 66 John Lennon,
however, approaches the song with desperate abandon, his voice a gale of
craving that emanates from an undercurrent of anxiety. He seems to be
saying, if he doesnt get the letter, hed just as soon die. Theres so much
anguish in Lennons voice that by the time he reaches, you didnt stop to
make me feel better, you can hear primal echoes out of Lennons past.
The scene is so primordial, so physical, so rejected and revolted, and in love
and stunned and bemused and terried that I imagine 17-year-old John on
the corner of Menlove Avenue, watching his beloved Juliamother, muse,
nemesisas shes hit by the car, Dave Marsh wrote in The Beatles Second
Album.67 Lennons anguish, though, is typically undercut by his sense of
humor. When he gets to deliver the lett-ah/the sooner the bett-ah, he cant
t the bett-ah into the bar of music, so, with a smile in his voice, he leaves
it as bet.
The second side of With The Beatles cuts loose with Harrisons take on
Chuck Berrys grinning anthem Roll Over Beethoven. If there is one songwriter in rock n roll that has an endless gift for memorable (and enjoyable)
anthems its Chuck Berry. Whether its his pledge of allegiance in Rock and
Roll Music, his testament to roots in Back in the U.S.A., or the happily
deant Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry is the supreme storyteller,
rocks Johnny Appleseed, a smooth talker and smooth walker. He is a poet
with a gift for language that would certainly appeal to Lennon who, outside
of Roll Over Beethoven, did the rest of the Beatles Chuck Berry covers.
Born in St. Louis, Berry drew his musical inuences, as the Beatles would
themselves, from a variety of musical genres. The swagger of You Cant
Catch Me, for example, is unthinkable without Louis Jordan. The bravado
of Little Queenie would have been right at home in the tough urban blues
of Muddy Waters. Brown Eyed Handsome Man might have been a country music dream imagined by Bob Willis and the Playboys. His lesser-known
Havana Moon has the swooning balladry of Nat King Cole. (And it

60

Artificial Paradise

would inspire Richard Berrys Louie Louie.) Roll Over Beethoven is a


personal manifesto and by the time the Beatles covered it, the song was a
climactic cry announcing a new music that was designed to knock open
doors, and put the past icons in their grave. The fact that its Harrison, in
his self-deprecating voice, whos chosen to take his boots to those doors, it
only makes the ironies richer and the song more pleasurable.
Hold Me Tight is a Lennon and McCartney original that was initially
slated for Please Please Me, but didnt make the cut after a trying 13 takes.
Hold Me Tight is a failed effort that tries to emulate the style of the Shirelles (who they had covered with Baby Its You and Boys on Please
Please Me) but it is so forced that the repetitive clapping beat ends up sounding like clumping instead. Hold Me Tight had been in the bands live
repertoire since 1961, but its performed in a highly impersonal style that
leaves the expressed sentiments seeming quite inauthentic. The Treasures, a
group produced by Phil Spector, would do a stronger version in February
1964. With You Really Got a Hold on Me, the Beatles return to rmer
ground with another Smokey Robinson song. As in Please Mr. Postman,
Lennon dramatically changes the character of the song. In the original
1962 version by the Miracles, Robinson comes across as a man whos feeling
fragile and in need of nding strength in the wake of his own aching desires.
Lennon turns those tremulous yearnings into demands and transforms
Robinsons tenderness into a resilience thats borne out of having your heart
seized by the one you desire. The Beatles version of You Really Got a Hold
on Me cuts both ways. Yes, she has a hold on him. But Lennon makes sure
you know that the hold is mutual.
While I Wanna Be Your Man is Ringos obligatory track on With The
Beatles, it was originally written by Lennon and McCartney for the Rolling
Stones, another emerging band in Britain, that was devoted to blues and
R&B. Fronted by lead singer Mick Jagger, the band was anked by two
guitarists, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, with sturdy Bill Wyman on bass,
and drummer Charlie Watts, who was schooled in jazz, but possessed by an
R&B vigor. The Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, had been an early
publicist with the Beatles. But when he happened upon the Stones playing at
the Station Hotel in Richmond, he soon became their manager. If Brian
Epstein would model his group as the adorable mop-tops, Oldham decided
to model his as the ultimate bad boysthe anti-Beatles. In the spring 1963,
George Harrison and Dick Rowe of Decca Records were judges at a beat
group competition at Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. While there, Rowe
apologized to Harrison for not signing the Beatles to their label. Harrison
gracefully accepted the apology, but he also suggested to Rowe that he
should sign the Rolling Stones. Rowe hadnt heard of them but Harrison
mentioned that they were playing at the Railway Hotel in Richmond. Rowe
went down to hear them with his wife and he was so enthused by Jaggers
prancing and the explosive crowd reaction that he wasnt going to make

Like Dreamers Do

61

the same mistake twice. On May 7, he found Andrew Loog Oldham and
signed the Stones to Decca. They recorded their rst single, a passable cover
of Chuck Berrys Come On three days later which made it to #21 on
the charts.
In the fall, while looking for more material for his new band, Oldham ran
into Lennon and McCartney at their music publishers ofce. Telling them
of his need, they immediately suggested I Wanna Be Your Man, which
at that point they hadnt fully completed. On September 10, 1963, they went
with Oldham down to the Studio 51 club in Great Newport Street to see the
Stones rehearse. Without one hit record to their name, they were already
becoming a hugely popular live act, breaking attendance records in both
ballrooms and clubs. The Beatles saw them perform at the Great Pop Prom
at Royal Albert Hall, a blistering set, that left fans deliriousand the Beatles
somewhat nervous. Upon hearing the only portion of I Wanna Be Your
Man that theyd nished, Brian Jones expressed excitement about the
preview. Bill Wyman was meanwhile bafed watching the left-handed
McCartney playing Wymans bass backward. Lennon then suggested that
he and Paul should go in the other room and nish it for them. Within a
few minutes they came back with the completed song. Jagger and Richards
fully realized that if they were to have any chance to be as big as the Beatles,
they better begin writing their own songs. As a piece of solid rock, I Wanna
Be Your Man isnt anything spectacular, but it perfectly ts the Stones
style. The melody is largely borrowed from Benny Spellmans May 1962
hit Fortune Teller (which was the B-side to his infamous Lipstick
Traces), which is somewhat interesting considering that the Rolling Stones
would eventually cover Fortune Teller. I Wanna Be Your Man is a
straight-ahead raver for Jagger, but he barely breaks a sweat performing it.
The only distinguishing feature is Joness bottleneck slide guitar solo. Jones,
with some of the stinging bite of Elmore James, jump-starts the track as if
trying to prod Jagger into giving his singing some conviction. The Stones
recorded their version on October 7, 1963, and it went to #12 in the United
Kingdom.
Much would be made through the years of the rivalry between the Beatles
and the Rolling Stoneseven fans drew lines of demarcation between them.
But according to Bill Wyman, that was just a publicity scam Oldham cooked
up to distinguish his group from the Fab Four. There was always an
impression created by the media that we were against each other, Wyman
recalled. It was always the Rolling Stones versus the Beatles. They always
tried to build a war between us as the two top bands in England. But it
wasnt true. We were quite good mates, and they liked our music and we
liked theirs.68 More to the point, the mainstream success of the Beatles
opened the door for the Rolling Stones to enter the room. To us, the Beatles
were always the door opener, explains Keith Richards. They were the
ones the people would open their door to. If we knocked on the door rst,

62

Artificial Paradise

forget it, they would just put the other chain on.69 Despite the great divide
between people who loved the Beatles versus those who preferred the Stones,
both bands tended to shadow each other in fascinating ways. I always felt
that the Rolling Stones thing was like a dialogue with the Beatles in the
60s, Yoko Ono explained to Mojo in 2002. It was kind of like a Q&A,
you know? One asked the question, the other would answer.70
The years the Beatles were together, a question and answer dynamic
between them and the Stones was precisely what took place. The Rolling
Stones records would always reect back on the Beatles albums. The
Stones debut mirrored the bold R&B of With The Beatles (right down to
the stark album cover). In their examination of the contingencies of love,
Aftermath would be a shadowy interpretation of Rubber Soul. Between the
Buttons was their colorful reply to the eclectic Revolver. Their Satanic
Majesties Request was Sgt. Pepper seen through the decadent lens of the
dark mystic Aleister Crowley. (Crowley would be featured among the crowd
on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, along with the Stones who were called
good guys.) Let It Be would be the Beatles nal word, while Let it Bleed
would be the Stones nal word on the sixties. Yesterday would be
answered with the chamber work As Tears Go By. The sonic experimentation of Tomorrow Never Knows, with its Indian drone and pulsating
drums, would be equally reverberated in We Love You a year later (with
John and Paul joining in on the chorus). The individual characteristics of
each group shined through their music whatever style it took. The despair
of the Beatles Help! still sounded jovial, while the romantic beauty of
the Stones Ruby Tuesday brooded brilliantly.
On With The Beatles, Ringo sings I Wanna Be Your Man in a difdent
manner and sounds as if he were surprised the woman had any interest in
him at all. The band attempts to generate some excitement behind him, but
theyre hollow yelps. Ringo doesnt lend his genial personality to this track
the way he had a year earlier in Boys. In an attempt to give the song some
drive, George Martin double-tracked Ringos voice. A person with a very
good voice doesnt double-track too well, Martin explained. But some
voices sound really good double-tracked, and it is one way to get a very
effective performance.71 Ringo would often perform I Wanna Be Your
Man with more brio when they did it live in 1964.
Devil in Her Heart is another R&B cover about romantic betrayal
thats sung by Harrison. The original version, Devil in His Heart, comes
from a rather obscure girl group from Michigan called the Donays, featuring
Yvonne Allen, as the lead vocalist, whos backed by Michelle Ray and two
sisters, Amy and Janice Gwenn. Keyboard player Richard Popcorn
Whylie, who led the early Motown group Popcorn and the Mohawks,
produced the song for Brent Records, a small independent label in New
York that picked up the song in August 1962. In their version, Allen keeps
insisting the boy she met is an angel sent to her, while the chorus advises

Like Dreamers Do

63

her that hes got the devil in his heart. Besides the switching of gender roles,
theres a signicant difference between the Donays version of duplicity and
the Beatles particular take. [Allen]s pissed at her friends for slandering the
guy; shes not going to even consider that theyre right, writes Dave Marsh
in The Beatles Second Album. [Harrison]s not denying anything, just
insisting that shes such a great, uh, kisser that hes willing to operate under
whatever set of illusions is required. . .where Allen is strident in her denial of
the accusations, hes obstinate in his denial of the truth.72 Harrison likely
discovered the track when he made his rst trip to the United States early
in 1963 (after the release of Please Please Me) to visit his sister Louise before
the band stormed America a year later. In visiting St. Louis and New York,
Harrison had gone on a quest for black R&B songs buying Bobby Bland
songs and Booker T. & the MGs Green Onions.
Like Theres a Place, Not a Second Time is one of the more underrated John Lennon songs. Written again in the spirit of Smokey Robinson
and the Miracles, Lennons system of defenses that get erected against
getting hurt are put to the test by his remorseful voice. Although he doesnt
want to be hurt a second time, he cant live without the possible hope of
passionate love. Although the tune never received much airplay, or any live
renditions, this was the rst Beatles song to attract serious attention from
classical music critics. William Mann, the reviewer with The Times, puts
unneeded weight on this pensive track by comparing the song to Gustav
Mahlers Song of the Earth. [O]ne gets the impression that they think
simultaneously of harmony and melody, so rmly are the major tonic
sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the at submediant key
switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not a Second Time
(the chord progression which ends Mahlers Song of the Earth).73 When
Mann described the Aeolian cadences at the end of the song, Lennon
thought he was referring to exotic birds.
With The Beatles concludes with the same mammoth punch in which it
opened. Money (Thats What I Want) is another Motown cover cowritten
by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. First released in 1959, and
sung by Barrett Strong, Money is about a man who substitutes a lust for
money over his desire for love. Barrett Strong has no lack of desire, but
really, hes out on a lark, Dave Marsh comments in The Beatles Second
Album. Hes broke, hed trade his girlfriendand probably has traded a
good part of his self-esteemfor the rent, but he isnt losing sleep over
it.74 In the Beatles version, sung by Lennon seemingly in a hailstorm, he
goes for the cash with a raw gusto, but he lets you know that hes lost a lot
of sleep making that choice. Lennons performance is as desperate as a prisoner who has spent too much time in solitary, breaking out of prison without care thatat any momenthe could be captured by the guards, or
maybe defeated by his own doubts. Lennon embraces the belief that money
will fulll all his promises of freedombut its a last ditch hope. Marsh

64

Artificial Paradise

rightly sees Lennons torn soul in going for the loot. Lennon looks at the
loot and undergoes what amounts to an existential crisis, he explains.
[T]here is in his singing impassioned irony and ironic passion, a vision of
the world that holds the lucre in contempt, a vision of something so much
greater than mere wealth that, at that moment, you could almost say that
rock and soul music has doubled back upon itself and referred to its gospel
origins.75
As in Please Mr. Postman, Lennon is driven by a torment that wont let
him settle for less. In this case, its the attainment of a freedom he feels
money will offer him. [W]hat one is offered on [Money] is not the dissection of Johns soul but its sound, and what that sound says is, Here I am,
torn up and torn down but committed absolutely to the sound of my voice,
wrote Greil Marcus. 76 Lennon goes beyond expressing the songs basic
sentiments, and tears instead into a frenzied attempt to let the emotions
carry him forwardwith the sole purpose of making the experience of freedom authentic to him. The song is a testament to what rock offered John
Lennon the moment he heard Heartbreak Hotel. What did rock n roll
give Lennon? Rock n roll for him . . .seems to have been both freedom
and torment, freedom to do things the world claimed could not be done,
torment because of the obstacles to doing them, including the ones you place
there yourself, Marsh concludes.77 Within the unprecedented lunacy of
Lennons performance, the singer knows that, hidden in his demands, attaining money wont give him the freedom he requires. So he sings like a man
motivated only by his hunger, by his belief that at this brink of desire will
be the only freedom hell ever know. Its in this music that dreams of
Nowhere Land truly exist, beyond the transient spoils of the real world
where your riches can all disappear.
The incongruous qualities built into the Beatles cover of Money (Thats
What I Want) didnt nd its equal until 1983 when Cyndi Lauper, a punkier Betty Boop, startled listeners of her debut album, Shes So Unusual, with
an astounding version of the Brains 1978 track Money Changes Everything. The Brains were an Atlanta punk band led by Tom Gray and
Money Changes Everything was a modern equivalent of Money, where
in this story, Gray watches his girl take off with a rich guy. As he sings it,
Gray appears completely resigned to the pain caused by her departure.
Its as if her leaving was inevitable in such callow times, so he takes refuge
in his defeat. Money is clearly the enemy for what its done to their romance.
Cyndi Lauper, though, infuses her version with ambiguity just like Lennon
did in Money. Portraying the role of the departing woman, she is as deant as John, but she also fully recognizes that her love has been violated by
her desire for lucre. She clearly sees that by seizing the cash, she has been
made fully culpable. Lauper realizes all too well what she has given up, by
acknowledging that the romantic values shes abandoned do mean something. When she spits out, its all in the past now, money changes

Like Dreamers Do

65

everything (with the emphasis on past), she expresses the sting of what
that past meant, and you know shell feel it long into the future. With a
biting fury, Lauper boldly uncovers the tangled ways that true love can get
corrupted by the things you fail to see or control.
With The Beatles was recorded in 11 sessions, which took over 30 hours
to complete. It was released in Britain the day U.S. President John F.
Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963). Despite the shock and
gloom of the time, the record stayed at the top of the charts for a startling
21 weeks. Capitol Records in Canada simultaneously issued it as Beatlemania! With The Beatles, while the United States continued to ignore the
group. Roll Over Beethoven and Please Mr. Postman would be released
as a single in Canada in December and would climb to #2 on the CHUMAM radio chart. The famous black-and-white stark cover photo, showing
the bands faces in half-shadow, was shot by Robert Freeman on August
22, 1963 in the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England. Having
shown Freeman some of the work Astrid Kirchherr had done in Hamburg,
the Beatles wanted a similarly bold and dramatic image for their record.
Theyd also seen some of Freemans demonstrative work with jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, so they knew he could provide the mood they were
after. Freeman posed the group against some velvet curtains in the hotel
dining room using only the light streaming in from the one large window
along the side of the wall. He put Ringo in the bottom right corner, since
he was the last to join the group. (He was also the shortest member.) Neither
Brian Epstein nor EMI liked the starkness of having the bands prole half in
shadow. But it best expressed the bold new sounds found on this record.
On With The Beatles, joy mixes seamlessly with sorrow, brightness is
shadowed by darkness, and white boys express their devoted love of black
music. The cover would become so iconic that it often got parodied, such
as in the Residents 1974 album Meet The Residents. Genesis also invoked
it for the cover of their 1986 single, Land of Confusion, a song that
passionately lamented the legacy of the sixties. Despite EMIs uncertainty,
the public demand was unprecedented. When it was released that November, despite the tragedy overseas, the police still had to keep control over
the crowds that were bustling into the record stores. With joy over spilling
into the streets of Britain, it wouldnt be long before the dour, griefstricken mood of America would be experiencing the same.

CHAPTER 3

Hurricane of Love
[The Beatles] had become a four-headed Orpheus. They would
have been torn to pieces by the teenage Furies.
George Melly, Revolt into Style
Much has been written about how Beatlemania brought a gust of fresh optimism to the grief-struck shores of America in early 1964. Its rst explosion,
though, was heard in England during the spring of 1963 in the wake of the
John Profumo scandal. As the Secretary of State of war, Profumo had been
having an affair with Christine Keeler, a young escort he met in 1961, during
a party at Lord Astors estate in Cliveden. His dalliance was further compounded by Keelers own rendezvous with Eugene Ivanov, a Russian naval
attache and assumed KGB agent. Despite fears of state secrets being compromised, the British papers initially avoided the story. But in June 1963,
Profumo confessed to the improprieties and the London dailies had a feeding
frenzy. In light of the Profumo scandal, Victorian etiquette was replaced by
salacious curiosity and exploitationto the point where any scandal became
fodder for headline news. In Edinburgh, for instance, the Duchess of Argyll
had her sexual proclivities exposed in the press. Open season was declared
on High Court judges and prostitutes, too, including cabinet ministers having
quickies in Richmond Park. Sexual behavior had become the great leveler of
the British class system because everyone was indulging.
The boundaries between high society and commoners had now been
blurred, leaving a gap for Beatlemania, where boys and girls from all walks
of life could give in to any form of ecstatic behavior. As tradition became
outmoded and a dispirited Christianity forfeited inuence, the public focus
began to shift from nostalgia and the compensation of a reward in heaven

Hurricane of Love

67

to an eager stress on the present combined with an impatient hope for a


social heaven on earth in the near future, wrote Ian MacDonald on the
cultural shift in Revolution in the Head, which would lead to the birth of
Swinging Britain.1 Along with the new sexual freedom was an added afuence creating new possibilities to act out those freedoms. As Prime Minister
Harold Wilsons Labor government raised income taxes, the property
market boom and full employment led to a huge consumer growth among
the young which, with the Beatles at the helm, catapulted a wave of new
musical talent soon to be identied as part of what would eventually be
known as the British Invasion.
This new wave of musical culture arrived with little warning, tossing up
the pleasant, the innocuous, and the tough. There were the lightweight
sounds of the Searchers (Needles and Pins), Hermans Hermits (Im into
Something Good), Chad & Jeremy (Yesterdays Gone), and Peter and
Gordon (with Lennon and McCartneys World Without Love); the
dreamy balladeers, who carried the emotional weight of the American girl
groups, like Dusty Springeld (I Only Want to Be With You), Cilla Black
(Youre My World), and Petula Clark (Downtown); the urgent, desperate R&B of the Animals (House of the Rising Sun), the Kinks (You
Really Got Me), the Who (My Generation), and, of course, the Rolling
Stones. Many others emerged, some equally worthy, but the big question
was: Could any of these performers be worthy invaders of America? Prior
to the Beatles, British acts had mostly failed in Americaespecially mainstream pop performers like Cliff Richard, who was reduced to second billing
behind the polished veneer of Frankie Avalon. John was worried because
no British groups or singers had ever got through to America before,
George Harrison told Beatles biographer Hunter Davies.2 It was certainly
a realistic fear. Although we had some successful British artists like David
Whiteld, Dicky Valentine, and Shirley Bassey, it was impossible for them
to succeed in America because they were too much like the very good and
successful American artists, song publisher Stephen James once explained.
So the novelty of a group of four guys with slightly different haircuts and
different outts who actually answered back was quite revolutionary.3
With Britains track record in mind, Dave Dexter Jr., the chief A&R man
of Capitol Records in the United States, rejected all the early Beatles singles
like Love Me Do, Please Please Me, From Me to You, and She
Loves You. For beginners, Dexter didnt hear much of a revolution.
He didnt even like the harmonica sound in Love Me Do. I had grown
up listening to the old blues records and blues harmonica players, so I nixed
the record instantly, Dexter explained.4 With tastes that ran more toward
jazz, Dexter likely never heard Bruce Channels Hey Baby, which was
not only a hit pop song with a harmonica but also a fundamental inuence
on Love Me Do. Utterly bafed by his reaction (especially since Capitol
was the afliate of British EMI), George Martin contacted Transglobal

68

Artificial Paradise

Music, an agency in New York that licensed EMI recordings, to nd a home


for the single Please Please Me/Ask Me Why. Transglobal got the Chicago
R&B label, Vee-Jay, to release the song in February 1963. Nothing earth
shattering happened, though, since it sold only about 5,650 copies. Martin
then proceeded to send them From Me to You/Thank You Girl, but a
cash-crunch forced the label to refuse fullling its royalty payments to
Transglobal. Out of that indiscretion, a termination of the agreement to
distribute the Beatles music took place in August. After Dexter ignored
She Loves You, Transglobal contacted Swan Records in Philadelphia,
who released the song in September. Since the label was connected to Dick
Clark, who had the popular TV music program, American Bandstand,
he played the song on his show. The response, though, was minimal. She
Loves You barely sold in the United States.
Luckily in Canada, where there was no Dave Dexter Jr. calling the shots,
Capitol Records Canada was served instead by a journalist from Britain
named Paul White. White, who came to Canada in the mid-fties, became
a respected A&R man when he was able to turn an album by English jazz
saxophonist Freddy Gardner into a hit. He further had great success in
Canada promoting pop singers like Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele. Since
he hailed from England, though, White always had his ear tilted homeward.
As a result, he was very much aware of the Beatles. In January 1963, White
had received Love Me Do from EMI, but unlike Dexter, he heard something authentic in their music. It wasnt that he found Love Me Do riveting, or innovative enough to start a musical uprising, but what he heard in
the Beatles was the sheer pleasure of performing pop music. With the
possible hope that others might bask in that delight, White released the
single in Canada in February 1963. Sales, however, were less than joyous.
The single sold 140 copies in six months. He tried again when EMI passed
along Please Please Me, but the results were little betterit sold 180 copies. From Me to You came next, but White was up against Del Shannons
cover version of the song. On the strength of his previous hits, Runaway
and Hats Off to Larry, Shannon easily beat out the Beatles on the Canadian charts. His success was somewhat ironic given that Shannon came
across the song while he toured England with the band.
In September, White was sent She Loves You, which he was convinced
would do the trick. But this time, he decided to introduce the track in a
smaller market and let the enthusiasm for it build. By December, the song
was #1 at CFPL radio in London, Ontario. CHUM radio in Toronto, who
within a year would be introducing the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens, had
a popular Top 50 CHUM Chart that helped promote and sell rock music
across the country. By February 1964, She Loves You had become a
national hit and it brought the previous singles back into the limelight.
Commenting on Capitols American counterpart, Paul White didnt lay all
the blame on Dexter for refusing the Beatles. We all know American Top

Hurricane of Love

69

40 in those days was bland white artists, White explained.5 While that was
predominantly true in 1963, the Beatles were about to dramatically reverse
that trend with a composition even Dave Dexter Jr. couldnt stop.
America was always within the Beatles sights. It was the land of dreams.
But it wouldnt be the land where they would go to be buried like all the
other British acts. What stood in their way was Capitol Records who were
ignoring all their singles. The group lacked a foothold in the very country
whose music made their own possible. The Beatles remained adamant,
however, insisting that they werent going to America until they had a #1
song there. Unfortunately, Brian Epstein had already booked the band for
The Ed Sullivan Show, North Americas most popular TV variety show, in
February 1964, to follow with a concert in Washington, and a separate date
at Carnegie Hall. Epstein had booked Carnegie Hall through Sid Bernstein, a
New York City music promoter. Bernstein had been a student at the New
School for Social Research, in the Big Apple, where one of his courses
required him to read British newspapers. The rst one he picked, from October 1962, featured a story on this rising rock band from Liverpool. Bernstein
became so intrigued that he sought out earlier editions until he realized that
each one had a story on this groups fortunes. By January 1963, he wanted to
get the jump on anybody else, so he contacted Epstein, where they made a
date for February 1964. The deal was for the Beatles to play two shows for
$6,500one in Carnegie Hall, and the other in Washington, D.C. Epstein
told Bernstein that if the band opped within the next year, he was not to
be held accountable to the deal. When Sullivan booked the Beatles for his
own show, right around Bernsteins dates, he was assured that his investment was sound. Ed Sullivan had witnessed the delirious reaction to the
group rsthand, when he was in the United Kingdom at Heathrow Airport.
The Beatles were returning to a rousing homecoming after a show in
Sweden. Sullivan was stunned at the furor and assumed it must be for someone from the Royal Family. When one of the kids told him that all the excitement was for this new pop group, Sullivan gambled that they just might grab
the spotlight on his own show. He contacted Brian Epstein and booked them
for his Sunday night program for three appearancestwo live and one taped
where the group would get paid $10,000.
While all the deals were falling into place, the Beatles were playing a series
of shows at the LOlympia in Paris. But they found that there wasnt a mob
of Brigitte Bardots chasing them through the City of Lights or young girls
screaming their names. Instead, it was a collection of hysterical young boys.
The ability to cross gender lines in their music, covering girl groups especially, had now broadened their appeal beyond imagination, making it
possible for Beatlemania to include everyone. One night, coming home from
their second show, they got the news theyd been hoping to hear, but never
expected. As if by pure serendipity, plus some much needed luck, they nally

70

Artificial Paradise

wrote a tune that made it all possible. I Want to Hold Your Hand had just
gone to #1 in the United States. It was no less ironic that the songs title
seemed perfectly suited as an enticing invitation. It was as if an appealing
stranger was calling out to you from across the water.
Written and recorded in the late fall of 1963, I Want to Hold Your Hand
was the greeting card that made Beatlemania an international phenomenon.
Please Please Me and She Loves You had prepared British audiences
for this pure explosion of happiness. But never before had vocal harmonies,
so rich in texture, been delivered with such volume, such determination,
and such ecstasy. Composed by Lennon and McCartney in the den of Jane
Ashers home on Wimpole Street, I Want to Hold Your Hand was written
by two men, who described their method, as closely playing into each others
noses. According to Gordon Waller (of Peter and Gordon), who was present
the day Lennon and McCartney wrote it, Lennon was on a pedal organ and
McCartney on piano. When McCartney hit a chord on the piano, it immediately grabbed Lennon. The two men, perhaps never more close than they
were that day, kept nding lost chords that became a perfect t for their song.
As they wrote, they kept reaching the peak of pops greatest appeal: the joy of
surrendering to irresistible and eeting elation. It was, and remains, a great
song, a joyous, reassuring sentiment riding gently atop an exuberantly beautiful melody, Martin Goldsmith wrote in The Beatles Come to America.
The words may be simple, but they express tender longing and the heartfelt
magic of human touch in a sentiment both innocent and profoundly
worldly.6 Part of the tracks greatness did lie in the smooth transitions
between the descending phrases that begin the song, when the singer starts
to tell his girl what he wants her to know. At which point, according to Goldsmith, the melody leaps up an entire octave to land joyfully on the word
hand, the punch line of the song. The rst lines are all breathless anticipation, and when the central idea of the lovers message is delivered, it comes
bursting out in a manner that transcends everything that comes before.7
Their fth single was hugely anticipated in Britain with advance orders of
over 940,000 two days before it was released on November 29. The factory
pressing alone was an unprecedented 500,000 copies in prerelease. A week
after I Want to Hold Your Hand hit the shops, it entered the U.K. pop
charts at #1, where it would stay for six weeks. By the end of the year,
I Want to Hold Your Hand was the second-highest top selling single of
the yearright behind She Loves You.
Journalist Tom Wolfe once proclaimed that the Beatles wanted to hold
your hand, while the Rolling Stones would burn down your town. Besides
deliberately misreading the song, in order to indulge in self-conscious literary hyperbole, Wolfe misses the point. If you were to supercially compare
I Want to Hold Your Hand to, say, the Rolling Stones cover of Muddy
Waters classic I Just Want to Make Love to You, the Beatles appear to
be catering to teenybopper conventions. When the Stones perform Muddy

Hurricane of Love

71

Waters, the sentiment is blatant, so deliberately clear, that theres no room


for romantic mystery. I Just Want to Make Love to You is as dynamically
straightforward a blues song about the satisfactions of sexual intercourse as
youll be likely to nd anywhere. But I Want to Hold Your Hand carries
much more of an emotional charge because it expresses and explores the
anticipation of romantic excitementbefore consummation. Their song
communicates the exhilarating expectancy of sex, while delving into the
beguiling bliss of imagining such carnal pleasures existing. In short, the
Beatles make it very clear that holding your hand is only the beginning of
the story.
Despite the thunderous reaction to I Want to Hold Your Hand in Britain, Dave Dexter Jr. still wasnt impressed. Once again, he turned it down
(although he later claimed that he knew it was going to be a hit and was
thereby responsible for ultimately releasing it). What actually took place
was an exasperated Brian Epstein demanded that Capitol Records president
Alan Livingston listen to the record himself, which eventually led to it nally
being released. Despite all of Dexters dismissals, the November 27 issue of
Variety stated that the tune had been receiving large advance orders in Britain, forcing Livingston to reconsider the decision of his A&R expert. All in
all, its likely that the reason Livingston had trusted Dexters judgment to this
point was that Livingstons own musical background was equally limited.
After all, this was a man known specically for creating Bozo the Clown,
producing childrens records by Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny (with
one composing credit for Tweety Birds I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat). But
did this ignominious oversight spell the end of Dave Dexter Jr.? Hardly.
He was instead promoted to the status of issuing all the Beatles singles
and albums in the United States. Besides picking and choosing what he
deemed to be good singles (regardless of what was released in Britain), he
issued albums contrary to the Beatles U.K. originals. The rst American
Beatles album he titled Meet The Beatles, which contained most of the songs
from the Beatles second album, With The Beatles. He added the single,
I Want to Hold Your Hand, its B-side This Boy, plus I Saw Her Standing There (from Please Please Me). Furthermore, Dexter gave himself a
production credit (as he would on the next six bastardized U.S. releases).
His production work consisted of adding reverb echo to George Martins
clean mixes and taking the mono mix of original U.K. singles to create a fake
stereo sound. He did this by recording two mono versions together, slightly
out of sync, then adding echo, and calling it Duophonic sound.
When I Want to Hold Your Hand became the Beatles rst #1 song in
America, it might not have ever happened if it had not been for the American
TV network coverage of the mass hysteria over their show at the Winter
Gardens Theatre in Bournemouth in the late fall of 1963. Marsha Albert
was a teenager in Washington D.C., who just happened to see the lm clip,
and became so taken with their music that she phoned her local radio

72

Artificial Paradise

station, WWDC. She asked the DJ if he could play somethinganything


by the Beatles. Carroll James, the DJ who took the call, was hardly a rock
fan. (His taste that ran toward the current jazz pop of Nat King Cole.)
He wasnt even the least bit aware of the Beatles. But he was curious enough
to try and hunt down one of their songs. During a station break, he
happened upon a copy of the British import of I Want to Hold Your
Hand. On a whim, he invited Albert to the station to introduce it on the
air. Marsha excitedly arrived at the station to read an introduction that
James had written on the back of a trafc report. Within moments, she
helped launch the Beatles into the consciousness of the nations capital. After
playing the song, James asked listeners to call in with their own responses to
I Want to Hold Your Hand. The switchboard went berserk. There wasnt
a free line anywhere as people swarmed to express their enthusiasm. Not
only did James play the track within the next hour, he played it every night
that week while announcing it as a WWDC exclusive.
When Capitol Records caught wind of the urry of activity at WWDC,
they faced a curious problem. Although company President Alan Livingston
was set to issue I Want to Hold Your Hand, nally overruling Dave
Dexter Jr., Capitol wasnt planning to do so until January. Because of the
huge demand inspired by WWDCs daily broadcast of I Want to Hold
Your Hand, they moved the date up to December 17 in the United States.
Nobody was prepared for the explosion of interest. After all, the last American #1 for a British act had been the Tornadoes with Telstar in 1962.
Before that, you had to reach back to the non-rock of Acker Bilks Stranger
on the Shore in 1961, and Vera Lynns Auf Wiedersehen in 1952.
By January 10, 1964, I Want to Hold Your Hand sold its rst million in
the United States, just in time for the Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan
Show. It would be backed by the lovely ballad This Boy, a song rich in
pure harmony. This Boy pointed the way to the luxurious warmth of
Because that was heard later on Abbey Road. If you were to imagine
Smokey Robinson singing To Know Her Is to Love Her, youd might
come close to dening the aching beauty of This Boy.
When the Beatles arrived in America on February 7, 1964 at the Kennedy
Airport in New York, about 5,000 screaming fans besieged them. Nobody
was truly prepared for the onslaught. As critic Greil Marcus would later
recall, Excitement wasnt in the air; it was the air.8 Meanwhile, hordes
of reporters, equally unprepared, gathered in the Pan American Lounge.
They started asking us funny questions, Harrison remembered, so we
just started answering them with stupid answers.9 Some examples:
Reporter:
Lennon:
Harrison:

Are you bald under those wigs?


Im bald.
And deaf and dumb, too!

Hurricane of Love

Reporter:
McCartney:
Reporter:
Beatles:
Lennon:
Reporter:
Starr:

73

Have you heard about the Stamp Out the Beatles


campaign in Detroit?
First off, were bringing out the Stamp Out Detroit
campaign.
Would you sing a song?
No!
We need money rst.
What do you think of Beethoven?
Great! Especially his poems.

Unlike Elvis, who had to face massive stardom alone, the Beatles were a
group. They could play off each others verbal skills the same way they could
play off each other musically. Together they achieved a group mind rather
than groupthink. You were always aware of their dissimilarity as individuals, disparately funny and irreverent, throwing the reporters off their game
because the newsmen couldnt nd a sole target to hit. Once they conquered
the press conference, the Beatles then whisked off to the Plaza Hotel to
prepare for their American television debut.
When the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday,
February 9, 1964, it was the night America stopped mourning the death of
their youthful President. A couple of months earlier, record producer Phil
Spector thought he had the answer to Americas sorrow. He had released
a joyous Christmas album that was lled with great rock n roll holiday
songs by the Crystals, the Ronettes, and Darlene Love. Perhaps in a better
time, the Crystals singing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town would have
provided the appropriate yuletide spirit, but the album bombed. During
the Christmas of 1963, one month after the murder of JFK, nobody cared
if Santa ever came to town.10 But that Sunday evening in February, over
74 million American viewers were nally ready to move on, and share in
the Beatles exhilarating appearance. They tuned in and bided their time
with the cast of the Broadway production of Oliver! impressionist Frank
Gorshin (who would ultimately play the Riddler on the 1966 spoof TV
series Batman) and singer and banjo player Tessie OSheabut, who would
remember them? From the moment Paul McCartney opened his mouth to
sing All My Loving, everyone else became irrelevant. What came before,
or what was to come after, wasnt a consideration. Theres a place. And we
had nally arrived there. What people heard was astonishingly new, a fresh
vision of America coming right back to them. The spirit of the New Frontier, which many felt was left for dead in Dallas, was again sparkling with
intensity. The Beatles did something specialnot so much to revive that
American music from which they drew so much, but to add meaning to
it, Dave Marsh wrote. Part of what America loved about the Beatles
was that they appeared not as gods but as mortals whom the gods had
blessed.11

74

Artificial Paradise

Their rst daring marketing move, as blessed mortals, was to kick off with
All My Loving rather than I Want to Hold Your Hand, the song that
had just paved the path to their American arrival. In choosing All My
Loving, a tune with no instrumental introduction, they made sure that their
voices would make immediate contact with their television and studio audience. After following with the ballad Till There Was You, they tore
excitedly into She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and nally
I Want to Hold Her Hand. That night, the Beatles cast an image on Ed
Sullivan that was far removed from the sexually leering and dynamic provocations of the hip-shaking Elvis. What America saw was an image of unaccustomed elegance, wrote Albert Goldman in The Lives of John Lennon.
Accoutered in dark, tubular Edwardian suits that exaggerated the stiff,
buttoned-up carriage of these young Englishmen, the Beatles resembled four
long-haired classical musicians, like Pro Musica Antiqua, playing electric
lutes and rebecs and taking deep formal bows after each rendition.12 Goldman described Lennon as looking positively dignied, his aquiline nose and
full face giving him the appearance of a Renaissance nobleman.13
While the viewing audience was enthralled, the critics were less than
enthusiastic. The New York Times thought the Beatles were basically a
fad. The Herald Tribune thought theyd bombed. Newsweek called their
music a disaster, lacking in rhythm, and only expressing naive romantic
sentiments. The Washington Post, in the same American city that rst
launched I Want to Hold Your Hand, described them as homely and asexual. While most parents were concerned about the groups long hair, there
were many who found their image too clean and innocent. For a band that
had forged their identity in dark clubs and basements, how could they look
that innocent? [They] look so innocent because they are absorbing the
innocence of those around them, reveling in the last time that they will ever
be so new to an audience, that any audience will ever be so new to them,
Devin McKinney remarked.14 The Beatles connected with the mass audience
in a completely new way. They didnt cater to audiences in the traditional
manner of most performers, who would coddle their partisan crowd in order
to win their loyalty. The Beatles did something that would ultimately prove
more dangerousthey set out to change peoples lives. The bands impact
carried a powerful potency that not only lifted a nation out of its sorrow
but also created in its place an opportunity for people to step out of their
own shadow and into the limelight of Nowhere Land.
Arthur Lee, who within a few years would launch the Los Angeles psychedelic band Love, was in his 27th Street living room convinced that hed
found his freedom the night he saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Guitarist
Joe Walsh sat in front of his television, his head bobbing excitedly to the
music, saying Yes! while his parents shook theirs, No! In his Florida
home, the young Tom Petty claimed that he was considering becoming a
farmer until he had an epiphany while watching The Ed Sullivan Show.

Hurricane of Love

75

He, too, wanted to play a guitar in front of live crowds. John Sebastian
recalled that the Lovin Spoonful, who would merge jug band blues, folk,
and rock n roll, was born the night he saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan at
Cass Elliots house. It was there that he met future cofounder Zal Yanovsky.
The Beatles appearance provided an indelible moment for one Vincent
Furnier, who would later be reborn as Alice Cooper. I just sat there in my
living room in Phoenix with a huge smile on my face, Cooper told Johnny
Black of Mojo. My parents looked like they were in the audience of
Springtime For Hitler from The Producers.15 That same year, Furnier
would start his own band called the Earwigs with some of his pals. They
donned some Beatle wigs and entered the school talent show. We were so
bad, he recalled. [B]ut I loved the attention. Girls started talking to me
[and] I got hooked on the limelight. Thats why I went into rock n roll,
for fame and sex.16 Dee Snider, of Twisted Sister, never got to see the
Beatles on Ed Sullivan because of his father banning television in the home.
The energy at school the next day was so intense over that performance
that, based just on what I was hearing, I said, Im gonna be a Beatle,
Snider declared in Uncut. I subsequently became a serious Beatle fan. Eventually, I found out I couldnt be a Beatle. I had to be a rock star. 17
He would dramatize that transformation in the video for his 1984 hit song
Were Not Gonna Take It.
As for the many young girls who gave the Beatles their screams, they may
not have had ambitions to be rock stars, but their hysteria was never
harmlessor innocent. The spectacle was not tender but warlike, critic
Geoffrey OBrien wrote in Sonata for Jukebox. The oscillation between
glassy-eyed entrancement and emotional explosion, the screams that were
like chants and the bouts of weeping that were like acts of aggression, the
aura of impending upheaval that promised the breaking down of doors and
the shattering of glass: this was love that could tear apart its object.18
You could feel in that hurricane of love the possibility of someone being torn
apart, as easily as someone being embraced. Author Steve Turner also saw,
within that potentially violent dynamic, these screams as a response to the
Beatles call for total freedom. The call to freedom that came from the
Beatles led these girls into a state of abandon, Turner wrote in The Gospel
according to the Beatles. For the duration of the concert they could
completely ignore societys rules for appropriate conduct.19 Within the
shouting and wailing was also the sensation of being transported into
another place, the place Lennon had dened for listeners in Theres a
Place. It was a state of consciousness where, for the duration of the concert,
fans were no longer bound by the constraints of reality.
The impact of Beatlemania that weekend of The Ed Sullivan Show became
the subject of a charming 1978 comedy by Robert Zemeckis (Used Cars,
Back to the Future) called I Wanna Hold Your Hand. The lm follows six
New Jersey teenagers who scheme to get to New York and meet the Beatles.

76

Artificial Paradise

Written with Bob Gale, who also shared credit on Used Cars and Back to the
Future, Zemeckis affectionately treats the quest of this motley group of
friends as a coming-of-age story where the Beatles visit dramatically alters
their lives. Of course, nothing goes as planned. Rosie (Wendie Jo Sperber)
who is crazed about the Beatles never actually gets to see them. Pam (Nancy
Allen), who is planning to get married and takes the trip as a reluctant
participant, ends up in the Beatles hotel room caressing Paul McCartneys
bass guitar. Tony (Bobby Di Ciccio), who represents the last vestige of fties
greaserdom, loathes the group, yet he nds an unlikely ally in Janis (Susan
Kendall Newman), a folkie who initially hates the commercialism of pop.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand cleverly illustrates how the Beatles united a generation by creating cultural alternatives that transformed our value system.
Although the lm has little of the inspired slapstick of some of Zemeckiss
later work (especially the comic peaks he reached in the tall-tale outrageousness of Used Cars), I Wanna Hold Your Hand still affectionately captures a
moment when peoples lives were shaped by pop dreams. Its a genial look at
the stalking of pop stars, where benevolent, eager teenagers get caught up in
the thrill of having their lives touched by experiences larger than themselves.
But the lm does ultimately cast its own nightmare shadow, and not just in
the stalking murder of John Lennon two years after the lm was released.
Theresa Saldana, one of the performers in I Wanna Hold Your Hand, plays
Grace, an aspiring photojournalist out to get the perfect picture of the
Beatles, the one that would make her career. Yet, tragically, her career
became dened by becoming a victim of a similarly determined celebrity
stalker almost a decade later. After being stabbed repeatedly by a crazed
fan who obsessed over her for years, Saldana eventually recovered, but not
just to continue her acting career. She ultimately became an advocate helping other victims of violence, innocent prey who were no longer sure that
they could trust holding anyones hand.
The Beatles rst American concert took place at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, in a sports arena that seated close to 18,000 people.
While the centre was overowing with typically enthusiastic fans, the group
played on a small stage in the round, which meant their equipment had to
move every few songs while the stage rotated. The opening acts were
Tommy Roe (Sheila), who had played with them in the United Kingdom,
the Caravelles, and the Chiffons. When the Beatles hit the stage, McCartney
happily greeted the crowd, as Harrison quickly launched into Roll Over
Beethoven, sending the crowd into delirium. While spirits were soaring,
with the band cheerfully soaking up the adulation, they experienced the rst
pangs of violence, an undercurrent of what lay beneath the surface of all the
wild deication. As the excitement built, from number to number, the band
started to quickly react to the piercing pain of small objects striking them on
the head. As the band looked from side to side, they saw that they were being
pelted by jelly babies. Harrison had recently announced in an interview done

Hurricane of Love

77

back in Britain that jelly babies were his favorite candy. Now these American
fans were knocking them senseless, literally killing them with sweetness.
These tasty treats may have been tossed as an expression of love, of sweet
devotion, but McCartney, feeling the sting of that love as the tiny treats
struck his skin, described these love offerings as coming [at us] like bullets
from all directions.20 In a country where, three months earlier, bullets had
struck down a President who was deeply loved, the irony was likely not lost
on McCartney. But his description of the candy was also quite literal because
the American jelly babies had harder shells, unlike the softer variety in the
United Kingdom. Either way, it was becoming clear that the Beatles werent
simply the object of an audiences love, they were also its target. As the stage
continued to rotate, from song to song, the band vainly tried to duck these
little missiles that were now coming from all directions.
After the show, the band gathered at British Embassy party to celebrate
their success. The event was lled with political dignitaries, the kind the
Beatles went out of their way to usually avoid, a masked ball with champagne owing. If the party began with a sense of personal pride about the
great reception they received in America, the Beatles soon began to feel as
if they were animals in a petting zoo, being taunted by little children. As they
slowly made their way through the crowd of embassy ofcials, people began
touching them eagerly as if they were holy men on a sojourn. One drunken
woman even went so far as to throw herself at the group. Later in the
evening, after the Beatles agreed to announce the winners of an embassy
rafe, one bold debutante came up behind Ringo and clipped off some of
his hair. The weapons of choice in the concert audience had been an offering
of sweets, but the Beatles now encountered something more bittersweet.
They discovered within themselves a vulnerability they didnt have in their
days in Hamburg. On the nightclub stage, their leather jackets had provided
an emblem of toughness, a means of standing up to the drunken louts who
taunted them. But in their formal suits, they appeared to this Wasp enclave
as cute ornaments to be fussed over, tamed, and with a cut of the hair,
symbolically castrated. They furiously exited the party and vowed they
would never attend such a function ever again.
After the concert in Washington, the Beatles took the train back to New
York to play two shows at Carnegie Hall on February 12. No rock act had
ever performed there beforeincluding Elvis Presley. But the train ride
was lled with fawning journalists and sycophants trying to get on with
the band. On the way back to New York, the Beatles were feeling besieged
and overwhelmed. There was nowhere to hide. The screaming throng in
Washington was handled diplomatically, but once at Carnegie Hall, the
group realized that no one was listening to the music. In Hamburg, the
group used the power of their sound and their improvised stagecraft to get
the audiences attention. The whole point was to be heard, to prove that
the attention was warranted. Now the Beatles found that they had

78

Artificial Paradise

everybodys attention, but without being heard. It was becoming a one-sided


conversation. This had left Lennon particularly exasperated. Late in the
show, leaning into the microphone, he deantly told the crowd to shut up.
But the crowd was too busy hearing itself to witness Lennons frustration.
The Beatles were eventually relieved when they headed for Miami, for rest
and sun, before playing their second Ed Sullivan Show from Miami Beach.
David and Albert Maysles as part of their documentary, The Beatles First
U.S. Visit, were lming the whole event, the Beatles landing in New York,
their appearance on Ed Sullivan, the Washington concert, and the private
moments in between. Originally it was presented as a 40-minute segment
on both American and British television in 1964. In that version, we could
see the traces of doubt within the euphoria. McCartney is seen concerned
about the group becoming marketing fodder. Lennon is growing reticent
with the incessant questioning. Those scenes though are curiously missing
from the Apple-approved VHS and DVD releases, which feature a longer
cut than the television version. After helping to usher in the Beatles hurricane of love, the Maysles would eventually bring in the hurricane of hate
with their documentary Gimme Shelter (1970), about the Rolling Stones
1969 tour of America. The climatic show, at the Altamont Speedway, ended
in tragedy with the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of the
Hells Angels, who had been hired as security.
On February 22, the Beatles arrived at Heathrow Airport in London, to a
huge crowd of celebrating Brits welcoming home their conquering heroes.
The Beatles may have accomplished something that no other British pop
act had ever done before in America, but that victory was starting to come
at a hard-earned price.
In March 1964, fresh from conquering America, the Beatles found themselves toasted by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who heralded
them as part of a cultural revolution at a Variety Club luncheon at the
Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane. Although Wilsons comments were certainly
apt, it was clear to everyone in the room that the Conservatives were still in a
free-fall from the Profumo scandal that had rocked the governments condence to lead. What better way to earn some cachet but to jump on the
Beatle bandwagon. As for the group, the bandwagon they built didnt
concern itself with the expedient behavior of the government, or their
public. The Beatles were mounting a stage that continued to expand, emanating sounds yet unheard, daring themselves and listeners to risk territory
untried. They didnt dene success by the victories they scored with each
new record, or each new concert. Success was a process whereby they would
nd new means to add to what theyd already done before. Sometimes that
meant building new sounds on the ones they learned from their antecedents.
Those brave new steps would begin with their next single Cant Buy Me
Love, which they had begun recording in Paris back in January, and then

Hurricane of Love

79

completed when they returned home from America. Composed largely by


McCartney, Cant Buy Me Love is a basic eight-bar blues thats given a
pulsating and dazzling jazz swing arrangement. The theme expresses something new in the groups work. An element of doubt is introduced when they
suggest that money and success will get you anything you want. In Money
(Thats What I Want), Lennon had declared a belief that money would set
him free (even if he knew it would do nothing of the sort). Cant Buy Me
Love made explicit what Money tucked beneath the surface. McCartney
sings with the same romantic passion he gave to All My Loving, but the
youthful innocence of that song wanes comparatively here. While declaring
that love lies beyond the spoils of cash and diamond rings, he expresses fear
that she may not believe him. As in She Loves You, Cant Buy Me Love
begins with the chorus rather than the verse, and it ends exactly the same
way. But She Loves You concluded with a brimming optimism about the
romantic future of the couple in question. Cant Buy Me Love ends somewhat desperately with the hope that money wont co-opt her. McCartneys
voice withers away on the word love, while Ringo bashes his symbol
removing McCartney from his doubts.
The B-side, You Cant Do That, is Lennons own version of romantic
doubt. But where McCartney always hopes for the best, even under the worst
circumstances, Lennon expects the worst and becomes overjoyed if things
turn out for the better. Like Cant Buy Me Love, You Cant Do That is
also an eight-bar blues, but Lennons approach is aggressive and punchy
rather than swinging. McCartneys song is a declaration of love that decries
possession (as well as with material possessions). Lennons view in You
Cant Do That is the opposite, possessive and jealous, even threatening his
woman for talking to another man. The tune is in many ways a precursor to
the later Run For Your Life, where beneath the singers romantic possession lies the possibility of murder. Despite the powerfully assertive kick of
the track, You Cant Do That has its desperate side, just like Cant Buy
Me Love. For all his gruff demands, it turns out that Lennons vulnerability
gives the lie to his idle threats. Lennon knew something about jealousy, and
as the lyric goes on and on about what this girl cannot do, what becomes
more and more apparent is that she can, and she is, and she very well may
continue, Dave Marsh writes in The Beatles Second Album.21
While the new single was being released toward the end of March, they
spent the rest of that month (and early June) recording an EP (extended play)
that included some of the formative songs they played in Hamburg. The EP
was the middle ground between a single and an LP, where four or ve tracks
could be released on one disc. The Beatles rst EP, Long Tall Sally, was
released in June 1964, just before they headed out on their rst world tour.
It was mostly a triumphant testament to their love for rock n roll. Although
Lennon rst heard Little Richards Long Tall Sally in the spring of 1957,
while at Quarry Bank, Paul McCartney, who made the song his own from

80

Artificial Paradise

the time the Quarry Men rst performed it at the Casbah Club on August
29, 1959, ultimately claimed it. Little Richard didnt make records to be
appreciated or even whistled along to, Steve Turner wrote in The Gospel
according to the Beatles. He made records to ravage the senses.22 Long
Tall Sally had created a frenzy for the senses but with a powerful gospel
urgency. Originally titled Bald Headed Sally, this rocker followed on the
heels of Little Richards raucous Tutti Frutti. Recorded in New Orleans
in 1956, the racy lyrics, which hinted at transvestitism, came by way of a
young teenage girl named Enortis Johnson, as Richard and Bumps Blackwell
provided the rollicking backbeat. When he recorded Long Tall Sally,
Little Richard was still bristling that Pat Boones languid version of Tutti
Frutti had outsold his. During each take of the song, Richard drove the
band faster and faster, convinced that the quicker he spit out the lyrics,
Boone would never get his mouth around them. It was all in vain, though.
Once again, Boones version outsold his.
If Twist and Shout was Lennons tear-at-your-soul rave-up, Long Tall
Sally became McCartneys soul driver. McCartney doesnt go for any raw
truths in this song, as Lennon would in Twist and Shout, or as he did in
Smokey Robinsons You Really Got a Hold on Me. Long Tall Sally is
basically a wild tale that takes place on a Saturday night. McCartney takes
a showmans pleasure in telling that story. He shares with Little Richard
an unabashed desire to take ight, digging the felicity of losing control.
Lennon could sometimes take you to the heart of hysteria, daring you to
share in the freedom he found (as well as having us share in his fear of losing
it), but with Long Tall Sally, McCartney doesnt dare the listener, he
cheerfully turns hysteria into cheap thrills. Paul starts at a peak above
Richards normal wild search for ecstasy, writes Dave Marsh of Long Tall
Sally in The Beatles Second Album. McCartneys already found his, and
hes celebrating it, not sneaking around in any back alley, but bringing the
alley out front. 23 The Beatles would nail this number in one take with
George Martin letting his hair down on the rocking piano. Inevitably,
Twist and Shout would open their shows, but Long Tall Sally justiably became their concert closer.
In 1958, Lennon composed I Call Your Name in a ska arrangement
that resembles Barbie Gayes 1957 My Boy Lollipop, which the Jamaican
singer Millie Small would rescue from obscurity three weeks after the Beatles
charted I Call Your Name. As in Please Mr. Postman, Lennon draws
emotional currency from his past, speaking to his lover through an
emotional hailstorm thats lled with unresolved currents of sadness, rage,
and yearning. In 1958, McCartney channeled his own grief over his mothers death in Ive Lost My Little Girl, a song where he sought a place to
overcome his sorrow. Lennon, on the other hand, went right to the root of
his own pain, lending more depth to his unrequited desires. Matchbox is
an agreeable cover of a 1958 Carl Perkins song, which was lifted from Blind

Hurricane of Love

81

Lemon Jeffersons 1927 Matchbox Blues. Perkins, who wrote the denitive rock anthem Blue Suede Shoes, was a contemporary of Elvis Presley.
Unfortunately for Perkins, the song ended up as a hit for Elvis. Perkins was
badly injured in a car accident in 1956, so the King got to record it rst.
Matchbox is a rockabilly tune with comical overtones. Its about being
so forlorn that, while you may have a matchbox, youve got no matches
inside. As he did with Boys, Ringo had performed Matchbox in Hamburg with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Unfortunately, he doesnt whip
up much of a storm with this rendition. Possibly because Perkins arrived at
the Beatles session, Ringo became too self-conscious. But likely his rather
lackluster performance was due to an impending illness. He would go into
the hospital with tonsillitis two days after the session. If Ringo lacks the
required spirit here, Harrison certainly acquires it. With Perkins being one
of his guitar mentors, Harrison plays with avor and personality, punctuating each note and giving the song a denite kick. For Perkins, however good
or bad the cover was, the arrival of the Beatles was a signicant boost to an
interest in rockabilly music. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones sort of
saved rockabilly when it could have been lost forever, Perkins remarked.
It was really in danger of dying a fast death in the early 1960s . . .they put
a nice suit on it and they never strayed from its basic simplicity. They just
made it a lot more sophisticated. 24 As for his own comments on the
Beatles cover of his song? I saw the prettiest dollar sign I had seen in my
life, he remarked with a wink.25
Slow Down is the rst of three Larry Williams covers that Lennon
would sing with the Beatles, including Bad Boy and Dizzy Miss Lizzie.
Along with Little Richard, Williams was a rock n roll raver on Specialty
Records in the fties. Beginning as a valet for Lloyd Price (Lawdy Miss
Clawdy), Specialty founder Art Rube decided to turn Williams into a
facsimile of Little Richard, with the help of his A&R man, Sonny Bono,
beginning with Williams version of Prices Just Because. Hed follow
with two smash singles, Short Fat Fannie and Bony Moronie, cut from
the same cloth as Little Richards rockers. To compare, you could say that
Williams was to Lennon what Little Richard was to McCartneya man
who liked to strut his stuff. Sadly, the Beatles performance of Williams
1958 hit lacks the cohesive re of their Little Richard cover of Long Tall
Sally. The mono mix of Slow Down, heard on the American LP Something New (now available on CD), does bury a multitude of sins. But the
stereo mix, heard on the ofcial EMI singles CD The Beatles Past Masters,
Volume One, is a disaster. Lennons double-tracked voice is so high in the
stereo version that it lays bare the previously recorded band track.
He sounds as if hes out of sync with the group. While Harrison is left inexplicably playing rhythm guitar, Lennons lead guitar solo is so painfully
inept that it sounds like hes only just getting acquainted with the instrument. Slow Down is arguably one of George Martins worst production

82

Artificial Paradise

efforts. His overdubbed piano, for instance, which usually provides some
propulsion, is so plodding it sounds like hes tripping over the keys.
After showing some good marketing acumen under Paul White in the
beginning, Capitol Records Canada clumsily tripped over their own feet just
before the Long Tall Sally EP was released in England on June 19, 1964.
While Canada didnt issue EPs, as did Britain, they decided to scatter the
songs over a couple of releases. After Beatlemania! With The Beatles and
Twist and Shout, they put out an LP called Long Tall Sally in May 1964
(in the same cover design of the United States The Beatles Second Album),
incomprehensibly repeating the songs You Really Got a Hold on Me,
Devil in Her Heart, Roll Over Beethoven, and Please Mr. Postman
from Beatlemania! With The Beatles. They added the singles I Want to
Hold Your Hand and This Boy to the album, along with I Saw Her
Standing There and Misery (left off Twist and Shout). Two of the songs
from the Long Tall Sally EP (Long Tall Sally, I Call Your Name) made
their appearance here. After that album, the Canadian albums conformed to
the U.S. bastardized releases.
The Beatles had now deeply penetrated the publics imagination, enkindling the audiences dreams by drawing new maps of untold excitement.
As the British Invasion of musical artists began entering Americas revolving
door, the Beatles decided to walk through another door. The step they took
was to move right into the ultimate dream factory. Just as the mythology of
the Beatles was beginning to bloom, they began to seal their myth by making
a movie.
The rst rock and roll movies had little or nothing to do with rock and
roll music, and everything to do with the rock and roll ethos, wrote Greil
Marcus in his assessment of the genre.26 That ethos he describes was present
in many fties pictures where adolescents were no longer accepting the
proscribed values of the status quo. You could see it in Marlon Brandos
deance in The Wild One (1953), where when asked about what he was
rebelling against, he replied, Whaddya got? You could recognize it in
the painfully vulnerable James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as
he attempts to wake up his incognizant parents to the misunderstood youth
they were alienating. Rock n roll was practically embroidered into the
fabric of those movies. According to Marcus, though, its power wasnt fully
comprehended until Bill Haley and the Comets drove home the combined
sociological screeds of The Wild One and Rebel in The Blackboard Jungle
(1955), with its blast of Rock Around the Clock. After that, aspiring rock
artists started lining up to see their possible future on the silver screen; and
John Lennon began thinking that maybe this was a cool job. The Beatles
were rst turned on by The Girl Cant Help It (1956), which featured Little
Richard in the opening credits singing the title song. The plot was largely
superuous, but signicantly, it was about how the music business was run

Hurricane of Love

83

by the mob (giving a whole new meaning to the word hit men). Besides
grooving to Little Richard, Gene Vincent, the Platters, and Eddie Cochran,
youngsters also swooned as the buxom bombshell Jayne Manseld strutted
by in her tight clothes, clutching milk bottles to her heaving breasts.
In 1956, having been one of those kids rst stunned by Brando, Elvis Presley
stepped onto the screen in the Civil War drama Love Me Tender, where two
brothers fought over politics and the love of Debra Paget. His elegiac ballad,
Love Me Tender maybe even planted the early seeds for McCartneys
Yesterday. But it was his role as the violent rockabilly singer Vince Everett
in 1957s Jailhouse Rock where the rock ethos fused effortlessly with the
music. From there, just as the rock movie began, it seemed almost over.
Except for the tabloid chic of High School Condential (1958), which delved
pruriently into a teen dope ring, it was the sanitized Frankie Avalon/Annette
Funicello beach party movies and Elviss decline in Hollywood.
When the Beatles considered doing their own lm, they wanted it to be
more than a mediocre formula ick. Having watched fellow Brit Cliff
Richard traipse about like an airbrushed Presley in the gloried travelogue
Summer Holiday (1963), the Beatles wanted something that might dene
who they were, or at least, what we might perceive them to be. The end
result of their quest became the genre-dening A Hard Days Night, and
the road leading there came about by shrewd business strategies. In 1963,
United Artists was aware that Capitol Records in the United States had been
refusing to issue the Beatles recordings. This meant that there was no provision being made for sound track records in case the Fab Four ever wanted to
make a movie. Since United Artists were convinced of the Beatles ultimate
international success, they proposed signing the group to a three-picture
deal. If the Beatles agreed, United Artists was set up to release three sound
track albums (which the studio assumed would go through the roof even if
the lms opped). Noel Rodgers, who was the A&R man for United Artists
in England, and Bud Orenstein, who served in their lm division, drew up a
contract that would ultimately net United Artists not only a superb Beatles
record but a hit movie made for under a half million dollars. There was no
way they could lose.
After James Bond producer Harry Saltzman turned down United Artists
offer to work on A Hard Days Night, the studio approached Walter Shenson. Shenson was an American expat, a producer at United Artists, whose
claim to fame was casting Peter Sellers in the social satire, The Mouse That
Roared (1959). United Artists approached me when they apparently found
out that the contract between Capitol Records and the Beatles didnt cover
movie soundtracks, Shenson said. They wanted to cash in on the Beatle
craze, so the movie was just an excuse to release an album.27 Shenson
introduced the group to another American, the 32-year-old director Richard
Lester, who brought the same exuberant pop inventiveness to his lms that
the Beatles were bringing to pop music. Lester was from Philadelphia, a

84

Artificial Paradise

precocious kid who started grade school at the age of three. While he was a
student at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in clinical psychology,
he did some part-time work as a stagehand in a local TV studio. Quickly,
he developed an interest in directing, becoming successful in his new trade
at CBS. Having both studied music and played in a band, Lester toured
Europe where he ultimately settled in England, and he continued his work
as a TV director. He began with his own comedy show, The Dick Lester
Show, before developing an association with Peter Sellers. This led to the
production of a series of wildly comic TV programs capped by The Goon
Show in 1958. Aside from his connection to the Goons, which drew the
interest of the Beatles, Lester had also directed a wildly innovative slapstick
short, The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960), which was
packed with the kinds of sight gags that would inspire A Hard Days Night.
I was the right lm director for them, Lester said candidly. I chose them.
They chose me. Theyd seen a short lm of mine [The Running, Jumping and
Standing Still Film]. They knew Id made a pop lm [Its Trad Dad] before
that. They knew. . .I would understand them musically.28
While the lm was being negotiated in October 1963, Liverpool playwright Alun Owen was brought in to fashion a screenplay around a day in
the life of the group. Owen came from the school of working-class kitchensink realism that had spawned Arnold Wesker and John Osborne. Some of
his plays were adapted to televisionlike No Trams to Limea grim drama
that had Shenson wondering if Owen could bring the levity required for the
Beatles rst picture. But Owen successfully caught hold of the bands comic
potential by following them while they toured Dublin and Belfast, observing
them in the fervor of Beatlemania. Early in 1964, Owen, Walter Shenson,
and Richard Lester then went to Paris where the Beatles were doing the
Olympia concert with Silvie Varton. At the George V Hotel, they watched
the group being prisoners in their own hotel room and conducting themselves as a comic troupe under the most adverse circumstances. They knew
that this would be the heart of the movie. The story could then be about
the Beatles scrambling through their professional life, escaping screaming
fans, signing autographs, and rehearsing for a television special.
The black-and-white movie opens with the denitive chime of George
Harrisons guitar, popping like a starters gun about to begin a race, which
it does, as the Beatles are seen being pursued by shrieking fans through the
street. As they scramble, falling and laughing, exhilarated by the attention,
they roar through a train station. The title song calls forth both the intense
enjoyment of the moment and the relief awaiting when they nally arrive
home. The Beatles charging through the station becomes a true test, daring
the crowd to catch up, leaving us to wonder what might happen if they
did. As the cat-and-mouse game continues, Paul McCartney sits in the
station, with his grandfather, reading a newspaper while disguised by a
goatee not far removed from the one hed grow for Sgt. Pepper in 1967.

Hurricane of Love

85

In 1964, though, McCartneys disguise is part of the game. In 1967, the


beard would be part of a transformation, an escape from the game set forth
between the band and their fans in A Hard Days Night. For now, the group
enjoyed being Beatles and the movie celebrates the genial side of Beatlemania. But its not all geniality. Theres a cheeky side to this picture, too, that
shows the band as quick-witted when they face adversity. Whether its the
press or an elder gentleman on a train who objects to their manner, the
Beatles dont back down or become patently cute. When the upper-class
gentleman in the train car, whos offended by the rock music on their transistor radio, tells them that he fought the war for their sort, Ringo quips, I bet
youre sorry you won. The only dramatic tension in the picture comes from
whether theyll make it to the TV showand pull it off. Of course, they do,
and in the end, they y off in a helicopter with group photos falling to the
ground below like confetti at a coronation. Thats what A Hard Days Night
becomes, a celebration of the Beatles rising up in the sky, to (what John
Lennon would often call) the toppermost of the poppermost. The lm,
probably more than their music, took the Beatles across social barriers,
won them an audience among the intelligentsia, wrote Greil Marcus. [It]
broadened their hardcore base from teenage girls to rock n roll fans of
every descriptionif rock n roll was about fun, then this movie was rock
n roll.29
Lester began shooting the lm from March 2, 1964 until late April, with
the chase scene done around Paddington and Marylebone Station on the
west side of central London. Wilfred Brambell, who had played the dirty
old man character on the popular British TV sitcom, Steptoe and Son
(which would provide the template for the American version, Sanford and
Son), played Pauls Irish grandfather. All through the lm, a big deal is made
about how clean he is in reference to his role on Steptoe. The teenage fans
were brought in from a number of London theater schools. When two
million preorders for the sound track were made before the lm even
premiered, it was clear that United Artists hunch had panned out. A Hard
Days Night brought out a new sophistication in their music. Moving from
the bright optimism of Please Please Me, She Loves You, and I Want
to Hold Your Hand, the band starts writing love songs about ambiguity
(If I Fell, I Should Have Known Better), incrimination (You Cant
Do That), and reection (Things We Said Today). While the lm happily
and successfully solidied the myth of the Beatles, their music began to
dene the complex contours of their work.
A Hard Days Night is the rst (and only) Beatles album featuring all
Lennon and McCartney originalsand they were mostly written before
having read the screenplay. It was the rst album recorded on four-track
machines allowing for more intricate dubbing and mixing. A Hard Days
Night provided the title of the movie and was based on one of Ringos
many malapropisms (making him the Yogi Berra of the band). The title

86

Artificial Paradise

arose when Lennon was having lunch with Walter Shenson and he
mentioned the phrase to Shenson, who was immediately taken with it. The
problem was that there was no song written called A Hard Days Night.
Although Lennon and McCartney had nished all the tracks for the movie,
Shenson wanted one with the lms new title. Lennon asked him if it needed
to reect the story, and Shenson said no. According to Maureen Cleave, a
journalist at the Evening Standard (who later did the interview that
contained Lennons controversial remark that the Beatles being more popular than Jesus), Lennon brought the lyrics to the studio on April 16, 1964,
written on the back of a birthday card to his son Julian. While humming
some unnished portions to the group, the band gathered together and
completed A Hard Days Night in three hours. It seemed a bit ridiculous
writing a song called A Hard Days Night, McCartney told reporters in
the United States while promoting the picture, because it sounded a funny
phrase at the time but the idea came of saying that it had been a hard days
night and wed been working all day and you get back to a girl and everythings ne.30 The conicting temperaments of Lennon and McCartney
fused beautifully once again in this song. Where Lennon describes the struggle of working hard all day, McCartney responds to the hope of getting back
home. Richard Lester liked the title of the song being the title of the movie
since it captured the mad pace of the group in the eye of the hurricane.
Lennon would use the phrase in his story Sad Michael from his Edward
Learinspired book, In His Own Write (Hed had a hard days [sic] night
that day . . .), released later in the year. Besides being a #1 single in the
United Kingdom and the United States, A Hard Days Night would be
covered (like She Loves You) by Peter Sellers who recited the lyric as
he were Laurence Olivier delivering a Shakespearean monologue.31
I Should Have Known Better is a brief throwback to the spirit of From
Me to You, including the winsome harmonica opening and a sprightly
Lennon vocal. After the opening credits featuring the title song, I Should
Have Known Better is the rst track performed in the picture while the
Beatles are playing cards in the train baggage car. If I Fell is a lovely, yet
pensive ballad, written by Lennon in mid-February, a song he rightfully
considered a precursor to In My Life (even sharing the same chord
sequences). If I Fell is about an affair where the singer is asking the girl
that he desires whether shell love him moreif he leaves his wife. With that
in mind, If I Fell provided a affecting moment in Alan Parkers hardhitting lm Shoot the Moon (1982), where Albert Finney and Diane Keaton
play a middle-class married couple coming apart after the husband has an
affair with a younger woman. When he leaves her, Keaton sits mournfully
in a bathtub singing If I Fell to herself, smoking a joint, as her voice cracks
on the most painful, signicant lyrics. Those lyrics refer back to the sentiments of I Want to Hold Your Hand, where the mysteries of romance
seemed so enticing. Now the singer discovers that holding hands isnt quite

Hurricane of Love

87

enough to dene the intricacy of romance. Critic Tim Riley hears the consequences of romantic yearning, when the singer realizes that hell be leaving
his girl to cry if he continues this affair. If I Fell takes a simple secondtime-around scenario and wrings a song of real consequence from its emotional implications, Riley wrote.32 Ian MacDonald thought If I Fell
was a perfect example of how Lennons way of working out a song differed
from his partner. While one can imagine McCartney arriving at many of
his tunes independently, only afterwards going to a guitar or piano to work
out the chords, MacDonald wrote. Lennons melodies feel their way
through their harmonies in the style of a sleepwalker, evolving the unconventional sequences and metrically broken phrasing typical of him.33 The
ballad gets performed to Ringo while the band is rehearsing in the TV
studio for their special. Apparently, Lester couldnt gure any other place
in the lm to place the song.
Im Happy Just to Dance With You, an infectious Latin-avored tune
about seducing a woman onto the dance oor, was written for George to
sing. Harrison brings his characteristic rueful shyness to his performance,
as Lennon and McCartneys harmonies cheer him on. And I Love Her is
a strikingly afrmative number composed by McCartney as an exercise to
see if he could write a love serenade that began in mid-sentence. Its a song
that demonstrates how much he learned about balladry by performing Till
There Was You. Tell Me Why returns the Beatles to the girl group
origins of Chains and Boys, illustrating how far theyd come in creating
their own versions of those tracks. By Lennons standards, Tell Me Why is
an impersonal song, but its such an apt demonstration of the groups total
command of harmony that you can be easily fooled into thinking that its
about something that actually matters. Cant Buy Me Love was included
in the movie for one of the most memorable scenes, where the group escapes
the controlled environment of the studio, to frolic on the playing elds of
Isleworth behind the Odeon Hammersmith.
Any Time at All is a Lennon powerhouse classic that revisits, with a
whole new authority, the sentiments of It Wont Be Long. Albert Goldman rightfully calls Any Time at All the most exciting song in the
Beatles rst lm score.34 Punctuated by Ringos pistol-shot drumbeat,
Lennons voice is all urgency. According to Goldman, he seems like an
ecstatic dancing about in the ames because he stems from a cooler culture,
but the self-intoxicated thrust of his voice burns with the real gospel
frenzy.35 Goldman is wrong, though, when he suggests that Lennon is less
sincere when offering his undying support for the girl. Lennon balances, in
the sheer beauty of his voice, both the brutal world that shaped him and
the utopian world he wishes to create for himself. On the instrumental
break, George Martin adds a plaintive piano melody that mirrors handsomely Harrisons guitar line. Martin would describe his technique in
Rolling Stone as providing a sustained note. That note was what I used to

88

Artificial Paradise

call a wound up piano, he explained. And I used to do it with Georges


guitar. You would slow down the track to half speed, play the piano right
down to the bottom, then bring it back up to normal againand that would
sustain and make the note twice as long.36
Lennons Ill Cry Instead is a country-avored song about romantic loss
which carries the same vindictive quality as You Cant Do That. It was
originally considered for the Beatles breakout sequence in the lm, but it
was relegated to the soundtrack album because of its dour tone. When the
lm was remastered for video in 1986, the song was used in a pre-credit
montage created by Walter Shenson. Things We Said Today is one of
McCartneys strongest ballads. The sentiment he expresses here of living in
the future, so he can better understand things of value in the past, is surprisingly somber. He would bring a similar pensive perspective to The Song We
Were Singing on his 1997 solo album Flaming Pie. When I Get Home
was written by Lennon as a tribute to American R&B, with an obvious
nod to Marvin Gayes Can I Get a Witness. The song covers the same
ground as A Hard Days Night in expressing the desire of nding sanctuary in the arms of a loved one after a long day at work. But You Cant Do
That was also dropped from the lm possibly because, like Ill Cry
Instead, it has an angry rancorous edge that plays against the celebratory
spirit in the lm.
John Lennons Ill Be Back, based on Del Shannons 1961 hit
Runaway, concludes the record with a tinge of uncertainty. In his best
songs, including Runaway, Stranger in Town, and Hats Off to Larry,
Shannon sang in a friendless voice. His stark power emanated from the paranoia brought on by unrequited and lost love. Listening to Del Shannon, who
would ultimately commit suicide, is akin to getting periodic bulletins from a
desperate hitchhiker who cruises aimlessly from town to town, chasing phantoms and hopelessly seeking answers for why his loved one was now lost to
him. His famous high falsetto didnt express longing, as the doo-wop vocalists of the fties did in their songs, Shannon instead carried the anguish of
never nding a release from his pain. In Ill Be Back, Lennon doesnt
exactly amble down Shannons lonely streets. While retaining the torment
of Shannon, Lennon keeps the acoustic rhythm section both warm and alive
with hunger. Unlike Shannon, Lennon is examining the conicting emotions
tearing his love apart rather than running from them. The singer is departing
because his heart is getting broken, but hes also determined to come back.
He knows their love is stronger than the issues that are pulling them apart.
A Hard Days Night premiered at the London Pavilion Cinema on July 6,
1964, while the single and soundtrack album were released on July 10. The
lm opened on one hundred screens in the United States in August where it
made $5.6 million. It became the match to light the re of the Beatles world
tour in 1964 and would be instrumental in convincing folkies like Roger
McGuinn and David Crosby to exchange their acoustic axes for electric

Hurricane of Love

89

ones, and then form the Byrds. I guess the thing which struck me was that
they were using a lot of folk music chord changes, Byrds cofounder Roger
McGuinn recalled. They were using passing chords up until that point, so
in a way they were subtly combining folk and rock. This is what inspired
me and gave me the idea [to play electric rock & roll music].37 Chris Hillman, who would later join the Byrds, remembers McGuinn turning up at
the Troubadour with a 12-string acoustic Gibson guitar and playing I Want
to Hold Your Hand. Byrd David Crosby would say that their band was an
attempt at democracy or a kind of family which they learned from the Fab
Four.38 The Byrds would, of course, eventually rival the Beatles in becoming
a bickering family.
The critics were exuberant in their praise of the picture. Rather than cater
to the popularity of the group, the movie was appraised as a movie.
A Hard Days Night has turned out to be the Citizen Kane of jukebox
musicals, wrote Andrew Sarris in The Village Voice. [T]he brilliant crystallization of such diverse cultural particles as the pop movie, rock and roll,
cinema-verite, the nouvelle vague, free cinema, the affectedly hand-held
camera, frenzied camera, frenzied cutting, the cult of the sexless subadolescent, the semi-documentary, and studied spontaneity.39 The Daily Express
meanwhile called it delightfully loony and compared the Beatles to the
Marx Brothers. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times thought the lm
tickle[d] the intellect and electrie[d] the nerves.40 Roger Ebert would
later echo Sarriss comparison to Citizen Kane. Of course, A Hard Days
Night gave us an idealized view of the Beatles, but there was a shady tinge
to the reality of their massive success celebrated in the picture. To provide
distraction between scenes, they kept their energy up with amphetamines
and scotch. There were also many young females, used as extras, who were
steered into the Beatles trailers for quick bouts of shagging before going
back before the camera. One extra, who had no interest in a quickie, was a
19-year-old model named Pattie Boyd. Lester had recalled using her in a
commercial hed directed, so he invited her to be one of the smitten girls on
the train meeting the band. She would eventually go out with George Harrison after he gave her an autograph with seven kisses on the photo. They
would eventually marry in 1966.
Early in 2007, I happened to catch a number of fake movie trailers appearing on the Web site YouTube. If there was a concept to these faux coming
attractions, it was to deliberately misrepresent the original movie, perhaps
as a way to satirize the manner in which trailers provide false hooks to steer
us to the picture. So Stanley Kubricks familial horror lm The Shining
(1980) was recut to suggest a father/son reconciliation drama directed by
Cameron Crowe. Martin Scorseses feverish Mean Streets (1973) was
crossed hilariously with Sesame Street. There were quite a number of other
lms represented, but one in particular caught my eye. It was for a movie
titled A Hard Days Night of the Living Dead. The trailer begins typically

90

Artificial Paradise

as a teaser announcing the legendary Beatles in their landmark debut A Hard


Days Night. As well, we soon start to recognize the usual swarm of fans
about to greet them. Moments later, however, the tone dramatically
changes. As the opening scenes of A Hard Days Night unfold in the train
station, the band is being pursued not by eager and happy fans, but by the
zombies from Zack Snyders remake of George Romeros Dawn of the Dead
(2004). As the Beatles laugh and cajole their way through alleys and cars, the
screams of the undead, bloodthirsty for esh, continue to bear down on
them. The cutting between both pictures is so seamless that the zombies
seem to be moving in rhythm to the music.
The original 1978 Dawn of the Dead was a blood-spattered comic-strip
satire of consumerism gone mad, but the remake is a post-9/11 apocalyptic
calamity where every facet of societal decorum breaks down. Nightmares
have replaced dreams. Over the opening credits, we hear Johnny Cash singing about a man taking names, the Grim Reaper cataloging death on every
corner of the planet. If the screaming throngs of A Hard Days Night were
once participants in the Beatles utopian dream, the zombies of Dawn of
the Dead are former participants in the grind of life. Their hunger isnt
driven by the delight brought on by the Beatles music, its brought on by
the instinctual drive to consume. In A Hard Days Night of the Living Dead,
the band is oblivious to the danger of becoming zombies themselves. They
dont even recognize that theyre being blindly fed upon by their followers,
who dont follow because of their shared ideals, but because the cadavers
need to feed on the living beings in front of them. A Hard Days Night
showed the Beatles in implicit opposition to the cult of mindless consumerism, not because they were Marxist but because in their new fame they realized they had become its latest tool, wrote Devin McKinney in Magic
Circles.41 Whats missing from A Hard Days Night is an awareness of that
realitysomething A Hard Days Night of the Living Dead cleverly gets
at. If the Beatles truly fought becoming a tool of mindless consumerism,
wouldnt their fame be evidence of still potentially being its tool? If fans
continued to impulsively scream at the mere sight of the Beatles, and buy
every record whatever its quality, would the excitement of consuming it
truly bring the satisfaction that the music promised? A Hard Days Night
had no intention of raising these prickly questions, but there was another
lm, almost completely forgotten, that wouldand it came from another
popular group associated with the British Invasion.
Although the Beatles get the credit for spearheading the British Invasion
into America, the rst British rock band in that period to tour the United
States was the Dave Clark Five. Driven by a heavy beat that Time magazine
compared to an air hammer, the Dave Clark Five, led by the saturnine
drummer Dave Clark, sold in excess of 50 million records and appeared a
record 12 times on The Ed Sullivan Show. Between 1964 and 1966, the band

Hurricane of Love

91

had 15 consecutive Top 20 hits, including the sturdy Glad All Over, the
stomping Bits and Pieces, the swinging Cant You See That Shes Mine,
and the softly suggestive Because. Besides Clark, the group included the
lanky keyboardist and lead vocalist Mike Smith, saxophonist Denis Payton,
bassist Rick Huxley, and the calmly assured lead guitarist Lenny Davidson.
Clark had become Britains rst independent producer. He owned all the
bands recordings and leased their records to Capitol Records, unheard of
in the early sixties. Clark managed the band, while taking an active role in
picking their opening acts during their U.S. tours. Besides Little Richard,
Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Clark sought out the young Aretha
Franklin, invited the Supremes on board, and included Sonny & Cher on
their rst tour. He discovered the Young Rascals (Groovin) in a New
York club and convinced them to join the trip across the United States.
So given all of these accomplishments, why didnt the Dave Clark Five
reign supreme? First of all, musically the band was nowhere near as talented,
or as imaginative, as the Beatles. While their songs have an attractive Big
Beat, their sound eventually grows deeply monotonous. The group was also
colorless, almost indistinct, by comparison to the humorous Fab Four. But
as commercial pop artists, they seldom got the credit they deserved for the
mainstream vigor in their work. Sure, they were crude and of course they
werent even a bit hip, but in their churning crassness there was a shout of
joy and a sense of fun, Lester Bangs once wrote.42 Given that their greatest
appeal was in that spirit of simple fun, it was a huge shock to discover that in
their rst movie, Having a Wild Weekend (1965), they would provide such
depth. To borrow Andrew Sarriss comparison: If A Hard Days Night is
to Orson Welles Citizen Kane, then Having a Wild Weekend is to his The
Magnicent Ambersons (1942), an uneven, but emotionally richer experience than the former.
Having a Wild Weekend, which was more aptly titled Catch Us If You
Can in the United Kingdom, is a story about the cost of being a tool of mindless consumerism. Its about how one denes success, and whether or not it
does bring complete happiness, or even satisfaction. Having a Wild Weekend is not about the alienation of youth (always a popular theme), its about
disenfranchisement. The movie examines the price of utopian dreams, how
theyre dened, or if they can be sustained once theyre ever found. A Hard
Days Night set out to celebrate the Beatles success, and it did so with great
affection. Having a Wild Weekend asks more unfriendly questions about
what success really has to offer. Directed by John Boorman (Deliverance,
Excalibur), in his rst dramatic feature, and written by playwright Peter
Nicols (A Day in the Death of Joe Egg), Having a Wild Weekend took a
number of risks that A Hard Days Night chose to avoid.
A Hard Days Night has the Beatles playing themselves in a lm that both
mythologizes and celebrates their music. In Having a Wild Weekend, the
Dave Clark Five dont play themselves. The movie isnt even about how a

92

Artificial Paradise

rock band achieves fortune. The Dave Clark Five are playing stuntmen
working on a TV commercial being produced for an advertising company
selling meat. (Meat For Go is the name of their campaign.) Steve (Dave
Clark) is a model, who is unhappy with his life, and he works with Dinah
(Barbara Ferris), the Butcher Girl in the company billboard ads. One
day, they both grow weary of the vapid commercialism, of being turned into
products of the advertising rm. In an act of desperate rebellion, they impulsively leave London to explore the English countryside. Their valiant hope is
to nd a better and more meaningful life, while the advertising company
spends the movie trying to hunt them down. What they discover on their
journey is more people desperately trying to survive their shattered dreams.
They rst encounter some squatting hippies on Salisbury Plain in a gutted
house smoking grassbut theyre looking for heroin. Although its 1965,
the commune members suggest more the dissipated drugged wanderers of
the late sixties, those who would become fodder for the crazed visions of
Charles Manson. They later meet an unhappily married couple (played
superbly and sympathetically by Yootha Joyce and Robin Bailey) who are
collectors of arcane objects that help them cling to the past in their extravagant estate. But their antique goods cant heal the bitter emotions that
continually tear the couple apart. When Steve and Dinah visit a ranch run
by Louie, a friend from Steves childhood, Louis cant even remember Steves
name. He also fawns over Dinah, a celebrity that he recognizes, and hopes
she will bring some status to his business. The thrust of Steve and Dinahs
journey, throughout the movie, is to get to an island off the mainland in
Devon where they can nd sanctuary from the corrupted world around
them. The island beckons large by this time in the movie because it might
be the only sanctuary theyll ever nd. When they do arrive, however, the
advertising company has already anticipated their move and theyve used
Dinah and Steves escape to their advantage. The company stages Dinahs
rescue to help boast their meat campaign. Worse, her dream island turns
out to be fake. At low tide, it is reachable from the mainland. In the end, they
are both forced back into the life they vainly tried to escape.
Its not hard to understand why Having a Wild Weekend failed to score
with the fans of the Dave Clark Five, let alone the youth audience. The
picture doesnt play off the bands pop appeal. (Lenny Davidson doesnt
even get one line of dialog in the entire picture.) The lm also doesnt
celebrate the spirit of liberation in the air. John Boorman instead speculates
as to what freedom Steve and Dinah could possibly nd outside of their own
milieu. Dinah wishes to escape but she has no sense of what she really wants.
For her, its the journey that denes her. Arrivals solve nothing. When she
reaches her island, it doesnt satisfy her, or change anything. Dinah even
comments that it smells of dead holidays. The oasis is merely a reminiscent of happy days long gone and no longer attainable. Steve is looking for
a place, a portal of freedom, from the banal and the empty. When Dinah

Hurricane of Love

93

criticizes him for not enjoying the journey, he accuses her of giving up too
easily. Steve comes to recognize that Dinah is more pliable than he imagined.
Dinah is adaptable; Steve isnt.
Having a Wild Weekend takes place in the winter, and Boorman plays into
its frigid discontent. He presents the chilled country landscape as desolate,
rather than inviting. All through the movie, we hear songs by the Dave Clark
Five, but they could be the random samplings of any radio program. They
dont seem connected to the people on the screen who areimplicitly
removed from being identied as the authors of their own work. When Steve
and Dinah come close to nding that mythical island, we hear what is
perhaps the Dave Clark Fives most substantial song, the beautifully lamenting When. The tune is like a burst of sun thats trying to break through the
foreboding clouds. Over the demonstrative minor chords of the piano, the
singer desperately calls out for his lover to accept him unconditionally,
and only then will they experience the true meaning of love. The song, like
the movie, is seeking values that arent illusory, but ones that do have
consequence. The contrast between the passionate reserves in When and
the empty landscapes the couple inhabit render a bittersweet aspect to
their fate.
Many critics ignored the movie, but Pauline Kael in The New Yorker rightly
compared the story to Chekhov. Its as if Pop art had discovered Chekhov
the Three Sisters nally set off for Moscow and along the way discover that
there isnt any Moscow, she wrote.43 Her comparison is apt because Three
Sisters has the same utopian ideals of a quest for Nowhere Land, this magical
place that isnt the reality of Moscow, but the possibility of what it might
represent. Having a Wild Weekend slipped out of consciousness because the
possibilities it presented hadnt entered peoples consciousness yet. It was a
similar problem that Arthur Penn encountered with his contemplative and
equally bittersweet counterculture story Alices Restaurant in 1969. As for
the Dave Clark Five, they would break up by 1970.
Having a Wild Weekend was a sober meditation on a period that people
then wished to dene as idyllic. It didnt spoil the party, even if the picture
couldnt join itand the band would soon fade from popular memory.
In 2008, though, the Dave Clark Five would nally be admitted to the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame. But two weeks before their induction, vocalist Mike
Smith, the impassioned voice of When, didnt live to see the ceremony.
He died of pneumonia in London. While the Dave Clark Five experienced
a relative obscurity next to the Beatles, the Fabs would soon begin to live
out aspects of what was so presciently unveiled in Having a Wild Weekend.
The Beatles invasion of America in 1964 took place on the cusp of the
international success of their single, I Want to Hold Your Hand. Arriving
on the heels of the national tragedy of JFKs assassination, the Beatles
offered a salve to heal the wounds of a traumatized American public, setting

94

Artificial Paradise

loose a pandemonium that left audiences screaming and fainting, while


establishing a deep and indelible bond between themselves and their audience. As the band was about to return that summer, that connection continued to be strong. People still innocently identied with the group and
imagined themselves part of this quixotic world that their energetic music
helped create. The Beatles had freely bonded with a nation of dreamers.
An illusion of intimacy, of companionship, made the Beatles characters in
everyones private drama, wrote critic Geoffrey OBrien about that bond
in Sonata for Jukebox. We thought we knew them, or more precisely, and
eerily, thought they knew us. We imagined a give-and-take of communication between the singers in their sealed-off dome and the rest of us listening
in on their every thought and musical reverie.44 In that summer of 1964,
Americas torn legacy toward its black citizens had shown its promise with
the Mississippi Summer Project underway in the South recruiting college
students to increase voter registration for blacks. But its ugly side was
equally evident when the bodies of Civil Rights workers James Chaney,
Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were discovered in June, buried
in a dam in Neshoba County after being beaten and shot. It was in that
summer, a season of hope and despair, when the Beatles were about to put
all the goodwill they had inspired in February to the test.
The 1964 world tour began as inhumanly demanding. They did 32 shows
in 24 cities in 33 days across North America. While A Hard Days Night,
with its charmed view of touring, was still playing in 500 movie theaters
across the United States, the reality of life on the road was quite different.
There were late night ights to avoid terminals lled with screaming kids.
Hotel security had to prepare for any kind of attack from fans, while the
Beatles were under a friendly form of house arrest to assure their safety.
In Seattle, they were placed in a concrete tower at the end of a pier in Puget
Sound, with a 350-foot fence barricading them and topped with two feet of
barbed wire. The tour was quickly demonstrating that the group was
exposed to more danger than the teen idols of the past. The Beatles, more
than anyone, had transformed the rock show from a conventional performance into a bash, wrote biographer Bob Spitz in The Beatles. The audience was asserting itself without even realizing what it was doing. The
feeling generated at the Beatles shows bordered on spiritual anarchy.45
Adding to the building tensions, on June 3, 1964, a few days after recording Carl Perkins Matchbox, Ringo collapsed during a photo session for
the Saturday Evening Post just before the band headed for Copenhagen.
He was diagnosed with laryngitis and pharyngitis and was hospitalized at
University College Hospital. The Beatles considered postponing the tour,
but tickets in Holland and Australia were already purchased. George Martin
began looking for a replacement drummer for the tour and he settled on
Jimmy Nicol, a competent young percussionist from London who had some
of Ringos humility, plus good steady hands to back the group. Nicol had

Hurricane of Love

95

played with Georgie Fame, as well as briey fronting his own group, Jimmy
Nicol and the Shub Dubs. They had one small hit single titled HumpityDumpity. Nicols inaugural tour with the Beatles was a whirlwind of
adulation and partying. The emotional exhaustion brought on by the huge
demands put on the group was now bringing out the groups least attractive
side. In Blokker, Holland, the mayor came up to George Harrison in order to
give him the keys to the city, only to hear Harrison tell him to fuck off.
On June 11, the Beatles arrived in Darwin, Australia. The next day, close
to 100,000 fans lined the streets along a six-mile route to the Centennial
Hall where the band would play two shows. A couple of days later, not
content to scream at their idols, 250,000 fans in Melbourne attempted to
deantly break through barriers just to reach the group almost causing a
riot. In Sydney, danger seemed to rear up everywhere. A 13-year-old fan
was caught outside the eighth oor of their hotel, barely holding on to the
balcony, while climbing up to their suite. When the band performed, they
were once again pelted with jelly babies, just as they were in their rst
American concert in Washington. I hate people throwing things while
were performing, Lennon told a reporter during the tour. Many times
we come off the stage and it looks like weve gone through a war zone.46
Lennon found it particularly hard to keep singing with these sugar bullets
consistently hitting him. It does take the pleasure out of it, he remarked.
Now you know why we run off quickly.47
If it wasnt candies being chucked, handicapped people along the parade
route had started tossing their crutches at their motorcade. The whole
episode prompted their press agent Derek Taylor to remark that the Beatles
could just as well launch an old-fashioned Bible-thumping tour. Lennons
remark about the group being more popular than Jesus might have grown
out of scenes like this. They suddenly found themselves at two extremes of
intense emotional identication. If it wasnt screaming girls longing to touch
them, they had to face the aficted in wheelchairs looking to the Beatles to
heal them. John didnt like it, Harrison recalled. You could see he had
a thing about them; I think it was a fear of something. You can see in all
our home movies, whenever you switch a camera on John, he goes into his
interpretation of a spastic.48 Lennon, who would one day in a song confess
to feeling crippled inside, now felt like he was the freak in a traveling sideshow. When we would open up, every night, instead of seeing kids there,
we would see a row full of cripples from the front, Lennon recalled.49
In the States, it was worse. People were wheeling hundreds of them backstage, where Lennon could barely look at them. Often he turned his head
away. Instead of fronting a band, he began to feel as if he were being treated
as a faith healer. As Lennon expressed revulsion brought on partly by his
own personal insecurities, McCartney caught more of the cruel irony of the
circumstances. The spirit of the Beatles seemed to suggest something very
hopeful and youthful, McCartney explained. So, often, someone would

96

Artificial Paradise

ask us to say hello to handicapped kids; to give them some kind of hope,
maybe. But it was difcult for us, because part of our humor was a sick kind
of humor. We were almost having to bless the people in wheelchairs; so
there was this dual inclination going on for us.50
Besides being welcomed as faith healers, they were also greeted by many
women eager for a different kind of healing. Many reporters described those
episodes as something out of Fellinis Satyricon. One reporter who followed
the Beatles during their Australia venture was Bob Rogers. Quoted in Albert
Goldmans The Lives of John Lennon, Rogers said that he had never seen so
much agrant fucking by any pop band. There was no pill in 1964 and with
the amount of Beatle screwing that went on, I just cant believe that there
wasnt an explosion of little Beatles all over Australia in 1965, he
recalled. 51 Jim Oram was another Australian journalist who followed
the group that summer. Oram describes a seemingly endless and inexhaustible stream of Australian girls [passing] through their beds; the very young,
the very experienced, the beautiful and the plain.52 In Adelaide, one happy
deowered virgin, he recalled, proudly took her blood-stained sheet home
with her in the morning.53 Singer Ronnie Spector, who toured with the
group in 1964 as part of the Ronettes, remembers the sexual escapades
clearly. There was a big party with a naked girl dancing on a bed and the
Beatles were taking pictures of roadies having sex with her, Spector remembered. I was sitting on John Lennons lap and felt something very hard in
his pants. 54 Years later, composer Frank Zappa would be continually
assailed by prurient rock critics for his salacious lyrics about rock stars on
the road. But in compositions like The Mud Shark, Bwana Dik, and
Crew Slut, he honestly portrayed the behavior of rock stars on the road
by cleverly satirizing their escapades. Most bands, however, including the
Beatles, worked hard to keep a distance between their image and their backstage activities, which were to be kept private.
By the time Ringo rejoined the band in Melbourne, the group was alerted
to bomb threats in New Zealand. When they arrived in the United States in
San Francisco on August 19, the tour continued with Jackie DeShannon,
the Exciters, the Bill Black Combo, the Searchers, and the Righteous Brothers opening the show. The Righteous Brothers would leave midway through
the tour when, during a rendition of their great hit, Youve Lost That
Lovin Feelin, in an outdoor arena, the Beatles hovered overhead in their
plane and all heads went to the sky rather than the stage. The Exciters, a
young black R&B quartet, were quite enthusiastic about doing the tour.
Their infectious single Tell Him had already been a huge hit that year in
the States (and later revived by The Big Chill in 1983), but it was becoming
quite popular in the United Kingdom as well. While the Beatles loved the
group, their fans would make life difcult for them. In Texas, the Exciters
would almost be crushed in their limos from the excitable throng. Even
worse, one day they went shopping only to nd when they returned to their

Hurricane of Love

97

hotel that they werent allowed to enter because they were black. They were
told they had to take the freight elevator to their rooms. As they boarded the
elevator, they encountered singer Pearl Bailey, only to discover that she, too,
was being subjected to the same humiliation. On August 26, in Red Rocks,
Denver, the Exciters encountered more vicious racism when they were
chased from the stage by Beatles fans booing and yelling, Niggers go
home! Determined not to cower to these thuggish threats, they stormed
back to give the performance of their lives. They sang with such passion
and determination that the crowd gave in. The group got a standing ovation.
The Exciters, a group of young black kids barely into their twenties, lived up
to their name, staring down racist adversity and performing two encores.
The tribulation at Red Rocks wasnt limited to the racism being
expressed. There had also been death threats. During the show, Brian
Epstein and George Martin had climbed up on a gantry overlooking the
stage, and they looked down at the Beatles during the performance to see
that the amphitheater was perched in such a way that you could have had
a sniper on the hill picking off any of the Beatles at any time. I was aware
of this, and so was Brian, and so were the boys, Martin explained.55 The
tour may have been greeted with a frenzied enthusiasm, but it also was
permeated with grim undercurrents. For example, celebrations turned
somber right at the start in San Francisco on August 19, when George
Harrison rejected the idea of riding in an open car. He had to remind organizers that Kennedy had been killed just one year earlier. It didnt matter.
Screaming girls became a liability in the wall-to-wall trafc and the motorcycles colliding. On stage, the band was consistently ducking love objects
and often not successfully. McCartney was clocked by a cigarette lighter in
one city. In another, a shoe ung at the stage banged Lennon. A Beatles button was also thrown at the group, catching Lennon, and cutting him.
Reporter Larry Kane, who was touring with the Beatles that summer, would
say, it wasnt a woundbut it was a wake-up call.56 Kane was a traditional news reporter, with no experience covering rock n roll, which
initially put him at odds with the upstarts from Liverpool. But maybe
because he was a good newsman, he asked more intelligent questions of
the group than the helplessly fawning queries of his colleagues. If other
reporters would ask about the bands favorite color, Kane would quiz the
group about their political beliefs or maybe their opinions on Vietnam.
Obviously they werent prepared to directly answer those questions, but
Kane immediately earned their respectespecially from the more caustic
John Lennon.
On August 22, in Vancouver, fans stormed Empire Stadium where the
police couldnt handle the mob and screaming kids were almost trampled.
The Vancouver police called it the worst night in their citys history, Kane
remembered. Once the gig started, the crowd went mad, they jumped out
of their seats, roared onto the pitchit was a football stadiumand headed

98

Artificial Paradise

straight for the stage. The police all had guns and armor and [it] looked like
there was going to be a riot.57 Nobody was prepared for the mayhem. It got
so bad that McCartney had to warn the audience partway through the
concert that theyd end the show if it didnt stop. Nothing helped. Broken
ribs, hysteria, and heat prostration ensued. When the group arrived in Los
Angeles the next day, they quickly got a taste of the Hollywood paparazzi
when they went to the Whiskey A-Go-Go with blond bombshell Jayne
Manseld. It was a total set-up by Jayne Manseld to have pictures taken
with us, Harrison recalled. John and I were on either side of her and she
had her hands on our legs, by our groinsat least she did on mine.58 When
they arrived inside, photographer Robert Flora continued taking pictures
after the rest of his colleagues had nished. After Flora was politely asked
to cease, he refused to listen and kept snapping away. In frustration, Harrison red his scotch at the persistent photographer, only to spray actress
Mamie Van Doren instead. Naturally, The Herald Examiner featured the
story with photos showing the quiet Beatle being anything but docile. With
the endless succession of concerts, the novelty of Beatlemania was wearing
off. Besides the cacophony of noise from the audience, the band couldnt
hear the music they were playing. The only peace the Beatles found was in
the very room they rst emerged from in Hamburg. The only place we ever
got any peace was when we got in the suite and locked ourselves in the bathroom, Harrison remarked. The bathroom was about the only place you
could have any peace.59
On August 28, 1964, while in New York, the group nally did nd some
peace, as well as a kindred spirit, when they learned to smoke pot with
Bob Dylan. The Beatles had rst become aware of Dylan while in Paris in
1964 when a radio interviewer gave McCartney a copy of The Freewheelin
Bob Dylan (1962). Although McCartney had heard some of Dylans folk
songs in Liverpool, Lennon was discovering him for the rst time. Dylan
had become aware of the Beatles the same way most of us had: the AM
radio. [W]hen we were driving through Colorado we had the radio on
and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs, Dylan told biographer
Anthony Scaduto. In Colorado! I Want to Hold Your Hand, all those
early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were
outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. You
could only do that with other musicians . . .I knew they were pointing the
direction of where music had to go.60 Dylan was essentially hearing his
own future, where his own music had to go, too, when he discovered the
Beatles. He rst began playing rock back in Hibbing, Minnesota, when he
was just a kid, before he opted to be a folk troubadour. But now he saw
himself comfortably moving from that role into becoming an electric artist
who played with a band. His desire to turn the Beatles on, though, came
from his misunderstanding of the lyrics to I Want to Hold Your Hand.
Apparently, he thought the line I cant hide was I get high.

Hurricane of Love

99

Although much is made of comparing Lennons songwriting style to


Dylans, especially in later songs like Im a Loser and Youve Got to
Hide Your Love Away, the comparison is mostly supercial. People heard
an acoustic guitar and a harmonica and assumed it was because of Dylan.
Later songs, like Norwegian Wood and Strawberry Fields Forever,
critic Devin McKinney in Magic Circles sees as cool and minimal next
to Dylans cascading imagery. The wordplay of Being for the Benet of
Mr. Kite or I Am the Walrus, for McKinney, owe far more to the British tradition of literary nonsense than to Dylans store of Beat-inuenced
archetypes.61 As they began smoking the grass Dylan offered, the Beatles
did begin to see their imagined Nowhere Land, the articial paradise that
lay beyond the material world they lived in. Within the next few years, their
songs would begin to trace the intricate geography of that imagined world of
the mind.
The band soon arrived in Atlantic City for a gig on August 30 at the
Convention Hall. When the Beatles press agent Derek Taylor brought Larry
Kane, and some other journalists, to their hotel room for interviews, some
women (who werent exactly the usual pubescent fans) passed by the scribes.
I think this was the rst time the Beatles were offered the service of prostitutes, Kane remarked.62 Sleeping with hookers was common coin in the
early days of Hamburg, but that was before the band was scrubbed of their
leather outts and put into their natty suits by Brian Epstein. Somehow it
didnt mesh with the image the band was projecting to the public in 1964.
There were about 20 of them in a line, Kane recalled. [They were all]
wearing revealing dresses and it was very much, Here they are, take your
pick. As was the case with the sexual activities of JFK, the press didnt
reveal to the public the details of what was going onas the media does ad
nauseam today. I didnt want to break their trust, Kane says defending
his decision not to publish these stories back then.63
There were race riots in Philadelphia in late August, a few days before the
Beatles performed on September 2. The band had to be given presidential
level security as they were driven to an underground garage at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It didnt help matters either that the week before
the Philadelphia show, the American psychic Jeanne Dixon predicted the
Beatles would be killed in a plane crash. Having forecast the death of JFK,
Dixons comments werent laughed off by the group. If you crash, you
crash, Harrison remarked drolly to Larry Kane. When your numbers
up, thats it.64 No doubt Harrison was giving due consideration to Buddy
Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, when he made those remarks.
Before the Beatles hit Florida on September 11, Hurricane Dora had
destroyed the location where the band would play in Jacksonville. Although
the worst of the storm had passed, the weather was still hazardous.
Despite the joyous stream of music owing from the stage, the concerts
never ceased presenting potential danger. While in Montreal, Canada, on

100

Artificial Paradise

September 8, Ringo had his life threatened by some anti-Semite who


assumed he was Jewish because of the length of his nose. It was the rst time
he had been surrounded by ofcers on stage protecting him from possible
gunre. Ringo was already riding his cymbals up high for protection, but
he still had to have an ofcer sitting beside him. I started to get hysterical
because I thought, If someone in the audience has a pop at me, what is this
guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?65 On September 12, in
Boston, stghts broke out in front of the Boston Garden that led to the
police pouring into the crowd and causing a minor riot. In Cleveland, during
a performance of All My Loving, jelly beans and heavy toys were being
heaved at the stage as girls began to swarm the stage and breaking a brass
railing separating them from the band. While the group continued to play,
the Deputy Inspector Carl Bare mounted the stage and attempted to halt
the show. The Beatles refused to stop, even mocking the ofcer who continued to try and bring the proceedings to a conclusion. Suddenly a rain of boos
started to ood the arena. When Bare got some help from another ofcer,
Iron Mike Blackwell, the show came to an end. Iron Mike apparently
found certain intimidating methods to get the band to follow him off the
stage. Their departure created in the crowd a deafening, angry roar before
windows started getting smashed as the fans tried to get backstage. Derek
Taylor came to the rescue by calming the crowd and promising an additional
20-minute concert if people calmed down. Fortunately, the crowd did and
the show went on.
The 1964 tour was often portrayed, and recalled, not altogether inaccurately as euphoric and ecstatic. But it also masked some uglier intimations
that would begin to tear away at the group in the following years. We were
bastards, Lennon would admit in 1970 when the Beatles were nally over.
Those things are left out, about what bastards we were. . .You have to be a
bastard to make it, and thats a fact. And the Beatles were the biggest
bastards on earth.66 They were also the biggest performing act going in
1964, which took audiences to the extremes of pure obsession. We were
the Caesars, Lennon declared. Whos going to knock us when theres a
million pounds to be made, all the hand-outs, the bribery, the police and
the hype?67 In the next few years, Lennon would nd out.

CHAPTER 4

You Wont See Me


What were the Beatles beginnings but an attempt to rewrite in
their own tongue the myths of a foreign land? America in
England: a mythos of America enlarged and invigorated by
foreigners love and hate and envy of America, their desire to
outdo the land of dreams itself, hurled back at its progenitor as
a whole new mythfull of the grip of the familiar, and the lure
of the strange.
Devin McKinney,
Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History
When the Beatles returned from their rst international tour, they were as
world-weary as they were becoming worldlier. As the fall and winter beckoned, so did the task of returning to the recording studio. With very little time
to rest, or absorb the full impact of their summer whirlwind, Lennon and
McCartney came up with a new single to answer any queries as to their state
of mind: I Feel Fine. Begun by Lennon in the studio in early October,
while recording a new song called Eight Days a Week, I Feel Fine bore
some relationship to the earlier Cant Buy Me Love, where true love wins
out over the desire for material goods. The singer here knows that his lover
is tempted by a man who offers her diamond rings, but hes also convinced
that her heart belongs only to him. The mood of I Feel Fine, though, is
far more resolute than in Cant Buy Me Love because Lennon expresses
no doubts about who the woman loves. Based on the melody of Bobby
Parkers minor R&B hit Watch Your Step, the feedback that opens the
song was purely accidental. When the Beatles nished recording one take,
Lennon leaned his semi-acoustic Gibson guitar against his amp. He had

102

Artificial Paradise

placed a pickup on the guitar so it could be amplied. Naturally, after setting


down the instrument, some feedback erupted from the tiny box. The buzz
saw tone that lled the studio so totally captivated the group that they asked
George Martin if they could open I Feel Fine with that sound. As for the song
itself, Lennon claims full credit for writing it. However, Harrison said that it
was much more of a collaborative effort. He remarked that I Feel Fine had
evolved much earlier while the group was crossing Scotland in a car. The band
was singing Carl Perkins Matchbox in three-part harmony, and their
efforts, ultimately, developed into I Feel Fine. While I Feel Fine is based
on basic blues changes, as was Cant Buy Me Love, the tone of the song is
more exhilarating than most blues tracks. Once again, the Beatles nd a radical
way to successfully invent a vivacious pop song based on blues structures,
which gives their sound a powerful and tougher bottom end.
Paul McCartney provided the B-side with Shes a Woman, a brisk ska
tune he wrote while walking the streets of St. Johns Wood on his way to
the studio. (He would nish it the same day.) As usual, with their singles,
McCartney appears to answer Lennons I Feel Fine with another song
about how love overcomes the desire for material possessions. Uncharacteristic of McCartney, though, he tries to match Lennon with some clever word
play. Unfortunately, in that department, hes no match for the cagey wit of
John. When McCartney says his lover never gives him presents, he follows
by sayingin desperationthat he knows that shes no peasant. Since the
band had now been happily introduced to grass, Shes a Woman has the
rstbut not the lastdeliberate drug reference in a Beatles song.
As McCartney sings she turns me on when I get lonely, many then likely
had thoughts of sex rather than weed. While the reference escaped radio
censors at that time, it did catch their ear when the phrase was borrowed
again for A Day in the Life in 1967. If I Feel Fine had its basis in Bobby
Parkers Watch Your Step, the Beatles were now starting to nd that their
inuence was being heard in other contemporary bands. For instance, its
hard to imagine the Sir Douglas Quintet coming up with their snappy 1966
hit Shes About a Mover without Shes a Woman. Shortly after the
release of I Feel Fine/Shes a Woman, in late November of 1964, the
Beatles were well at work on their new album.
Titled rather ironically Beatles for Sale, the cover photo showed the
group, in fall colors, looking spent from sheer exhaustion. Unlike the
exuberant adolescents that appeared to jump out off the cover of Please
Please Me, the band was now wearily offering itself up for public consumption. They looked beaten. Critic Steve Turner had aptly called the record the
ip side of Beatlemaniathe exhaustion, bewilderment and loneliness of
life at the top.1 There had only been two months and eight days between
making A Hard Days Night, recording the soundtrack album, and beginning the June session that started Beatles for Sale. The Beatles discovered
that they were now living up to the title of their debut lm. Between two

You Wont See Me

103

albums, the Beatles had toured Down Under, spent two nights in Hong
Kong, and did concerts in Denmark and Sweden (not including their various
radio appearances in England). The Beatles were so exhausted that they
started to consider further reducing the half-hour length of their concerts.
Once they completed composing all new songs for A Hard Days Night,
Lennon and McCartney came up with smaller ambitions for their next
album. There were only eight original songs on Beatles for Sale, but some
of them dated back to their teenage years. Ill Follow the Sun came from
the Quarry Men days. Some of the covers, like Rock and Roll Music and
Mr. Moonlight, were part of their stage act in Hamburg and the Cavern
Club. Critic Walter Everett thought that their diminishing output, especially
after the solid original work on A Hard Days Night, reected the tedium of
touring. Beatles For Sale is often found wanting, as if the tired expression
on the faces on the cover, explained by the quartets grueling schedule,
portrays the groups exhausted inability to compose, Everett explained.2
Besides the lack of original material, Everett also found that the group
harmonies had been altered considerably from the youthful buoyancy of
their early records. The melodramatic time-defying caesuras that conclude
She Loves You and It Wont Be Long are not heard again until Lennons
backward looking In My Life (1965), Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968),
and, for that matter, (Just Like) Starting Over (1980). Its almost as if the
waxing and waning of the initial burst of Beatlemania itself, spreading over
the world from October 1963 through to the opening of A Hard Days Night,
is simultaneously reected in the groups most central musical structures and
its most vital means of expression. 3 While this did affect the output of
Lennon and McCartneys writing, the exhaustion they felt also brought a
whole new depth to their performances. Rather than continue to ride on the
euphoric bubble of I Want to Hold Your Hand, their songs now seemed
to be about what happened after you embraced that hand.
Beginning with the beautifully mournful acoustic ballad No Reply, John
Lennon takes the Rays 1957 hit Silhouettes and creates a completely
different scenario. Silhouettes is about a guy who discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him. He sees her with her new lover through the silhouettes in her window. Lennons composition, though, is much more
suggestive. For one thing, he leaves much to our imagination, as if we can
imagine full well what the painful outcome will beafter all, weve all heard
Silhouettes. But Silhouettes confronts the romantic conict so explicitly
that theres no mystery to the song, no room for our own emotional participation in the broken heart of the matter. The Rays (and also Hermans Hermits 1965 cover) play safely within the connes of the cheating love song,
where the conict gets so carefully laid out that it lacks nuance. By contrast,
in No Reply, Lennon has the guy slowly growing distrustful. First, the girl
wont answer her door. Her folks deny that it was even her that he saw. But
the singer catches her peeping through the windowand he knows that she

104

Artificial Paradise

saw him peering at her. When he tries to telephone her, her folks reply that
shes not home. But he knows theyre lying. He saw her earlier in the evening
enter the house with another man, which nally conrms the singers suspicions. As Lennon sings, with trustful reection, No Reply builds slowly
into an anguished expression of rejection. By gradually uncovering the tale,
hes able to slowly deliver the full weight of what that nal revelation does
to him emotionally. No Reply ends with an ultimate reply of loss. That
same year, Paul McCartney wrote his own variation on No Reply, called
From a Window, for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, but nobody lost
any sleep from the revelations in that tune.
The country ballad, Im a Loser, further examines Lennons struggles
with his sense of identity, a conict that would nd a whole new urgency
in the years to come. Written in a highly confessional style that, according
to Steve Turner, was attributed partly to a discussion Lennon had with journalist Kenneth Allsop. Allsop was a correspondent with the Daily Mail and
an interviewer on the BBC for their news magazine show, Tonight. When
they met in March 1964, Lennon was being interviewed about his recent
book, In His Own Write. Allsop had encouraged Lennon to move away
from the impersonal romantic pop songs like She Loves You into experiences that revealed more about himself. Lennon obviously took it to heart
considering many of the songs hed write following that interview.4 I think
its the best thing Ive done, Lennon told Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner
about Im a Loser in 1970. I think its realistic and its true to me.5
Being true, of course, meant that Lennon was moving away from thirdperson material (a style of song McCartney preferred), which would soon
create conict between the partners. This rst-person music would nd its
fullest, and least satisfying, expression in his solo years.
Im a Loser can actually be heard as a more candid version of Misery,
though it often gets compared to the work of Bob Dylan. Its a specious
comparison. For one thing, Dylan is far more elliptical, often abstract, in
his work. (His confessional 1974 masterpiece, Blood On the Tracks, dealing
with the aftermath of his failed marriage, might be the one exception.) Im
a Loser has more of the naked self-reection of Smokey Robinson. Robinson, in fact, may himself have been inuenced by Im a Loser, when he
wrote The Tracks of My Tears a year later. The comparisons to Dylan
are made largely because of Lennons use of an acoustic guitar and harmonica. Where I hear Dylans inuence most is in songs like Norwegian
Wood (This Bird Has Flown) on Rubber Soul. Dylan obviously did, too.
On Blonde on Blonde (1966), Dylan answered Lennons own poetic account
about adultery with Fourth Time Around. Borrowing the melody of
Norwegian Wood, and trafcking in more poetic abstraction, Dylan tells
a similar tale of transient love. However, the songs concluding line, I never
asked for your crutch/Now dont ask for mine, might well have been
intended for Lennon as the girl in question.

You Wont See Me

105

Babys in Black continues the albums themes of regret and loss.


Composed collaboratively by Lennon and McCartney in their hotel while
on tour, Babys in Black is another country tune, performed in the cadences of a sea shanty. Its about a guy who loves a girl who doesnt love him.
But since she loves someone who doesnt love her, she therefore dresses in
black. Although the track overworks some cliche rhymes, rare for a Beatles
song, Babys in Black has the shadings of a darker, bluesier Everly Brothers number. A cover of Chuck Berrys 1957 hit Rock and Roll Music
quickly picks up the mood of the record. The tune, which Berry performed
with a pioneers joy at being one of the progenitors of this bold new music,
is given a more dramatic reading by Lennon. Rock and Roll Music had
been in the Beatles repertoire since Hamburg and its Lennons cry of freedom. Since hes not one of rocks pioneers, but instead, one of its most rabid
inheritors, Lennon performs it like a dog violently clutching a bone, savoring
and protecting it, and not relinquishing ownership to anyone. When he
states that he wont dance with anyone, unless its rock n roll music, his
passion becomes his triumph.
Ill Follow the Sun, written by McCartney in 1959 at Forthlin Road
after a bout of the u, has been transformed from its rockabilly roots to a
charming, straightforward folk song. It stands in strong contrast with
Lennons Im a Loser, once again illustrating the essential conict in this
songwriting duo, a conict that would ultimately tear them apart. In Im
a Loser, Lennons hopes grow out of personal desperation, while Pauls,
in Ill Follow the Sun, come from his attempts to transcend lifes tragedies.
If McCartney just moves on, following the sun, so to speak, Lennon has to
take stock of the tears he feels are falling like rain from the sky.
Mr. Moonlight is a holdover from Hamburg, originally the B-side of
Dr. Feelgood and the Interns 1962 R&B hit, Doctor Feel-Good. Complete
with an overdramatic kitsch arrangement, including African drums and a
Hammond organ solo (right out of a sixties afternoon TV soap opera),
Lennon feigns passion much the way McCartney did in Besame Mucho.
No other Beatles song featured such a comical surrender to cheap melodrama. (Its as if John Lennon had suddenly, before our ears, been transformed into Johnny Ray.) Yet the Beatles version, as weirdly over baked as
it is, does not play down to its corny overstatements. [U]nlike Elvis, [the
Beatles] dont condescend to songs they know are beneath them, critic Devin
McKinney said in discussing the Beatles version of Besame Mucho.
Instead they drive. . .at top speed until it crashes into a real wall, into genuine things like power and release, and bellow joyfully as it explodes.6 Its as
if, on Mr. Moonlight, the Beatles wish to feel the exhilaration of plunging
deep into the very heart of pure ham.
Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey, which combines Leiber and Stollers
Kansas City with Little Richards Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, has its own
kind of exhilaration. And McCartney performs it with supreme condence.

106

Artificial Paradise

One of the Beatles best covers, again dating back to Hamburg, it demonstrates both Pauls love of the romantic drama of fties rock (something
hed revel in again on Oh! Darling heard on Abbey Road) and the bands
unadulterated love of vocal harmonies. By the time, Paul is singing goodbye
to his girl, before quickly dashing off into the night, Lennon and Harrison
back him up with cocky smiles in their voices, as if theyre driving his
getaway car. Eight Days a Week might be one of the most pleasurable
Beatles song they ever performed. Written by both Lennon and McCartney,
and originally considered as a single until Lennon composed I Feel Fine,
Eight Days a Week is powerhouse pop and it builds soundly on the promise rst heard on Theres a Place. From the opening notes, fading in at the
start, Lennon easily convinces you that his love has the power to extend the
calendar beyond the expected seven days. He does it, too, in a voice that
demands that those deeply expressed sentiments be shared and requited.
The idea for the song rst came to McCartney when he was taking his limo
to Lennons home to work on some new pieces. When Paul asked his driver
how hed been, the driver replied, somewhat reminiscent of Ringos malapropisms, Oh, working hard, working eight days a week. When McCartney got to Lennons door, he immediately told him hed already acquired the
title. At which point, they got to work ring off lyrics which played off the
idea of eight days a week. Surprisingly, Lennon would dismiss the song in
later interviews, even though it would be one of their most joyous tunes.
While it was only an album track in the United Kingdom, it would be
released in North America as a single and go to #1. Eight Days a Week
was also briey considered as the title song for Help! Riding on its luminous
melody, Eight Days a Week epitomized that, exhausted as the Beatles
might be, their dedication to the pleasure principle was wide awake.
Words of Love is their only ofcially released cover of a Buddy Holly
song. While Holly is the sole voice on his version, performing it as if he were
reciting a private love letter to the girl of his dreams, Lennon and McCartney
wish to share those amorous feelings for this woman. Harrisons neatly
picked, chiming guitar notes, which (especially in this song) would inspire
the playing of Roger McGuinn in the Byrds cover of Dylans Mr. Tambourine Man, savor the melody, as Lennon and McCartney settle into a softly
yearning groove. Honey Dont, the B-side of the 1956 Blue Suede
Shoes, is another cover of a Carl Perkins song. Originally sung by John
in Hamburg (and on their BBC appearances), here its taken on by Ringo,
just as he did with Matchbox. Ringo might have been outmatched on
Matchbox, but here on Honey Dont, his hangdog character blooms,
giving his performance his customary aw, shucks, who me? feature. The
song, about a guy who loves a woman no matter how much she drives him
nuts, is perfectly suited to Ringos quirky befuddlement. When Lennon sang
it, he merely sounded miffed at this annoying woman. Ringo has a sheepish
quality, a guy totally enthralled with the girl, even as shes exasperating him.

You Wont See Me

107

When he calls out for Harrisons solos, hes like the under-matched guy
trying to convince the girl that he has some pretty cool friends. Every Little
Thing might rival Eight Days a Week as one of the Beatles most stirring
love songs about unconditional devotion. While McCartney wrote it for
Jane Asher, Lennon rightfully sings the song with that sharp grain in his
voice. Although Lennon had always hated his voice, begging George Martin
to alter it anyway he could, the purity in his singing in Every Little Thing
lets you know what it would cost him to lose someone this important.
I Dont Want to Spoil the Party is a moody country song written by
Lennon in his hotel during the 1964 world tour. The track mirrors the disenchantment revealed in Im a Loser, plus the grind of the endless parties
brought on by the wave of Beatlemania that year. Its possible he wrote it
while the rest of the band were having a blast attending a gathering at Burt
Lancasters house in Los Angeles. What Youre Doing is one of McCartneys most dramaticyet unacknowledgedlove songs. Written while in
Atlantic City, also during the 1964 tour, theres a certain despondency in
this track thats more characteristic of Lennon. Since the number deals with
the frustration of not having your love requited, McCartneys optimistic
demeanor still shines through. What Youre Doing opens with one of
Ringos many memorable and well-dened drum patterns. He alternates,
on the downbeat, a declarative thump from the bass drum with an enthusiastic roll on the snare, just before Harrison introduces the melody. The effect
brings together both the frustration in the singers pleas and his equal desire
for resolution. The album concludes with Carl Perkins Everybodys Trying
to Be My Baby, which could have been tailor-made for Harrisons bashful
charm. But he must have left the charm at home that day. Harrison sings
as if hes just been handed the song to play on the spot. Although his singing
lacks personality, his guitar work has plenty to spare. Since Carl Perkins was
his hero, Harrison is caught between the awkwardness of hero worship and
eagerly paying tribute. During the sessions for Beatles for Sale, the band
recorded a punchy version of Little Willie Johns Leave My Kitten Alone,
which probably would have made for a better album closer than Everybodys Trying to Be My Baby. Harrison would return to this song many
times later in his career, often with better results, when he became a peer
to his own mentor.
If Beatles for Sale, which went on sale before Christmas in 1964, illustrated some of the exhaustion of the past year, it also showed that, under
the circumstances, the Beatles could be endlessly resourceful. Knowing their
musical roots intimately, Beatles for Sale was essentially a roots album. They
introduced the cover songs as maps of their own work, along with original
compositions that showed us what theyd gained from their predecessors.
The record was a cornucopia of inuences, a huge divergent marketplace
with priceless and awed gems available for the asking. Just because the
record was called Beatles for Sale, didnt mean that the Beatles were selling

108

Artificial Paradise

out. In the upcoming months, their schedule would be no less taxing. The
frenzied adoration of Beatlemania had begun to reveal a discordant texture
in their music. Their songs, which began as an open invitationfrom
me to youwere now about considering the consequences of that invitation.
If the pleasures found in their new music were becoming more substantial,
with shadings and depth, the band was simultaneously being stripped of its
innocence. The Beatles had reached the zenith of popular acclaim because
of the startling immediacy of that innocence. But from their newly acquired
peak, the view from the top wasnt the paradise they had originally
imagined.
In early February 1965, before heading off to the Bahamas with Richard
Lester to lm their next feature, the Beatles began the New Year with a
radical new single. Ticket to Ride, which was released in April, was their
rst heavy-metal song. Not to be confused with the dark brooding musical
colors of future metal groups, this tune provided a heavy beat that was
decorated with happily ringing guitar arpeggios. Composed and sung by
Lennon, Ticket to Ride was initially mistaken as a reference to a British
Railways ticket to the town of Ryde, but its actually about a girl who is
taking a ticket out of her life with the singer. If the promise of love and affection, with its implications, were resoundingly afrmed on From Me to
You and All My Loving, Ticket to Ride illustrated that unconditional
love was just the start. In the composition, the singer knows hes sad that his
lover has left him, but he also knows that shes leaving because his whole
lifestyle is bringing her down. The promises hes made have become promises he cant keep. His appeals, ultimately, have become more desperate
even as vindictive as in You Cant Do Thatwhen he demands that she
simply do right by him. He has nothing to offer her but the aching sound
of his voice. In Ticket to Ride, John gives voice to self-pitying romantic
disappointment, wrote biographer Bob Spitz in The Beatles. [Hes]
stripped of all adolescent pretensions and reduced to the bitter aftertaste that
clings to rejection.7 By the end, Lennon is left lamenting in a high falsetto,
like a schoolboy taunting another, that my baby dont care. But the
refrain is performed with such lively abandon you barely notice that the
singer has been dumped.
On Yes it Is, the B-side to Ticket to Ride, Lennon makes sure you
know that hes been abandoned. In one of his most haunting performances,
Lennon revisits the melody of This Boy, only this time the boy has lost
any hope of getting his loved one back. In Yes it Is, you feel the weight
of her absence, just as James Stewart did with Kim Novak in Vertigo
(1958), where hes overwhelmingly obsessed by her loss. But where Stewarts xation drove him to remake his current lover in the image of the
woman he believed hed lost, Lennon wants no evidence reminding him of
her. He wants his present lover deprived of the colors that suggest her

You Wont See Me

109

memoryespecially the color red. The effect is eerily gothic. Yes it Is is


positively 19th Century in its haunted feverishness, its Poe-like invocation
of the color scarlet, and its hint that the lost lover of its lyric is dead, wrote
critic Ian MacDonald of Yes it Is. The fantasy gure conjured here is
probably a transmutation of Lennons dead, red-haired mother, Julia. 8
Lennons ties to his tragic past, the ghosts he once believed rock n roll
might nally exorcise, have instead become the bedrock of his strongest
work. As he desperately tries to shake off the power that this lost woman
has over him, Harrisons whining guitar, affected by a newly purchased
volume pedal, provides the tears that Lennon himself cant shed.
Once Ringo got married to hairdresser Maureen Cox in early February,
the group began work on their new lm that was being prepared for an
August release. While Richard Lester was back at the helm, hoping to recapture some of the fun and magic of A Hard Days Night, their second movie,
Help! ended up needing it. Besides operating from a more labored script, the
Beatles were so wasted on grass that it made them a pretty giggly lot to
direct. We couldnt have shot a lm about what the Beatles got up to at
night, as it would have been X-rated, Lester recalled in 2007 after remastering the picture for DVD release.9 They had obtained the grass through
their friend, actor Brandon De Wilde, who played the fraudulently virtuous
lads in both Shane (1953) and Hud (1963). While the group was ying to
the islands, De Wilde offered them a bag and they all smoked together on
the plane. To not attract attention, Mal Evans had to consistently smoke
cigars to disguise the smell.
Unlike the plot for A Hard Days Night, which was a celebration of the
Beatles success, in Help! they were young men now basking in their
middle-class suburban bungalow. As in A Hard Days Night, Help! shows
the group still being obsessively pursued. Only the people chasing them here
are not the excitable crowds from A Hard Days Night, but instead an
Eastern religious cult. After a sacricial ring was given to Ringo by a fan,
the cult goes on the hunt to retrieve iteven if it means killing the kindly
drummer. The movie, which ironically started the Beatles interest in India,
also became a precursor to the death threats ahead in 1966. In Help! the
Beatles are stalked by those who wish to do them harm, rather than the
adoring fans of A Hard Days Night. All through the lm, the group is
subjected to a different kind of idol worship. The Beatles get electrocuted,
shrunk, strapped to operating tables, blowtorched, and shot at by tanks.
They become the target of everyones animus, and spend the movie trying
to survive, wrote critic Devin McKinney on Help!10
Help! begins with the cult about to perform a sacrice on a young
woman only to discover that the ring is missingand that Ringo possesses
it. When the opening credits suddenly begin, in black and white, with the
band playing Help! were thrown back to the pristine glorious image of
them on stage during their television special in A Hard Days Night. But

110

Artificial Paradise

along with their familiar smiles, we can see that they have grown a little
heavier, and not quite as weightless on their feet. As the song propels us
along, the shock of a colored dart hitting Ringo in the eye jolts us out of
our basking in the Beatles glory. Within moments, as the credits continue
to roll, we realize that were watching the cult viewing the same movie footage of the Beatles performing as we are. Instead of enjoying what they see,
though, they perceive corruption and indulgence. If Beatles fans affectionately threw jelly babies on the stage, the cults offering is darts to pierce the
singers on the screen. Obviously intended by Lester as a clever sight gag,
the opening scene begins to unravel how the Beatles, who began as objects
of love, were now quickly being turned into targets of hate.
The original script, by American writer Marc Behm, had even more lethal
implications. In that story, Ringo unwittingly signs a death warrant and gets
hunted down by a serial killer played by Peter Sellers. When it was discovered that Italian director Phillipe de Broca (King of Hearts) was lming Up
to His Ears (1965), which featured Jean-Paul Belmondo as a wealthy young
man who decides to hire a hit man to kill him before suddenly changing his
mind, Behm altered his story. The nal script, then called The Indian
Giver, was rewritten by Charles Wood to suit a more British vernacular.
Help! is essentially a comic-strip James Bond pastiche, an endless chase, with
little personality, and plenty of slapstick satire. Help! was a strait-jacket of
a lm for the Beatles, said Victor Spinetti, who played the TV special
producer in A Hard Days Night, and now portrayed the mad scientist out
to cut Ringos nger off and possess the ring. A Hard Days Night was basically the truth about them coming to London. In Help!, they had to act out
parts and werent really happy about it.11 Help! is nothing but spare parts
from other popular action genres. Even lm composer Ken Thorne, as part
of his dramatic score, wove together a musical tapestry of Beatles songs
from A Hard Days Night, a touch of John Barrys Bond theme, then added
tiny sprinklings of Wagner, Beethovens Ode to Joy, and some Indian sitar
music. The India connection, however, became the most signicant aspect of
Help! During the early portion of the lming in February, on his birthday,
George Harrison met Swami Vishnu Devananda, a hatha yoga exponent.
Devananda was from Montreal, but his ashram was located in Rishikesh,
where the Beatles would eventually meet with Maharishi Yogi. Devananda
gave Harrison his book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, his guide
to yogic exercises and Hindu religion, which hed written in 1960. This
introduction to yoga coming as Harrison grew more tired of the material
world would begin Harrisons sojourn to Eastern thought. From that new
perspective, he grew to believe that the truth could nally be found when
one could surmount the personal ego.
The title track, Help! became the Beatles next single in late July. Written by Lennon, with some assistance from McCartney, it was described by
John shortly before his murder in 1980 as a personal cry for help. In the

You Wont See Me

111

song, Lennon portrayed himself in what he called his fat Elvis period, a
star whos bloated by his own fame. The whole Beatle thing was just
beyond comprehension, Lennon recalled in one of his last interviews.
I was eating and drinking like a pig, and I was fat as a pig, dissatised with
myself, and subconsciously I was crying for help.12 Only in 1965, Elvis had
yet to enter his own fat period. In 1980, Lennon used the hindsight of
Elviss death to give his song a meaning he may not have intended at the
time. Of course, Lennon was eating and drinking and getting high, but
whether or not he wrote the song to specically address his unsettled state
of mind is uncertain. What is certain is that John Lennon generally was starting to feel dissatisfaction with the life of being a Beatle. Lennon biographer
and culture critic Albert Goldman believed that Help! accurately reected
the authors frame of mind. [Lennon] had lost his way, lost his pride, lost
his satisfaction, and, above all, lost his soul, Goldman wrote. Hence, it
wasnt just his looks but his whole condition that was reminiscent of the
fallen Elvis. Like his old hero, John Lennon was a once-brilliant, rebellious,
virile young rocker whom success had puffed up into a fat clown.13 Goldmans tone here, more churlish than it requires, is itself a little bloated.
If you just listen to the song, you dont hear a fat clown or the gurgling,
bloated Elvis of My Way. Help! isnt a compromise, critic Dave
Marsh writes. [I]ts bursting with a vitality that Lennons less mediated
solo albums never achieve. And John certainly doesnt sound like hes trying
to spit the bit; he sounds triumphant, because hes found a group of kindred
spirits who are offering the very spiritual assistance and emotional support
for which hes begging.14 As urgently as Lennon cries out for help, you
never get the impression that the man is totally doomed to be fat Elvis.
As Marsh rightly states, the Beatles are there to back him up vocally, picking
up his cries, indeed reminding him that help is on the way. Harrison even
gets downright playful, mickey-mousing Lennons cries on his guitar. By
performing descending notes, as Lennon shouts for assistance, Harrison
parodies the sinister dah-dah-dah-dah cliche s that often underscore
suspense scenes in a movie.
As usual, McCartney answered his partner on the B-side, with his own
mock cry of help. Im Down is a good-natured ribbed response to John.
McCartney may be crying that hes down, but his song kicks down doors
with such a savage power that you know McCartney wont be on his back
for long. Im Down provides ample proof that the Beatles could rock as
hard as anyone. With a vocal thats part Little Richard from Long Tall
Sally, Larry Williams She Said Yeah, and a frenzied arrangement out
of Jerry Lee Lewiss Breathless, McCartney madly wails in his hilarious
tale about a guy who is indignant about being dumped. Yet as much fun as
McCartney has unloading his misery, a rooster crowing his claim to be king
of the pen, the bands performance cuts so deep you can feel the blood on the
tracks. [T]he tension of the performance increases so brutally it seems the

112

Artificial Paradise

group will get out of it only by exploding, Greil Marcus wrote of the
impact of the song. [Y]ou can almost feel Georges ngers cutting into the
strings, his playing is so hard.15 During their 1965 and 1966 tours, this
intensely entertaining barn burner would close down the house.
When the soundtrack to Help! was released in early August, the album
was lled with both songs from the movie and some additional studio tracks
to help ll out the album. In North America, Capitol continued to rearrange
their own versions of Beatles singles and albums. Help! had the songs used
in the movie, plus some of Ken Thornes orchestral soundtrack selections.
The ofcial British version would spend 11 weeks at #1. The album opens
with the title song followed by McCartneys impressive The Night Before.
The Night Before would be another of his unsung great tracks. Although
it was composed independent of the picture, Lester wanted to use it once
he heard the demo. He placed it in the scene where the Beatles are seen performing it in a eld with military maneuvers going on around them. The
Night Before is a song of regret for a lost love. But where Lennon wishes
to rid himself of memories of loss, as he did in Yes it Is, McCartney wants
to hold on to the happy thoughts of the night before, even if it means hes
being abandoned. Youve Got to Hide Your Love Away is a touching
ballad where Lennon laments the agony of facing the world after youve
been rejected by your loverand everybody knows it. Essentially a simple
song, Youve Got to Hide Your Love Away serves as an appealing
warm-up for Norwegian Wood. Its also the rst number where someone
outside of the Beatles immediate core group plays on the track. Johnnie
Scott, who doubles on tenor and alto ute, plays the beautifully mournful
wind solo at the end of the song. Some assumed that Youve Got to Hide
Your Love Away was about Brian Epsteins closeted homosexuality
(in the Anthology documentary, an outtake of the track is played during
the sequence when Brian Epstein dies). But its really a song about losing
your pride after youve been dumped, and then left feeling the shame of
abandonment. Lennon here pulls down his mask and reveals sides of his
personality that he usually feels less comfortable revealing. There were
the moments when I actually saw him without the facade, the armor,
McCartney recalled about his late writing partner. But it was wonderful
when he let the visor down and youd see the John Lennon that he was
frightened to reveal to the world. 16 Youve Got to Hide Your Love
Away is a small sample of where Lennon lets his visor down.
George Harrison wrote I Need You for his girlfriend Pattie Boyd. His
rst composition since Dont Bother Me, on With The Beatles, I Need
You sheds the dour hermetic spirit unveiled on that song. Harrison hints
here at some deeper more companionable desires that hed plumb later in
the superior Something on Abbey Road. Another Girl is a nice piece
of country swing by McCartney, written during a holiday in Tunisia at
Sebastians Villa in the coastal resort of Hammanet. He composed the song

You Wont See Me

113

the day after he came back from his holiday. While McCartney considered it
a throwaway for the albumand the movieit could also be read as part of
the frustration that was now developing in his relationship with Jane Asher.
While McCartney was expecting her to be a more traditional domestic
woman, Asher was an aspiring actress who loved touring with the Old Vic.
She was also very protective of her privacy, where McCartney, culturally
deprived as a boy, was consistently hungry for a social scene. Therefore,
given these thoughts of another girl, especially the kind the Beatles were
likely to meet on the road, it may not be simply innocuous ller. Youre
Going to Lose That Girl is a terric rewrite of She Loves You, begun
by Lennon, but completed by McCartney at Johns house in Weybridge.
As they did in earlier tunes like She Loves You, It Wont Be Long, as
well as All My Loving, their voices jump out of the mix before the band
begins to play. In many of their rst songs, the Beatles have their voices with
their stated desires connect with us immediately and directly before their
instruments do.
The remaining songs on Help! were absent in the movie, but recorded to
ll out the album. Act Naturally is a likeable Buck Owens country number from 1960, thatsnaturallyabout the movies. Given Ringos genial
appeal as an actor in both of their lms, and his love of country music, made
this one a natural for him to sing. It gently mocks the Beatles movie career,
but the song also has a practical reason for being included. Another Lennon/
McCartney original was written for Ringo to sing called If You Got Trouble, but it turned out to be nothing but trouble. Burdened by clunky lyrics
and the least imaginative backbeat since Pete Best held a pair of drumsticks,
If You Got Trouble was so monotonous that when Harrison takes his
guitar solo, Ringo yells out desperately, oh, rock on, ANYBODY! Its a
disaster (featured on Anthology 2). Lennon considers Its Only Love to
be something of a disaster as well, but if it is its a minor one. Steve Turner
complains that the song trafcs in platitudes rather than real feeling,17
but Im not so sure that his observation captures the appealing slightness of
the material. If anything, Its Only Love is nothing more than an amiable
pop standard. It could even be heard as a tribute to Buddy Holly, a variation
on his triing, but catchy Everyday. While the song may be nothing
signicant, Lennons vocal has embracing warmth. The nimble vibrato on
Harrisons lead guitar also gives Its Only Love a pining characteristic.
Harrisons own You Like Me Too Much, on the other hand, has no
character at all. Composed for the movie, the track was rejected and not
surprisingly so. George tries to do the kind of boastful love song Lennon
can usually do in his sleep, only Harrison comes across as if he is asleep.
The girl cant leave him because she likes him too much, but Harrison is
vividly uneasy boasting the girls affections. When he makes aggressive
claims to follow her if she leaves him, he sounds so sheepish you think hed
get lost trying. Besides the tasty Chet Atkins tribute in Harrisons guitar solo,

114

Artificial Paradise

that nimbly duels with George Martins honky-tonk piano, You Like Me
Too Much leaves not much to like. Tell Me What You See is a surprisingly basic number from McCartney, saved by the spry Latin rhythm in
Ringos percussion and the punch in McCartneys funky electric piano
breaks. Ive Just Seen a Face is a lovely piece of bluegrass music about falling head over heels that unfortunately gets buried on the Help! album.
It nds a more appealing and visible presence opening the North American
version of Rubber Soul, but in doing so, it alters the intent of that album.
Its inclusion makes it seem like were about to experience a folk album.
(The shrewd R&B of Drive My Car more accurately set the tone for
Rubber Soul on the ofcial U.K. release.) Since Ive Just Seen a Face was
written after they nished lming Help! it didnt nd a way into the movie.
If Ive Just Seen a Face barely touched the publics consciousness, Yesterday became one of McCartneys best-knownand most covered
serenades. It also has rightly earned its legendary status. Yesterday had
been in gestation for some time. McCartney rst conceived it a couple of
years before he actually came to record it. One morning, upon waking in
his attic bedroom at the Ashers home, he possessed a tune he couldnt get
out of his head. He immediately sat at the piano by his bed, played it, and
somehow felt that the song couldnt be his. Woody Guthrie once stated that
he didnt compose his songs, he just pulled them out of the air. In this
moment, McCartney had also found himself tapping into forces outside of
his control, but he wasnt sure what they were, only that he thought his
new tune already existed and that he was bringing about its realization.
During the time they were shooting Help! McCartney came up with a
dummy title for it, Scrambled Eggs, and even some dumb lyrics
(Scrambled eggs/Oh baby, I love your legs). But it wouldnt take full form
until he was on holiday in Portugal, in early 1965, at the villa of Shadows
guitarist Bruce Welch. Borrowing Welchs guitar, while Welch was packing
to leave the villa, McCartney just started strumming the song, as if it were
playing him. On his way home from the airport at Lisbon, the lyrics he
needed had nally emerged. Two days later, McCartney was in the studio
recording Yesterdaymere hours after ripping through his recording of
Im Down.
Like his partners later Strawberry Fields Forever, the song was elliptically tied to those areas of grief and pain that the Beatles, and their dreams
of Nowhere Land, meant to absolve. If Lennons Julia in 1968 would be
an explicit expression of the unbearable loss he felt for his dead mother,
McCartney implicitly linked his song to the death of his own. This mournful
ballad, which attempts to take the singer back to a time when his life felt less
complicated, is actually McCartneys own version of Help! Both songs, in
ways distinct to each composer, set out to x places in the past to resolve
confusions in the present. But unlike Lennon who seizes directly on the
desperation of his condition, McCartney becomes almost philosophical

You Wont See Me

115

about his loss. He believes that his salvation lies in the past, where Lennon
seeks to break from his painful history. McCartney believes in yesterday;
Lennon chooses to abandon it. The song cuts clearly to the core of McCartneys sensibility. For Paul, tragedy becomes bearable because it can always
be transcended. Yesterday plainly expresses a mans need to get back, to
retreat, to nd his way to the simple comforts of home. Only then, can he
nd the means to head condently into the future. McCartney thought he
had heard Yesterday before he even wrote it because hed been living with
it all his life.
Although its likely that being in the Beatles made it possible to compose
Yesterday, it became the rst Beatles song that didnt feature the ensemble. When McCartney rst performed it for the band, Ringo tried to play
along but it didnt t the group dynamic. George Martin then suggested trying a string arrangement, but McCartney balked. He assumed his song
would turn into something conceived by Mantovani. Martin told him that
a string quartet might give Yesterday the classical feel of a chamber work.
Since McCartney had been opening up to classical music since living with
the Ashers, he eventually agreed. Both Martin and McCartney collaborated
on the arrangement with Paul specically developing the cello line. Its a
beautifully balanced performance with the strings softly answering McCartneys plaintive tale. For a short time, there was consideration to make this a
McCartney solo track, rather than a Beatles record. But Brian Epstein who
didnt wish to set a precedent that would open the door to other solo ventures within the band vetoed the idea. Yesterday was released as a single
in the United States in September 1965, where it sold over one million copies
in 10 days. The tune hit #1 twelve days after its release, a chart position it
didnt relinquish for four more weeks. Perhaps inspired by the success of
Yesterday, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards took their own song, the similar As Tears Go By, which was a hit for Marianne Faithfull in the fall of
1964, and got the Rolling Stones to record it. As Tears Go By, with its
own string backing, would be a Top 10 hit by Christmas 1965.
Since the Beatles needed another song for the album, the group went back
into its bag of covers. Dizzy Miss Lizzy is another Larry Williams rocker
featuring a full-throated Lennon performance. Although you can hear their
continued passion for fties rock music in their performance, you can also
hear that they are trying to move past it. Lennons screams are sounding
too practiced, as if he knows that theyre expected of him. They no longer
have the ability to spark reaction in Dizzy Miss Lizzy as they once did in
Twist and Shout. They also recorded, with even less success, Williams
Bad Boy, a minor hit about a kid who wont behave because he wants to
rock n roll. No doubt Lennon identied with the role (he sings with a wink
in his voice), but the song is so polished the band barely breaks a sweat. EMI
also treated it as a throwaway. It would rst premiere on the North American release of Beatles VI, then appear on the U.K. release, A Collection of

116

Artificial Paradise

Beatles Oldies (But Goldies), a greatest hits collection put out in 1966,
while the world was waiting for the stunning arrival of Penny Lane and
Strawberry Fields Forever.
The lm Help! premiered in London on July 29, 1965, and it would be
their last lm with Richard Lester. They did have a third lm contracted,
based on a book by Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate), with a
screenplay by Joe Orton. But when Orton died, with his body discovered
rather ironically by Lesters driver, the lm never came to pass. As the
Beatles headed back out on the road, the anticipatory spirit they had invoked
during those early concerts in 1964 were now becoming a common routine
where they began turning into human jukeboxes. The working relationship
between Lennon and McCartney had also begun to change as well. A competitive tension was starting to replace the creative one that had shaped their
early compositions. A tug of war soon started as both men sought to establish authority over the group and the direction it would take. But, for now,
what held the Beatles together was the dynamic relationship between the
band and its audience. Playing in front of a live crowd, despite its hazards,
kept the groups identity intact. As long as they stayed on the road, the inner
tensions of each group member was sublimated into the greater good of the
band and its music.
On August 15, 1965, the Beatles performed a landmark show at Shea
Stadium in New York, a concert that was dened as the last great gig in
waning years of Beatlemania. Sid Bernstein, the same man who had put
together the Carnegie Hall show a year earlier, organized the massive event,
held in the middle of the New York Mets baseball eld. Introduced by Ed
Sullivan, the concert ended up making over $300,000. But the sound of the
screaming crowd, a noise described by McCartney as supersonic
seagulls,18 was so deafening that nobody heard a note. There were between
300 and 400 fainting girls, while paramedics were required to work under
the stands. Since the concert was being lmed, the producers used the soundboard to pick up the stage performance. As a result, you can actually
hear the music more clearly in the movie than you would have at Shea
Stadium. The audience was buzzing away and leaping up and down and
doing all that, and we were just playing loud, Harrison recalled. But the
sound was bad, and we all joked to each other to keep ourselves amused.19
Ironically, among the screaming throng were both Ringos future wife,
Barbara Bach, and Linda Eastman, who within a few years would become
Mrs. Paul McCartney. Since they could barely hear a note, they were not
amused.
When, as teenagers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had rst heard
Elvis Presley sing Heartbreak Hotel, he had represented a dream of what
they could become. The day they witnessed Elvis shake his hips while singing
Jailhouse Rock on the big screen, hed become a legend to them. Elvis was

You Wont See Me

117

a huge part of their utopian aspirations. He didnt exactly point the way to
Nowhere Land, but he made it possible for the Beatles to imagine its existence. On August 27, 1965, they were heading to Hollywood for two
concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. At the same, Elvis was in town making
yet another dreadful lm. A meeting had been arranged and the band was
about to come face-to-face with their hero.
For Elvis, it was an irksome task. He had watched passively as wave upon
wave of British rock bands had come and usurped the territory he once
ruled. Elvis had sold his claim to the kingdom before him, wasting his life
in Hollywood, having abandoned the deeper roots of his music. Put simply,
Elvis was no longer the passionate force in music that he had been before he
went into the army. The Beatles, meanwhile, were continually scaling artistic and musical heights. But as the Beatles drove to Elviss Bel Air home, they
discovered that they were so nervous, so scared, that they got stoned in the
back of the limo to calm down. But doing so, they quickly turned into the
same giggly fans who had been recently screaming for them. They even
forgot where they were going. We pulled up at some big gates and someone
said, Oh yeah, were going to see Elvis, Harrison recalled amusingly. [A]
nd we all fell out of the limo laughing.20 Stumbling along like cartoon characters, the Beatles entered the house to nd their mentor sitting in front of
the TV, playing a bass guitar, while surrounded by his bodyguards and his
manager Colonel Tom Parker. As Parker asked for seats for Brian Epstein
and his boys, Elvis sat in his big chair with his new invention, a TV remote,
changing channels while strumming his guitar. In the background, Charlie
Richs recent hit, Mohair Sam, blared on the jukebox. After a few
awkward moments with the Beatles sitting and staring in disbelief at the
King in his domain, Elvis grew impatient and told them that if they were just
going to sit and gawk at him, he was going to bed. It broke the ice in the
same way that George Harrisons joke about George Martins tie did in the
Beatles rst EMI session.
In a matter of moments, guitars were delivered and they began to jam.
Since Elvis was playing bass, McCartney found some common ground to
engage Presley. But when Elvis asked for a pick for his guitar, McCartney
looked to their roadie Mal Evans for one. Apparently, Mal always had a
few handy in case one broke during concerts. Unfortunately, the cleaners
had recently sown up his suit pockets, right where he kept them, so Evans
had to retire to the kitchen, where he began breaking plastic spoons to create
some makeshift little strummers. Before long, Elvis and the Beatles
began jamming on Cilla Blacks hit, Youre My World, while Ringo sat
forlorn with no instrument to play. During their improvised session, Lennon
prodded Elvis for information on any new music or his latest lm. The King
began describing the story of his new movie and the Beatles realized that
the formula plot he was describing could have been from his last picture.
As everybody laughed in recognition of that fact, the group fully realized that

118

Artificial Paradise

their idol was trapped in the very role hed created for himself. What
began for Elvis as a quest for freedom, to become a man set apart from
all others, had now become chains of bondage to what people wanted
from him.
Afterward, some of the Beatles played some pool with Elviss guys, while
Harrison was roaming the house looking for anyone with some reefer to
smoke. Elviss wife, Priscilla, was soon brought in and introduced to the
group. I got this picture of her as a sort of Barbie Dollwith a purple gingham dress, and a gingham bow in her very beehive hair, with lots of makeup, was how McCartney remembered her.21 At around 2 a.m., they called
it a night and the Beatles departed with each given a complete set of Elvis
records, a table lamp in the shape of a wagon and a gun holster with a gold
leather belt. They invited Elvis to the place they were staying in Hollywood,
but it seemed unlikely. While the Beatles were roaming the American
countryside, Elvis was trapped in his estate, unable to live freely in a country
that he exalted in his music. On December 21, 1970, a few years after their
jam session, Elvis Presley attended a meeting at the White House to meet
President Nixon. While there he told the President that he supported
Nixons attacks on the counterculture, saying that the Beatles, in particular,
had been a force for anti-Americanism. While stoned on the multiple pills
that would ultimately kill him in 1977, Elvis condemned the Beatles drug
use. The great joke was that we were taking drugs, and look what
happened to him, McCartney later remarked. He was caught on the toilet
full of them!22 Lennon felt that the drugs were merely a symptom of Elviss
demise. For him, it was the army that did him in. Thats when they killed
him, Lennon explained. [A]nd the rest was a living death.23 Heartbreak
Hotel had suffered its ultimate casualty.
On October 26, 1965, the Beatles received their MBE (Member of the
British Empire) medals outside Buckingham Palace with thousands of fans
present. Along with some earlier winners, there were a number of war veterans present who protested the medal being given to this pop band. For many
veterans, the Beatles were part of the generation that rejected the legacy they
had fought for in the war. Their supporters, and many in the government,
saw the band quite differently as ambassadors for the post-Empire England.
The group was conquering nations by entertaining them, not with the intent
of being colonizers. The Beatles, in other words, had made Britain fashionable. While the controversy over the MBEs continued to make headlines,
the Beatles made for the studio to record a new single and an album that
would provide a radical departure from anything theyd previously
recorded.
That December, EMI had put the Beatles under the gun to come up with a
new Christmas singlealong with a new LP. Their latest 45, Day Tripper,
has often been interpreted as a drug song, but John Lennon insisted it was
about a girl who leads guys on while living like a weekend hippie. Musically,

You Wont See Me

119

the group was providing a preview of the new direction their work would
take on the next album. If their early material paid tribute to the pop R&B
of Motown, they were now becoming more strongly inuenced by the
funkier Memphis sound of Stax Records. Stax was started originally in
the late fties by Jim Stewart, a songwriter and country artist, as Satellite
Records. Stewart, who was also a banker, brought on board his sister,
Estelle Axton, and Chips Moman, a producer and songwriter, to run the
operation. Their rst big hit was Cause I Love You, by a DJ named Rufus
Thomas and his daughter, Carla, both of whom would go to long careers
with the label. Since Rufus worked in radio, he managed to persuade his
colleagues to play the song. The tune would go on to sell 15,000 copies in
Memphis, which soon attracted the attention of Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic
Records, who licensed the song from Jim Stewart and began a long, prosperous relationship between the companies.
In 1960, Satellite became Stax Records (the name being a combination of
Stewart and Axtons surnames) that would quickly sign a bevy of great soul
artists, including Booker T. & the MGs (Green Onions), Eddie Floyd
(Knock on Wood), Sam and Dave (Soul Man), the Staple Singers
(Respect Yourself), Albert King (Born Under a Bad Sign), and Otis
Redding (Respect). While they were touring, the Beatles discovered and
fell in love with this music, especially Booker T. & the MGs, who were
the Stax house band. In contrasting the soul sounds of Detroit with
Memphis, writer Gary Graff made very signicant comparisons. Where
Motown was smooth and urbane, Stax was gritty and rural, he wrote.
Motown was polished; Stax was passionate.24 Unlike Motown, Stax
was also more racially integrated. Coming from the American South, the
hopes of the Civil Rights struggle had made a huge impact on the artists in
Memphis. Whites were playing black music, side by side with blacks,
making determined efforts to act on Martin Luther Kings version of the
American Dream. The Beatles themselves had surged forward by integrating
American black R&B styles, so as their music grew tougher, in that cyclone
of Beatlemania, they started growing closer to the toughness of the Stax
sound. Day Tripper is their rst song to collar that toughness. Its a blues
scorcher, written by Lennon, who composed the basic guitar riff. McCartney meanwhile contributed some of the verses, his bass line borrowing from
Roy Orbisons recent hit, Pretty Woman. The bluesy guitar melody,
besides having its antecedent in their previous hit single, I Feel Fine, was
also a variation of the guitar opening by Robert White on the Temptations
1964 hit My Girl. You could say that it also has some of the raw soul
heard in Otis Redding. Critic Jon Landau would one day say of Redding that
his music was frantic, powerful and charming,25 which is exactly how one
could describe the dominant sway of Day Tripper. Redding, too, may
have caught sight of those elements himself in Day Tripper. He would
perform his own denitive version of it in 1967.

120

Artificial Paradise

We Can Work It Out, the B-side of the single, illustrates the fullest integration yet of Lennon and McCartneys sensibilities as songwriters. Could
there be any other song in their catalog that perfectly meshes the differences
between the two men? Although McCartney composed this richly moving
track (with the middle-eight by Lennon), the presence of both men, mirror
opposites poised directly toward each other, magically merges into one
person here. We Can Work It Out is essentially about McCartneys continued dissatisfaction with Jane Ashers career moves, which led her in 1965 to
join the Bristol Old Vic Company, taking her from London to the west of
England. Having refused the spoils of being a Beatles girl, Asher was determined to be an independent career woman. We Can Work It Out is also,
though, a distillation of the conicted dynamic between Lennon and McCartney. Whether they were writing about their wives or girlfriendsor ctional
charactersLennon and McCartney often mirrored each other in their music.
According to Lennon, Paul was the optimistic one saying that everything can
work out, while he was the impatient one reminding us that life is short. But,
as Ian MacDonald would correctly point out in his book, Revolution in the
Head, Lennon misreads the text.26 While McCartney may be hoping that
things will work out, hes also saying that if they dont, they will say good
night to the whole affair. So is Lennons impatience any different than
McCartneys? In fact, the urgency in Lennons voice, as he warns against
wasting time, indicates that he feels the relationship is worth savingor
why bother caring about its fate? The harmonium added to Lennons
middle-eight section was an afterthought by Harrison, who suggested that it
should be done in waltz time to imply the endless dance of love and romance.
On December 3, 1965, the same day that they released this stunning new
single, they also issued a radical new album called Rubber Soul. While
taking over 113 hours to record, compared to the one-day they took putting
Please Please Me together, Rubber Soul was a stunningly innovative R&B
album. Its aim was to take the genre totally beyond its purist roots. Unlike
any other white performer, especially the ones who merely copied the style
and attitude of the black blues and R&B, or channeled the essence of
the genre (as did Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac), the Beatles sublimated the
music into their pop fabric. In these densely intelligent collection of love
songs, they confronted a variety of issues: the cost of romantic desire; the
power of love to heal, as well as to hurt; contemplation; and the deep regrets
of loss. The Beatles had grown frustrated by their live performances. The din
of continually screaming audiences who no longer cared to listen hampered
them. Within the connes of the studio, they set out to add dimensions to
their music that they couldnt do on stage. The vision of Nowhere Land
always existed within the ber of the sounds they created. But since those
sounds couldnt breathe in the huge halls and hockey rinks they played in,
the studio would become their new dream chamber. On Rubber Soul, they
broadened their musical identity by introducing an original interpretation

You Wont See Me

121

of classic American R&B. By not letting themselves become dened by black


music, as many other British blues bands had done, the Beatles could here
dene black music for themselves.
In their earlier records, the Beatles reached out with supple enthusiasm to
grab you, but this music was sly, subtler, even crooking its nger and inching
you nearer. This music was seduction, not assault, critic Greil Marcus
wrote. [T]he force was all beneath the surface.27 Seduction was a key part
of their new musical direction because, since they had your attention with
She Loves You, they could now introduce you to loves transgressions in
songs like Girl. The direction was moving away from the poppy stuff
like Thank You Girl and She Loves You, McCartney explained. The
early material was directly relating to our fans, saying, Please buy this
record, but now wed come to a point where we thought, Weve done that.
Now we can branch out into songs that are more surreal, a little more entertaining.28 Being entertaining was almost an understatement of purpose.
Critic Albert Goldman, for one, saw the album as the full emergence of the
whole sixties ethos:
For those who had followed the Beatles career closely, the pleasure
afforded by [Rubber Soul] was heightened greatly by the recognition
that the group was boldly progressing, unconstrained by the market
forces that oblige most pop stars to go round and round in the
grooves of their rst success. Building on the solid foundation provided
by their previous achievementstheir mastery of American pops, their
extensive experience as songwriters, and their growing skill as singers,
instrumentalists, and record makersthe Beatles were now beginning
to erect that glittering edice, the Sixties.29
The cover photo certainly reected that glittering edice. Once again
taken by Robert Freeman, the picture was taken at John Lennons house in
Weybridge. When Freeman was showing the group his contacts in the form
of slides, one of the images got tilted backward, inadvertently elongating
their faces. The group was immediately seized by the image, reminding them
of the distorted perspective they were now getting on drugs. They told Freeman that they wanted to see their stretched reective faces on the cover of
the album that would take their music in new directions. It would also frame
the musical ideas on the record: soul music bent and stretched beyond its
conventional form. Steve Turner saw a signicant difference in mood
between this cover and Beatles for Sale. The cover was similar to Beatles
For Sale, Turner wrote. The four of them stood facing the camera in
exactly the same line-up. . .[b]ut this time the leaves were green rather than
brown, and the boys, although not smiling, didnt look burned out. They
looked cool and slightly detached. Instead of looking at us directly, as they
had done on the cover of Beatles For Sale, they looked down on us, although

122

Artificial Paradise

only John made eye contact. They were above us.30 The title of the album
came from McCartney and was rst referenced at the end of an outtake of
Im Down on the Anthology 2 CD. Im saying [during the take] how
Id just read about an old bloke in the States who said, Mick Jagger, man.
Well, you know theyre goodbut its plastic soul. So plastic soul was
the germ of the Rubber Soul idea, McCartney explained. 31 From this
album onward, too, the music included would be entirely original material.
Cover versions were recorded only while rehearsing, as they were during
the later Let It Be period. Rubber Soul was an album conceived on pot, often
smoked between takes of songs, when the reefers were being rolled simultaneous to the rolling tape.
McCartney composed the opening track, the sly, dynamically sexy Drive
My Car. Its craftiness comes from comically reversing the sexual roles.
A rst hearing of Drive My Car might suggest that the Beatles are telling
some baby to drive their car, critic Steve Turner observed in A Hard Days
Write. [B]ut closer inspection of the lyric reveals that its the male narrator
who is being asked to do the driving.32 As the Beatles once stepped into the
womans shoes, when covering girl group songs like Baby Its You,
Boys, Please Mr. Postman, or The Devil in Her Heart, they now
worked comfortably from sexual innuendo. They did this by drawing on
ancient blues and R&B metaphors, like Memphis Minnie in her 1941 Me
and My Chauffeur Blues, which used the automobile as a sleek euphemism
for sex. Originally, McCartney had written a line about the lady giving the
guy gold rings, but Lennon rightly dismissed the jewelry image as old hat,
having already done that earlier in Cant Buy Me Love. So they both came
up with the idea of driving the car, which worked as both a sexual double
entendre (concluding with the knowing wink of beep-beep, beep-beep
yeah) and a sign of status. Another role reversal was the change of personnel on the recording. McCartney turned up on lead guitar, providing the
biting solo, while Harrison played bass, even borrowing Donald Duck
Dunns melody line from Otis Reddings version of Respect, which came
out a month before Drive My Car.
Lennons Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) was written as a
confession of adultery (some thought with journalist Maureen Cleave), but
like Drive My Car, its also a song about a woman who has the upper
hand. The number was written in February 1965 while Lennon was on a
skiing holiday in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with Cynthia, and George Martin
and his future wife, Judy. Lennon came up with the melody and the basic
story, but it was McCartney who suggested that while the guy thinks hes
had the girl, she actually, in the end, should have him. After inviting the
singer in, she shows him her room, which is made of Norwegian wood. They
drink and chat, and she asks him to stay. But since she has to work in the
morning, she asks him to sleep alone in the bathtub. When he wakes in the
morning, to nd her gone, he lights a re and admires the Norwegian wood

You Wont See Me

123

and what might have been. McCartney claimed they both wrote the song
together with the title taken from an inside joke about the pine walls in Peter
Ashers bedroom.33
The song became notable mostly for the rst time use of the Indian sitar by
George Harrison, who became intrigued with it during the shooting of Help!
While they were lming the scene where they were eating in an Indian
restaurant, some of the Indian musicians were present playing for the
customers. Fascinated by this exotic instrument, Harrison approached one
of the group members after the lming was done in April 1965. At rst,
he timidly borrowed the sitar and began to gently strum it, admiring its tone,
before immediately falling under its spell. Shortly after, Harrison went to
Indiacraft, a shop on Oxford Street, to buy one. When the group was looking for an instrument to bring the right color to the melody, which had only
been played on acoustic guitar during rehearsals, Harrison suggested the
sitar and it added the right rustic mood to the song. While most Beatles
songs have a narrative line, Norwegian Wood is one of the rst to tell a
story. Even if its dened as a romantic ballad, it isnt your typical love song.
Lennons tale about an affair that never gets consummated is a character
drama. In Drive My Car, the sparks between the girl and her possible
driver are hidden within the innuendo, but the feelings expressed in
Norwegian Wood are actually between the lines of the story. Before long,
the sitar would be picked up by a number of British musicians, including
Brian Jones who would use it most notably on the Rolling Stones 1966
single Paint it Black.
After the opening two tracks, the story in You Wont See Me is surprisingly straightforward. McCartney is heard still grousing about his current
romantic problems with Asher, so the songs purpose is signicantly direct.
At the time he wrote it, Asher was performing in a rep house in Bristol. But
as Steve Turner remarked, The dip in his romantic fortunes raised his writing to new heights because he now found he was the one in the vulnerable
position.34 This is one of the rare moments in a McCartney song where
his romantic disenchantment has him lapse into a form of self-pity.
The overall energy of the track, though, is helped considerably by backup
vocals that seem to parody McCartneys grief. Their la-la-las bring back
memories of similar moments in Misery. Nowhere Man is Lennons
second character study. Beginning with a beautifully doleful a cappella
phrase to introduce the Nowhere Man, Lennon himself appears to be feeling
lost in a Nowhere Land. But this isnt the Nowhere Land he had envisioned
out of Theres a Place, where his utopian dream seemed possible, now its
the opposite. The Nowhere Land of Nowhere Man is the land of the
alienated. Lennon is addressing the same kind of estranged individual Dylan
would sing about the same year in Ballad of a Thin Man. Mr. Jones is a
character Lennon would eventually identify with in Yer Blues on The
Beatles in 1968. McCartney believed that Nowhere Man was about

124

Artificial Paradise

Lennons deteriorating marriage to Cynthia and his boredom with middleclass suburban livinga Nowhere Land very different from the utopian
ideas in many of his songs. Yet Lennon sings Nowhere Man with the kind
of empathy that keeps his visionary spirit alive, even if hes beginning to fear
that the ideas arent anymore attainable.
George Harrison composed Think for Yourself as a plea for independent thought. To some degree, he picks up on the same theme of Nowhere
Man, but rather than inhabit the lost soul that Lennon does in his song,
Harrison takes the more accusatory role. He condemns those who fall short
of his own standardsa role he would continue to play out as he became
more interested in Eastern religion. What saves the track from being insufferably smug is its musical toughness, the R&B pulse led by McCartneys
deft pulsating bass-playing, with its raw fuzz tone. Albert Goldman was
quick to notice how McCartneys contribution elevated the track. In the
greatest feat of instrumental playing on any Beatles track, Paul fused his
sense of black machismo with his British sense of courtly pomp and politesse
to produce that great basso-bombastico strut, he wrote in The Lives of
John Lennon.35 Lennon and McCartney as a fresh interpretation of gospel
music composed The Word. Instead of pleading surrender to the power
of God, though, Lennon tells us that the word love can set you free. It sort
of dawned on me that love was the answer, Lennon explained. It seems
like the underlying theme to the universe. . .Even though Im not always a
loving person, I want to be that, I want to be as loving as possible.36 Part
of the loving spirit was inspired by the communal experience of smoking
grass (which he and McCartney did before they wrote the song). The
Word is a happily energetic piece of gospel pop that pulls the listener out
of the topical pop world of personal relationships and into the larger world.
In a sense, The Word is the rst Lennon anthem, to be followed in the
coming years by the more self-conscious All You Need Is Love, the
preachy Give Peace a Chance, and the potent Instant Karma.
Almost as famous as Yesterday, Michelle was another signature song
by Paul McCartney that drew as much derision as it did praise. Some critics
single out tracks like Michelle as a betrayal of McCartneys rock roots,
when it was merely a modest example of his attraction to very diverse styles
of music. While his taste could often be erratic, McCartney also had an
openness to music, refusing to let any one genre provide street cred for
him. Moreover, Michelle was born out of a kind of parody. First written
as an instrumental in 1963, where McCartney would perform it at various
parties in a French cabaret style, he designed it as a satire of a particular
beatnik attitude, where the singer is bent over his guitar with his beret and
beard doing a French songBeatles parodying Beatniks. On Rubber Soul,
Michelle is turned into an elegant love song. With some help from Jan
Vaughn, wife of his boyhood friend Ivan Vaughn, a French language
teacher, McCartney came up with some appropriate French words. The

You Wont See Me

125

arrangement, according to Walter Everett, owes something to the ngerpicking style of Chet Atkins 1962 song Trombone, and, of course, Nina
Simones 1965 version of I Put a Spell on You, especially in the I love
you, I love you section.37 Michelle also shows how far the Beatles had
come using certain jazz phrasings on the guitar, which they rst attempted
on Till There Was You. Michelle would be a hit in 1965 for David &
Jonathan. By 1968, it would become the Beatles second most covered song
reaching over 201 recordings.
What Goes On is the only truly uninteresting song on the album, an
innocuous country number written years earlier by John Lennon. It was
originally played to George Martin as a possible tune to follow Please
Please Me back in 1963, but it was soon forgotten. Introduced on Rubber
Soul, as the song for Ringo to sing, its equally forgettable. What Goes
On is no more than a banal follow-up to Ringos country cover of Buck
Owens Act Naturally on Help! The only signicant aspect of it is that
Ringo shares his rst co-credit on a Lennon/McCartney song because he
helped Paul with the middle-eight (about ve words, says the modest
drummer). Girl is an extraordinarily complex portrait of an enigmatic
lady composed by Lennon. While conceived ambiguously as a paean to his
ideal woman, it also describes a female so deeply insensitive that she would
ultimately demean him. Saying years later that the song anticipated the soul
mate he found in Yoko Ono, Lennon gives one pause. He may be unwittingly revealing that their relationship was not the Robert Browning/Elizabeth Barrett Browning coupling they portrayed on Double Fantasy (1980).
When Girl describes this woman being taught how pain would lead to
pleasure, Lennon lands his rst criticism of Christian catechism, a critique
that would bring violent repercussions a year later. Perhaps to add a sacrilegious touch, the band then sings harmonies of tit, tit, tit behind him.
Girl is lled with a number of clever little touches like Johns intake of
breath, sounding like a backward cymbal, as he invokes the title. Girl is
an intricate romantic lament. Its about how the powers of attraction can
sometimes bypass our better judgment in choosing our partners.
Im Looking Through You is another McCartney riposte directed at
Jane Asher. But where Lennon lets you feel his rage when he sings about
rejection, McCartney wants you to feel what youre going to miss by
rejecting him. In this case, he sees rejection as a aunting of his idealized idea
of love. As Steve Turner aptly suggests, Rather than question his own attitudes (as he obviously did later), Paul accuses his woman of changing and
holds out the thinly veiled threat of withdrawing his affection.38 No matter
how frustrated he gets toward Asher, the threat of McCartneys demands
gets buried beneath his convivial manner. But theres nothing soft about
Im Looking Through You. His manner may be polite, but his sentiments
cut deep to the bone. Although the song is written specically for Asher, its
still possible to hear the song directed toward his artistic other half, too.

126

Artificial Paradise

Since Lennon and McCartney became idealized creative partners, through the
quixotic standards they strived for in their work, it makes sense that their
songs might also address each other. Throughout the Beatles career, both
men created a parallel world, both in their compositions and in their personal
lives. Even their eventual romantic partners (Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman)
became participants in their work when the Lennon/McCartney team itself
dissolved. Im Looking Through You could just as easily be addressed to
the frustration McCartney was feeling as the two men began to grow apart.
One of Lennons most personal songs, In My Life stands with
Yesterday as a beautifully constructed deliberation on the value of the
past. In My Life, with its understated references to his closest friends, Pete
Shotten and Stuart Sutcliffe, remains today a compassionate excavation of
the loves and losses of Lennons life. In My Life was not a song about
growing older, Devin McKinney explained in Magic Circles. [I]t was
about the sudden realization that you are older.39 Yet unlike his partners
realizations in Yesterday, Lennon refuses to look for comfort or solace
in his youth. He attempts instead to nd meaning in the present. He nds,
as an adult, that he can only do this by recovering those past moments that
brought him here. While Lennon claimed it to be solely his own work,
McCartney insisted that John wrote the words, while he composed the
music, and based the melody on their previously covered Smokey Robinson
song, You Really Got a Hold on Me. Wherever the truth lies, In My
Life did begin as a poem where Lennon traced his life journey from Menlove Avenue to the Liverpool dockside. But once he located the places that
held meaning, he abandoned the snapshot approach (which McCartney
would employ quite lovingly in the similar Penny Lane) for something
more impressionistic and philosophical. Steve Turner, in A Hard Days
Write, discovered that Lennons lyrics shared the style and sentiment of
Charles Lambs eighteenth-century poem, The Old Familiar Faces:
I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful schooldays;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces. . .
How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me, all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.40
George Martin provides a classical piano solo in the bridge thats
performed in the spirit of Bach. It was recorded at half-speed on a Steinway,
dropped it an octave, thereby suggesting the sound of a harpsichord.
Martins contribution gives the song a feeling of the past being recovered.
Wait was originally composed by McCartney for Help! but ultimately
rejected for the lm. The song revisits some of the same ground of It Wont

You Wont See Me

127

Be Long, A Hard Days Night, and When I Get Home, as the singer
longs for reunion with his lover. But unlike those earlier tracks, where those
longings were expressed with anticipation and enthusiasm, the tone in Wait
is somewhat desperate, tinged with a lingering fear (despite what the Beatles
say in The Word) that love might not be enough to hold them together.
Critic Tim Riley picked up that change of tone when he compared Wait to
It Wont Be Long in his book, Tell Me Why. Where It Wont Be Long is
expectant, Wait is doubtful, anxious, uncertain, he said.41 But Riley nds
Wait dashed off42 compared to It Wont Be Long. I think that might
be an oversimplication. It Wont Be Long is an outburst of youthful idealism, expressing the condence that when his girl comes home to him, all will
be well. However, Wait is a song about after the honeymoon, where uncertainty and struggle become part of the process of discovering the meaning of
love. There are no guarantees made here, only the belief in possibilities. In the
chorus, the singer hopes that since hes been a good man this will be enough
to keep their love alive. But just because he asks her to wait for him doesnt
insure that this promise alone will bring them everlasting love. On Rubber
Soul, the Beatles are still writing songs about love, but with awareness now that
the assurances made in Any Time at All or All My Loving are perhaps not
enough to sustain you. Rubber Soul takes the fragile subject of love far deeper
than the erotic charge of attraction found in their early work. The tracks on this
album center on hope and fear, desire and dread, curiosity and contemplation.
Put in its R&B context, a song like Wait may have the snap of a Wilson Pickett song, but it has none of the brash cockiness that characterizes, say, In the
Midnight Hour. On Rubber Soul, Wait tells you that you could wait until
the midnight hour, but that doesnt guarantee that your love will begin
to shine.
George Harrisons If I Needed Someone, which deals with loves more
transient aspects, is written for (one guesses) the groupies on the road. The
melody, which is clearly based on the Byrds The Bells of Rhymney and
She Dont Care About Time,43 contains some of the same hopes and fears
as Wait, but here, Harrison takes a more guarded position. He claims that
if he ever needs someone, he might give the girl some consideration.
(He even asks herrather impersonallyto write her number on his wall.)
What Harrison is doing is returning to the theme of You Like Me Too
Much, but with far greater sophistication this time. The song is about a
man who may actually be deeply in love, but he still isnt sure that this relationship will be enough to satisfy him. Harrison lets you feel both the loss of
opportunity within this one-night stand and the questions that linger about
his steady girl. He sings that hes too much in love with someone else to
consider this other woman, but his voice betrays him. (He sounds hotter
for the groupie.) If I Needed Someone, one of Harrisons strongest tunes,
balances the burden he feels about romantic commitment and the erotic
charge of promiscuity.

128

Artificial Paradise

Because Rubber Soul brings such delicate shadings to the material on this
album, the sheer bluntness of Lennons concluding Run For Your Life
might come as something of a shock. It was based on Arthur Gunters Baby,
Lets Play House, which was Lennons favorite Elvis Presley song from his
Sun sessions. Gunter also took his composition from another source, Eddy
Arnolds 1951 hit, I Want to Play House With You. While Gunter
recorded his song in 1954, it wasnt much of a chart success. But when Elvis
heard it, he immediately jumped to record it, which he did in February
1955. Baby, Lets Play House is a song that teases, juggling raw youthful
desire with adolescent fear and resentment. But Lennons Run For Your
Life takes the playfulness out of the song, adding the jealous rage of You
Cant Do That and Ill Cry Instead. When Lennon borrows the line, Id
rather see you dead than to be with another man, he sounds more threatening than Elvis (who issues the warning while stuttering, as if he knows that he
couldnt possibly carry it out). The tune has endured its fair share of criticism
from Tim Riley to the composer, yet despite its nasty simplicities, Run For
Your Life is very much in keeping with the soul and blues spirit of Rubber
Soul. It borrows the jealous and murderous sentiments from a variety of
landmark blues songs like Delias Gone, Sleeping in the Ground, and
I Cant Be Satised, although thats pretty much all it does. Perhaps
because the rest of the record is a recasting of R&B norms, Run For Your
Life simply recreates those norms.
Nancy Sinatra did, however, turn the tables on the perceived misogyny in the
song by covering it herself (along with Day Tripper) on her 1966 debut
album, These Boots Are Made for Walking. We chose it for the album
because it was important for my whole Nasty Jones persona, Sinatra recalled.
Run For Your Life just let me stay right in character, and it was a very
powerful statement for a white woman in the sixties, with the pill, and women
nally having some freedom to express themselves sexually.44 But for a man
to sing it, especially Lennon, Run For Your Life had no other dimension to
it, but the obvious one. What the rest of Rubber Soul proved was that the
Beatles had grown past the self-righteous stance taken on Run For Your Life.
Rubber Soul demonstrated fully that the Beatles were discovering shadows within the chimerical spirit of their music. As critic Mikal Gilmore
pointed out, the music no longer bathed itself in youthful ardor. [T]he
music started losing its innocence, he wrote. It was as if the group had
lost a certain mooring. Lennon was singing more frequently about alienation
and apprehension. McCartney about the unreliability of loveand whereas
their earlier music had fullled the familiar structures of 1950s rock, their
newer music was moving into unaccustomed areas and incorporating
strange textures.45 That strangeness in the music would serve to emulate
the strange happenings about to take place in 1966, when the Beatles themselves would be running for their lives.

CHAPTER 5

Let Me Take You Down


A blinding revelation is laid upon his plate
That beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate.
Phil Ochs, Crucixion
Is it possible that the Shirelles best embodied the idealistic spirit of JFKs
New Frontier? Perhaps. Especially with one 1960 pop song, Will You Still
Love Me Tomorrow? that delicately captured both the assurance of the
decade and its secret fears. Written by Carole King, and her rst husband,
Gerry Gofn, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? had an awareness that
within every hope lay the possibility of failure, defeat, and maybe betrayal.
The singer accepts the devotion of her lover, the light she sees in his eyes,
but shes also worried about the future, when that light may refuse to shine.
In this enduringly complex tune, the stakes in love get raised so high that the
fear of it all falling apart weighs pretty heavy. As Bob Dylan said in 1965,
right at the cusp of his greatest glory, when you aint got nothin, you got
nothin to lose. The Shirelles had, in a certain sense, laid the ground for
the romantic dream the Beatles (who would cover their songs) were about
to create. But the Beatles also inherited the possibility of failure that the Shirelles saw coming. When the hopes of the New Frontier were so cruelly
dashed in Dallas in 1963, the Beatles had reached into that despair, two
months later, to hold our hand. But it was coming up to two years since
the Beatles rekindled those hopes, and the question of whether wed still love
them tomorrow was still up for grabs.
Their electrifying early records had sought us out, demanding that we
share in the pleasures those songs offered. When John Lennon said in

130

Artificial Paradise

Please Please Me that hed continue pleasing us, if only wed agree to
please him, we were offered a denite stake in that relationship. Each song
they wrote was designed as a two-way street, the creation of a romantic
bond, which required the participation of the listener in every way. The
utopianism heard in Theres a Place was only viable when we rst
believed that the place actually existed. But by 1965, the Beatles were starting to grow weary and suspicious of its audience. Theres a place, alright,
but maybe its now far away from you. No longer trusting the screams of
adoration or enjoying the enduring isolation of hotel rooms and ducking
into limos, the group began retreating into the safety of the studio. Within
those walls, the sounds they began to create outclassed the sounds from the
stage. The songs they wrote and covered, in the beginning, had taken the
world by force, by the affection expressed in them. Now their music was
more elusive, the pleasures tucked beneath the dense melodies. At this point,
though, their retreat did not diminish their work. Instead, detachment took
it deeper, farther into the exigencies of love and loyalty. Rubber Soul
showed that the Beatles, now seeking solace from the madness of Beatlemania, were creating a new music that sought to nd the more discerning
listener. These songs reached out to nd the one individual who dared step
outside the din of the screaming throng. With this record, they asked you
to lean forward, listen carefully, and take with you the doubts along with
the hopes, the desire along with the fears. Rubber Soul had all the yearnings
and qualms of Gofn/Kings Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? but it
didnt stop with the question of the title. Rubber Soul went much further
to ask: If you dont love me tomorrow, then what?
When Rubber Soul entered the Top 10 album chart on December 8, 1965,
the Beatles certainly still felt loved. It immediately went to #1where it
stayed for an astonishing 12 weeks. This was their fth album to go right
to #1 less than a week after it was released. To say audiences were stunned
by the musical boundaries the Beatles had stretched on this record would
be making a huge understatement. But now it wasnt just record buyers
who were struck with a sense of profound disbelief. Certain peers of the
band were becoming startled by the possibilities of what pop music could
do, where it could go, and what it might mean. A young songwriter from
outside Los Angeles named Brian Wilson, the cofounder of the Beach Boys,
was one such individual tormented by those questions. Within days of its
release, Wilson was so astounded by Rubber Soul that he decided to change
the entire musical direction of his band. The rst night he heard the record,
Wilson was sitting in his house on Laurel Way, stoned on grass, listening
to it four times in a row. He couldnt even sleep that night. His chances for
sleep didnt improve the next evening either. It was the rst time in my life
I remember hearing a rock album on which every song was really good,
Wilson recalled in 2004.1 After recovering from the shock of hearing this
record, the Beach Boys resident auteur and recluse reached the conclusion

Let Me Take You Down

131

that Rubber Soul threw down a gauntlet. He told his wife that he now had to
make the greatest rock album ever.
Before the Beatles created mayhem in America, the Beach Boys had already
established themselves as a legendary pop group from Southern
California. From their rst song, Surn, in 1961, the Beach Boys had
initiated their own utopian vision that quickly dened their appeal. Early
on, at the height of their popularity, they portrayed in their music an adolescent life lled with the hedonistic pleasure of beaches (Catch a Wave), an
endless summer of chasing girls (Fun, Fun, Fun, I Get Around), and
new imagined freedoms offered by access to the automobile (Little Deuce
Coupe). Unlike the Beatles, who offered a new world vision through their
music, the Beach Boys had heightened something of a world in which
theyand their audiencewere already a part. Brian Wilson didnt so
much create a California myth as get the details of its pop life right, Greil
Marcus once wrote of the group.2 California was a pop enigma, a paradoxical paradise, where the hedonism celebrated by the Beach Boys would one
day intersect with the apocalyptic horrors of Charles Manson and his Family.
It was the place where writer Nathaniel West, in The Day of the Locust, saw
the promise of miracles turn into rampaging acts of violence. Crime novelist
Raymond Chandler would deposit his incorruptible white knight, detective
Philip Marlowe, into a completely corruptible milieu. Singer/songwriter
Randy Newman would eventually write a tribute to Los Angeles (I Love
L.A.) where a driver would crank up the Beach Boys on his car radio while
simultaneously witnessing a homeless guy vomiting in the street. The Beach
Boys offered what critic Jim Miller described as a paradise of escape into
private as often as shared pleasures.3
The element of escape was in large part a reection of Brian Wilsons
unease with the world around him. While he could adeptly capture the
delight held by the pop elements in the culture surrounding him, he didnt
truly live out any of it. He wasnt a surfer (like his brother Dennis), nor did
he exude the condent swagger of the characters in some of his songs. The
Beach Boys were a daydream of an adolescent life Brian Wilson never had,
but one he wished he might have had. If in 1962, In My Room gave hints
of the troubled kid within the genius of this band, by 1964, you could sense
that Wilson was trying to break through the mythical wall hed erected
around his band. Shy and withdrawn, he found release in the studio, just as
the Beatles would by 1965. His songs started to reect aspects of the
Southern California youth culture that were less assured, where he could
even detect hollowness in the rituals being acted out. Wilson explored all
of this without once sacricing the enjoyment offered under those California
palm trees. When I Grow Up (to Be a Man), for instance, was not a braggarts dream, but a reection back on everything Wilson assumed to be true.
He candidly asked himselfand his audienceif the things he dug as a teenager would sustain him in adulthood. In Dont Worry Baby, the Beach

132

Artificial Paradise

Boys nest song, he takes the freewheeling driver from I Get Around and
situates him into the mundane concerns of adulthood. In doing so, Wilson
doesnt sacrice the joys of teenage freedom, even if the singer now recognizes that those joys have ended. Dont Worry Baby is so emotionally lush
that you can weep from both the richness of its performance and the perceptions that it offers. In those years, the Beach Boys still continued to tour, selling the myth of the endless summer, decked out in beach clothes, offering
their endearing version of the California dream. But their leader stayed
home. Brian Wilson found his sanctuary in the recording studio. And when
he heard Rubber Soul, he knew exactly what he wanted to record in it.
Pet Sounds, like Rubber Soul, set out to alter the Beach Boys identity and
the audiences relationship to the group. Wilson had been greatly inuenced
by the sound of the girl groups, especially those teenage symphonies
produced by Phil Spector. But Wilson wanted to marry the harmonic depths
of the Beach Boys singing style to the layered orchestration of Spectors
arrangements. By doing so, Wilson thought he could take the bombast out
of Spectors production style and deepen the effect of his new songs.
He wanted to nd ways to take the characteristic qualities of a Beach Boys
song and infuse it with thematic and sonic ambiguity. First, he called in a
new collaborator, Tony Asher, to write the songs. Usually he wrote with
Mike Love, who was currently on tour with the band. Wilson began by
building the instrumental tracks, bringing in some of the best session men
in Los Angeles, and creating intricate orchestral arrangements to embellish
these fresh compositions. The individual tunes would be crafted to create
the effect of a song cycle. It was the rst time I used more traditional and
inspired lyrics which emitted feelings from my soul and not the usual Beach
Boys kind of approach, Wilson explained.4
The record began with the gorgeous yearning of Wouldnt It Be Nice,
which took the young stud of Fun, Fun, Fun and brought him to face the
possibility of romantic commitment. The idea is, the more we talk about
it, the more we want it, Wilson said.5 You can hear the enthusiasm build
in his voice, as the possibility of abandoning the back seat of the car for a life
of marital bliss dawns on him. From there, however, Pet Sounds becomes a
densely orchestrated catalog of Brian Wilsons doubts and insecurities. In a
forsaken voice dipped in sweetness, Wilson would seek reassurance in
You Still Believe in Me. Thats Not Me would take stock of who hed
become and question how he got there. Dont Talk (Put Your Head On
My Shoulder), almost as achingly beautiful as Dont Worry Baby, looks
for the kind of comfort that lies beyond spoken words. God Only Knows
is as sublime as anything on the Beatles Rubber Soul. For one thing, its rare,
not to mention daring, to begin a song about devotion that opens with the
singer doubting if hell always love the woman hes with. I Just Wasnt
Made for These Times is as exquisite a song about alienation as any
writtentheres not a snide note in it. Pet Sounds also featured a couple of

Let Me Take You Down

133

instrumentals: the title track and Lets Go Away for Awhile, which
resembled pleasingly relaxed bachelor pad music. Percy Faith on happy
chemicals. The record concluded with the haunting Caroline, No, a
touching ballad of regret, gently letting the air out of the daydream begun
by Wouldnt It Be Nice. In a sense, Caroline, No is Brian Wilsons
Yesterday, a song that harkens back to moments once savored, moments
that dened ones happiness. Unlike Yesterday, though, Wilson (who
does the song solo) was able to release the song as a Brian Wilson single
apart from the Beach Boys.
The release of Pet Sounds in May 1966 didnt become the hit record that
the group hoped for. For one thing, Capitol Records, their label, still thought
of rock as something disposable (despite nally coming to recognize the
impact of the Beatles). Furthermore, Wilson was also at odds with his usual
writing partner Mike Love over the album. Love was happy with the earlier
brand of Beach Boys music, but he felt that performing these intricate pop
melodies might lose them their audience. Capitol Records concurred with
Mike Love and did little to promote Pet Sounds. Instead they quickly
released The Best of the Beach Boys to reassure fans that they were still
happily catching a wave. While the album only peaked at #10 in the chart,
Paul McCartney held a different view of Pet Sounds. He was as stunned as
Wilson was listening to Rubber Soul. In particular, McCartney was amazed
at how Brian Wilson used the bass guitar as a lead melodic instrument. [T]
hroughout, Brian would be using notes that werent the obvious notes to
use, McCartney explained. [He was] putting melodies in the bass line.6
Pet Sounds was the spiritual cousin to Rubber Soul and it would have a lasting effect on both Lennon and McCartney. I played it to John so much that
it would be difcult for him to escape the inuence, McCartney told writer
David Leaf. It was the record of the time.7 Pet Sounds would discover its
own reverberation a year later when the Beatles released their own record of
the time: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. That album would send
Brian Wilson into further spasms of shockonly this time, the spasms led
to a total breakdown when he tried to top it.
If Pet Sounds was the convivial companion to Rubber Soul, the Rolling
Stones Aftermath, released in April 1966, was its evil twin. Having matched
the Beatlesalbum-for-album, single-for-singlethe Stones dug in here
with a quietly menacing record, the rst to feature all original Jagger/
Richards compositions. Its an epic set that, in its U.K. version, ran close
to an hour in length. Aftermath took the romantic skepticism of Rubber Soul
and turned it into tale of underclass revolt. According to Greil Marcus, the
album cast the Stones as bohemians roaming London, ashing their
contempt for anything that reeked of bourgeois contentment. They posited
a duel between the sexes, choosing weapons of scorn and humor, Marcus
wrote.8 You didnt have to look too hard to nd that scorn. You could hear
it in the coarse put-downs of Stupid Girl, the sadistic cat-and-mouse

134

Artificial Paradise

games of Under My Thumb, the patronizing contempt expressed in Out


of Time, and the brooding self-explanatory Doncha Bother Me. The
dark humor erupted right off the top when the Stones turned societys
contempt for the youth drug culture back on its accusers in Mothers Little
Helper. The song parodied the daily anxieties of the middle-class housewife
who grows dependent on pills to get her through the day. Despite their
disdain, though, the Stones arrangements, as softly intricate as Brian
Wilsons on Pet Sounds, share the seductive ambience of Rubber Soul. The
hushed marimba takes the edge off both Under My Thumb and Out of
Time. The harpsichord on the baroque Lady Jane lends it a lovely
quaintness, as it does also on the lamenting I Am Waiting. The Stones dont
abandon their blues roots on Aftermath. With the astonishing 11-minute
reverie Goin Home, Mick Jagger considers getting back to his girl and
then takes his sweet time arriving there. Just as Rubber Soul had dramatically
altered the pop landscape, by introducing the record album as a conceptual
art statement, Aftermath and Pet Sounds did nothing less than change the
very texture of popular music.
While the Stones were unleashing their response to Rubber Soul, the
Beatles were in the studio working on their new single. Paperback Writer
was essentially a McCartney rewrite of Lennons Day Tripper. On it, he
attempted to move the Beatles music further from the standard love song
to create more conceptual stories. And there was no better place to start than
by writing a song about someone who writes stories. Encouraged by his aunt
to write about something other than love, McCartney took it upon himself
to compose the tune as if it were a letter. Paperback Writer concerns a
dream the singer has of mass success through writing a paperback novel.
But his story is about a writer of books named Lear (after Edward Lear, no
doubt, the Victorian poet who wrote nonsense poems that inspired Lennon),
who writes a dirty story about a dirty man. As McCartney recounts the tale,
Lennon and Harrison provide a rhyming chorus of Frere Jacques, giddily
making fun of the writers goal. Paperback Writer is a powerfully bracing
piece of rock where McCartney further uses his bass guitar as the lead instrument. By taking his new Rickenbacker and sending it through two Altec
compressors, he creates a thick fuzzbox sound that leaps through the speakers. Unfortunately, the song didnt get a jump start into the charts in its rst
week because Frank Sinatra found resurgence with his lushly orchestrated
hit, Strangers in the Night.
John Lennons Rain is a moody philosophical tract that reects on various states of consciousness by using simple demarcations: the joys of
sunshine contrasted with the gloom of rain. Once again, appealing to that
place in our mind that denes and determines higher states of being, Lennon
breaks down the conventions of listening to a pop song. By concluding
Rain with the sound of his singing voice being played backward, Lennon

Let Me Take You Down

135

anticipated a practice that in the coming years would be highly contested.


Backward taping became a controversial issue in the rock industry during
the seventies and eighties when some artists were accused of concealing
hidden messages within their recordings, Steve Turner explains in A Hard
Days Write. The Beatles had not done it to conceal messages but simply
to suggest a mind free from conventional logic.9 But, as early as 1969, it
would become clear that Lennons methods would become more contentious than he realized. The freedom from conventional logic that Lennon
was reaching for would turn into a deadly nihilistic game fuelled by the very
drugs that Lennon claimed brought him to this enlightened state. The new
drug of choice was LSD.
The inuence of LSD on the record was signicant. The hallucinogen was
rst developed in 1938 as an attempt to cure migraines. But what scientists
discovered, however, was that d-lysergic acid diethylamides function was
to momentarily disable the brains neural concierge. In doing so, the mind
had no defense with which to cope with sensory information entering the
brain. At the end of World War II, the drug was thought by many physicians
to have therapeutic value (while the military, meanwhile, began to consider
it as a tool for interrogation and brainwashing). Soon a number of wellknown individuals, writer Aldous Huxley in 1955 and psychologist Alan
Watts in 1958, began to experiment with the drug and started to think of
the hallucinogen in terms of enabling spiritual awareness. Their view was
that by disabling the brain, it provided an open, uncensored perception of
reality. The use of drugs combined with the inclusion of Indian Hinduism
reinforced the idea that the material world was an illusion. One hears that
view implicitly in a song like Rain. Rain or shine? Alive or dead? I or
IV? Forward or backward? Walter Everett asks. [Lennon] particularly
wished to convey [what John Robertson called] the feeling that the physical
world was insubstantial compared to the world of the mind.10 The point
was to sustain the illusion of Nowhere Land. When the Beatles discovered
that their fame had not fully freed them in this world, they pursued more
strongly the world of the imagination where they werent locked in hotel
rooms, pushed into limos, and turned into performing mice on stage. The
countercultures new desire was to bring ones utopian idea of the world into
line with its reality. When the real world didnt follow the plan, the counterculture escaped into a hallucinatory world.
According to Albert Goldman, Lennons rst trip took place in 1964 when
Michael Hollingshead, the man who introduced the drug to the Harvard
professor Timothy Leary, brought some samples to England. His questionable habit of spiking peoples drink with the hallucinogen got him out of
favor with Leary, though, and he moved to England to set up the Castalia
Foundation, named after the quixotic learning retreat in Hermann Hesses
nal 1943 novel, Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game). Hollingshead had
also supplied Victor Lownes, the manager of the Playboy Club, with a huge

136

Artificial Paradise

quantity of pure LSD, which Lownes then passed on to a cosmetic dentist


whose girlfriend was the supervisor of the Playboy bunnies. This dentist
invited Lennon and his wife Cynthia, plus George Harrison and girlfriend,
Patti Boyd, to dinner with the intent of dropping it in their coffee. When
the dentist informed them of what he did, he advised them to stay at the
house. But Lennon assumed the doctor was secretly planning an orgy,
so they quickly decided to split. The dentist, naturally, went after them fearing what the effects of the drug might have on his guests while in transit.
As Harrison drove, the dentist chased them through the streets for a short
time until he lost them. George then took his charge to the Pickwick Club
where the drug had nally kicked in. Within moments, red lights in elevators
turned into res blazing, and tables became elongated, as if the group had
walked into a Salvador Dali painting. Eventually arriving at Harrisons
place, the four of them settled in for the night. Lennon took some speed to
counter the drug, but it only sped up the hallucinations. Shortly after,
he imagined himself as the captain in a submarine oating over the wall.
Lennon would take acid again in August 1965, at a party in Los Angeles,
but, by 1966, he was looking for spiritual answers. He thought he found
them in Timothy Learys 1964 book, The Psychedelic Experience, a lyrical
interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Upon his request, journalist
Barry Miles, who ran Indica Books in Southampton Row, sent Lennon
the book.
The night John Lennon discovered backward sounds on tape when he was
high on grass. So when he tried to thread the tape of his demo of Rain, he
spooled it backward on the playback machine. At rst listen, he thought he
was hearing religious revelationsso naturally, he wanted it on the record.
George Martin, though, perhaps feeling that Lennon was too stoned to
recall what happened that clearly, claimed that it was he who came up with
the idea while the band was taking a break. The Beatles werent quite sure
what to do at that point, Martin explained. I lifted off a bit of Johns
voice. [I] put it onto a bit of tape and turned it around and shoved it back
inslid it around until it was in the right position. . .And I played it to John
when they came back.11 Whoever came up with the idea, Steve Turner
rightly claims that Rain opened another avenue to the articial paradise
of Nowhere Land. In Theres a Place on the Beatles rst album, John
had voiced the opinion that states of mind matters more than events out
there, Turner wrote. In Rain, he returned to the theme but this time
with the experience of psychedelic drugs as a subtext. 12 According to
Turner, Lennon saw no difference between whether the sun was shining or
it was pouring rain. All that mattered was our attitude toward it.
When the Beatles went out on tour in 1966, attitudes in general began to
curdle. This was their year of living dangerously, the harrowing passage
leading them into the meaty, complicated center of everything, Devin
McKinney explained in Magic Circles. [It was] the year they located, lived

Let Me Take You Down

137

out, consumed, and regurgitated the nightmare that lay coiled inside the
Beatle dream.13 That nightmare was already at loose in the world. In the
summer of 1966, a former U.S. marine named Charles Whitman gunned
down 13 people from a tower in Austin, Texas. The gifted scatological
comic Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose. A loner named Richard Speck
would single-handedly murder eight student nurses in Chicago. Along with
these separate acts of murder and self-destruction, the war in Vietnam was
escalating and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was slow to heal the wounds of
racial disenfranchisement. For the Beatles, they were fully aware that they
were turning into product. In Having a Wild Weekend, the Dave Clark Five
were seen as part of an advertising campaign selling meat. In 1966, the
Beatles literally became meat.
Since 1964, Capitol Records in the States had made themselves selfappointed butchers by freely cutting up their albums and singles into repackagedand remixedversions of their records without the approval of the
group. By 1966, the Beatles nally had enough. During a photo session with
Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, the Beatles encouraged him to
disrupt the marketing conventions of selling pop stars. To accomplish this task,
Whitaker brought with him a set of white butcher smocks, false teeth, doll
parts, a box of nails, a birdcage, and a couple of strings of sausages and raw
meat, so he could act on an idea inspired by the German surrealist Hans
Bellmer. In the thirties, Bellmer had created a photo book called Die Puppe
(The Doll). In it, he posed life-sized dolls in violent poses suggesting both
violation and murder. With his own collection of props, Whitaker decided to
assist the Beatles in taking a number of provocative shots at Capitol Records
to protest the manner in which theyd been marketed in the United States.
But who knew that Capitol would participate in this mockery by selecting
one of the photos as the cover of their latest butchering job? To add yet more
irony, the picture they selected was a shot of the Beatles in butcher smocks
covered in raw meat and holding decapitated baby dolls. The picture was
selected for the June 1966 release of Yesterday. . .and Today, which was a
hodgepodge collection of tracks from the British Rubber Soul (Drive My
Car, Nowhere Man, If I Needed Someone, What Goes On) and Help!
(Act Naturally, Yesterday). They also added a single (Day Tripper/
We Can Work It Out) and some new tracks from their upcoming album
Revolver. But the cover concept Capitol created had nothing to do with
Whitakers original idea. I wanted to do a real experiment with them, Whitaker explained. The original cover concept never really materialized. It was
meant to be a double-folded album cover where the front showed the four
Beatles holding sausages, which would have stood for an umbilical cord.
Therefore, each of the Beatles would be linked to a woman by means of these
sausages. Now this woman was going to be inside the double-album cover
and there was going to be people blowing trumpets announcing the birth of
the Beatles and all kinds of surreal, far-out images.14

138

Artificial Paradise

Capitol released to radio stations that summer close to 750,000 copies of


Yesterday. . .And Today with the butcher cover. The Top 40 DJs reacted
naturally with a strong distaste for it. Capitol immediately withdrew the
record and inserted a new cover from the same Whitaker sessions showing
the Beatles indifferently gathered around (and inside) a huge trunk. But
some Capitol factories in Los Angeles and Scranton got lazy and simply
glued the new cover overtop of the offending one. Before long, a small number of butcher sleeves found their way back into the stores, where eager fans
found that they could use steam, or erasers, to remove the new cover. Besides
commanding up to $40,000.00 among rare vinyl collectors, these fans
ripped away the sanitized, approved image of the Beatles, and uncovered
the butchers beneath. This hidden cover of Yesterday. . .and Today became
something of an emblem for the grim tour ahead, which would be a darkspirited affair. If the rst U.S. visit had been a quintessential, and touching,
display of American insanityour dizzy infatuation with the newthis last
tour was all-American in its ugliness, Devin McKinney explained. [T]he
raw quality of the hysteria it threw up as Beatlemania plowed across the
continent, helpless to avoid leaving scars wherever it passed.15
As the tour started, those scars McKinney referred to began to appear.
Their return trip to Germany with six shows over four days in three cities
including a date in Hamburgwas hardly a dream reunion. In Essen, eager
fans were taken outside and beaten up by bouncers. As the guys inside
screamed and sang along to the band, their enthusiasm became a form of
angry deance, the kind later found in the mad pogoing at Sex Pistols concerts in the seventies. While playing Hamburg, a riot broke out at the Ernst
Mercke Hall, where Beatles fans squared off against those opposed to the
group. These sharp dividing lines became a harbinger for the rest of the tour.
Visiting the Star Club, for the rst time since New Years Eve 1962, they
encountered a boarded up building, completely dilapidated, instead of a
den of hot excitement. The only enjoyment they experienced while in
Germany came when Astrid Kirchherr arrived at their show and gave Lennon
some of the letters hed written Stuart Sutcliffe in 1961 and 1962. As for the
press conferences, which used to be good-natured verbal sparring matches,
they were now petulant affairs where the Beatles gave indifferent answers
to inane questions like Do you wear longpants in the winter?
A devouring world awaited them and began to sharpen its teeth early that
summer. Their concert in Japan to play Tokyos Budokan Hall stirred ugly
nationalist sentiment. Since the Budokan was considered sacred territory, a
faction of the students threatened that the Beatles would be murdered if they
played there. Press agent Tony Barrow, who was aware of the threats, kept it
secret from the band. While they played, the group didnt realize that there
were armed guards surrounding the stage to protect them. (Curiously, both
Bob Dylan and Cheap Trick would play the Budokan in the seventies with
little fuss and two released albums to boot.) In July, a trip to the Philippines,

Let Me Take You Down

139

where they snubbed a government dinner reception from the rst lady
Imelda Marcos at the presidential palace, caused a riot. The Beatles barely
made it out of the country alive after Marcos pulled the security detail, leaving both Filipino soldiers and disgruntled fans to repeatedly kick the band as
they desperately boarded their plane.
Yet given all the animosity being stirred, it would pale in comparison to a
simple comment made by John Lennon to a British reporter earlier in the
year. On March 4, 1966, Lennon had given an interview to Maureen Cleave
of the London Evening Standard. The article was essentially a prole piece
on the Beatles domestic life, but Lennon, in the midst of discussing his
middle-class existence, asserted that the Beatles were now more popular
than Jesus Christ. Christianity will go, he told her. It will vanish and
shrink. . .Were more popular than Jesus now; I dont know which will go
rstrock n roll or Christianity. 16 Lennon was simply making an
obvious observation on how popular culture was becoming the new religion.
After witnessing some people with crutches, others in wheelchairs, looking
to the Beatles to heal them, Lennon was recognizing that the old models of
morality were no longer holding rm. The American Bible-belt, however,
perceived his remarks quite differently. Just prior to arriving in the American
South that August, the band was subjected not only to death threats but to
mass record-burnings as well. DJs Tommy Charles, Jim Cooper, and Doug
Layton, from the Birmingham radio station WAQY, urged their listening
audience to tear up their Beatles records, while doing so themselves over
the air. The Ku Klux Klan, who were looking for leverage after all the recent
victories of the Civil Rights Movement, were setting forth to crucify the very
band who was championing black music. To start, they attached Beatles
records to their wooden crosses and began burning them. While the albums
were aame, young children, looking like they stepped out of Village of the
Damned, carried signs that read, The Beatles are dull and ordinary. We
were in the American South just after the story had broken, McCartney
recalled in 2004. I still remember this young blond boy, no more than
12 years old, banging on the window, raging, like we were devils.17
Protest wasnt just limited to the South. Reverend Thurman H. Babbs, a
Baptist minister in Cleveland, threatened to revoke the membership of any
member of his church who played Beatles records or supported John
Lennon in his remarks. I was astonished that John Lennons quotation
was taken out of context from my article and misinterpreted in that way,
said a surprised Maureen Cleave. [H]e certainly wasnt comparing the
Beatles to Jesus Christ. He was simply observing that, to many, the Beatles
were better known.18 But no one was as shocked as John Lennon. When
I rst heard about the repercussions I thought, It cant be trueits just
one of those things, Lennon remembered. And then when I realized it
was serious, I was worried stiff because I knew how it would go on, and
the things that would get said about it, and all those miserable pictures of

140

Artificial Paradise

me looking like a cynic, and it would go on and on and on and get out of
hand, and I couldnt control it. I cant answer for it when it gets that big,
because its nothing to do with me then.19
Yet it had everything to do with John Lennon. The man who had made
himself the key gure in the Beatles utopian aspirations had just challenged
the biggest utopian dream in the Western world. Suddenly beneath what
appeared initially to be love for the Beatles had now turned into the ultimate
betrayal. His comment made many of those die-hard fans realize that the
group hadnt parted the waters, divided the loaves, or delivered anyone to
the Promised Land. Here they were instead putting themselves above the
one prophet that Christians were waiting to deliver them from sin. In that
one brief moment, John Lennon had unwittingly turned the Beatles into
the Golden Calf. Johns mistake was simply stating for publication what
he truly believed and often discussed in private, said Albert Goldman.
By doing so, he violated the taboo that forbids the superstar from calling
attention to the fact that he is being treated as if he were the Messiah.20
Over the next few years, though, as he continued to consume LSD, Lennon
would begin to consider himself a Messiah. On The Ballad of John and
Yoko he would even strike out at people he thought wanted to crucify
him. In 1980, Mark Chapman, a desperate loner who was a Beatles fan,
and who also consumed copious amounts of LSD, even looking a little like
Lennon in his fat Elvis period, would (to paraphrase Norman Mailer)
cash the check that Lennon wrote that summer. [The] explosion that
[summer] might well have resulted in Lennons assassination years before
the event and [it] did contribute to his eventual murder because his killer
was a religious crazy from the Bible Belt, who believed that he had been
divinely appointed to strike down a false messiah, Goldman asserted.21
While Lennon became the ultimate victim of his frank observation, the
group ultimately suffered for it. We all had to pay for it and it was a pretty
scary time, Ringo recalled. John had to apologize, not because of what
hed said, but to save our lives because there were a lot of very heavy
threatsnot only to him, but to the whole band.22
Ringos fear became even more palpable when the Beatles arrived to play
Memphis, Tennessee. During the show, a recracker was set off in the crowd
that had everybody on stage looking to Lennon to see if he had been shot.
In Cincinnati, there was heavy rain before their show at Crosley Field that
put soaked fans in a less than inviting mood. A canopy was hung over the
stage to protect the group, but the stage became so wet that the Beatles
would have been electrocuted had they attempted to play. Paul was so
scared at the thought of mounting the stage that he threw up in the dressing
room. In the end, they cancelled their only gig in the three years of touring
America. In St. Louis, at Busch Stadium, the weather was no better, but the
show went on anyway. But all through their set, sparks of electricity ew
over their heads. As they left the stage for their usual getaway, they were

Let Me Take You Down

141

quickly placed in a chrome-paneled truck. As the vehicle took off, the


Beatles were left sliding around helplessly with no railings to hang on to.
There was nothing to hang on to. It was an apt metaphor. If anything
was clear by 1966, the Beatles were no longer in control of their meteoric
successit was now driving them. When they chose to engage their audience
in 1962, it wasnt simply to become entertainers, they demanded something
more substantial. They wished to take both pop music and their fans to another
place. And they did. But, in doing so, the Beatles couldnt change the course of
the world around them. Nor did they intend to. They sought rather to change
our perspective on the world. But Lennons remark about Jesus showed that
any provocative outspokenness would have its price. The audience discovers
hostility and hunger mingling with love in its well of feelings, and the Beatles
withdraw into the guarded bubble of their private entertainments, Devin
McKinney points out in Magic Circles. In the cause of self-protectionfrom
physical harm as well as mere humiliationthey are close to canceling themselves as individuals.23 The rules of engagement with their audience had
clearly changed. The Beatles were now xed in the sights of devoted fans, ready
to strike if displeased. For self-preservation, the band realized that it was time
to stop being Beatles. The Beatles were hated, as much as anything, for representing the principle that freedom was worse than available, Dave Marsh
wrote while touching on the paradox within the pleasure principle of the
Beatles.24 Overall, the band sensed the rising discontent beneath the huge
expectations they had raised in their fans over the years. But they were also
exhausted due to the rigors of touring. Paul McCartney, the born entertainer,
still loved the glamour and excitement of playing in front of live crowds, but
Lennon hated the fact that no one cared about the music. George Harrison,
too, grew more dissatised, feeling wasted and imprisoned by Beatlemania.
Ringo meanwhile felt he hadnt developed any further as a drummer when he
couldnt hear what his mates were playing. No one would have hated the
Beatles in 66 if they hadnt been so loved in 64, Devin McKinney reminded
us. Their mania always held the potential for a different, darker brand of
madness.25 Before the madness could consume them, the Beatles decided to
quit the road.
On Monday, August 29, 1966, their last live show took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. They would play 11 songs that night. But unlike
their other shows, the group was aware that this may be their last live
appearance. Time had certainly become a factor. The years theyve put in
now felt like decades. When George Harrison introduced Lennon to sing
I Feel Fine, he called it a song from 1959. In the middle of one tune,
McCartney took a time outstopping both the song and time itselfto
watch the police coral a fan who had run onto the eld. Lennon announced
Day Tripper as a song from long ago. (It had actually been nine months.)
As the show ended, McCartney took the group out with Long Tall Sally, a
song almost as old as the day they rst started playing music. It had lasted

142

Artificial Paradise

that long. And as the group, now wearyand more than a little scared from
the violence unleashed that summerwere about to exit the stage, they went
out with a blast of one last happy party going home. While McCartney
exhorted the crowd to have some fun tonight, it was clear that for the Beatles
the fun was over. On the way home on the plane, Harrison nally relieved
said, Well, thats it. Im not a Beatle anymore. That fall, they retired to
the studio and never toured again.
Before they abandoned the stage, though, the new studio music they
released that summer would bring the group full circle to their rst session
at EMI in 1962. To commemorate the concept of completing a circle, the
record was called Revolver. Recorded from April through June 1966,
Revolver is a rich panorama of musical and philosophical styles, a masterpiece of eclecticism. George Harrisons interest in Indian music and religion
came full bloom. The fruit of McCartneys venture into the world of avantgarde theater, visual art, and music fully emerged. Lennons fascination with
Eastern thoughts about mortality, brought on through chemical enhancement, reached its apex. Ringo decided to redene the sound of his drums
that provided more personality to the music. George Martin knew the group
was looking for ways to get more color into their music, too, so he needed to
discover the means to translate their musical ideas by using instruments they
hadnt used before (like the saxophones on Ive Got to Get You into My
Life and the tape manipulations used on Tomorrow Never Knows). To
achieve this end, Martin promoted Geoff Emerick, one of his assistants, to
the role of engineer. The group encouraged us to break the rules, Emerick
recalled of his rst session as engineer. [They told me] that every instrument should sound unlike itself: a piano shouldnt sound like a piano, a guitar shouldnt sound like a guitar, hence putting things thru a Leslie speaker,
and so on.26 Norman Smith, Martins usual collaborator, had now moved
on to be a producer himself, beginning with Pink Floyds debut record, The
Piper at the Gate of Dawn, a year lateran album that would owe something to the innovations used on Revolver.
While indicating the stronger inuence that drugs had on Revolver,
Walter Everett saw the record as [r]eective of their reading of Timothy
Leary, their own experiences with LSD, and an exploration of Hindustani
music and philosophy, Revolver was fundamentally unlike any rock album
that had preceded it.27 Rubber Soul might have been their pot album, but
Revolver was most certainly their acid album. After reaching new emotional
depths in Rubber Soul, the group sought now to explore the very source of
those depths, examining the cycle of life and the many sides of issues like
loneliness and death (Eleanor Rigby), rebirth (She Said, She Said,
Tomorrow Never Knows), retribution (Taxman), childhood adventures (Yellow Submarine), romantic desolation (For No One), and the
fragility of sexual union (Love You To). If Rubber Soul peered into the

Let Me Take You Down

143

value of experience, Revolver set out to dene what new experiences were
now before the group. But this amazing record also harbored an irresolvable
contradiction. While it would be their most exciting and versatile recording,
showing a stunning resource for creating unity out of diversity, Revolver
also illustrated how the Beatles, as a utopian entity, were coming to an end.
The album opens with the same 1-2-3-4 count-in that set off I Saw Her
Standing There on their debut LP, except this time, its not the combustible
sound of a brash young band about to get people jumping onto the dance
oor. Instead, we hear, under the count-in, the synthetic atmosphere of
the recording studio. Revolver opens with the background sound of recording tape revolving. The count-in on the Please Please Me album had signaled
a charge let loose into the world; but on Revolver, its a deliberately dispassionate and mechanical intro indicating a withdrawal from the world they
once sought to conquer. Were now alerted to the new age of Beatle music:
from the live stage to the magical illusion of the studio. Taxman is the rst
Harrison track to lead off a Beatle record. With a melody that suggests Neil
Heftis theme to the TV series Batman, he launches a dour attack on the governments taxation of the group, which now found itself in a higher tax
bracket due to the reality of their success. In those days we paid nineteen
shillings and sixpence out of every pound, Harrison explained. [A]nd with
supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculousa heavy penalty to pay
for making money. 28 Within the ribald glee of I Saw Her Standing
There, the Beatles opened their career with the possibility that success
would give them ultimate freedom and wealth. In 1966, Taxman delivers
them into perceived poverty, an assumed indigence they thought their career
would help them overcome. The irony for Harrison, a millionaire who
would eschew the material world for years to come, is hearing him
complaining about material matters. The Beatles idealistic daydream, a
state of mind free of conventional trappings, couldnt change the trappings
of the world that Harrison vainly rails against. [B]y ring the rst shot of
their revolver at the tax man, the Beatles blew a jagged hole in their lifelong
identication with the teenyboppers, Albert Goldman commented. [They
aligned] themselves now with an older, hipper crowd that would appreciate
their sour-mouthed complaint as well as their audacity in voicing such grievances through a medium consecrated to love sighs.29 Taxman tells us
that the Beatles arent idealistic kids anymore.
Eleanor Rigby, which the Beatles released as a single, was an exquisite
chamber work about inconsolable loneliness and bereavement. Written by
McCartney, while he was living in London, the song began as a story of Miss
Daisy Hawkins, a young girl, picking up rice in a church after a wedding.
But realizing that the woman should be older, a woman whose opportunity
to marry had passed her by, McCartney came upon the idea that this lonely
woman would be able to perceive the loneliness in the people who surrounded
her. For the name, McCartney had visited a graveyard in Putney Vale

144

Artificial Paradise

Cemetery in London with composer Lionel Bart. There he discovered the


name Eleanor Bygraves that he thought would t the character. He would
change her last name to Rigby after he saw a Bristol shop called Rigby &
Amp while visiting Jane Asher earlier in the year. Once the story of Eleanor
Rigby developed as a forsaken cleaning woman in a church, McCartney
brought the song to the group in Weybridge to create the gure of Father
McKenzie. Ringo suggested the idea of the minister darning his socks, while
Harrison suggested the notion of her bearing witness on all these lonely people. John Lennon, though, remembered his annoyance toward McCartney.
. . .[T]he rst verse was his and the rest are basically mine, claimed Lennon.
But the way [Paul] did it. . .he didnt want to ask for my help, and we were
sitting around with Mal Evans [the road manager] and Neil Aspinall [the
Beatles accountant], so he said to us, Hey, you guys, nish up the lyrics.. . .
I was insulted and hurt that Paul had just thrown it out in the air. He actually
meant he wanted me to do it, and of course there isnt a line of theirs in the
song because I nally went off to a room with Paul and we nished the
song.30 Paul, on the other hand, claimed Lennon wrote about half a line.
After the success of the string section in Yesterday, McCartney next
turned to George Martin for another chamber arrangement for Eleanor
Rigby. Paul was thinking of something in the avor of Vivaldi, as he had
recently discovered the legendary Venician violinist through Jane. Martin,
on the other hand, was considering something in the style of the scherzo
rhythms heard in Bernard Herrmanns score for Francois Truffauts 1966
lm, Fahrenheit 451. The result is something in between. But, as Devin
McKinney rightly points out in Magic Circles, the intensity of the strings
actually comes closer to Herrmanns earlier score for Alfred Hitchcocks
Psycho.31 (When the song was performed in McCartneys 1984 lm, Give
My Regards to Broad Street, McCartney included an extended dream
sequence where the Martins string arrangement briey samples Herrmanns
ominous string narrative.) For the string background, Martin booked a
double string quartet, consisting of four violins, two violas, and two cellos.
The resemblance to Psycho, rather than Fahrenheit 451, had plenty to do
with Geoff Emerick close-miking the string section giving the chamber section the power of amplied guitars. This radical approach, however, didnt
sit too well with the players. Strings would be traditionally recorded six
feet away from the instrument, so I got the mikes really close to the strings,
Emerick explained. That unnerved the players, because with quartets,
theres always one player who isnt so good and he always sits at the back,
so you cant hear him as well.32 The intensity Emerick creates through his
miking, where the musicians bows strike the strings like knife thrusts,
created a powerful sense of anguish in the tragedy of this story.
On Revolver, we can discern off the top that the concept of community
that the Beatles once spoke to in their music was now becoming fractured.
In Taxman, its clear that the government doesnt speak for its people,

Let Me Take You Down

145

or even represent the organizing principle of a society anymore. It isolates


and indifferently taxes people instead. Throughout Eleanor Rigby, were
confronted with unbearable isolation. Eleanor Rigby picks up rice in a
church for a wedding shell never get to experience for herself. Father
McKenzie writes sermons he knows that no one will ever hear. When
Eleanor Rigby dies, no one bothers to come to her funeral. Father McKenzie,
when he walks from his grave, knows that no one will be saved. It is perhaps
somewhat serendipitous that, during the eighties, someone actually discovered a gravestone bearing the name of Eleanor Rigby. She died in October
1939, almost exactly a year before Lennon was born, in the churchyard of
St. Peters, Woolton. To add to the coincidence, a mere few yards to the right
is a grave for John McKenzie. The grave is also mere yards from where
Lennon and McCartney rst met at the summer fete in 1957.
Lennons Im Only Sleeping also shows signs of the splintering of the
Beatles vision. In the song, John envisions a dreamy retreat from the world.
Where Theres a Place took us to the boundless world of the imagination,
providing a skeleton key to the real world in front of us, Im Only Sleeping
has more in common with the hermetic beauty of the Beach Boys In My
Room, where one seeks not to connect with the real world, or the people
in it. Im Only Sleeping [is] a lugubrious strain, reminiscent of the songs
of the Great Depression, with a melody that stretches like a cat up and down
the aeolian scale in the distant key of E-at minor, Albert Goldman observed
in The Lives of John Lennon. [T]he song is loath to move as was its author,
whom it also mimics by breaking off abruptly from time to time, as if the
song, like its singer, had suddenly lost consciousness.33 More than anything
else, Im Only Sleeping begins the steady withdrawal of John Lennon from
the spirit of community offered by being a Beatle. His retreat would become
more explicitly stated in Im So Tired in 1968, and then ultimately
concluded, long after the Beatles demise, with Watching the Wheels, on
his nal 1980 album, Double Fantasy. Johns craving for somnolence testies to the terrible depletion of his vital energies wrought by years of rockin
round the clock, going for days without sleeping, driven by Prellies and
Dexies, travel jitters and stage fright, to say nothing of the long-term effects
of chronic rage, paranoia, and nightly hotel-room orgies, Goldman further
concluded. John Lennon became Yawn Lennon.34 Since Lennon grew
more content to retreat from the world, McCartney began his ascent toward
leading the band, both in their songs and toward a whole new direction.
Where Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) introduced Beatles
fans to the sitar, Love You To is the rst piece of Indian music composed
by George Harrison. Since Revolver takes into account the cycle of life,
Harrisons relationship to Indian music may have begun before birth. Apparently when his mother was pregnant, she used to listen to Radio India on
Sunday mornings. Georges sister Louise suggested that he might have
actually heard the sitar before he got out of the womb. Love You To, a

146

Artificial Paradise

Hindustani song whose title does a reversal on Love to You, has no


connecting relationship to the familiar Beatles sound. It doesnt even feature
the other Beatles, only a number of ne Indian instrumentalists, such as Anil
Bhagwat on the tabla. When the sonorous, cautionary notes of the sitar open
the song, it creates a foreboding sonic dreamscape wherein the quest for
perfect love brings with it a profound awareness of mortality, or what Devin
McKinney also calls snide sounds from a nowhere that is alive with
secrets.35 Within those secrets of Love You To is the emerging personality of George Harrison, who is no longer the quiet unassuming Beatle, but
now becoming his own musical force. If McCartney makes you feel the sting
of loneliness on Eleanor Rigby and Lennon expresses the need to separate
in Im Only Sleeping, Harrison seeks to replace the waning communal
spirit of the Beatles with a higher spiritual purpose. [Harrison became a]
modern day Siddhartha who, lured by the sound of an exotic instrument,
climbed the rock palace walls. . .with little precedent to follow, popularized
the concept of rock song as popular conversation with God, wrote musician
Ashley Kahn in a Mojo appreciation of Harrison after his death. [He was a]
frustrated gardener who never fully masteredyet never stopped reaching
forthe perfect balance of superstardom, spiritual apprenticeship and rural
repose.36 Harrisons dramatic use of the Indian modal in Love You To
would have a profound inuence on other pop music to come like the Rolling
Stones Street Fighting Man and Donovans Hurdy Gurdy Man.
Here, There and Everywhere represents one of McCartneys most satisfying love ballads. It portrays a happier portrait of his relationship with Jane
Asher than many of his more recent songs. Written in June 1966, while visiting Lennon, McCartney ended up composing it alone at the side of Lennons
outdoor pool when his writing partner didnt want to get out of bed. Paul
had intended it as a tribute to the standards of Tin Pan Alleyfor example,
delaying the word everywhere, just as Cole Porter did to the word
heaven in Cheek to Cheek. Motown composer Lamont Dozier also
picked up on this when Here, There and Everywhere was picked #4 by
Mojo magazine in their 100 Greatest Songs selection in 2000. Theres
something about the feeling that makes it sound like youve always known
it, Dozier told Mojos Johnny Black. When I rst heard it, I couldnt
believe that it was Lennon and McCartney. I was sure it was more like
George Gershwin or Cole Porter. It was that familiar to my spirit.37 But
having also been duly inuenced by the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, and in
particular, the romantically ethereal God Only Knows, McCartney
composed a love song that is an equally glistening beauty.
Although Yellow Submarine was conceived as the groups standard platform for Ringo, it is likely the catchiest, most comically imaginative song he
ever sang. McCartney composed it while in that semi-dream state before
sleep. He was imagining a story about a kid who hears stories concerning a
land of submarines from an old sailor, and then the boy desires to sail there

Let Me Take You Down

147

to see that magical world for himself. Conceived as a simple childrens singalong number, it initially had a spoken introduction by Ringo that was later
dropped. Yellow Submarine begins as a simple sea chantey. But it soon
turns into a full-scale comedy production featuring various sound effects
produced by items like cash registers, chains, bar glasses, tap dancing mats,
hand bells, and wind machines. Marianne Faithful, Pattie Harrison, and the
Stones Brian Jones picked their choice of instrument and rattled away. With
George Martin at the controls, he orchestrated the song in the same manner
he handled some of his early comedy recordings of the Goons. But the comic
middle section, where we hear the inhabitants of the submarine, isnt just a
nod to the Goons, it incorporates the spirit of a number of early schmaltzy
songs like Im a Pink Toothbrush, Youre a Blue Toothbrush and The
Railroad Runs Through the Middle of the House, comedy tunes that Harrison had listened to growing up. John Lennon added some words, while folk
singer Donovan added the sky of blue/sea of green part. Roadie Mal Evans,
assistant Neil Aspinall, and some of the staff at Abbey Road provided the
chorus in the studio. Yellow Submarine made me laugh, stated that
famously reclusive Beach Boy Brian Wilson. I mean, livin in a submarine?38 Yellow Submarine would rightly become a classic childrens standard and later the title song and story of a popular animated picture.
From the gaiety of Yellow Submarine, we shift abruptly into the heavymetal luster of John Lennons She Said, She Said. The song was developed
out of an incident that took place in Los Angeles, in August 1965, at a rented
house during their American tour. One night, the Beatles threw a party
celebrating Jane Fondas new movie, the western parody Cat Ballou, inviting
her actor brother Peter Fonda, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby from the
Byrds, plus Don Short, the Daily Mirror entertainment correspondent. Most
of the guests were dropping acid, with John and George taking it intentionally for the rst time after being slipped the drug by the dentist earlier that
year. It was also the rst time that Ringo would try it. As Harrison was
describing his LSD experience, speaking as though he were dying, Peter
Fonda started assuring Harrison that there was no need to fear death. Apparently, Fonda had almost died himself from an accidental gunshot wound
when he was a child. While also tripping, Lennon became unnerved by this
casual talk of death, fearing that Fondas ippant remark might set him off
on a bad acid experience. Lennon immediately told Fonda to leave, telling
him that he was making him feel like hed never been born.
If one is never born, then how can one die? The awareness of that question, the cycle of life and death, became central to Lennons LSD experience.
It also came to signify the revolver of the album title. Thoughts of death had
sent Lennon back to his troubled youth, recalling feelings of never being
born. But to afrm that he does exist, the singer must cling to the simple
adolescent perspective of seeing the world as eternally good (When I was
a boy/everything was right). But that naive worldview was now ruptured

148

Artificial Paradise

by the LSD experience, which brought about for Lennon an innate awareness of mortality. Im not afraid of dying, Lennon once remarked. Im
prepared for death because I dont believe in it. I think its just getting out
of one car and getting into another.39 In the song, Lennon is reminded that
death is an inevitable part of a revolving circle. In time, that revolving circle
could take the form of another revolver, a weapon that would ultimately end
Lennons own life, when an assassin used one to kill him. Yet the songs
ironies dont end. In the 1969 movie Easy Rider, Peter Fonda would play
Captain America, a mythic hero traveling the American landscape looking
for the Nowhere Land of the American Dream. After an LSD experience
leaves him mourning the death of his mother, Captain America nds his
own death at the end of a shotgun red by a redneck.
Out of the dark discourse of She Said, She Said comes Paul McCartneys bright optimism of Good Day Sunshine. While owing no small debt
to the Lovin Spoonfuls cheerful Daydream, the tune was also a hybrid of
the Supremes Where Did Our Love Go? and Baby Love. Theres such
an unaffected sunny quality to the song that it would in turn inuence the
seventies rock band Chicago, who would create their own variation on
McCartneys theme with Wake Up Sunshine on Chicago. Lennon
described And Your Bird Can Sing as nothing special, but (besides its
incandescent charm) the track candidly addresses Lennons belief that one
can have everything, your bird can even sing, but it wont guarantee you
knowledge of the self, or of others. However, if you ultimately look in his
direction, hell be around. McCartneys For No One is a startlingly evocative song about desolation. When Paul wrote it on a Swiss skiing vacation in
March 1966, the original title was the lugubrious Why Did it Die? Once
again, we get a cyclical song, this time about the life and death of a romance.
For No One has an inescapably lamentable beauty, a quality that in
McCartneys best work, examines the past without reducing it to a cheap,
manipulative sentiment, or what musician Brendan Benson refers to as
melancholic nostalgia.40
While technically For No One isnt a country number, it has a stark
sadness that is sometimes integral to country music. Country artist Emmylou Harris likely considered that when she covered the song on her 1975
Pieces of the Sky album. [I]t has that real deep country sadness, Harris
remarked. [T]he song is being written from a really interesting perspective:
its being written for [the singer] but its so sympathetic towards her.
It moves between two voices until you feel that its being sung as a third
voice: There will be a time when all the things she said will ll your head.
How can a 23-year-old man have gone so deep?41 The solemn horn motif
that adds some of that depth was by classical player Alan Civil, who George
Martin had called upon to perform the part. The session started after
midnight because fans were constantly disrupting things during the day.
Since nothing was written, Civil had to improvise something that Paul could

Let Me Take You Down

149

only suggest. Martin had to lower the pitch through varispeed on the guitar
and piano because Civil couldnt match the key. Even with all the difculties
getting this lovely brief melody down, Civil is highly remembered for it.
Dr. Robert is a straight ahead rocker written by Lennon thats based on
Dr. Robert Freymann, a New York physician of German descent who
provided a variety of drugs to the citys art sceneincluding Charlie Parker,
whose death certicate he ultimately signed. Freymann lost his license for six
months in 1968 and was ultimately expelled for malpractice in 1975.
He later died in 1987. Dr. Robert, which endorses chemical enhancement
to provide altered states of higher consciousness, has some melodic resemblance to Ticket to Ride. Harrisons I Want to Tell You is a song about
how our attempts to utter the simple truth are ruptured when our conscious
thoughts interfere. He suggests, in a less ostentatious manner than he would
a year later on Within You Without You, that a higher consciousness in
the mind leads to a truth that cant be spoken so clearly. Got to Get You
into My Life is a brassy tribute to Motown R&B. Its also the rst Beatles
tune to feature a brass section. Scored for three saxophones and two trumpets, it began life simply as an acoustic song. Over the eight takes, though,
McCartneys ode to his love of pot got turned into a classic soul arrangement. When McCartney didnt think the song rocked quite enough, however, Geoff Emerick decided then to move his microphones further down
into the bells of the instruments to give their sound more punch. Paul could
be very precise as to what he wanted, if you were trying to pursue something
and you werent quite there, Emerick explained. John might accept it,
[but] Paul would say, No, come on John, lets have another go, lets try
something else.42
John Lennons radically innovative Tomorrow Never Knows, the nal
track on Revolver, would certainly be considered an example of trying
something else. It was the most drastic departure from anything the Beatles
ever attempted. What led to the innovations that created this song had
everything to do with the transformation of both McCartney and Lennon
prior to Revolver. While success had turned the other Beatles toward domesticity in their middle-class comfort, McCartney restlessly turned his attention toward the larger cultural world. There was no question that Jane
Asher had played a huge role in opening those doors for him. For one thing,
he lived in her parents house, a very cultured home, with her mother being a
stage director and music teacher, while her father was a psychiatrist. Janes
brother Peter was, of course, also a musician in Peter and Gordon, for whom
Paul had written a number of songs. Therefore, in McCartneys room, there
were drawings from Jean Cocteaus Opium series, a volume of dramatist
Alfred Jarrys work (whose term pataphysics would make its way into
McCartneys Maxwells Silver Hammer). Basically, the Ashers had made
McCartney aware of a world larger than pop. He imbibed in all aspects of
the art worldfrom the avant-garde to mainstreamwhich would

150

Artificial Paradise

ultimately help take the Beatles from the pop rock of A Hard Days Night to
the imagined art-rock of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
While McCartney both fed and enlarged his ego, Lennon set out to annihilate his through LSD. The concept of destroying the ego had come to him in a
vision he had during one of his rst acid trips. In the early winter of 1966,
he went to Barry Miles Indica Bookshop to seek out Timothy Learys The
Psychedelic Experience (1964), which was Learys reinterpretation of the
Tibetan Book of the Dead. In the book, Leary had written of spending seven
months in the Himalayas with Lama Govinda studying Tibetan Buddhism.
During that time, Leary was told about the death of the ego, as opposed to
the death of the body. The Book of the Dead was to be spoken to a dying
person to help them through the various stages of death. But for Leary, it could
also be spoken to those on acid fearing the death of their ego. Lennons original
title of Tomorrow Never Knows was The Void, citing Learys comment
about the void being beyond the restless owing electricity of Life. 43
Lennons words were written before any idea of the tune and since the words
were unlike any other Beatles song. The Beatles wanted this music to be as
powerful as Lennons lyrics. In the rst few hours of recording on April 6,
1966, what begun as Mark 1 soon became Tomorrow Never Knows.
The songs melody was in the chord of C, arranged as a liturgical Eastern
religious chant. Since Lennon was using acid to strip away his ego, he also
stripped away the tracks very structure, thus providing a drone. To give it
more color, McCartney came up with the idea of using tape loopssomething he learned after he listened to Karlheinz Stockhausens Gesang der
Junglinge, which had fused both electronic notes and vocals into a form of
musique concrete. By sending a number of tape loops, of various phrases
and whoops, revolving through a number of machines, they began layering
the effects. Through this process, the Beatles had provided a saturation of
random sounds. George Martin varied the speed on some of the loops, as
well, to create an ever-evolving soundscape. I think it was Paul who found
out that if you removed the erase head and put a loop of tape on it, you could
actually play a short phrase that would saturate itself, Martin recalled.
They each went home and made these funny little loops and they would
bring various tape loops in for me to hear. They recorded them at different
speeds. . .[w]ith Tomorrow Never Knows I selected eight of them and put
them all on different machines.44 Since Geoff Emerick had done a number
of sessions with the World Record Company, who had recorded a series of
Shakespeare plays that used tape loops and avant-garde music, he was
instantly comfortable with the experiments here.
The song begins with the same buzz saw drone that opened I Feel Fine,
except it isnt caused by feedback from a guitar amp. Harrison recreates the
effect on the Indian tamboura, while Ringo lays down a steady 4/4 drum pattern. What sounds like seagulls swooping through the musical haze begin to coil
through the composition. This fragment is nothing more than a tape loop of

Let Me Take You Down

151

McCartney laughing and was being manipulated throughout the mix. Overtop of this, Lennon wanted his tribute to The Book of the Dead to sound like
the Dalai Lama preaching from a mountaintop. Emerick was game to try any
effects to aid the song, but they became difcult to achieve when Lennon
wasnt terribly good at articulating what he wanted. John was difcult to
please, because he didnt have a lot of patience, Emerick recalled.
He couldnt express what he was hearing in his mind, so you had to gure
it out over a series of conversations what he wanted.45 Out of Lennons
garbled concept, Emerick came up with an idea. While the rst half of the
song has Lennon properly miked, after the break for the backward guitar
solo, Emerick dramatically altered the sound of Johns voice by putting it
through a rotating Leslie speaker from the electronic organ cabinet. Emerick
desired to have Ringos continuous drum roll, which itself played like a tape
loop, to provide an imposing presence. I moved the bass drum microphone
much closer to the drum than had been done before, Emerick explained.
Theres an early picture of the Beatles wearing a woollen jumper with four
necks. I stuffed that inside the drum to deaden the sound. Then we put the
sound through Fairchild 600 valve limiters and compressors. It became
[Ringos drum] sound of Revolver.46
Given the albums conceptual theme of lifes cycles, they turned to someone from their very beginnings to provide the cover art. That year, Klaus
Voorman had been wrapping up a tenure with his band, Paddy, Klaus and
Gibson, in Germany, and about to join Manfred Mann, when he got a call
from John Lennon to ask if he could provide an idea for the album cover.
Although he hadnt done any drawings in a number of years, Voorman
agreed and did a number of sketches until he settled on the one featuring
the group with their familiar long hair surrounded by a collage of photos
from various stages of their career. I asked them to bring in their private
pictures from when they were babies, or whatever, Voorman recalled.47
Since it was Voorman who rst created the hair style they would soon
adopt for themselves, hiring Voorman to do the cover was a signicant
connection to their origins. When he was done, Voorman took the design
to EMI to show the group, as well as to George Martin and Brian Epstein.
They all loved it (although the picture Paul supplied of himself sitting on a
toilet in Hamburg was excised). Epstein was apparently so impressed that
he broke into tears because he had initially feared that it might not work.
But it might have also been that he knew that with the conclusion of
Revolver his own usefulness (now that the band was retiring from touring)
might be ending.
Providing the conclusion to Revolver, Tomorrow Never Knows
becomes one of the Beatles most dazzling and exotic compositions.
It reinterprets their music while redening the utopianism in their sound.
The track neither makes concessions to any pop trend (since no such psychedelic trend yet existed) nor does it provide a protective cocoon for the singer

152

Artificial Paradise

to take refuge in (as did Im Only Sleeping). As with Theres a Place,


Lennon again invites the participation of the listener to journey to the
Nowhere Land of the mind. But unlike the brighter utopian hopes cited in
Theres a Place, Tomorrow Never Knows takes us into the void.
Of course, Nowhere Land, as a utopian concept, is itself a void, but its realm
was once brightly colored and charged with enthusiasm. In Tomorrow
Never Knows, we become aware of a Nowhere Land brought on by death.
The spirit isnt revitalized, its set loose from the body, never to nd
substance, caught forever in a swirl of whooping birds and backward guitar
solos. The presence of death at the conclusion of Revolver was signicant.
With this record came the end of the Beatles, at least, the Beatles as they
were through the years of Beatlemania. The tunes on this record didnt
conform to an image of four mop-tops in matching suits, shaking their heads
in unison, singing yeah, yeah, yeah. The 1966 tour had shown the group
that love songs didnt teach the world to love. The world could still hate just
as passionately as it could love. Their compositions changed none of that.
While this sober realization didnt stop them from writing love songs or creating love anthems such as All You Need Is Love, the Beatles no longer
believed that the word love would ultimately set you free. In more ways than
one, Revolver had indeed brought the Beatles full circle.
After the 1966 American tour, the Beatles went their separate ways. John
Lennon ventured off to Spain to shoot Richard Lesters antiwar lm, How I
Won the War. George Harrison took a two-month sojourn to India to meet
Ravi Shankar and take formal sitar lessons. Paul McCartney went vacationing with roadie Mal Evans and composed his rst lm score for the Boulting
Brothers picture, The Family Way. Ringo Starr took the time to relax.
As the Beatles disappeared from the pop landscape, Tin Pan Alley was
preparing its own form of revenge on the Fab Four. As the Beatles had transformed American pop songwriting by instilling the idea that songwriters
could perform their own material, the young songwriters of the Brill Building in New York were nding fewer and fewer outlets for their material.
Some, like Neil Diamond and Carole King, began recording and singing
their own compositions. But when two burgeoning Hollywood producers
named Bert Schneider and Rob Rafelson came up with the concept of creating a Pre-Fab Four for television, the Monkees were born. Besides cashing in
on the absence of the Beatles, they now had a group to perform material
produced by the Brill Building songwriters. The idea was hatched actually
a year earlier, in October 1965, to create a group in the persona of the
Beatles during their A Hard Days Night period for a weekly TV series.
Many notable Los Angeles musicians were auditioned for parts, including
the eccentric Van Dyke Parks, who would ultimately collaborate with Brian
Wilson on the doomed Smile project; Steven Stills, who was rejected because
his hair and teeth were not TV friendly; Bobby Boris Pickett, who did the

Let Me Take You Down

153

novelty song Monster Mash; and Danny Hutton, who went on to fame in
Three Dog Night.
In the end, they went with British actor Davy Jones, American musicians
Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, plus American TV actor Mickey Dolenz.
While the Monkees would appear to be performing as a pop band, it was
session musicians who were providing the music. The show kicked off on
September 12 with an episode called Royal Flush, where Dolenz tries to
save a Princess from her evil uncle. When the show began, the Monkees
had only one single, Last Train to Clarksville (which composers Tommy
Boyce and Bobby Hart based on the fade-out harmony of Paperback
Writer). The other songs ranged from the Three-Blind-Mice melody of
The Monkees Theme to the cloying ballad I Want to be Free. Their
attempt at straight-ahead rock was the tepid Freddie Cannon imitation
Lets Dance On. Schneider and Rafelson knew that the band needed to ll
at least six or seven minutes of the show with music because the scripts were
(to put it charitably) pretty thin. They made a phone call to Don Kirshner,
who was the head of the Columbia/Screen Gems music division and had a
songwriting empire at his ngertips. Kirshner saw an opportunity to put
his stableGerry Gofn and Carole King, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka,
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weillback into the spotlight after Beatlemania
had knocked them out. Within the week, Kirshner sent a dozen prerecorded
music tracks for the group to dub their voices onto, plus a number of new
songs. There was now enough material to ll out the season, plus some
extras to t a debut album. The fall of 1966 saw Last Train to Clarksville
reaching #1, along with the TV show.
The bands relationship with Kirshner over the next few years, though, was
hardly reciprocal with generosity. In particular, Mike Nesmith, a gifted Texas
musician and songwriter, was feeling more like a trained chimpanzee.
He wanted the group to be a group and play their own instruments. In time,
the band would squeeze Kirshner out for $35 million in compensation thanks
to Nesmiths rants (and threats). By their third album, Headquarters (1967),
they nally became more of an autonomous group. But without Don Kirshner
to hate, the Monkees began to fragment over the years. Before the end of the
decade, their show was off the air. They rallied to make one counterculture cult
lm, the inchoate Head (1968), which had an improbable cast that included
boxer Sonny Liston, Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, and composer Frank
Zappa. While many saw the Monkees as an inauthentic rip-off of the Beatles,
merely hired hands playing trivial pop, the group did have some substance
beneath its plastic cover. In fact, Zappa, who had been snidely satirizing the
values of American plastic culture, thought the Monkees sounded better than
the love-and-beads bands that were sprouting up in the wake of the Beatles
retirement from touring. He would even make an appearance on their television show where he and Mike Nesmith switched identities to do a mock interview. The ascension of the Monkees made it clear that, in the wake of

154

Artificial Paradise

the Beatles leaving the road, pop fans were still hungry for a spark of magic, a
sense that what they believed back in 1964 wasnt a false promise. The
Monkees were a false promise, possibly one of the rst clone bands that ultimately made some good pop records.
As the Monkees continued to make headlines in late 1966, John Lennon
had returned from Spain and, in November, went to an art exhibit at the
Indica Gallery in London where he met Yoko Ono for the rst time. Born
in 1934, Ono, whose name means ocean child, was the eldest daughter
of an aristocratic Tokyo family. Moving to San Francisco in 1936, where
her father was a banker, they moved between the coast and New York until
Pearl Harbor forced the Ono clan back to Japan. While being left to servants
by her mother outside Tokyo, Yoko had to fend for herself and her siblings
until after the war when she was reunited with her parents. By the early
fties, they were back in New York, where Yoko did three years of philosophy at Sarah Lawrence. After dropping out, she eloped with Japanese
composer Toschi Ichiyananagi. They stayed married for seven years, as
Yoko tried to make her way into the Manhattan avant-garde scene. She rst
associated with composers John Cage and La Monte Young before setting
up her own art show in 1960 at a Madison Avenue gallery that was operated
by George Macunias, who had organized various live dadaist events known
as Fluxus. Yokos work philosophically t in with Macuniass concept.
One of her pieces, that she called the Eternal Time Clock, was a clock that
had only a second hand that was encased in a plastic bubble. By 1961, she
was doing live events at the Village Gate, including the placing of microphones hidden in the bathroom, so that the audience would hear urinating,
defecating, and toilets ushing.
In early 1963, Ono divorced Ichiyananagi to marry the avant-garde artist
Tony Cox, with whom she had a child, Kyoko, that summer. She was still
determined to have a career, though, but felt that New York provided her
little hope. By 1966, she was becoming encouraged when she and Tony were
invited to a British symposium, The Destruction of Art, after contacting
an old American friend from the art world named Dan Richter. He found
her and Tony a place to live in Park Row. Within a few weeks, she got the
show at the Indica Gallery where she rst met John Lennon. Ono claimed
at the time that she had no idea who the Beatles were, but her assertion
makes little sense. The Manhattan art world was well aware of the Beatles
at the time she was performing and exhibiting. Besides, when she came to
London, according to writer Barry Miles, she visited Paul McCartney to
collect some musical manuscripts to add to John Cages Notations collection
of contemporary music scores. It was after Paul gave her a manuscript that
he put her on to Lennon. Lennon meanwhile arrived at her show the day
before the opening and was immediately taken with her minimalist, ironic
art statements that combined elements of both John Cage and Andy Warhol.
When they rst met, she gave him a card that said Breathe on it.

Let Me Take You Down

155

He panted. She laughed. But it was her Ceiling Painting that made him
consider her more favorably. The pieceon the ceilingwas a canvas with
one word on it. You had to climb a ladder, grab a magnifying glass hanging
from a string, and read the word. It said yes (rather than fuck you)
which impressed Lennon. After the show, Yoko tried to hitch a ride with
him in his Mini, but he quickly broke free and disappeared. Eighteen months
later, she would rarely ever leave his side.
While the Beatles were no longer a touring outt, they still wanted to
make records. The thought of being strictly a studio band, at rst, seemed
greatly liberating because they no longer had to endure the pressures of
going on the road. On November 24, they would begin work on a track they
intended to include on their new album. Strawberry Fields Forever was a
song that Lennon wrote while in Spain working on Richard Lesters movie.
In the midst of shooting a battleeld scene, Lennon took a break smoking
some Spanish pot and lying on a beach slowly composing this new song.
Actor Michael Crawford, who costarred in the lm, shared a beach house
with Lennon and heard him play this new tune with lyrics saying, Living
is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. . . Strawberry Field
was actually a Salvation Army orphanage in Beaconseld Road in Woolton,
a mere ve minutes from Lennons childhood home on Menlove Ave.
It acquired its name during an earlier era when it was a farm that produced
strawberries. As a child, with his Aunt Mimi, Lennon would visit the
summer fetes at the orphanage and sell bottles of lemonade with his friends
Ivan Vaughn and Pete Shotten. His aunt would remember John responding
excitedly to the sound of the Salvation Army brass band, pushing her to
hurry so he wouldnt miss the music they played.
As Albert Goldman would point out in The Lives of John Lennon, this
was a prescient memory. The Salvation Army brass band suggested the later
Sgt. Pepper image the Beatles stepped into a year later. But, as Lennon
thought back on the orphan children he watched play, he knew he couldnt
conceive Strawberry Fields Forever as a nostalgic childhood memory.
[Lennon] knew perfectly well that the little girls in blue and white dresses,
their straw boaters tied with red ribbons about their chins, were orphans,
like himself, Goldman asserted. Strawberry Field was not simply John
Lennons playgroundit was his spiritual home.48 In many ways, it was
also John Lennons Heartbreak Hotel. If the early Beatles music was an
attempt to forge a dream out of the nightmare of growing up in postwar
Liverpool, enduring the tragic death of his mother, in Strawberry Fields
Forever, Lennon nds a nightmare within the dreamy texture of his song.
As Devin McKinney sharply observed, Strawberry Fields Forever is a
clash between an ineffable dream and its countervailing nightmarelife
as it is in a dream, versus life as it is.49
Let me take you down, Lennon states mournfully after the soft opening
notes of the mellotron begin the song. Once again, Lennon says, theres a

156

Artificial Paradise

place. Only this time, its not necessarily in his mind or the mystical void
offered up in Tomorrow Never Knows. Hes found a new place to dwell
in another version of Lonely Street. Unlike Heartbreak Hotel, Lennon
discovers a house of phantoms where nothing is real. The song is about nding ones true identity in a world where the imagination can provide other
versions of that identity. For Lennon, the years of Beatlemania had
provided an identity he sought to escape. This song not only musically tears
at the texture of his Beatle self, it offers the rather frightening notion of being
left totally alone, an orphan to the world hes been living in. To express that
desolation, to revel in the surreal rendering of his childhood, Lennon creates
a musical bed that invokes both Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali.
When Lennon sings Strawberry Fields he sounds like Robert Johnson or
something, Elvis Costello commented to Mojo magazine in 1996. You
can tell its all in his head. Hes so focused on what hes doing its scary.50
Its not surprising that Costello would hear Robert Johnson since the song
was originally conceived as a talking blues. In that original version, Lennon
declared the paradox of who he truly was, different from all others, forever
burdened by the knowledge that he was alone both as a boy and a creative
man. As Steve Turner explained, [His visits] were. . .like Alices escapades
down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass. He felt that he was
entering another world, a world that more closely corresponded with his
inner world, and as an adult he would associate these moments of bliss with
his lost childhood and also with a feeling of drug-free psychedelia.51 For
that reason, the song would evolve from a talking blues into an elliptical,
dreamy psychedelic ballad. The looking glass aspect of the song similarly
unnerved Martin Carr, of the Boo Radleys. Its hard to imagine this being
tied down to something as tangible as vinylits more of a dream than a
song, Carr explained. It transports me to half-remembered places
and times.52
As eerily memorable and evocative as the song is, Lennon himself wasnt
happy with the original recording of it. Hearing that the piece didnt quite
resolve itself, he suggested to George Martin that he prepare an orchestral
score to compliment it. When it was nished, Lennon still wasnt impressed.
He preferred the beginning of the rst take of the song and the conclusion of
the other one. He asked Martin if he could just splice the two parts together.
Martin told him that it was impossible since they were in different keys and
tempos. Lennon balked leaving Martin to x it. To do so, Martin gured
if he speeded up the tempo of the second part, he could match it to the rst
part of the song. When he and Geoff Emerick put it together, they created
what Albert Goldman accurately described as a stoned descent into the
maelstrom of the unconscious mind.53 It took 45 hours of work to make
this surreal masterpiece work.
Since Lennon wrote a labyrinthine study of his childhood, McCartney
wished to contribute his own more nostalgic view. Penny Lane was

Let Me Take You Down

157

McCartneys own version of Lennons In My Life. He recollects the places


of his youth where, ironically, none of the things he lists are even found on
Penny Lane. Curiously, it was Lennon who once lived on the street with his
mother and father. (John had originally included Penny Lane as part of In
My Life, but ultimately dropped it.) The street was named for James Penny,
an eighteenth-century slave ship owner, back when Liverpool was the hub of
the slave trade. McCartney mentions Biolettis barbershop, which had a collection of photos in the window of various haircut styles, plus the St. Barnabus Church where he was once a choirboy. Like Strawberry Fields, the
song revisits the past only McCartney is less opaque than Lennon. Childhood
is seen as a comfort zone of happy memories, as opposed to Johns picture of
confusion and sorrow. In 2006, there was some considerable debate over
whether the street should be renamed because of its dubious heritage. After
all, a number of other streets named for slave traders were being renamed
after abolitionists, or for Anthony Walker, a black teenager who was
murdered in 2005 in a racial attack. But Penny Lane, however, retains its
name, perhaps due to the Beatles lovely rendering in this song. Over the
years, Penny Lane has even become a tourist attraction.
The imposed isolation of fame had brought the two writing partners a
need to revisit the real life of their youth. Penny Lane, like Strawberry
Fields Forever, is an impressionistic view of the lingering memories of the
past. But where Lennons is a riveting dirge, McCartneys is a brightly
colored piece of baroque pop. As if to make that association more explicit,
McCartney sought out trumpeter David Mason to provide the solo in the
bridge. Paul had heard him on the BBC performing Bachs Second Brandenberg Concerto from Guildford Cathedral. McCartney asked George Martin
if they could get him to come and record on Penny Lane, and Mason
agreed. McCartney directed Mason in the studio, while Martin did the musical notations. Three hours later, they had the solo. While Strawberry Fields
Forever comes across as the more avant-garde of the two songs, it was
McCartney who was the Beatles avant-gardist. But Paul was also a born
entertainer. When he looked to the past, he wanted to present it as he wished
it could be. He sings with great delight, whether its remembering a banker
with a motorcar or having a go making out with his girl and doing nger
pies. While George Martin was eager for Penny Lane, backed with
Strawberry Fields Forever, to become part of the groups next album,
Brian Epstein thought it was important to have a new single out for the
New Year. It would come out in February 1967and AM radio never
sounded the same again.
The single, a conceptual 45 if ever there was one, represents one of the last
samples of the magic calling of Nowhere Land. For Lennon, in Strawberry
Fields, he takes you to a forlorn past where hes anxious to nd relief, and
to ultimately nd his true self. His voice, which has the beautiful grain of
worn sandpaper, reveals a performer who sings with a hungry desire to be

158

Artificial Paradise

released from the pain he cant seem to escape from. For McCartney, in
Penny Lane, his visionary spirit is heard in his effortless ability to counter
pain and remorse with an ache for the beauty of life. When the Beatles began
their quest for fame, they sought out their American musical roots in order
to nd their own identity as the Beatles. But now removed from the road,
from that original quest, the group returned to their own British roots in
these two songs. When the single was released, the song became a #1 hit in
America. But it stalled at #2 in Britain, when it was ousted by Engelbert
Humperdincks Release Me. But that was okay. The charts no longer held
the same allure as they did in 1964 when I Want to Hold Your Hand shot
to #1 worldwide.
What started as a love affair between a band and its eager, expectant audience had now turned to ritual, routine, and retribution. They began their
1962 Please Please Me album session with the anticipatory Theres a
Place. They would then start the Revolver album with the nal surrender
of Tomorrow Never Knows. That title, Tomorrow Never Knows,
was yet another malapropism from Ringo, and it turned out to be prophetic.
After Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, tomorrow didnt
know. All the Beatles really knew was that they were no longer continuing
to face and confront their live audience. For the rst time, they were about
to truly face each other.

CHAPTER 6

Fixing a Hole
There are no harmless, compassionate ways to remake oneself.
We murder who we were so we can rebirth ourselves.
Bharti Mukherjee, Jasmine
When the Summer of Love arrived in 1967, it was less a sudden burst of
altruism than a withdrawal from the abyss of 1966. In the previous year,
during a Summer of Hate, American cities burned in reaction to the continued racial unrest. The escalation of the war in Vietnam had also all but
diminished President Johnsons War on Poverty. Violence was becoming
exactly how black activist H. Rap Brown described itas American as apple
pie. Amidst this chaos, the mounting frustration over the dashed ideals of the
New Frontier had made the Beatles easy targets for the angry and the disillusioned. The Fab Four were, to a large degree, at the apex of those very ideals
being dashed. But they werent alone. While John Lennon was worried
about whether hed be killed as the Beatles crisscrossed America that
summer, another performer was having similar qualms: Bob Dylan.
Not long before the Beatles began confronting the many pitfalls of being
idolized pop stars, folk troubadour Bob Dylan decided to enter the pop
arena himself. During the early part of the sixties, Dylan had been an active
member of the American folk revival, a dedicated musical movement that
had aligned itself with the Civil Rights struggle and was committed to carrying on the long, ennobled tradition of left-wing activism. The movement was
led by such stalwart gures as Pete Seeger, Odetta, Ramblin Jack Elliott,
and Joan Baezand they had as their gurehead, the legendary Woody
Guthrie. What Elvis had been to the birth of rock, Guthrie was to the heart
of the American folk movement. Within this revival was yet another quest

160

Artificial Paradise

for Nowhere Land and the music carried a righteous spirit to get them there.
Contrary to the Beatles utopian ideals, their vision was of a new country,
with an authentic set of values attached, and it wasnt located in a place in
the mind. These believers looked out into America with an obligation to
the dream of JFKs New Frontier. They demanded an America with justice
for black and white, men and women. In their music, it was held that the
values of the marketplace would never take precedence over the value of
human life. They refused the urban hustle and bustle for what they saw as
the honest simplicity of the rural communities. Unlike pop music, perceived
by the folk community as an ugly symbol of capitalist corruption, their
music set out to document the pure struggle of all peoples, not just one
artists petty self-interest. If you were to write a folk song, it wasnt going
to be I Wanna Be Your Man, but rather, We Shall Overcome.
Into this sacred world, stepped an enigma named Bob Dylan. Dylan had
abandoned his actual name of Robert Zimmerman, and he set out to become
a folksinging legend before the age of 25. Arriving in New York, with the
rebellious symbol of Brandos corduroy cap on his head, Dylan showed
the skilled cunning of a vaudevillian troubadour. He slung his acoustic
guitar over his shoulder with a chameleons aplomb and he sang as if he were
the Second Coming of Woody Guthrie. Dylan had positioned himself, like
Guthrie, to be a man of the people, the one who would lead a charge against
social injustice. His most popular anthems, Blowin in the Wind and The
Times They Are a-Changin, werent just protest songs, they were clarion
calls. But just as those anthems started changing peoples minds, Dylan
started a-changin himself. In 1965, he abandoned the corduroy cap and
donned a leather jacket. Dylan radically altered his repertoire as well by
borrowing players from Paul Butterelds Blues Band, picking up an electric
guitar and plugging in. One night, at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, a loud
and unhappy community expressed their displeasure when Dylan took a traditional folk song named Pennys Farm and turned it into the loud urban
blues of Maggies Farm. With this song, he declared his independence
from a movement that had recently crowned him their young leader. I aint
gonna work on Maggies farm no more, he boldly cried out. It was quite
clear from the power of his voice exactly whose farm he wasnt gonna work
on. Just before Newport, Dylan stated his mission when he tore up the pop
charts with an electrifying six-minute single called Like a Rolling Stone.
In it, he announced to his followers that, unlike their topical songs, his music
was no longer going to usher in a better world. Dylan had made it clear to
those who loudly booed him, and to anyone who cared to listen, that his
music wasnt a product of history. His music was about to make history.
By 1966, as Dylan continued to embrace urban blues and rock n roll on
his stunning two-record set, Blonde on Blonde, many in the folk community
declared that Dylan had sold them out. In their eyes, he had embraced the
Golden Calf and got seduced by rocks vulgar paganism. Hed abandoned

Fixing a Hole

161

the pastoral integrity of their indigenous music. Of course, in this perceived


act of apostasy, Dylans decision was duly affected by the pop storm created
by the Beatles. Dylan claimed that he saw a line being drawn and that this
British group was no teenybopper fad. He saw a new possibility for himself
in reaching a larger audience by providing a greater scope for his music.
As he embraced the challenge the Beatles posed, Dylan abandoned the selfrighteous dogmatism he saw inherent in the ambitious goals of the folk
movement. He immediately made haste for the abstract language of dreams,
surrealist tales, and comic allegories that were lled with real and wildly
imagined personalities. When he launched his electric tour that spring of
1966, the concerts that followed were charged with a peculiar ambience, a
prophecy of what was to come to pass by 1968, when assassinations, riots,
and an escalating war would tear America in half.
To face the angry swarm of betrayed folk fans, Dylan brought on board a
Canadian rock group from Toronto called the Hawks. As the American
crowds hissed, jeered, and loudly booed, drummer Levon Helm (the only
American in the group) decided to haul his tail back to Arkansas. Being a
proud Southerner, Levon didnt play music to bear insults. After then securing drummer Mickey Jones, the group headed to England, the proud home
of the Fab Four. But unlike the Fab Four, they werent greeted with any
yeah, yeah, yeahs. The hostility, in fact, grew so intense that each concert
became one more bloody battle in a long, protracted war. Dylan began every
show with a set of his acoustic music, but the lyrics were sometimes slowly
drawn out, emphasizing the sound of his voice rather than the literal meaning of the lyric. When he came back from the intermission, though, with
the crowd mostly calmed and expectant, he and the Hawks launched into
some of the loudest, most powerful rock heard from a live stage. Their
highly amplied music took no prisoners and it asked no favors. It was a
musically revolutionary time, remembers the Hawks lead guitarist Robbie
Robertson. Who else can talk about playing all over North America,
Europe and Australia and being booed every single night?1
Before Dylan embarked on this tour, there were many who feared for his
life. Folk singer Phil Ochs actually raised that concern a year earlier. Dylan
has become part of so many peoples psychesand there are so many
screwed up people in America, and death is such a part of the American
scene now, Ochs remarked.2 In 1965, when Ochs made that frank observation, death was just beginning to be part of the American scene. John
Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Medger Evers were already dead from assassins
bullets, but nobody had yet gunned down a pop star, let alone a celebrated
folk artist. Ochs understood that Dylan was making himself a lightening
rod for the rage of those beginning to feel dispossessed from the dreams of
their country. But the dispossessed were no longer just the alienated loners,
like Lee Harvey Oswald, now they could just as easily be angry and forsaken
idealists. When audiences countered Dylan, these pacists, who had been

162

Artificial Paradise

dreaming of a new country based on egalitarian values, were coming up


against some dark primal emotions within themselves. Listening to their cascading jeers, Dylan certainly wasnt unaware of the fuss he was causing.
He could feel the turbulent waves of resentment building with each show
and the audience denitely let him have it. Who was he kidding offering
the frivolous Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat over Blowin in the Wind?
How dare he take those condescending shots at Mr. Jones in Ballad of a
Thin Man? At the Manchester Free Trade Hall, on May 17, 1966, one frustrated individual decided to speak up. Keith Butler had been a mildmannered Dylan fan from Toronto, attending school at Keele University in
England. There would come a time, not too long in the future, when Butler
would nd a relatively normal life, happily raising a family, and nding
mainstream employment as a banker. But on this particular evening, he
impulsively stepped forward to change the course of Dylans show. If Dylan
could change history with his music, Butler perhaps thought, he could step
into history and change it back.
Butler had actually enjoyed the acoustic half of the show like most of the
folk purists. But when Dylan returned with the Hawks to play electric rock
n roll, his mood changed as drastically as the crowds. In particular, he
was resentful about Dylans radically altered versions of the once folkavored Baby, Let Me Follow You Down and One Too Many Mornings. I was disappointed, very emotional, and my anger just welled up
when he did two songs I loved in that electric guitar way, he told Andy Gill
of Mojo years later.3 With his rage boiling over, Butler stood up and uttered
one simple wordand it had the impact of a cold bullet. At the moment
Dylan nished Ballad of a Thin Man, in the silent second that briey cut
into the endless clatter of displeasure heard in the hall, he yelled out to
Dylan, Judas! After Butler made his remark, the shock waves rippled
through the audience with the surging power of an electrical current. Some
in the crowd nervously cheered him, but Dylan was visibly shaken.
In his 1963 Masters of War, he had already identied the arms merchants
as Judas Iscariotand he was applauded for saying so. A year after, in
With God on Our Side, he asked listeners if Judas possibly had God on
his side? Now on this evening, with nobody but the Hawks on his side, a
fan in the audience had accused Dylan of being the ultimate betrayer.
He now realized that this electric music, which he delivered with imagination, freedom, and power, was more potent than he could have ever imagined. But he didnt know that it would bring forth a whole different set of
consequences than the world-changing tunes of A Hard Rains Gonna
Fall. The only way for him to claim back the truth of this music was to
come back hard. I dont believe you, he told Butler curtly. The band then
sought to regain their composure when Dylan called out, Youre a liar!
Turning back to Robbie Robertson, to break Butlers spell and gather the
troops, Dylan refused to passively accept the role of the apostate. He calmly

Fixing a Hole

163

told the group, Play fucking loud. With those words, Dylan unleashed a
torrential version of Like a Rolling Stone. Bob Dylan, in this 1966 performance, was telling his followers that they were now on their own with no
direction home. Lines were clearly being drawn in the sandand the sand
was shifting.
Putting aside for a moment the anti-Semitic intent of yelling Judas! at a
Jew, the persona of Jesus seemed to be taking on a curious shape that year.
After all, it was Lennon, mere months after Dylans confrontation with
Keith Butler, who became a target for saying that the Beatles were more
popular than Jesus. Now Bob Dylan was being identied as Judas. Pop
music was once basically a vehicle for immediate gratication, but now a
messianic spirit was beginning to emerge. All of pops participants could
play out grander roles with higher stakes to win or lose. In particular, pop
stars could believe they were delivering the Word (and perhaps even imagine
themselves being crucied for doing so). The pop audience could also play a
crucial role in this sacricial ritual. Like Roman soldiers, they could hoist
their charlatan heroes on the cross and hammer in the nails just to watch
them die for our sins. Before the end of the sixties, all of this religious masochism was getting explicitly acted out in musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar,
rock operas like the Whos Tommy, and lms like Privilege. The listener, no
longer content to be a mere consumer of music, now sought to be a protagonist in a larger story. Viewed in this particular context, Dylan didnt just
perform a disappointing concert that Keith Butler happened to attend. For
Butler, the show represented a larger drama with core values at stake. Butler
stepped right into Dylans music that night, making himself part of its very
fabric, and demanded a change to the concerts outcome. If, for his audience,
Dylan had once been a Jesus gure, Butler would take the role back by
accusing Dylan of being a false prophet.
In 2002, when singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock reenacted the entire
Manchester Town Hall show from 1996 at the Borderline Club in London,
many in the audience sought to play Keith Butler during the evening performance. A few yelled Judas!after the wrong songeither unable to
remember Butlers place in the story or perhaps wishing to alter its time line.
Maybe they wanted to see if they could change the outcome of the show. But
someone did eventually step into Butlers shoes at the correct moment before
Hitchcock and his group, imagining themselves as Dylan and the Hawks,
found their way into Like a Rolling Stone. Although the spirit of the
evening was all in good fun, with an absence of the possible danger lurking
in 1966, Hitchcocks performance held up as a reminder of the shadow side
hidden in the allure of utopian ideals. The Beatles Theres a Place once
held out a hand inviting us to venture to another place, asking us to be an
active partner in a dream rather than being a passive consumer. Ill let
you be in my dreams if I can be in yours, Dylan had sung in Talkin World
War III Blues. But what Dylan and the Beatles were to discover in 1966 was

164

Artificial Paradise

the risk of asking people to take part in your dreams. Once they do, maybe
the dream is no longer yours to control.
Shortly after his raucous tour, Dylan suffered a serious motorcycle accident that led to his retreat from the stage to his home in Woodstock, New
York. Rumors of his death, or possible disgurement, had lled the huge hole
in the culture that his sudden absence had caused. The very people who once
booed Dylan loudest were now desperate to ll the void with conjecture and
gossip. In a matter of months, Dylan and the Hawks (soon to be renamed the
Band) retreated to a Woodstock basement to make more music. But this new
material was far removed from the sound and the fury that stirred audiences
to anger. They reached this time into the mythical American past for inspiration and delved into the deeper mysteries of the folk tradition before it
became politicized. On the recordings they made, Dylan and the Hawks
reveled in tall tales, drunken escapades, and goofy parodies. We were playing with absolute freedom, Robbie Robertson told Greil Marcus in The
Old, Weird America. We werent doing anything we thought anyone else
would hear, as long as we lived.4 He went on to tell Marcus that they were
simply killing time.5 But stopping time might be a more accurate way to
describe these sessions. Dylan had created a breach in the culture by
suspending time with his growing absence. He had severed the umbilical cord
connecting him with his audience. But while Dylan ed down the rabbit hole
into a basement of his own awaiting pipe dreams, the Beatles sought another
hole in which to escape.
If the Beatles had become what literary critic Leslie Fiedler once described
as imaginary Americans, perhaps they could now imagine themselves as anything. In that world, they could also create an imaginary audience to hear
their radical new work. The rst step in that process began with a promotional lm they made earlier in 1966 for Paperback Writer and Rain.
While the lm did little more than capture them in a garden lip-syncing their
songs, it did show the Beatles singing and playing without the accompaniment of their screaming fans. For the rst time, we could see them performing their music without the hysteria of the crowd surrounding them. When
they issued the conceptual single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever in
February 1967, they went even further by accompanying it with a conceptual lm. Director Peter Goldmann, along with Beatle aide Tony Bramwell,
created two very distinct portraits of the band to promote the songs. For
Penny Lane, the imagery was pretty basic. While Lennon waltzed through
the busy streets of east London, he would eventually meet up with the group
for some horseback riding and a picnic in the park. Curiously, as they make
their way through the grounds to a huge table with owers and candelabras,
they passand then quickly abandona makeshift stage with their guitars
and Ringos familiar drum set on it.
If the movie for Penny Lane was adorned with quaint psychedelia, the
surreal Strawberry Fields Forever featured the boldly experimental tinge

Fixing a Hole

165

of the avant-garde. Klaus Voorman had rst suggested that Strawberry


Fields Forever sounded like it was played on a strange instrument, so Tony
Bramwell decided to invent one for his lm. Bramwell rst went to Knole
Park in Kent, where he found an old tree, and then dressed it up with long
rows of strings. Later he attached those strands to a piano and harp. The
Beatles, who look like posh gravediggers, hunch over this strange piano/harp
hybrid, as Lennon mournfully sings his psychedelic gothic memoir. Bramwell created the effect of the Beatles leaping back and forth from the tree
to the ground by shooting it forward and backward in the camera. But
the jumping about here doesnt resemble the bounding leaps of freedom
we saw in their great escape from the TV studio in A Hard Days Night.
Unlike the youthful mop-tops defying age and custom in that scene, the
group here appears burdened by age, by the weight of their dreams, and
becoming more individually distinct with different cuts of hair and moustaches. Adorned with muttonchops, Lennon could have easily stepped out
of an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery. Ringo appears in an unaccustomed red
military tunic, while Harrison is buried in his thick balaclava.
The picture sleeve for the single itself was a bold departure from the group
shots projected in previous covers. Earlier, whether bright-eyed and enthusiastic (Please Please Me), exhausted (Beatles for Sale), or reective (Rubber
Soul), the Beatles were always a recognizable band, the progenitors of a radically new pop sound. But on the front of this new single, the formally posed
photo of the group, set in a gold embroidered picture frame, made them
appear like arcane artifacts from the nineteenth century. If not for the presence of spotlights and the bright color of the picture, this photo could be a
relic from the period of their grandparents. On the back sleeve are featured
four separate baby photos placed in different angles to each other. The
Beatles are no longer pictured as four parts of one whole, but instead they
are presented as four discrete individuals. The question for many who heard
this new single, saw the cover sleeve, and watched the promotional lms on
television was: Are they still even the Beatles?
The rst test of that question came when Bramwells two lms premiered
on Dick Clarks American Bandstand television show in early 1967. Clarks
popular long-running variety show had been a lifeline throughout the sixties
for teenagers falling in love with rock n roll. Before showing the clips,
Clark asked some of those in his live audience if they thought the Beatles
were through. One teenage girl told him that shed never pay to see them
again while another compared them to the Monkees; one other guy told
Clark that the Beatles went out with the twist. Consigning the group to fad
status was apparently the easiest way for the audience to rationalize their
hurt and sense of abandonment. Clark then cued the Strawberry Fields
Forever clip. As the audience watched this dreamy pastiche being screened
before them, dismissal turned to disillusionment. One viewer expressed
shock at their longer hair and thick moustaches. Another kid could only

166

Artificial Paradise

summon up the comment that the group was deliberately becoming weird.
Once united behind the Beatles, the audience was now becoming as fragmented as the group itself appeared to be. But as the fans and the press
continued to guess just where the Beatles might go, Paul McCartney couldnt
wait until the summer arrived. In the aftermath of that previous Summer of
Hate, the Beatles were soon to unleash their labor of love.
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was released in June 1967,
was the brainchild of McCartney while on holiday in Paris in September
1966. One day, while still exhausted from that years frantic touring, he
decided to travel incognito, not wishing to be recognized. He stuck a Vandyke beard on his chin, slicked his hair back with Vaseline, and went about
unnoticed to galleries, shops, and cafes. McCartney loved the freedom that
being disguised offered him in not being recognized as a famous celebrity.
At the end of his trip in November, while ying back from Nairobi, McCartney started to entertain the notion of disguising the Beatles and creating alter
egos for each member of the group. In doing so, they could then perhaps
imagine a freedom they had lost being Beatles. Through this notion, McCartney could also demonstrate that the Beatles were no longer these mop-top
performers. By reinventing the band for their new incarnation as a performing studio group, McCartney was declaring that the Beatles were now pop
artists rather than pop stars.
Many of the American west coast rock bands developing at that time
were calling themselves exotic names (i.e., Strawberry Alarm Clock), so
McCartney thought of creating a concept album where the Beatles would
become Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. But the concept might not
have taken hold if not for Jim McCartney, who had been a player in Jim
Macs Jazz Band before forming his own ragtime group in 1919.
I unearthed a photo in the sixties which someone in the family had given
me, and there [my father] is in front of the big bass drum. That gave us the
idea of Sgt. Pepper. 6 In McCartneys view, Sgt. Pepper could unveil
the reborn Beatles from the ashes of the Fab Four. Where once the Beatles
were part of a collective identity, one that encompassed a larger community
of fans, they sought now to abandon it and their connection to that community. The Beatles were taking refuge in the studio partially out of a desire to
retreat from the violence they had stirred in their audience but also to use the
time to deliver a more sophisticated musiconly from a safe distance.
I think the strain of fame and touring had taken its toll, George Martin
explained. The Beatles were going through a period when they secretly
wanted not to be famous and they wanted to be ordinary people again. This
could be a psychological reason why the record Sgt Pepper existed in the rst
place because the boys were referring to some other entity, something quite
separate from them. It was as if other people were doing the record and
not themselves.7

Fixing a Hole

167

From the opening sounds of the album, it became quite apparent that they
were now presenting themselves as other people. At rst listen, we hear an
orchestra tuning, while the audience arriving gets comfortable. Aside from
the foreign ambience of the orchestra, the crowd we hear isnt recognizable
from the screaming voices of past Beatles concerts. The Beatles here
invented an ideal audience, not the potentially dangerous one the group
faced for all those years on the road. After this mild shock of displacement,
the sharp twang of an electric guitar brings the familiar ring of the Beatles
back into focus. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was written by
McCartney to introduce the concept of the Beatles new persona, one that
quickly transformed them from the Fab Four into this new creative entity.
McCartney takes the Sgt. Pepper story back to 1947, the year that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. McCartney recounts how this itinerant group
went in and out of style, but never failed to entertain their audience. He
introduces Sgt. Peppers band with a boisterous orchestral fanfare, as the
audience laughs and cheers, providing an agreeable bond that, by 1967,
was certainly a convivial fantasy.
On the rst cut of the record, it was immediately clear that the Beatles had
fashioned a mirage of Nowhere Land for themselves to live in, providing the
illusion of performing the kind of live music they couldnt in reality play in
concert. The Beatles invented a dynamic between themselves and their audience that didnt reect the reality of the audience they had just abandoned.
In fact, McCartney expresses so much happiness for this crowd that he even
wants to take them home. (Can you imagine that kind of consideration being
offered to the hordes they faced in the American South in 1966?) On Sgt.
Pepper, McCartney chose to create a scenario he wished had existed for
the group. As in some of his songs, he sought to get back, to reinvent a past
the Beatles never had, just to make up a future that, we now know, theyll
never get to fulll. Paul had intended to play it both ways, writing oldfashioned lyrics delivered with a satirical psychedelic intensity, wrote Steve
Turner in his analysis of the title song.8 But the satire is only on the surface.
When their implicit utopianism turned sour, the Beatles on Sgt. Peppers
Lonely Hearts Club Band began to explicitly imagine a Nowhere Land that
would ultimately prove to be nowhere.
As the song concludes, McCartney introduces the bands singer,
Billy Shears (Ringo), for the next song. As the band sings Billlllly
Sheeeeears (for all the photographers in the audience taking pictures), the
crowd starts to scream giving us a brief glimpse of what we remember of
the Beatles true past. But before we can fully take in the commotion in
the crowd, we hear the opening notes of With a Little Help From My
Friends. The song, composed by Lennon and McCartney, and specically for Ringo, was the Beatles own version of Will You Still Love
Me Tomorrow? Its a charming musical postcard written to nd out if
their fans have missed them. While having some difculty coming up with

168

Artificial Paradise

rhyming lyrics for what was being designed as a sing-along like Yellow
Submarine, Lennon suggested a question-and-answer for each verse. But
there was one line that reminded Ringo of that real audience they faced year
after year, and it was excised to perpetuate the loving spirit of the imagined
crowd on this album. [T]hey had one line I wouldnt sing, Ringo
explained. It was: What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you
stand up and throw tomatoes at me? I said, Theres no chance in hell I am
going to sing this line, because we still had lots of really deep memories of
the kids throwing jelly beans and toys on stage; and I thought that if we ever
did get out there again, I was not going to be bombarded with tomatoes.9
Beatles biographer Hunter Davies was present at the sessions watching
them diligently composing the song. He recalled that every time they got
stuck they would bounce into an old rock chestnut from their past, like the
Champs 1958 hit Tequila, reminding themselves of who they once were,
until they found their new personas again. That evening, they began recording the tune with unnished lyrics that were eventually completed in the
studio.
John Lennons Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was always assumed to
be his tribute to an acid trip, but the story behind the song was much
simpler. In early 1967, his son Julian came home from Heath House, a
private nursery school in Weybridge, with a drawing of his classmate, Lucy
ODonnell, that he called Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The top was
all dark blue sky with some very rough-looking stars, green grass along the
bottom, and Lucy with long golden hair, Julian Lennon recalled. I showed
it to Dad and he said, Whats that then? I said, Thats Lucy in the sky, you
know, with diamonds. He made the song up from that. 10 Rather than
being about LSD, as many have claimed, the tune is a loving tribute to both
surrealist art and the Wool and Water chapter from Lewis Carrolls
Through the Looking Glassespecially the scene where Alice rides down a
river in a row boat with the Queen who then magically transforms into a
sheep. Since this was one of Lennons favorite childhood books, his memory
of it helped him nd a way to connect to his childs drawing.
In the summer tour of 1964, when Jimmy Nicol briey replaced Ringo on
drums due to illness, the Beatles would always ask Jimmy how it was going,
and he would always say, Its getting better. The song, Getting Better,
was started by Paul, but nished with the help of Lennon. Like We Can
Work It Out, Getting Better perfectly meshes the sensibilities of both
writers. Getting Better proved an interesting example of how they curbed
each others excesses when they worked together, explained Steve Turner
in A Hard Days Write. The optimism of Pauls chorus, where everything
is improving because of love, is counterbalanced by Johns confession that
he was once a schoolboy rebel, an angry young man and a wife beater. When
Paul sings that things are getting better all the time, John chimes in with it
couldnt get much worse.11 During the recording of the song on March

Fixing a Hole

169

21, 1967, things almost did get worse. While recording the chorus, Lennon
left the vocal session saying that he was feeling ill. In response, George
Martin took Lennon to the roof to get him some fresh air, not realizing that
Lennon was actually tripping on acid. When Martin returned, without John,
the rest of the group madly rushed to the roof fearing that Lennon, with no
rails or barriers to contain him, might have fallen off and killed himself.
McCartneys Fixing a Hole addresses a desire for his mind to be free to
travel wherever it needs to go. But the number is constructed so carefully
that, according to Devin McKinney, McCartney attempts to x holes rather
than risk looking inside them. The music, as elsewhere on Pepper, defeats
what the lyrics seem to [saying], McKinney asserts. Instruments click
together like tooled parts, while McCartneys voicewhich we tend to
forget has been capable of conveying nuances of pain, frustration, and anger
along with boundless good fortunefails to suggest that anything might
obstruct his mind-wanderers path to absolute imaginative freedom. 12
McKinney picks up an air of caution that threads its way through much of
this record. The smooth craftsmanship of Sgt. Pepper, which gives the album
its glamorous sheen, also masks a fear in the band of the messiness of spontaneity. During the recording of Pepper, George and Ringo, in particular,
complained that the group didnt play together as a band any more. During
the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, rather than work out their parts by rehearsing,
the parts were worked out ahead of time and the musicians were told what
to play.
Of all the tracks on Sgt. Pepper, Shes Leaving Home is perhaps the one
most often misunderstood. Usually cited as a sentimental weeper, its
actually one of McCartneys most beautifully observed songs about the pain
of asserting ones independence. While sympathizing with a young girl who
wishes to leave home, McCartney extends just as much compassion toward
the parents who grieve her loss. Shes Leaving Home was written in
response to a newspaper article McCartney read in February 1967 about
Melanie Coe, a 17-year-old girl from North London, who had been studying
for her A GCD level exams and then one day just disappeared. Her father
was quoted in the paper as saying, I cannot imagine why she should run
away. She has everything here. Melanie ran away with a man from a
gambling casino (rather than someone from the motor trade) in the middle
of the afternoon when her parents were at work. As it turns out, McCartneys embellishments turned out to be more accurate than he could have
known. Melanie was an only child, but her parents, a businessman father
and a hairdresser mother, were an unhappy and uncommunicative couple.
The nal irony to the story is that back in 1963, four years before Melanie
left home and McCartney discovered the article, she had won a mime
competition on the TV show, Ready Steady Go! The Beatles just happened
to be guests on the program that night. When the winner was announced,
the award went to Melanie Coe and was presented to her by none other than

170

Artificial Paradise

Paul McCartney. Once again, a McCartney song included a gorgeously


understated string arrangement. Mike Leander, a Decca producer and
arranger, was asked by Paul to compose the string section. McCartney met
Leander when Marianne Faithfull was recording her version of Yesterday.
He had turned to Leander rather than George Martin because Martin
wouldnt cancel a Cilla Black session to write the score.
While the Beatles were in Knole Park to do their promotional lm for
Strawberry Fields Forever, Lennon and Tony Bramwell went into an antiques shop near their hotel and found a framed 1843 Victorian circus poster
that became the basis for Being for the Benet of Mr. Kite. Pablo Fanques
Circus Royal, which Lennon depicts in the song, was held in Rochdale,
where Fanque was the rst black circus proprietor in Britain. The tune itself,
a full-blown circus fantasia with Lennon happily portraying the carny
barker, simply describes the various events listed on the circus poster.
Lennon alters some of the details, in particular, making Mr. Henderson
challenge the world rather than Mr. Kite (the Hendersons were also not
late of Pablo Fanques Fair). Being for the Benet of Mr. Kite is done
in the spirit of a Sgt. Pepper show, with Lennon orchestrating an impressionistic musical collage. George Martin, who couldnt get his hands on an
actual steam organ, plays the harmonium over dubbed recordings of a steam
organ performing John Philip Sousa-style marches. My problem was playing the ancient harmonium while John and Paul acted as producers, Martin
recalled. They delighted in seeing me pedal away at that damned instrument for what seemed like hours.13 Collecting a series of brass-band tapes,
Martin asked engineer Geoff Emerick to cut up bits of those tapes into
15-inch pieces, and then he tossed them into the air. Picked randomly, the
strands were then edited into one long reel (with some pieces edited into
the song upside down). Out of all this, Lennon got the sound of his fairground. Everything was done live, Emerick remembered. I think we
spent about six hours doing that, and eventually George collapsed onto the
oor out of sheer exhaustion.14
On Within You Without You, George Harrison continues his explorations into Hindustani music, only this time, using an epic orchestral palette.
Unlike Love You To on Revolver, Harrison delves more directly into his
developing Hindu views. In the song, the idea of eliminating the space
between us all is part of the Hindu belief in prana, where life ows on
within you and without you. Through prana, the ego is perceived as an illusion that prevents us from recognizing that we are all one. But the position
Harrison takes throughout the track, despite the colorful exoticism of the
score, is pure egotism. The self-consciousness in his stand, his preachy didacticism, is mostly transcended by both the yearning in his voice and the songs
dreamy allure. Within You Without You maybe the richest, most innovative song on the album, but its message is still as patronizing as a fundamentalist Bible-thumping sermon. Harrison talks down to the listener rather than

Fixing a Hole

171

enticing the listener into the spiritual power of Hinduism. The sound of
laughter at the end of the song, too, which invokes snobs at a cocktail party,
cheapens his message with a pompous swipe at nonbelievers. Like Love You
To, the other Beatles are not present on the recording. While Harrison and
Neil Aspinall played tambouras, the session musicians gathered played a
dilruba, a tabla, violin, and cello. Within You Without You represented
the nal transformation of Harrison, from the reticent, self-effacing Beatle
to the solemn spiritualist. After rst becoming acquainted with LSD, he
quickly moved on to discover Eastern religion. Bob Spitz, in his Beatles biography, would describe Harrison as the skinny, pale boy with big ears and no
ambition, the dropout burdened with intellectual insecurity, who used to
follow half a block behind John Lennon, had developed into a grimly optimistic, pensive young man clamoring for the meaning of it all.15 Harrisons droll sense of humor wouldnt really bloom again until after the
Beatles broke up, in his association with the Monty Python comedy troupe
and the informal sessions with his band, the Traveling Wilburys.
When Im 64 was written by McCartney back in the late fties as a
tongue-in-cheek cabaret standard, but it was also a tribute to the music of
his fathers generation from the twenties and thirties. Curiously, when the
Beatles nally recorded the song, McCartneys dad was 64. Although theres
a cloying coyness that renders the number ultimately too precious, it would
strongly inuence other songwriters, particularly Harry Nilsson in his capricious calypso ballad Down by the Sea from the 1975 Duit On Mon Dei
album. Like both P.S. I Love You and Paperback Writer, McCartney
conceived When Im 64 as a letterone addressed to a woman from an
awkward gentleman who wants lifetime companionship. Lovely Rita
fares far better in expressing a desire for companionship because it features
much more of McCartneys exuberance. It was written after an American
friend of his had been visiting and was amazed at the number of female trafc wardens (meter maids) hed been seeing around. McCartney rst imagined the tune as a snide reference to an obstinate meter maid, but he then
began to truly like the character and changed the tone of the song. Lovely
Rita contains within its buoyancy this fragile aura of shy affection. Its ultimately a story about a rather bashful bureaucrat who gets a parking ticket
and tries to woo Rita to get out of paying the ne. While McCartney claims
that he invented the character, Steve Turner in A Hard Days Write claims
that it was based on Meta Davies, a trafc warden who operated in
St. Johns Wood in London and had given McCartney a parking ticket in
1967. When he read her name on the ticket, he asked if that was her real
name and then sought permission to use it in a song. 16 Lovely Rita
concludes with an improvised jam featuring George Martins rambling
honky-tonk piano under the sound of heavy breathing that takes the tune
into the abrupt roar of a rooster crowing announcing the arrival of Lennons
Good Morning, Good Morning.

172

Artificial Paradise

Good Morning, Good Morning takes its title (and its rooster) from a
box of Kelloggs Corn Flakes, showing that Lennon was now getting his
inspiration from domestic habits. As Steve Turner observed, Paul dominated Sgt. Pepper because John had become a lazy Beatle. He rarely ventured far from home, paid little attention to business and was drawing
inspiration, not from contemporary art but from the stuff of domestic
lifenewspapers, school runs, daytime TV. As a result, Good Morning,
Good Morning reected less of the cultured world outside the home than
McCartneys songs were doing. [Good Morning, Good Morning] was a
song about his life of indolencethe result of too many drugs, a cold
marriage and days measured out in meals, sleep and television programs
such as Meet the Wife, Turner explained.17 The track, however, with its
stinging McCartney guitar solo, provides quite a rollicking gallop.
(The gallop is made even more explicit toward the end with the addition of
various sound effects featuring numerous animals chasing one another
one beast consuming the next in the predatory order of the evolutionary ladder.) After a brief reprise of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, to
end the show, the curtain closer is the albums masterpiece.
If the record, up till now, represented a cheery, nostalgic celebration of
life, A Day in the Life brings the party to a pensive conclusion. [A Day
in the Life] comes sailing in, like a ghost ship with an ice-encrusted
bowsprit, the bleak, despairing, yet resigned voice of John Lennon, sounding
the eternal note of sadness and offering a view of ordinary life. . .that totally
annihilates and eventually blows up Pauls jolly Toby Mug vision, wrote
Albert Goldman in The Lives of John Lennon.18 The forlorn reverberation
in Lennons voice seems to come right out of the lonely echo that had captivated him years earlier in Elvis Presleys Heartbreak Hotel. A Day in the
Life, which is made up of two incomplete songs, deals with the fragility of
random events in everyday life. If McCartney was interested in xing a hole,
Lennon decided to contemplate some.
The composition, which was inspired by a newspaper article that Lennon
read in the Daily Mail in January 1967, begins with a spiritual hole thats
left when a man is suddenly killed in a car crash. That guy, who blew his
mind out in the car, was 21-year-old socialite Tara Browne, an Irish friend
of the Beatles, who was killed in an automobile accident on December 18,
1966. Although he wasnt a member of the House of Lords, as the song
states, Browne was denitely aristocratic. (He was the great grandson of
the brewer Edward Cecil Guinness and son of Lord Oranmore.) Browne,
who had married at 18 and had two boys before separating from his wife,
spent much of his short life mingling with pop stars. He could be seen often
at popular London clubs like Bag ONails and Sibyllas where he befriended
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Paul and Mike McCartney. Given the
psychedelic textures of A Day in the Life, its tting that it was with
Browne that McCartney had his rst experience with LSD. As Lennon

Fixing a Hole

173

describes the scene of the accident, theres a lingering crowd of observers


depicting a state of haphazard alienation. There is even an absence of remorse.
The aimless T.S. Eliot-like crowd, forever confronting pain and turning away,
may well become a common symbol, wrote critic Richard Goldstein in The
New York Times in 1967. And its narrator, subdued by the totality of his
despair, may reappear in countless compositions as the silent, withdrawn
hero.19 This detached hero simply wanders through the song, as he wanders
through life, witnessing it, but with no means to connect to it. His only means
in connecting to life comes from his one desire to turn us on.
That controversial line about sharing a reefer is a variation on the utopian
wish Lennon expressed in Theres a Place, but the singer in A Day in the
Life leads a far more disembodied life. If theres a place, he cant nd it
anymoreall he can do is turn us on. As Lennon expresses that desire, the
plea is overwhelmed by the crescendo of the orchestra struggling to nd its
common chord until it drowns him out. When the orchestra nally does
reach its peak, McCartney suddenly appears in the song as if the orchestra
had awoken him from Lennons dream. Before McCartney can comprehend
what Lennon has been witnessing, he rushes to catch a bus only to fall into
slumber once again. At which point, Lennon promptly returns with his cascading voice seeking unison with the surging orchestra. Lennon seems so
overwhelmed by the emotions hes experienced that it has left him momentarily speechless. If Brownes death had left a spiritual hole, by the end, literal ones start to overcome Lennon.
Before writing the song, he read that there were 4,000 holes in Blackburn,
Lancashire, which ultimately leaves him with one observation: he knows
how many holes it takes to ll the Albert Hall. After reiterating his desire
to once again turn us on, the orchestra builds to one nal concluding
crescendo, but no one awakes from the dramatic surge this time. A pounding
chord on the piano drives the song into place. Finality. As the chord decays,
we are left either falling back into a dream or falling through a hole in the
sound, into the nal dream of death. The message is that life is a dream
and we have the power, as dreamers, to make it beautiful, explained critic
Ian MacDonald on A Day in the Life. The fact that it achieves its transcendent goal via a potentially disillusioning confrontation with the real
world is precisely what makes it so moving.20 Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts
Club Band began with a dream in the life of the reinvented Beatles, and it
ends with the nality of death, the hole in the culture the Beatles left when
they departed the road.
Out of the long silence of the chords decay, the Beatles produced a runoff
groove lled with silly nonsense, a wake-up call to remind us that the album
had all been a dream. On a practical level, however, they gured that people
might be too stoned to get up and change the record. So to encourage folks
to rouse themselves and remove the disc before the needle bore through the
grooves, the Beatles went down to the studio with engineer Geoff Emerick

174

Artificial Paradise

to record funny noises, including an absurd mantra that read, couldnt


really be any other. Beginning with the sound of a dog whistle, they looped
and overlapped the chant until you could barely make out what was being
said. Although it was created simply as a lark, a few years later, when conspiracy theorists would assume that Paul McCartney was dead, they listened
to the gibberish played backward as, Well fuck you like Supermen.
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band might have been the ofcial sound
track for the heady optimism of the psychedelic Summer of Love in 1967,
but the albums cover resembles a rather mournful graveside shot of the
burial of the old Beatles. The reborn group, bearded and decked out in
old-fashioned marching outts, reinvented their articial paradise for a
future where all you needed was love. Peter Blakes conception of the
Beatles gathering featured a motley collection of guests: people who were
inuences on the band, past friends, and their pop idols. Blake selected
the rock singer Dion and boxer Sonny Liston. Photographer Robert Fraser
selected Terry Southern, the author of the ribald novel Candy (in which
Ringo would eventually star in the movie adaptation). Not surprisingly,
Harrison requested a number of Indian gurus. Equally predictable, Lennon
chose Hitler and Jesus, but he didnt get his wish, as EMI didnt care to incur
more controversy. Instead, Lennon settled for the British occultist Aleister
Crowley, author Stephen Crane, and Albert Stebbins (Lennons fathers
favorite football player). He also insisted on including Stuart Sutcliffe, one
of the original Beatles. Although now ve years dead, Sutcliffe is a spectral
presence to witness the demise of the group for which he was once a
member. As for the self-effacing Ringo, he picked nobody. When Mae
Wests likeness was selected, her response was, Why would I be at a Lonely
Hearts Club? But then again, why would the Beatles, adored by millions,
nd themselves at one, too? The record package included a cutout sheet with
a moustache, stripes, badges, a picture card of Sgt. Pepper, plus a stand up of
the band. Music critic Walter Everett pointed out that the front cover, with
various celebrities and historical gures, was already pregured in the gatefold cover of Beatles for Sale, which had the group at Twickenham Studios
with a mural of lm stars in the background.21 Not surprisingly, Sgt. Pepper
would sell 2,500,000 in the rst three months of its release.
Once audiences heard Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, many
chose to forget the enmity of the previous year. Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman compared the record, as a happier memory, to the horror of the assassination of JFK. Sgt. Pepper, he said, inspired him to organize a Be-In in
Washington with the goal of levitating the Pentagon by having various
protest groups chanting at it. The reference to JFK is signicant because
everyone knew where he or she were when they rst heard Sgt. Peppers
Lonely Hearts Club Band. Peter Fonda, the butt of Lennons rebuke in
She Said, She Said, said that every place he went he heard people playing
it, as if the record was this mass tune-in. DJ Red Robinson saw Sgt. Pepper

Fixing a Hole

175

heralding in a new cultural revolution (ironically, just as China was simultaneously having its own horric version of one). Happening in tandem with
all of this were the things going on with the anti-war movement in the States
and with Haight-Ashbury, Robinson explained. It was as if these two
separate philosophies melded, and the Beatles were at the forefront because
they were experimenting with different sounds and different ways of doing
things with George Martin.22 Steve Turner heard the record, too, as a
signicant part of the spirit of 1967. It was a fruit of the belief that limits
to the imagination were culturally imposed and should therefore be challenged, he explained. Anything that seemed technically possible was
worth an attempt from a climaxing orchestral frenzy on A Day in the Life
to a note of such a high frequency that only a dog could hear it on the
play-out groove.23
But there were others who heard nothing of the sort. They sensed a
retreat, rather than the celebration of utopian hopes, in this new music.
Sgt. Pepper was the sound of the Beatles in hiding, avoiding danger
avoiding freedom, Devin McKinney claims in Magic Circles.24 He may be
right. After all, the groups freedom was found in the chaos of Beatlemania,
in the testing of their artistic worth, and their proven ability to innovate in
the pressure cooker of relentless demand. For all its brilliance, Sgt. Pepper
creates a false optimistic front, where the creators conveniently hide behind
their innovations rather than (as they had in the past) use their innovations
as a means to transform listeners. Without their audience as an adversary,
the Beatles had no one to measure their utopian ideals by. The album is
an optimistic vision, but the optimism lacks weight because it has no negative factor to overcome, McKinney went on to explain.25 The only negativity to overcome was found in the divisions growing among the Beatles
themselves. For one, Harrisons continued impatience with the assemblyline style of overdubbing on Sgt. Pepper. A lot of the time it ended up with
just Paul playing the piano and Ringo keeping the tempo, and we werent
allowed to play as a band so much, Harrison explained. It became an
assembly processjust little parts and then overdubbingand for me it
became a bit tiring and a bit boring.26 In the past, the group had to record
their albums quickly because of their constant touring. Now the band had all
the time in the world, but no urgency to use it.
Lennon meanwhile was reeling from the instability and inertia brought on
by his incessant LSD use, his unhappy marriage, and his envy of McCartneys growing condence. The careful planning of Sgt. Peppers Lonely
Hearts Club Band was due partly to the necessity of McCartney having to
take command when Lennon became emotionally absent from the group.
On this album, McCartney wrote almost half the music, directed (along with
George Martin) the recording sessions, developed the packaging ideas, and
supervised the albums mix. Lennon, though, was also resenting what he
saw as McCartneys rising control of the group. But critic Albert Goldman

176

Artificial Paradise

didnt see Pauls efforts truly as a power grab. Paul never made the slightest
effort to get rid of Lennon, Goldman insisted. In fact, he kept pursuing
John until the last year of Johns life, hoping to revive their old partnership.27 Since his ego-destroying acid experiences had eroded his identity
as a Beatle, Lennon turned passive-aggressive in his defense against seeing
McCartney usurp his band. Instead of having it out with Paul, as old partners should do, John sulked and played possum, Goldman reiterated.
Lennon wouldnt lead, but neither would he follow; hence, he had no
choice but to tune out.28
On the weekend of June 1618, 1967, people were tuning in en masse to
the Monterey Pop Festival. As Americas answer to the Beatles love-in on
Sgt. Pepper, Canned Heat, the Byrds, Janis Joplin, the Who, Jimi Hendrix,
Ravi Shankar, Hugh Masekela, and the Buffalo Springeld gathered in
California to provide a solid foundation for the dawning of the counterculture. But that quest for a peaceful community had grown out of the violence
earlier in the year between the establishment and dissatised adolescents.
First, there had been numerous drug busts, including the arrests of Mick
Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, but there had also been
continuous clashes between youth and the police, especially in the Los
Angeles area (where those battles inspired the Buffalo Springelds polemic
For What its Worth). While the police busted and beat kids on imsy curfew violations, in turn, demonstrators were equally destructive destroying
buses and ripping down street signs. As denite lines were being drawn, in
violent confrontations, the Monterey Festival attempted to celebrate the
positive spirit of this Cultural Revolution. The spirit of good vibes that
weekend tried to equal the spirit of what everyone heard on Sgt. Pepper.
But as the last happy vibe concluded that weekend at Monterey, there was
one rock critic who wished to communicate some bad vibes. Richard Goldstein was putting the nishing touches on his review of Sgt. Pepper for The
New York Times, and by the time it was read, he would be as reviled as
Lennon and Dylan were the previous summer. In his review, titled We Still
Need the Beatles, but. . ., Goldstein called Sgt. Pepper an artistic failure.
While he did assent to the notion that it was a hippie talisman for the season,
he also didnt think it provided a very deep perspective on the times, only a
shallow reection of it:
In substituting the studio conservatory for an audience, the Beatles
have lost crucial support, and that emptiness at the root is what makes
their new album a monologue. Nothing is real therein, and nothing to
get hung about. Too bad; I have a sweet tooth for reality. I like my art
drenched in it, and even from fantasy I expect authenticity. What I
worship about the Beatles is their forging of rock into what is real. It
made them artists; it made us fans; and it made me think like a critic
when I turned on my radio.29

Fixing a Hole

177

Goldstein railed about the groups obsession with production, while


expressing concern about their desire to cloister themselves. We need the
Beatles, not as cloistered composers, but as companions, he wrote. And
they need us. In substituting the studio conservatory for an audience, they
have ceased being folk artists, and the change is what makes their new album
a monologue.30 For Goldstein, this wasnt the time for monologues, and by
the time his review was published, Goldstein found himself embroiled in a
hailstorm of protest. Besides an avalanche of hate mail by readers of the
Times, The Village Voice published a rebuttal by Tom Phillips (who was, like
Goldstein, actually a writer from The New York Times). Paul Williams, in
Crawdaddy, thought that Goldstein got so hung up on his own sense of integrity that he couldnt humble himself before the album. Looking back today,
McCartney similarly differed with Goldsteins view. The mood of the
album was in the spirit of the age, because we ourselves were tting into the
mood of the time, McCartney explained. The idea wasnt to do anything
to cater for that moodwe happened to be in that mood anyway.31
But the mood McCartney describes wasnt so simple to dene. As beautifully conceived as the record is, in hindsight, it also represents the beginning
of the end of the Beatlesas a band. Sgt. Pepperboth the music and its
cultural triumphshapes up as a conspiracy among a large, loose band of
dreamers, conjured at a state when their common dream was already near
its death, worn down by pressures from within and without, Devin McKinney asserted in Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History.32 Critic
Mikal Gilmore elaborated further on this in his book Night Beat. By the
time Sgt. Pepper was on the streets, San Franciscos Haight-Ashbury was
already turning into a scary and ugly place, riddled with corruption and hard
drugs, and overpopulated with bikers, rapists, thieves, and foolish
shamans.33 Contrasted with that sordid portrait is the quaint Edwardian
image of the Beatles on Sgt. Pepper, the co-dreamers and inhabitants of
Nowhere Land, whodespite the rosy picture of Montereywere now
avatars of a very different Shangri-la, they now resembled the lost idealists
of the commune in Having a Wild Weekend. Those disconsolate, lost faces
of Haight-Ashbury represented the other side of the Sgt. Pepper faces. Into
that emotional void created by the Beatles withdrawal, they crawled out
from the kinds of holes that the Beatles couldnt x. They had evolved into
a very different kind of fan. For other supporters, the ones not suffering from
drug burnout, they turned the Beatles into their own personal obsession.
[A] whole new type of Beatlemania had broken out, not powered by
screams and swoons as before, but rather a kind of reverence in which every
note they played or breath they took was analyzed and dissected for greater
meaning, Bob Spitz wrote in The Beatles: A Biography.34 Some of those
doing the dissecting would harmlessly imbibe the music as an addled form
of fetishism. But there were others who would view the Beatles through a
paranoid lens, one lled with crackpot conspiracy theories. Many of the

178

Artificial Paradise

Beatles peers, however, set out to duplicate Sgt. Peppers magic on their
own records.
Sgt. Pepper was having a seismic impact on the general public and many
of the Beatles contemporaries attempted to duplicate its wizardry, as if they
were trying to decode a secret language. In 1968, for instance, the Zombies
(Time of the Season) matched some of Peppers technical innovations
while adding some richly inventive music of their own on the sublime Odyssey and Oracle (which was also recorded at the Abbey Road Studios). The
Rolling Stones, a mere six months after Pepper, would concoct their own
psychedelic conceit with Their Satanic Majesties Request. On this record,
the Stones willingly abandoned their R&B roots for exotic Indian rhythms,
sound collages, and music hall pastiches. But they lacked the Beatles skill
and temperament to make it work. The record did nd fans over the years,
but in 1967, it was commonly held (even by the band) as an artistic and
commercial misre. The Moody Blues, once an R&B band, led by singer
Denny Laine (who in the seventies would join Paul McCartneys Wings),
had a huge hit in 1964 with Bessie Banks Go Now. But in 1967, shortly
after Laine departed, the Moody Blues brought on board singer/songwriter
Justin Hayward and bass player John Lodge, to reshape their music into a
more classical rock ensemble. The bands sensibility developed precisely in
the spirit of Sgt. Pepper. Their rst venture, quite unthinkable without
Peppers A Day in the Life, would be Days of Future Past (1967), which
would yield two Justin Hayward hits, Tuesday Afternoon and Nights
in White Satin. What became most signicant about the Moody Blues,
though, was their deliberate attempt to forge a common vision on their
albums. For example, Days of Future Past was conceived as a song cycle that
spanned an entire dayfrom sunrise to eveningwhere every song
provided a unique perspective from each member of the group. The Moody
Blues consciously set out to create a utopian culture out of the bands
common identity. No one songwriter dominated an album and each individual tune served the larger theme on each individual recordfrom In Search
of the Lost Chord (1968) to Seventh Sojourn (1972). Every track was seamlessly wedded to the albums overall concept so that it was sometimes difcult to tell each writer apart. (The songs all segued into one another.)
Considered by some critics as pompous and pretentious, the Moody Blues
represented, for a short period, a pastoral mystical innocence worthy of poet
William Wordsworth in the age of psychedelia.
There were also many lesser, now forgotten groups, who attempted to
capture Sgt. Peppers light in a bottle, but one American composer didnt
even try to buy into the hippie ethos that blossomed out of the Beatles landmark recording. Frank Zappa had become a formidable gure in American
music through his L.A. band, the Mothers of Invention. Although the group
had long hair, they didnt begin to resemble the pretty groups sprouting up

Fixing a Hole

179

like owers in a magical garden. To paraphrase critic Nik Cohen, the Mothers suggested a band of motorcycle outlaws out to pillage your home and
kidnap your daughterthough they more likely to play her Igor Stravinsky
(or maybe Louie Louie) rather than sexually ravage her. With long stringy
hair, an imperial goatee and Rasputin eyes, Zappa might have conjured up
an image of a deranged drug-addled hippie freak, but he was one of the
straightest men in Los Angeles. He red various band members for even
using drugs. Zappas goal (from the time he was a teenager in the desert of
Lancaster, California) was to become a serious American composer.
Although he wasnt able to conceive making a living in the classical world,
Zappa (who also loved fties R&B and blues) decided to combine serious
contemporary music with rock, jazz, and social and political satire. He created a rather unique and sophisticated brand of musical comedy that integrated the canon of twentieth-century music, including the work of Edgard
Varese, Charles Ives, Anton Webern, and Igor Stravinsky, into R&B, blues,
and rock arrangements. He performed this music, too, with the scabrous
social wit of Lenny Bruce, while adding sprinklings of the irreverent clowning of Spike Jones. In essence, Frank Zappa brought to popular music a
desire to break down the boundaries between what was perceived as high
and low culture. He portrayed musical history irreverently through the lens
of satire, and turning musical genres into various forms of farce. No musical
ghetto could contain, or dene him, and no sacred cow or social group was
beyond his reach. His approach often upset many listeners who held to a
more romantic view of art.
But Zappa and the Beatles shared as many conceptual ideas as they did
differences. In 1967, Sgt. Pepper was being hailed as rocks rst concept
albumyet Zappas debut, the 2-LP set Freak Out! had already earned that
honor a year earlier. Freak Out! had an enormous impact on Sgt. Pepper,
which was evident in a number of ways. For instance, as the Beatles used
images of famous people on their front cover, Zappa had already listed all
of his inuential mentors (an equally motley group, including Webern,
Johnny Guitar Watson, and Sabu from The Jungle Book) on the inside
gatefold of Freak Out! On the Beatles Lovely Rita, the panting and
wheezing that concludes the song is directly inuenced by the 12 minutes
of panting and wheezing heard on Zappas ballet score, The Return of the
Son of Monster Magnet. Freak Out! inspired Sgt. Pepper most, though,
in its aim to turn the LP into a conceptual statement. Freak Out! was a manifesto for the freak culture in Los Angeles, just as Sgt. Pepper became a proclamation for the hippie subculture of San Francisco. The freak culture in Los
Angeles, though, was a completely different animal from the Bay area
hippies. San Francisco in the mid-sixties was very chauvinistic, and ethnocentric, Zappa explained in his memoir The Real Frank Zappa Book.
Everybody was wearing the same costume, a mixture of Barbary Coast
and Old West . . .By contrast, the L.A. costumery was more random and

180

Artificial Paradise

outlandish.35 Dan Sullivan in The New York Times pointed up a more


signicant discrepancy between the Mothers and the Beatles. The most
striking difference between [the Beatles and the Mothers of Invention] is
not in their work but in their approach to their workthe Beatles desire to
please an audience versus the Mothers basic distrust of one.36
Sgt. Pepper celebrated the romantic ideal, offering the possibility that love
could transcend all of our problems. But Zappa, who railed against
the romantic school of music, perceived something sinister lurking beneath
the owers, beads, and incense burning. The Beatles album was a pleasantly
well-crafted confection, but the concept of ower power itself was evolving into something resembling a successful fad. On his new record, Zappa
decided to go after the fad rather than the music. Sgt. Pepper was okay,
Zappa remarked to critic Kurt Loder in 1988. But just the whole aroma
of what the Beatles were was something that never really caught my fancy.
I got the impression from what was going on at the time that they were only
in it for the moneyand that was a pretty unpopular view to hold.37 Like
Lenny Bruce, Zappa drew on his artistic and social milieu as a worthy target
for satire. While the world swooned in cosmic brotherhood and groups
rushed to emulate the Beatles studio-craft, Frank Zappa used Sgt. Pepper
as a catalyst for a swinging attack on the meretriciousness and selfdeception that he felt it embodied, Neil Slaven wrote in his Zappa biography, Electric Don Quixote.38 He did this on a 1968 record titled, naturally,
Were Only in It for the Money.
Contrary to the more generous ideals attached to the group, the Beatles
career was often preoccupied by the power of money. Beginning with their
1963 cover version of the song Money, nancial power was the subject of
several Beatles recordings, music critic Walter Everett wrote. In 1964,
the Beatles professed a disdain for lucre, emphatically singing I dont care
too much for money, for money cant buy me love, but by the time of the
breakup, McCartney was complaining You Never Give Me Your Money,
during the groups bitter squabbles over corporate problems.39 Film critic
Pauline Kael pointed out in her review of the animated lm Yellow Submarine in 1968 that the problem of commerce undermined the Beatles image,
which by that time, began to change in the wake of all the promotional
marketing tie-ins associated with the movie. Wasnt all this supposed to
be what the Beatles were against? Kael asked. Theres something depressing about seeing yesterdays outlaw idols of the teenagers become a quartet
of Pollyannas for the wholesome family trade.40 As early as 1965, when
interviewed by Playboy, Lennon sarcastically remarked that they were
moneymakers rst and entertainers second. It was this particular aura that
Zappa countered on his record.
While Were Only in It for the Money wasnt designed as a savage attack
on the band, his parody of the Sgt. Pepper cover was itself a nightmare
version of the Beatles gathering. The Mothers of Invention were featured

Fixing a Hole

181

all dressed in granny gowns, and included behind them in this bizarre
procession were outsiders, mists, and assassins. Rather than the bright blue
sky that was above the Beatles, Zappa has lightning and darkness lling the
sky over the Mothers. Were Only in It for the Money is basically a satirical
Kafkaesque portrait of the culture wars. In part, Zappa was parodying the
dissolution of the hippie scene in the Haight, which, by 1968, turned further
into a druggie skid row. Within a few months, the whole thing had become
a circus, observed journalist Nik Cohen in 1969. The original hippies had
all escaped, and what remained was an acid-burger nightmare. The streets
were lled with beggars and pushers and pubertal panhandlers. Everything
was lthy, decaying, rat-infested. Instant freaks sat on the sidewalks,
munching a hash sandwich, and the tourists took happysnaps.41
Although initially the hippie scene was relatively benign, Zappa saw that
its druggy passivity was leaving them vulnerable to collusion with authoritarian elements of the government. The single most important [lesson of
the sixties] is that LSD was a scam promoted by the CIA and that the people
in Haight-Ashbury, who were idols of people across the world as examples
of revolution and outrage and progress, were mere dupes of the CIA,
Zappa told Neil Slaven in Electric Don Quixote.42 Critic Ian MacDonald
also saw the hippie community as susceptible to manipulation because they
had no real identity as a community. Hippie communality was real without
being ideological, and many of its concernsthe open attitude to sex, the
interest in spirituality, the pioneering focus on ecology, the enthusiasm for
alternative technology and medicinewere quickly assimilated into the
intelligent fringes of the mainstream, he wrote in Revolution in the Head.43
Zappas skewering of the hippie culture was therefore not a reactionary
attack on its freakishness, but on their tendency toward conformity.
Zappas main message for the left-behinds of the Great Society, usually
expressed in a contemptuously satirical tone, was that they must shun the
dominant culture and learn to think for themselves, wrote music critic
Walter Everett.44
Were Only in It for the Money was a boldly experimental record, like
Pepper, but it was Sgt. Pepper conceived as a Mad Magazine collage.
Although Zappa didnt spare the hippie culture on his record, he was no less
harsh on the government. After lampooning hippie passivity in Who Needs
the Peace Corps? the next song, Concentration Moon, with its wickedly
hilarious Rudy Valee-styled arrangement, attacks the police for its blatant
brutality toward the hippie community. Singing about an American police
force that uses rearms to bring hippies under control might have seemed
far-fetched in 1968, but the song was recorded only a couple of years before
the tragic shooting and killing of four students by National Guardsmen at
Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Furthermore, in 1969, a parking lot
on the University of California in Berkeley was turned into a Peoples
Park by antiwar protesters. Governor Ronald Reagan had ordered the

182

Artificial Paradise

National Guard to reclaim the park and shoot all resisters. Using saltpeter,
instead of bullets, they wounded many protesters and actually killed one
person. Later, after the park was reclaimed, a number of individuals were
arrested including journalist Robert Scheer of the leftist magazine Ramparts.
They were all taken away by bus to an internment camp in Santa Rita where
they were detained and violently interrogated for a couple of days. Robert
Scheer wrote about this horrifying event in an essay, published in Ramparts,
called A Night in Santa Rita.
Right after the terror of Concentration Moon, Zappa brings it all back
home on Mom & Dad. This track continues the story from Concentration Moon, where a murdered childs parents sit at home drinking while
learning that their daughter has been shot dead by the police. In this song,
Zappas own chilling response to the Beatles Shes Leaving Home, he
nally takes the full blame away from the hippies, and the cops, and
addresses her folks. The drinking parents, hiding behind their appearances,
are irrevocably linked to their drug-addled kids. Zappa . . .never found his
emotions so mixed as when observing all those genuinely idealistic, authentically dumb kids trying to forge something positive out of the plastic catastrophic America theyd inherited, rock critic Dave Marsh wrote in his
Rock & Rap Condential.45 Harry, Youre A Beast is a cogent observation on male/female dynamics in an age which many considered the onset
of the Sexual Revolution. In Harry, Youre A Beast, Harry and his wife,
Madge, live a sexless marriage until Harry attempts intercourse. As Madge
ghts him off, she borrows the words of Lenny Bruce from his classic routine
To is a Preposition, Come is a Verb, and cries, Dont come in me/Dont
come in me. While its obvious that Harry did indeed come in her, the next
song, Whats the Ugliest Part of Your Body? identies the root of sexual
repressionyour mind. Flower Punk was a rewrite of the rock classic,
Hey Joe, where a guy shoots his girlfriend and escapes to Mexico. But
Zappa turns Joe into a hippie with a ower rather than a gun. (He may even
have been patterned on the one who stuck owers in the gun barrels of
National Guardsmen.) The character in Flower Punk resembles the guy
in Help, Im A Rock, a song from the earlier Freak Out! whos constantly
looking for any group that will validate his existence. On Take Your
Clothes Off When You Dance, Zappa comically states alternative strategies for a culture free of repressive sexual and political practices. The
albums nal track, The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny, is a
tour-de-force audio poem, which mixes voice, tape, and various instruments
into a brilliantly conceived sound collage. Inspired by a reading of Franz
Kafkas short novel In the Penal Colony, Zappa advised record buyers to
read Kafkas story, where the victims of an authoritarian regime have their
crime literally tattooed on their body, before listening to the piece. This stunning example of musique concrete is an abstract nightmare version of the
casual alienation illustrated on A Day in the Life. Were Only in It for

Fixing a Hole

183

the Money earned Zappa many accolades from those living behind the Iron
Curtain of Eastern Europe because of its antiauthoritarian tone, but very
little praise back home.
Were Only in It for the Money did eventually usher in the New Year in
1968, where it reached #30 in the U.S. charts, making the album something
of a hit for Frank Zappa. But the reception to it was naturally mixed.
To satirize, in 1968, the hippie culture, the status quo, and the drug culture
didnt win Zappa many friends in authority, or in the rock n roll world.
Where, the album asks over and over again, is the promise of the sixties?
asked critic Kelly Fisher Lowe upon hearing Were Only in It for the Money.
Where is the society that was glimpsed on the streets of Los Angeles in
196465? The answer is that it has been destroyedby advertising,
government, drink, parents, television, and, indeed, ambivalencein fact,
the album is a frontal assault, from beginning to end, on the ambivalence
of the cultural warriors.46 Looking back now, Were Only in It for the
Money challenged the political and cultural realities of that era where Sgt.
Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band could only passively reect them. Money
had the uncanny ability to also look ahead. A little more than a decade later,
many of those same hippies morphed into yuppiesfolks who, without
question, were denitely in it for the money.
On March 21, 1967, the same day the Beatles were recording the chorus of
Getting Better, Lennon had left the vocal session while he was tripping on
acid. Fearing for his partners well being, McCartney decided to try and get
him home safely. Since it was too far to drive to Johns home in Weybridge,
Paul took Lennon to his place. After arriving, McCartney was curious to
see if taking LSD would bring him closer to his currently estranged writing
partner. Most of the Beatles had taken acid by the time they nished Sgt.
Pepper, but McCartney had earlier held out. Late in 1966, he nally dropped
it with Tara Browne, but with mixed feelings. McCartney didnt enjoy losing
control, or putting himself in a position where he couldnt nd his way back
home. A year later, McCartney actually caused some controversy when he
admitted to the press that LSD had opened his eyes to new religious experiences. On the night he tried it with Lennon, he only wished to reestablish a
bond they once had as songwriters, as brothers. [Lennons] rough edges and
fuck-all personality only underscored Pauls pretensions, sparking a contrast
that would haunt Paul for the rest of his life, wrote Bob Spitz in his biography,
The Beatles.47 From evening until dawn, the two men hallucinated together,
staring into each others eyes, looking for the rm connection they had when
they wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand. McCartney would later refer to
the experience with Lennon as communing with the unknown. He saw Lennon
as the Emperor of Eternity, a deity, as they both laughed and shared stories of
past glories. For ve hours, they communed deeply, barely moving, except
for a short excursion taken into the garden. These two fractured geniuses had

184

Artificial Paradise

once blended together as one. But what the Beatles and their fans didnt
discover, until shortly after 1967, was that LSD had more troubling ramications. It rst gave credence to religious and political ideologues. When extremists like the Manson Family and the Weather Underground used it to further
their apocalyptic agendas, the Beatles became unwitting champions of this
new revolution. The sad fact was that LSD could turn its users into anything
from orally-bedecked peaceniks to gun-brandishing urban guerillas, critic
Ian MacDonald explained in Revolution in the Head.48
The bold quest for social, political, and sexual freedom in the sixties also
contained a foreboding element that soon permeated the counterculture
and had a large inuence on it. While love appeared to be everywhereand
pop music denitely celebrated itthere was also a signicant emergence of
occultism. Before 1967, the occult was perceived as marginally archaic (and
derided), but after Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Tarot, the
Kabbala, I Ching, witchcraft, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and various
swamis were eagerly validated. Within this celebrated mystical mosaic lay
the demon seeds of Charles Manson, the Scientology of L. Ron Hubbard,
Satanist Anton LaVey, and the dark mystic Aleister Crowley (who was
featured on the cover of Sgt. Pepper). What made this marriage of pop artists
and occultism possible was partly the continued intake of LSD, which held
the possibility of reaching alternate forms of consciousness. The use of hallucinogens by 1967 had offered escape for many people from the violent realities erupting in the culture. But instead of directly confronting this
violence, hippies were trying to rid themselves of evil by simply forbidding
its existence. Through the use of a variety of psychedelic drugs, they sought
to create a blissful state of innocence, a virtual Garden of Eden that was free
of anxiety and guilt. Guilt is the other side of moral consciousness[but]
we have eaten of the tree of knowledge, wrote psychologist Rollo May in
Power and Innocence. We valiantly try to persuade ourselves that if we only
nd the key, we can easily create a society in which nakedness, guilt, anxiety
will all be things of the unmourned past.49 To nd that key, many reached
for the alternate realities offered by lysergic acid diethylamide-25.
In August 1967, George Harrison and his wife Pattie saw the transformations brought on by acid rsthand when they made a trip to San Francisco to
see the remnants of the Summer of Love. It was a couple months after the
lovefest of the Monterey Pop Festival and they went to San Francisco to visit
Patties sister Jennifer. After being given some form of hallucinogen by a
local DJ, Harrison, Boyd, press agent Derek Taylor, and tour manager Neil
Aspinall eagerly headed to Haight-Ashbury. I could only describe it as
being like the Bowery, Harrison recalled. [A] lot of [them were] bums
and drop-outs; many of them young kids whod dropped acid and come
from all over America to this mecca of LSD.50 Their visit went from bad
to worse when the drug-addled group recognized Harrison. I had the feeling that theyd listened to the Beatles records, analyzed them, learned what

Fixing a Hole

185

theyd thought they should learn, and taken every drug theyd thought the
Beatles were singing about, recalled Pattie Boyd. Now they wanted to
know where to go next. And George was there, obviously, to give them the
answer.51 Circumstances werent helped either by the fact that Harrisons
own drug-induced hallucinations were taking hold. People were handing
him a variety of drugs to take, as another offered him a guitar, begging the
Beatle to lead them like the pied piper out of the park. We walked down
the street, and I was being treated like the Messiah, Harrison added fearfully. I went there expecting it to be a brilliant place, with groovy gypsy
people making works of art and paintings and carvings in little workshops.
But it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs, and it turned me
right off the scene.52 As they made a quick exit to their limo, Harrison
vowed never to touch LSD ever again.
What Harrison perceived was similar to what folk singer Donovan had
already started to observe a year earlier. Donovan began thinking about
writing a song that took into account all the remnants of occultism he saw
around him. Inspired by a viewing of the 1962 British horror movie called
The Night of the Eagle (or Burn, Witch, Burn) about the power of witchcraft, he began to consider a tune that addressed how the auspicious pacism
of the cheerful ower and beads hippies he witnessed quickly evolved into
the paranoid counterculture occultists, who were driven by drugs and looking for followers to bring on the end of the world. To address this, Donovan
composed Season of the Witch, an unnerving composition about this disquieting mutation. The song was an eerily memorable track that warned of
settled scores yet to come. Though Donovan was something of a hippie
enigma himself, he wasnt being facile here. In Season of the Witch, he
warned of charlatans out to make it rich, false prophets who ultimately
made us pick up every stitch. No song had sized up the emerging zombie
zeitgeist with such chilling prescience as Season of the Witch. When
Harrison gave up using LSD, he was clearly seeing something ugly and
dispirited on the horizon, too. But while that ugliness would soon embody
itself in the presence of Charles Manson (who arrived in the Haight mere
weeks after Harrison departed it), Harrison and the rest of the Beatles turned
toward gurus to reinstate their passport to a higher consciousness.
Artist David Wynne, who had done busts of the Beatles heads in Paris
back in 1964, spoke to Harrison in early 1967 about one particular holy
man who had intrigued him: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Wynne had been
sketching the Maharishi, and he told Harrison that he was fascinated with
him because he had a lifeline on his hand that didnt end. (It would end,
though, in February 2008 when the Maharishi would die at the age of 91.)
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the 50-year-old founder of the Spiritual Regeneration Movement Foundation that taught Transcendental Meditation.
Transcendental Meditation, which the Maharishi began in 1955, was a form
of meditation taken from the Vedic tradition of Hinduism. Its a simple

186

Artificial Paradise

technique, Pattie Boyd explained. You are given a mantra, a single word,
which you keep secret, to say over and over again to yourself. The idea is
that in repeating the mantra you clear your mind so you can give it and your
body a brief rest from the stress of modern life.53 By sitting with your eyes
closed for about 20 minutes and repeating your mantra, Boyd claimed you
could make yourself feel calm and focused. You just sit there and let your
mind go, Lennon said about the process of TM. It doesnt matter what
youre thinking about, just let it go. And then you introduce the mantra,
the vibration, to take over from the thought. You dont will it or use your
will power.54
Although Maharishi Yogi had been introducing Westerners to TM since
1959, it wasnt until the Beatles became interested in 1967 that he became
internationally known. While TM had serious implications for George
Harrison and his own spiritual values, the Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall saw more rampant conformity than spiritual enlightenment. Everybody going to the Maharishi was like everybody ending up with
moustaches on Sgt. Pepper, he recalled. A lot of it was follow-the-leader
(whoever the leader was at that time). One got a moustache, so everybody
got a moustache. 55 Although Wynne told Harrison about a lecture the
Maharishi was doing on August 24, 1967, at Londons Hilton Hotel, it was
Pattie Boyd who rst encountered the guru. Back in February, Pattie and a
friend were looking to take up meditation and came upon an ad in the paper
for Transcendental Meditation courses with the Spiritual Regeneration
Movement. It was over the course of a long weekend that they were given
their mantras and met the Maharishi. Pattie shared the experience with
Harrison who was immediately interested. When they decided to attend the
August lecture, they naturally took the Beatles along. After joining Harrison
in London, they went on with the Maharishi to Bangor, Wales on the
train the next day. During Sgt. Pepper, George was the most interested in
Indian culture, Paul McCartney explained. We were all interested in it
but for George it was a direction.56 For Harrison, it was also an opportunity
to seek what he found lacking before the Beatles retired from touring in 1966.
After having such an intense period of growing up and so much success in
the Beatles and realizing that this wasnt the answer to everything, the question came: What is it all about? And then, purely because of the force-fed
LSD experience, I had the realization of God, Harrison said.57 Essentially,
he no longer craved the role of being a Beatle, or the image that it created.
While the Beatles were gaining transcendental knowledge in Bangor, news
from the real world intruded. The group discovered that their 32-year-old
manager Brian Epstein was found dead of an accidental drug overdose at
his home in London. The shocking news shattered the Beatles rst meeting
with the Maharishi, who told them to keep good thoughts for Brian on his
spiritual journey. The Beatles then went back to London. Although its true
that Epsteins death was accidental, he had been on a collision course with

Fixing a Hole

187

mortality since the Beatles had stopped touring. Brians role with us had
changed because he wasnt booking us around the world anymore, Ringo
said. We were working in the studio; wed make a record and the record
would come out. What was there left for him to do? Book the studioone
phone call. That was the extent of it at that time.58 The egalitarian vision
the Beatles had built in the sixties had been a collaborative effort of which
Brian Epstein had been a key component. The boys, as he called them, were
his dream image of assimilation, a consolidation of his own fractured
personality. These once tough Teddy Boys might have been schooled on
the streets of Hamburg, but Epstein essentially refurbished them.
He brought them from their rough leather jackets into those formally
elegant suits so they could change the world. When the world was fully in
their sway, Epstein could live out his own dream (even as his hidden private
life continued down a sadomasochistic path). Once the violence of 1966 had
ruptured the band, Epstein was equally mortied. When the Beatles abandoned the road, Epstein felt abandoned as well. His access to their dream
world was gone. Epstein was now, once again, only a business manager.
Consumed by pills and depression, he had become an accident waiting to
happen. But that accident had a dire impact on the Beatles. We collapsed,
Lennon reected to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone in 1970. I knew that we
were in trouble then. I didnt really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared. I thought, Weve
had it now. 59 Although the Beatles didnt immediately collapse, John
Lennon realized then that it was only a matter of time before they did.

CHAPTER 7

Turn Me On, Dead Man


Ive seen better days
But Im putting up with these.
Richard Rabbit Brown, James Alley Blues
Just before Brian Epsteins sudden death in August 1967 and George Harrisons rather rude awakening in Haight-Ashbury, Paul McCartney was
dreaming of magical journeys. Since the Beatles were no longer touring
the world, he thought, why not make a lm that would feature the group
roaming the countryside, with a group of tourists, looking for enchantment and mystery? The way McCartney saw it, the lm might symbolize
everything that life on the road had ultimately denied the Beatles. In the
absence of doing live performances, the group could now continue reinventing themselves on the screen while simultaneously promoting their
new songs. John Lennon agreed with his partner. Records cant be seen
so its good to have a lm vehicle of some sort to go with the new music,
Lennon told Rolling Stone at the time.1 The idea rst occurred to McCartney while he was helping celebrate Jane Ashers 21st birthday in Colorado.
He had been hearing stories about Ken Keseys Merry Pranksters and their
psychedelic acid-tinged bus-trips-to-nowhere that took place back in 1964.
At the time, Kesey had obtained an old school bus and invited Neal Cassidy, who was the model for the Dean Moriarty character in Jack Kerouacs On the Road, to drive it. Then he splashed it with wild painted
designs and set off to dispense LSD to all willing participants. The trip
had been lmed as part of a possible documentary, but since no distributor
showed remotely any interest in picking up the rights, it never came to be
seen. (Kesey, though, would later record a spoken word record for the

Turn Me On, Dead Man

189

Beatles Apple Records.) For McCartney, Keseys exploits had triggered an


early memory of bus tripsmystery tourswhere passengers had no
idea where they were heading. The mystery tour was a British
working-class custom of taking organized coach excursions where only
the driver knew the destination.
While ying back to England, McCartney started planning something
similar for the Beatles. Magical Mystery Tour was planned as an experimental 50-minute color lm for BBC TV about a madcap bus trip through the
British countryside. Like Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour was another
means of shedding the popular Fab Four image established earlier in their
madcap adventures in both A Hard Days Night and Help! McCartney
decided to have the group improvise on an unscripted story rather than
create a dramatic foundation for their antics. He whimsically thought of
Magical Mystery Tour as essentially a Beatle home movie for television.
Throughout the picture, McCartney was condent that they could make
up the story as they went along. After all, they were the Beatles. Magical
Mystery Tour featured a Fellini-like cast of midgets, busty ladies, and
contortionists (with the only exception being Victor Spinetti, who had
starred in A Hard Days Night and Help!). The Bonzo Dog Band, a comedy
music group patterned on the Goons, were also invited to perform the Elvis/
Gene Vincent song parody Death Cab For Cutie in a strip club.
But before the Beatles could start haphazardly connecting the dots of their
mystery tour, the BBC wanted them to reconnect to the world at large
through a summer television special to be broadcast on June 25, 1967. The
song chosen, All You Need Is Love, had been written by Lennon in
response to a request for the Beatles to take part in what would be the rst
live global television link titled Our World. (The viewing audience was estimated to be somewhere in the vicinity of 350 million people.) The special
included a two-hour feed to Europe, Central and North America, Scandinavia, Australia, and Japan. In the show, the Beatles would contribute one
track that could be understood by all nationalities, thus reestablishing their
utopian vision without even leaving the borders of the United Kingdom.
Initially, both McCartney and Lennon were requested to write a song.
McCartney ultimately offered the charming Hello Goodbye, but it was
rejected as too vague. To the shows producers, Lennons new work, All
You Need Is Love, was the perfect choice since it t so rmly with the idealistic concept of the program. Lennon had composed All You Need Is Love
as a simple sing-along number that would speak specically of what the
Beatles dream had been about all along. Two years before he would
reafrm that claim in his song, Give Peace a Chance, John Lennon set
out to embrace the world with a vision of benevolent acceptance.
In retrospect, however, the execution was more than a little nave. All You
Need Is Love was essentially a more embellished version of ideas Lennon
expressed more fervidly in The Word on Rubber Soul. Where The Word

190

Artificial Paradise

articulated with effervescent joy the discovery of the power of love, All You
Need Is Love is packaged sloganeeringan ad that sells love rather than
communicating it. Although constructed with a fair amount of ingenuity,
All You Need Is Love ends up at and dispassionate. The love songs the
Beatles wrote earlier in their career had taken conventional romantic norms
and radically altered them. In particular, a track like She Loves You,
which McCartney parrots toward the end of All You Need Is Love, takes
what could be a standard rst-person love song and radically transforms it
by emphasizing a third-person perspective. In doing so, the singer is no longer our surrogate speaking for our thoughts and feelings (as he does in most
other love songs). The singer instead admonishes us, telling us that if we
dont sharpen up, we will lose the most loving relationship we might ever
nd. She Loves You is a dialog between the singer and the listener that
opens up larger considerations of romantic desire and attachment. All
You Need Is Love, on the other hand, tells us how we should feel rather
than allowing us to feel. The Beatles open-ended invitation for us to be part
of a larger world was the key to their transcendent dream of Nowhere Land.
The Beatles might have reached a global audience with All You Need Is
Love, but in the song, the global audience is not asked to reach back. Lennon tells us that love can change all the hate, but he never tells us how. All
You Need Is Love is a well-intentioned sermon that preaches to an imaginary choir.2
The setup for the live broadcast, though, was the most compelling aspect of
the tune. George Martin came up with a clever idea to mark the international
appeal of the song: All You Need Is Love opens with the tune of La Marseillaise. Toward the end, the Beatles perform a mantra of love is all you
need, where Martin closes out the song with a Charles Ives-inuenced layering of Glenn Millers In the Mood, Bachs Brandenburg Concerto, and the
British folk song, Greensleeves. He dedicated himself to making sure the
broadcast went off without a problemdespite the death of his father two
days before. On June 18, Martin recorded the songs instrumental track so
that all the group had to do was sing to it on the day of the broadcast. The
group had invited various friends like Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger
to hold balloons and wave placards saying All You Need Is Love in different languages. While the invited rock stars partied long after the broadcast,
some of the classical players in the orchestra were obviously not in the mood
for love. Annoyed at the frivolities, they got up and left.
When the single was released in July 1967, it was backed by a more
compelling track called Baby, Youre a Rich Man. Baby, Youre a Rich
Man was about the beautiful people of the hippie culture. Although the
song is less foreboding than Donovans Season of the Witch, it still takes
a skeptical tone about the hippie mind-set than All You Need Is Love.
Baby, Youre a Rich Man, with its intricate Indian arrangement, points
up the discrepancy between being a beautiful person, who is spiritually

Turn Me On, Dead Man

191

rich, and someone rich enough to afford the luxury of being beautiful. While
the rich man in the song was sometimes eluded to be Brian Epstein (on the
original single, you can hear Lennon singing sarcastically on the fade-out,
Baby, youre a rich fag Jew), the song is more likely aimed at HaightAshbury. Although it was the B-side, the song did have some inuence on
the Zombies 1968 hit Time of the Season. [There was the] idea in the
Beatles Baby, Youre a Rich Man where being rich doesnt mean material
richness but spiritual richness, writer and keyboardist Rod Argent told
Uncut magazine in 2007.3
When Hello Goodbye was turned down for the live BBC global broadcast, the Beatles made it their next single in November 1967. McCartney
had composed the song based on the simple idea of learning how to write a
song on the spot. He demonstrated this little game once with Brian Epsteins
former assistant Alistair Taylor. While playing a melody on his harmonium,
McCartney suggested that Taylor call out the opposite of whatever McCartney sang as he struck the keyboard. If McCartney sang yes, Taylor would
answer no; and when McCartney would call out stop, Taylor would respond
with go. With its catchy, energetic melody, Hello Goodbye is likeable
McCartney pop fodder. The end chant (Hela, hey, aloha), performed like
a mantra, was something improvised in the studio, with aloha being the
Hawaiian greeting of affection. The B-side of Hello Goodbye, Lennons
I Am the Walrus was anything but simple. Far more radically innovative
and astonishing than his previous All You Need Is Love, I Am the
Walrus is a swirling impressionistic collage that deliberately dees simple
interpretation. The event that inspired Lennon to write the song was a letter
he received from a student at Quarry Bank School. A professor had assigned
his class to study and analyze the Beatles songs. The thought of someone
doing this was so amusing to Lennon that he decided to write a tune so
abstract, and so convoluted, that no one would gure it out. With the help
of his childhood friend Pete Shotten, Lennon invested I Am the Walrus
with lines based on such schoolyard rhymes as yellow matter custard, green
slop pie, all mixed together with a dead dogs eye. Slap it on a butty, ten foot
thick, then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick. While the song has its
roots in such nonsense verse, its also based on some of Lennons writings in
school at Quarry Bank. Lennon also combines quotes from Lewis Carrolls
poem The Walrus and the Carpenter, includes some knocks at poet Allen
Ginsberg (elementary penguin) who was chanting Hare Krishna mantras
at protest rallies, and the eggman reference was for singer Eric Burdon,
who had a predilection for breaking eggs over the women he was having
sex with.
Lennon rst laid down the track with the group, but he told George
Martin that it needed some kind of score to accompany it. After some
consideration, Martin added horns, violins, cellos, and a 16-voice choir that
made swooping noises, laughed uproariously, and concluded chanting,

192

Artificial Paradise

Everyone has one. At the end, Martin also superimposed some lines from
a BBC radio performance of Shakespeares King Lear (Act IV Scene VI). Like
the Hela, hey, aloha section on Hello Goodbye, the jooba jooba
chorus was inuenced by learning mantras from the Maharishi. But if the
Maharishis mantras provided some structure for the song, it was Lennons
biting surreal wit that cut through the earnest pretensions of All You Need
Is Love. Lennons delivery is imbued with his master passion, rage, which
he inects across the entire infrared range from mocking and cursing to jeering and sneering, wrote Albert Goldman. In no other recording does he
strike such a perfect balance between language as speech and language as
action.4
Magical Mystery Tour, which was completed that fall, would eventually
be broadcast on the BBC on December 26, 1967, but it didnt attract any
holiday cheer. While roundly panned for all its chaotic indulgences, it also
didnt help that the Beatles color lm was inexplicably shown in black and
white. As bad as the picture was, though, Magical Mystery Tour did serve
as a perfect metaphor for the current state of the group. In the picture, the
Beatles aimlessly head out into the country to seek magic with a group of
followers, only to nd themselves rudderless and lost in their dreams. The
groupand the viewing audiencewasnt alone. The lm critic for The
London Times was equally disoriented. This was a program to experience
rather than to understand, he wrote. I was unfortunate; I lacked the necessary key.5 Few could actually nd the key, since the picture was so formless. As for the music, it fared little better. Magical Mystery Tour is a
rollicking curtain-opener written by McCartney to state the theme of the
picture. But while its aim is to provide a cheery invitation to the show, the
song is little more than a pale imitation of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
Band. As in Sgt. Pepper, McCartney once again plays the role of the
carny barker while the chorus happily asks people to roll up for the trip.
But rather than provide excitement, or anticipation, theres an air of desperation in the song instead of the condent assurances offered on the opening
track of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
McCartneys The Fool on the Hill is heard while Paul is seen thoughtfully posed on a hill overlooking Nice, France, but the song is a banal bit
of whimsy. Its about a prophet who is considered a fool by everyone until
he is ultimately declared a visionary. I think I was writing about someone
like the Maharishi, McCartney told Barry Miles. His detractors called
him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasnt taken too seriously.6 Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head, believes McCartney was also thinking
of the character of the Fool in a tarot deck. [The Fool] is a paradoxical symbol, numbered 0 to 22, which stands for redeeming ignorance, MacDonald wrote.7 Whatever meaning is subscribed to The Fool on the Hill, the
actual idea for the song originated when McCartney read about a hermit in
Italy who had lived most of his adult life in a cave. When this modern Rip

Turn Me On, Dead Man

193

Van Winkle nally emerged back into the world in the late forties, he discovered that hed missed the entire World War II. The Fool on the Hill is
arranged just like a childhood rhyme, but with a faint air of despondency.
The fool might see all that is going on, but hes completely cut off from the
world. The song unwittingly raises the question as to whether he should even
be considered a trustworthy source on the state of the planet.
Before 1967, the Beatles had sought and ultimately achieved a true connection with the world, but The Fool on the Hill reveals a group thats
grown content with keeping its distance. One critic, Jon Landau, addressed
the Beatles remoteness in his review of Bob Dylans John Wesley Harding
(1967). Dylan had come out of his self-imposed isolation in Woodstock to
make a new record that was to go completely against the grain of the current
pop trend toward psychedelia. His quiet, austere album carried an aura of
pre-rock, or something closer to the country sound of Sun Records. If the
texture of John Wesley Harding was linked to the past, Landau felt that its
songs were deeply in touch with issues in the present. Dylan exhibits a
profound awareness of the [Vietnam] War in the same way that songs like
Magical Mystery Tour and Fool on the Hill ignore it, Landau wrote.
All I mean to say is that Dylan has felt the war, that there is an awareness
of it contained within the mood of the album as a whole.8 The Fool on
the Hill expresses only an opaque awareness of the world around the fool.
(After all, according to McCartney, the fools head is continuously in the
clouds.) At their best, the Beatles gave us a profound awareness of their time,
but in tunes like Magical Mystery Tour and The Fool on the Hill, they
are adrift in a world that is sealed off much like the fool himself.
Flying, which was originally titled Aerial Tour Instrumental, is a
group effort that grew out of a jam session. In many ways, it resembles
12-Bar Original, a rambling blues instrumental recorded during the
Rubber Soul sessions, but left unreleased until the Anthology 2 CD came
out in 1996. In both songs, the Beatles manage to establish a groove, but they
never really get groovy. In the lm, Flying is heard over a rather
aimless tracking shot featuring psychedelic colored landscapes and endless
clouds. While the song, which climaxes rather quickly into a group chant, is
underscored by the random clatter of tape loops, we are taken above the
clouds where the Beatles are seen playing four magicians comically overseeing the journey of the tour bus. But their humor is so forced and disconnected
that their comic lines zzle rather than spark inspired associations. In this
moment, the Beatles are as (literally) lost in the clouds as the fool on the hill.
George Harrisons rather moody Blue Jay Way was written in August
1967 while he and Pattie were in California. Harrison and his wife were
staying in a cottage on Blue Jay Way, which is located in the Hollywood
Hills above Sunset Boulevard. Press publicist Derek Taylor was supposed
to meet the couple that night, but he got lost in the foggy drive to their
house. Harrison recounts the story in a dreary drone thats underscored by

194

Artificial Paradise

the gloomy notes of a Hammond organ (and a cello thats imitating an


Indian sarod). Many naturally assumed that Blue Jay Way was the sequel
to Within You Without You. Given the portentous reading of Taylor and
his entourage losing their way, it was easy to assume that Harrison wasnt
being literal, but sermonizing on the idea of being spiritually lost. After all,
Magical Mystery Tour seems to support that view by framing Harrison, as
he sings the song, in a meditation pose refracted through a psychedelic
prism. Your Mother Should Know, a poor retread of When Im 64, is
inuenced by the cabaret music of McCartneys fathers generation.
Conceived by Paul as a production number for the lm, the band descended
the stairs in white tail suits and roses in their lapels as a pale tribute to the
musical numbers of earlier Hollywood movies. Your Mother Should
Know is a rather lame attempt to recreate the generational conict of
Shes Leaving Home, without the latters vital poignancy.
In their search for a new pop identity, the Beatles were now ailing about
desperately. Brian Epstein had helped create the image that they rode to
success, a concept that became a brand to market. But once they abandoned
that identity, and traded it in for the retrograde marching band outts of Sgt.
Pepper, they were no longer the same group that transformed popular
culture. Where once they deed pop trends by setting new standards, they
were now safely catering to popular trends like ower power. Epsteins sudden death had sent the group into a tailspin. Since he had been their conduit
to the live audience, the band lost their strongest link to the underpinnings of
their dream with his departure. Magical Mystery Tour was a literal Nowhere
Land, a phony oasis that connects to absolutely nothing. When we watch the
Beatles ride the mystery tour bus, they sit as four individuals rather than as a
group (even when John and George do sit together, they could just as easily
be strangers as longtime band mates). When the Beatles play their music
together, as in the scene in the eld singing I Am the Walrus, they barely
resemble the group. They are disguised by their costumes and performing
without even a live audience present to watch them.
After 1967, the Beatles began to literally invent dream worlds to take the
place of the dreams they serendipitously invoked in us from Please Please
Me to Revolver. The self-conscious magic, hermetically conceived on Sgt.
Pepper, ultimately did nothing more than reect the short-lived fads of
LSD and Love-Ins. Magical Mystery Tour was their failed attempt to relive
the quest for pop freedom they sought in A Hard Days Night. But this quest
was nowhere near as magical. In a desperate search to nd fulllment and
spiritual solace, the Beatles abandoned the pop world altogether and took
a long and winding road to Rishikesh.
In January 1968, while the Beatles were still licking their wounds over the
debacle of Magical Mystery Tour, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was in New York
City to meet the press and to spread the word about Transcendental

Turn Me On, Dead Man

195

Meditation.9 If the Maharishi was indeed the incarnation of McCartneys


The Fool on the Hill, he was certainly no fool when it came to public relations. Before arriving in the Big Apple, he hired Solters & Sabinson, the same
public relations rm that handled Ringling Brothers Circus, to put together
an elaborate press conference. The media scrum was booked at the State
Suite of the Plaza Hotel, where the Maharishi was staying. He was booked
for an appearance at Madison Square Gardens in order to deliver a lecture
introducing potential converts to TM. As he arrived to meet the press corps,
the Maharishis entourage handed out pink carnations, 810 glossy photos,
and a bio sheet explaining how millions worldwide were achieving inner
peace through the Maharishis methods. At rst, the press was deferential
to this tiny deity, taking pictures and asking the swami how he enjoyed visiting America. But within an hour, the mood got testier. One radio reporter,
picking up on the public relations angle to this visit, told the Maharishi that
Jesus and Buddha never had the advantage of a PR rm to represent their
interests. The diminutive yogi replied that perhaps that was why it took
Christ hundreds of years to get known. When a young political activist asked
the Maharishi about his opinion of the Vietnam War and the draft, the swami
was ippant in his answer, saying that his interest in Vietnam was no more
than his interest in any other place in the world. His PR rm, now growing
uneasy, tried to redirect the questions toward Transcendental Meditation.
But one female reporter stepped forward to ask how peace was even possible
when so many individuals in the world lived in poverty. People are in
poverty because they lack intelligence and because of laziness, the Maharishi calmly explained to the suddenly hushed crowd. Transcendental Meditation centres will teach them the virtues of selshness and give them energy
not to be poor any more. To the female reporter, it suddenly became clear
who this presumptuous deity really was: Ayn Rand with a beard.
The subject now turned more directly to the Maharishis moneybut he
refused to discuss the subject. I am a monk, he explained meekly. I have
no pockets. I deal in wisdom, not in money. Of course, his humble claim
didnt answer how he acquired the cash to hire Solters & Sabinson, or book
Madison Square Gardens. But many in the press who gathered that day did
want some answers. After all, the New York Post had recently called him
the worlds wealthiest guru. The Village Voice demanded to know if an
honest man can still be a fraud. Most got their answer when they attended
his lecture at Madison Square Gardens. Before his talk, he posed for numerous photographs as he praised America as the land of opportunity. Speaking
of America, one of his handlers told the press photographers that the Maharishi would be touring university campuses with one of Americas most
popular bands: the Beach Boys. The press suddenly expressed surprise that
these Californian golden boys had turned in their surfboards for mantras.
Pretty soon, theyd be expressing further disbelief that the Beatles would be
collecting mantras of their own in India.

196

Artificial Paradise

Although the Beatles had changed our perspective on the world through
their music, making us feel part of a larger cultural revolution, they themselves were no longer content with the life that this cultural revolution
brought them. Their rapid success and acquired wealth had insolated them
from the rest of the world. When popular acclaim didnt bring them a
sustaining inner happiness, they turned to hallucinogens for answers. When
those drugs caused as much damage as personal enlightenment, the Beatles
looked to religion. But in looking for spiritual answers, the zeal of their
desire for quick solutions had blinded them to the con artist lurking beneath
the holy robes of the Maharishi. Oddly, the Beatles once had skepticism
toward received wisdom. Its what made them both fresh and distinct,
setting them apart from any other pop group. When they rst confronted
the international press in 1964, they didnt acquiesce to the rules of conduct,
they invented new rules to conduct a press conference. When they made
records, they didnt copy the success of their last great album, but they
reached out to discover new, unheard sounds. Nowhere Land was a borderless and shapeless utopian spirit. But when the Beatles turned to the Maharishi, Nowhere Land was replaced with the false utopia of Rishikesh. Within
its very real borders, the Beatles were no longer rebellious kids deantly
challenging us to think for ourselves, they were now (through the Maharishi) telling us what to think. After the group had dissolved its old identity,
it had no new identity left to redene itself. The Beatles were becoming four
distinct individuals with four conicting temperaments. Perhaps they recognized this reality emerging and sought to rediscover a common ground by
taking this sojourn to India. But rather than bringing the inner harmony they
sought, the journey served only to continue fuelling the continuing disenchantment the Beatles felt with themselves.
Before their departure, though, the Beatles rushed out a new single. Abandoning the psychedelia of their recent work, Lady Madonna was a welcome return to the bluesy side of the Beatles canon. And it would become
their rst #1 song since Eleanor Rigby. Employing a barrelhouse piano
to propel the track, McCartney performs this giddy appraisal of motherhood
with the lustful joy of Fats Domino. (Maybe hearing a little of himself in the
song, Fats Domino included his own cover version later that year on Fats is
Back.) The catchy riff had its roots in the fties as well borrowing the
melody of Johnny Parkers piano line from Humphrey Lytteltons 1956
R&B hit Bad Penny Blues (which George Martin had also produced).
The idea for the composition came, though, after McCartney read a magazine article that featured a photo of an African mother with a baby at her
breast. Under the picture was the caption Mountain Madonna.
As McCartney wondered how the mother could survive and feed her kids,
he came up with the story of Lady Madonna. McCartney dries out any
potential for sentimentality in the material by rooting the song in raucous
fties R&B (highlighted by a nimble sax solo by Ronnie Scott). But he also

Turn Me On, Dead Man

197

humorously adds a chorus right out of the apper period of American music
to underscore the womans strength, simultaneously parodying the melodrama of her plight. The chorus was so cleverand catchythat Harrison
decided to cop the lick for the middle eight section of his song The Art of
Dying on his 1971 solo album All Things Must Pass.
Harrison also secured the B-side of the single with The Inner Light, his
thirdand bestHindustani song. Ironically, it would also be his last. The
origins of The Inner Light began when both Lennon and Harrison
appeared with British talk show host David Frost on The Frost Report back
in September 1967. While taking part in a special about Transcendental
Meditation that featured an interview with the Maharishi, the studio audience was asked to participate in the show. Sanskrit scholar and Cambridge
professor Juan Mascaro, who was present that evening, had written to
Harrison and gave him a copy of a book called Lamps of Fire. It was a religious text, edited by Mascaro, which included passages of spiritual wisdom
from various religious traditions. On the program, Mascaro asked Harrison
if he might set music to verses from the Tao Te Ching, in particular, a poem
called The Inner Light. The lyric concerned the idea of knowing all things
of both earth and heaven without having to literally travel out ones door.
In the song, Harrison treats the Taoist concept in a contemplative tone.
He recorded the music track, with Indian musicians, while he was in
Bombay doing his lm score for the elliptically abstract drama Wonderwall.
(Harrisons sound track music would be the rst solo Beatle album released
later in the year.) Once returning to London, he overdubbed his voice in the
studio over the Indian performance. Rather than preaching The Word to us,
as he did on the otherwise majestic Within You Without You, Harrison
expresses how spiritual truth has changed him on The Inner Lightand
the song is as intimate as a prayer. The music seemingly intoxicates Harrison, too, while he speaks of the wonders before him. The Inner Light
was the rst George Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles single.
But its inclusion was largely due to Lennon shelving his own latest recording
of a song called Across the Universe. Unhappy with his performance,
Lennon left the door open for Harrisons debut.
As the Beatles headed to India, the key words from The Inner Light
(The farther one travels/The less one knows) couldnt have turned out to
be more unwittingly apt. On February 15, 1968, John and George ew out
with Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Harrison and her sister, Jenny. Paul and Ringo
followed a few days later with their partners, Jane Asher and Maureen Starkey. While both Lennon and Harrison were seeking spiritual answers from
the experience, McCartney took a pragmatic approach. His going to Rishikesh was with the hope that the trip would keep the Beatles together, and
also bring some spiritual happiness to the group. McCartney simply wished
to learn how to meditate. Along with the other guests at the ashram, including actress Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence, Beach Boy Mike Love, autist

198

Artificial Paradise

Paul Horn, and folk singer Donovan, they found the atmosphere enrapturing. The place was idyllic, said Canadian photographer Paul Saltzman
who took many pictures of the sessions at the ashram, which he later turned
into a photo exhibit and a book. It was an extremely relaxed and simple
existence, which is what ashrams are supposed to be about. Everything
was focused on meditation and being at ease. There was no hurry. Life was
full of joy and humor.10 Everyone would meditate for about ve hours a
daytwo hours in the morning and three hours at night. The rest of the time
people attended lectures by the Maharishi and ate vegetarian food at a
communal gathering. Their sleeping quarters were spared with a single
lamp, bed, and dresser. Heat was provided by a steaming bucket of water
that was left just outside the door to the room. In spare moments, the Beatles
relaxed with other guests and played music. Most of the new songs they
performed at the ashram would be included later on The Beatles (aka The
White Album).
Although the surroundings may have appeared serene, the mood grew
less so over the weeks. Contributing to the growing discontent was the
realization that the Maharishi was operating under the notion that
the Beatles would become special emissaries of his cause. The purpose of
the course was to become teachers of Transcendental Meditation,
explained Beach Boy Mike Love. But I remember Paul telling me that
becoming a teacher wasnt the lads cup of tea.11 McCartney had only
planned to spend a month there, while Ringo was considering staying even
less at 10 days (especially since the spicy curries didnt agree with him).
While Lennon and Harrison wanted to remain, their reasons couldnt have
been more different. John and George both took meditation seriously,
recalled Saltzman. George seemed to nd what he was looking for, in
essence, but John was looking for something in . . .a more adolescent way.
He was looking for The Answer. Well, there isnt The Answer. 12
Lennon was also looking for a way out of his marriage. Each morning, he
would tell Cynthia that he was going out to meditate by himself, but in
truth, he was heading down to the post ofce to retrieve letters from Yoko
Ono, who was now expressing a deeper interest in getting involved with
him. Im a cloud, watch for me, one postcard would say. So Lennon
would watch the skies for her. But once Paul left in late March, John got
even more restless. Lennon signaled for his friend Magic Alex Mardas,
a Greek technical wizard (who would later become a technical catastrophe
for the Beatles), to join him. From the moment Mardas arrived, he started
putting doubts into Johns head about the Maharishis holiness. First of
all, he told Lennon that a holy man with a bookmaker was rather suspect.
But he also noticed that the Maharishi was counting on the Beatles support
to enable him to reach new converts internationallyincluding having
them fund and participate in a lm about Transcendental Meditation. The
groups roadie, Mal Evans, also reported that, along with using the Beatles

Turn Me On, Dead Man

199

name for publicity, the Maharishi wanted a 25 percent cut of the groups
earnings on their songs.
All of the Maharishis plans though went asunder when Mardas started
dating a woman on the compound who complained that the guru was
making sexual advances toward her. After Mardas told Lennon about the
indiscretion, the Beatle was shocked but not totally convinced. But when
Harrison started expressing some doubts about the gurus behavior, Lennon
began to make their getaway plans. On April 12, at breakfast, the remaining
Beatles and their partners bid farewell to the stunned Maharishi. When he
asked them why, Lennon told the swami that if he were so cosmic hed probably gure out the answer. While the claims of sexual indiscretion had some
doubters (among them being Mike Love and Paul Horn), the simple truth
was that the Beatles were looking for answers that the Maharishi couldnt
possibly provide. Aside from not recognizing the yogis con artistry,
Lennons anger was largely due to the Maharishi not being the holy deity
hed hoped to nd. It hadnt seemed very long ago that John Lennon had
declared, casually but catastrophically, that religious disciples were thick
and ordinary, wrote journalist Mark Paytress in Mojo magazine. Now
. . .a stunned world looked on as pops reluctant anti-Christs found themselves chasing a self-proclaimed guru halfway across the globe in search of
spiritual guidance.13 When they failed to get the spiritual sustenance they
sought at the Maharishis ashram, the Beatles rushed back into the pop
world of London and regained their role as recording artists. As they
submerged themselves in making what would become an epic album, the
Beatles were about to make another appearance on the big screen.
During the Beatles time meditating in India, the lm company, King
Features, was contemplating a script for an animated picture featuring the
group. A few years earlier, King Features had already run a TV series of
Beatles cartoons without the bands participation. Producer Al Brodax had
made a deal with Brian Epstein, after the group appeared on The Ed Sullivan
Show in 1964, for the rights to animate the Beatles on a half-hour TV show
budgeted at $32,000 per season. Since the band wasnt impressed with the
quality of the animation (which was on par with something like The Flintstones), they refused to lend their voices to the series. Nevertheless, the
1965 series went on to be quite popular, running for two seasons and then
syndicated until 1969. After A Hard Days Night and Help! the Beatles were
contracted to do a third lm for United Artists. But when that movie didnt
materialize, Brodax saw an opportunity to propose an animated feature to
help fulll their obligation. Once he set the deal with United Artists, Brodax
began requesting script treatments.
Many writers, including playwrights Joe Orton and Tom Stoppard, were
considered. Author Joseph Heller actually submitted one treatment, but it
was ultimately refused as being too dense for an animated project. One

200

Artificial Paradise

playwright though, Lee Minoff (Come Live With Me), came up with an idea
Brodax actually liked. Minoff wrote a story based on the Beatles song
Yellow Submarine. In his outline, he tells the tale of Pepperland, a quaint
music-loving society that is protected and entertained by Sgt. Peppers
Lonely Hearts Club Band. When Pepperland is attacked by the musichating Blue Meanies, they seal the band inside a music-proof bubble and
turn the citizens into statues (while simultaneously draining the country of
its natural color). As the Meanies are attacking, Pepperlands Lord Mayor
sends the sailor Old Fred off in his yellow submarine to seek help. Old Fred
goes to the comparatively gray city of Liverpool to collect the Beatles so that
they can help save Pepperland with the power of love. To direct, Brodax
hired George Dunning, who had (along with John Coates) worked on the
Beatles cartoon TV series. But in order to improve the quality of the animation, Dunning hired and supervised over 200 artists, including Czechoslovakian design wonderkind Heinz Edelmann (who gave the lm its stylized,
art deco look). Yellow Submarine actually had a number of collaborators.
Author Erich Segal (Love Story), who worked on the screenplay, came up
with the actual name Blue Meanies. A forlorn character named after the
song Nowhere Man was actually based on Broadway director Jonathan
Miller, who Minoff felt had ruined his production of Come Live With Me.
The new songs chosen were either outtakes from the Pepper sessions (Only
a Northern Song), Magical Mystery Tour discards (Its All Too Much,
All Together Now), or the recently unissued Hey Bulldog. Other tracks
included Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help
From My Friends, When Im 64, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
from Pepper. The single All You Need Is Love/Baby, Youre a Rich
Man was included. From Rubber Soul, they picked Nowhere Man and
Think for Yourself. Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby were
contributions added from Revolver.
George Harrisons Only a Northern Song is a cacophonous mess. The
title is a double entendre that pokes fun at both Liverpool (which is in the
North of England) and Lennon and McCartneys publishing company,
Northern Songs. Its likely that Only a Northern Song was rejected from
Sgt. Pepper because of its caustic slam at the publishing arrangements for
the Beatles. As part of the contract, Lennon and McCartney got 30 percent
of whole shares on the music, while Ringo and George only received 1.6 percent each. As far as he was concerned, Harrison was not only continuing to
see his songs rejected, but he was starting to feel like a hired gun in his own
band. Though Harrison is trying to be both clever and funny in Only a
Northern Song, the track has such a sour spirit that his humor drowns in
sarcasm. Even though McCartney adds some wild trumpet improvisations,
lending the song some melodic color, Only a Northern Song sees things
too much in black and white. All Together Now is a pleasant sing-along folk confection performed at the end of Yellow Submarine. McCartney

Turn Me On, Dead Man

201

had originally envisioned the song as a sequel to Yellow Submarine, but it


lacks both the imagination and the innovation of the title track. All
Together Now, though, did nd a better homeas a team anthem for
soccer fans. Hey Bulldog is the best new track in the lm. Its a Lennon
scorcher that rips through the speakers as sharply as McCartneys 1965
Im Down. While shooting a promotional lm for Lady Madonna,
McCartney decided that they should try something new. Lennon brought
out this unnished song that he felt the group could easily complete. Opening with a pounding boogie-woogie piano, this dynamic tune bolts out the
gate with some of Lennons best introspective lyrics. Some of his words were
improvised, however, like the line measured out in news which turned
into the more tting measured out in you. The song was named Hey
Bulldog only because the word came up toward the end. As Lennon repeats
the title lyric, McCartney barks uncontrollably while Lennon tries in vain to
silence him. Its All Too Much is aptly titled. This densely textured track
is about George Harrisons love affair with LSD just before he discovered
meditation. Aside from its powerhouse opening with the startling Hendrixinuenced guitar feedback (that parodies the dramatic opening chord to
A Hard Days Night), Harrison reveals no euphonic imagination for epic
psychedelic anthems. (The track clocks in at over six minutes.) To compensate for the repetitive verses, Harrison piles on colorful overdubs of trumpets
and clarinets, but they only mask and smother the dreariness of the song.
The richly inventive instrumental score to Yellow Submarine, which
invokes the pastoral melodies of Delius and Ralph Vaughn Williams after
being cast in psychedelic tonal colors, was composed and arranged by
George Martin. It would be included on the second side of the sound track
album. In 1999, The Yellow Submarine Songbook would be issued with
the sound track songs completely remixed while removing all of George
Martins score. Yellow Submarine, which was released in January 1969,
was a charming, old-fashioned musical fairy tale dressed up in posh garb.
It not only caught the counterculture audience at their most nostalgic,
but it also drew many children who swooned over the lush images and
the marvelous set pieces that were scored to the Beatles music. In a
sense, Yellow Submarine was an inspiring dream about how the Beatles
remained our saviors. If the TV series The West Wing became a liberal
wish-fulllment fantasy of the White House during the second Bush
administration, Yellow Submarine was a sixties counterculture fantasy of
the Beatles that restored the power of love to a culture quickly becoming a
wasteland. While Yellow Submarine shows the group heroically destroying
the Blue Meanies, the real-life Beatles were closer in spirit to being the Blue
Meanies when it came to lending their support to the movie. Since they were
still shaking off the brutal response to Magical Mystery Tour, they wanted
little to do with this project. The group was, however, pleased to see Yellow
Submarine as a convenient project to complete their United Artists

202

Artificial Paradise

agreement. Without their assistance, actors were hired to imitate the bands
individual voices, while the Beatles limited themselves at the very end to a
live action cameo. As Lennon looks through a telescope, spotting Blue
Meanies in the audience, they counter the villains with All Together
Now, which the Beatles certainly werent on Yellow Submarine.
In 1967, shortly after recording Sgt. Pepper, John Lennon had an idea of
buying the Greek Islands (one for each Beatle) as their own personal retreat
from the world. Although that dubious plan never came to pass, the group
did start to think about going into business. Without Epstein to run their
affairs, they began to consider doing it for themselves. Immediately after
returning from India, Lennon and McCartney met to consider a concept that
would help aspiring artists get their foot in the door. They devised a company called Apple, a title that came to McCartney shortly after he purchased
a Magritte painting. While not usually the punster in the band, Paul thought
Apple Corps was a clever concept. (Nobody got the joke.) This would be
their Pepperland, built on a foundation of love, fairness, and beauty, with
not a Blue Meanie on the payroll, wrote Steve Turner in The Gospel
according to the Beatles.14 But this bold corporate plan wasnt guided purely
by altruistic impulses. The Beatles accountants had convinced them that if
they set up their own business, they could actually save about three million
pounds in tax per year. Therefore, they set up Apple as both a tax shelter
and a company that could function as a record label for themselves and
other artists unable to get support from other distributors. Apple was ofcially registered in April 1967 beginning with the opening of a boutique that
was located on 94 Baker Street. The store would serve as a clothing emporium that handled the current fashions by a Dutch group called the Fool.
But it was the Beatles who ended up looking foolisheven naivecreating a business when they werent really businessmen. Throughout their
career, all they really knew how to be was Beatles. The very basic idea of
forming Apple was [to make] business fun, Apple executive Alistair Taylor
explained. It would still be a business. Prots had to be made, but not
excessive prots.15 But one of Apples business liabilities, typical of the
time, was handing out cash to any freaky character with a far-out idea.
The formation of the Apple Foundation for the Arts essentially invited
anyone who believed they had talent to apply for funding. Apple even put
an ad in the newspaper that implored people to send their lms, tapes, or
drawings and they wouldnt get tossed in the wastebasket. One of those idea
men who got funded was none other than Magic Alex Mardas. Since
Lennon believed that Mardas was a genius, he acquired funding to build
multitrack studios, levitate houses, and create colored air. The thing about
Magic Alex is that he had some interesting ideas, McCartney recalled in
2004. He just couldnt pull any of them off. We didnt know anything
about physics or engineering. So, when this guy starts talking about how
hes invented musical wallpaperloudpaperI think it was going to be

Turn Me On, Dead Man

203

calledwe sort of went along with it. Yeah, mate, why not? Off you go,
heres a load of money.16
Needless to say, the Apple ofce was deluged with every kind of artistic
manifesto, but few people were worthy of consideration, let alone cash. While
Apple was entertaining numerous freaks and charlatans, all hoping to have
their dreams fullled, others in the ofce were having their own free-for-all.
Along with stereos being stolen, ofce boys were hauling off even the lead pipes
from the roof. The boutique was quickly becoming a shoplifters paradise.
Soon they were even getting visits from questionable guests. When Harrison
was in the Haight, he had invited the Hells Angels to drop in if they were ever
in England. One morning, taking Harrison up on his offer, the bikers (complete
with their 17 Harley Davidsons) showed up at Heathrow Airport and headed
to No. 3 Saville Rowjust as Apple was having a Christmas party for some
children. When they arrived, they immediately devoured the turkey while
trampling kids in the process. They proceeded to ruin the kids partyand
then we couldnt get rid of them, Ringo remembered. They wouldnt leave
and we had baliffs and everything to try and get them out. It was miserable
and everyone was terried, including the grown-ups. 17 As for Harrison,
the Angels reluctant host, he was nowhere in sight. I didnt go because I knew
there was going to be trouble, Harrison remarked. I just heard it was terrible
and how everybody got beat up.18
Nevertheless, despite the headaches, the label did sign many interesting
artists like James Taylor, the pop group Badnger, Jackie Lomax, and Mary
Hopkin. The model Twiggy had drawn McCartneys attention to the
18-year-old Hopkin on Opportunity Knocks, a talent-spotting TV show, in
May 1968. He quite liked Hopkins voice and one day invited her to the
recording studio. Two years earlier in a nightclub, McCartney had heard this
nostalgic folk song called Those Were the Days, and he couldnt get the
melody out of his head. For months afterward, he tried to get others to record
the song, guring it would be an instant hit, but no one seemed interested. One
group he suggested it to was the Moody Blues, but they were now writing
cosmic rock. So he nally offered it to Hopkin, who did turn it into a #1 song
in the United Kingdom. Apple was a big learning curve for me, McCartney
explained. I learnt that, if youre going to be connected with anything like a
business, its got to have accountants and people who watch what happens.
And its probably not a good idea to get in a load of Hells Angels to do
the job.19
Later in 1968, McCartney pushed Apple to move into areas other than
music, like lm, television, and experimental music through a subsidiary
label called Zapple. The assumption behind Apple was one that had been
implicit in the Beatles outlook, wrote Steve Turner in The Gospel according to the Beatles. It was the belief that people are essentially good and if
allowed complete freedom of behavior and imagination will behave honorably and ourish creatively.20 But since the band had no experience in

204

Artificial Paradise

running a business, calamity ensued instead. You cant imagine what it was
like, Alistair Taylor explained. Paul would come in and say something
and then John would come in an hour later and completely change it. Then
we went through a period when we werent allowed to do anything until
someone had thrown the I Ching.21 The company image of the unbitten
green apple may have represented a return to a state of innocence out of
the Garden of Eden. But the Beatles, besides being out of touch with the
world, were also out of touch with the basics of human nature. The
onslaught of proposalsthe bad ones and good oneshad completely overwhelmed their staff and left Apple in tatters. But Apple wasnt the only thing
in tatters. After the experience in India had failed to bring the Beatles
together, they began to fracture while preparing for their new record. For
the rst time, the group showed signs of feeding off all the friendship and
goodwill they had gathered from those years together on the road. And that
August, John Lennon had divorced Cynthia to begin his long, torrid
romance with Yoko Ono. Besides being the end of his marriage, it turned
out to be the beginning of his separation from the Beatles.
In the early days of 1968, everywhere you looked, idealism was being put
to the test. The Soviet Union had brought a totalitarian chill to the Prague
Spring after they invaded Czechoslovakia. The assassination of Martin
Luther King in April was followed two months later by the shooting death
of Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Student upheavals
in Paris against the Gaullist government were matched by riots in the United
States over the escalation of the Vietnam War. During their various world
tours, Lennon had wanted the Beatles to have more freedom to comment
on the political tumult surrounding the group, but Epstein, fearing public
reaction, steered Lennon against it. But with Epstein now dead, Lennon
knew that there was no one around now to stop him. He immediately went
to work on completing a song he rst started composing in India. Revolution was written in response to the various left-wing organizations that
were vying for the Beatles support for violent revolution. But instead of
throwing his hat into the ring, he composed a stern riposte against violence
that would create a huge backlash against the group from certain antiwar
activists who had counted on the Beatles for support.
At the time Lennon wrote his song, the peaceful struggle against injustice,
whose values were seeped in the nonviolent activism of Martin Luther King,
had been quickly evolving into forms of violent resistance. There was also
something dangerously ideological about the insurgencies now developing
in democratic nations. It was not till Mao Zedong launched his Cultural
Revolution in 1966 that the European Left found a faith to replace the one
shattered by Khrushchevs exposure of Stalin in 1956, Ian MacDonald
observed in Revolution in the Head.22 McDonald goes on to say that the
attraction to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which was brutally repressive

Turn Me On, Dead Man

205

(and served as a mere warm-up for what would take place in 1989 at
Tiananmen Square), happened because it eliminated the preparatory
phases of Lenins model, positing a direct leap to the Communist millennium
which would expunge all class distinctions at a stroke.23 Before long, joining their European comrades, the ideologues of the West would make their
own break with history. All that remained was to take to the streets and
tear down the walls.24 While Lennon didnt believe in tearing down the
walls, he made sure his song blasted the eardrums. One of Lennons cleverest
strokes in Revolution was to play the loudest form of rock n roll, the
very quality that made it a revolutionary art form, in order to put across
what many claimed was an antirevolutionary message. The song, though,
didnt begin that way.
While recording their new album in late May, Lennon had done a slower,
doo-wop version of the song that he wished to see out as the Beatles next single. McCartney though found it too slow and said that it wasnt commercial
enough. (That version would show up on The Beatles as Revolution 1.)
Bristling from McCartneys rejection, Lennon became determined to remake
the track as both commercial and fast. What he came up with was a highly
distorted and gritty guitar arrangement that changed the entire character of
the song. Lennon plugged his guitar directly into the recording console that
overloaded the channel and created the massive distortion that would earn
Revolution its spot as the B-side of Hey Jude. In the earlier version,
Lennon had also expressed some ambivalence about his position on the subject of revolution when he would sing, you can count me out/in. On the
single, though, he plainly says count him out. The lyrics stand today,
Lennon stated atly in 1980 shortly before he died. Theyre still my feeling
about politics. I want to see the plan.25 In the seventies, though, Lennon
ended up seduced by the same attitudes he had derided in 1968. But in that
post-Beatle era, the dream Lennon had once spearheaded had died with his
group. In his continued search for Nowhere Land, he threw in his lot behind
former Yippies Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. By 1980, however, he
clearly recognized the mistake he made. What I said in Revolutionin
all the versionsis change your head.26 No doubt Lennon knew instinctively that the ideals he rst put forth in Theres a Place had never promised us a better kingdom on earth, or in heaven, but rather a revolution in
the mind. Even the blunt nature of his dire agitprop work . . .was itself the
display of an artistic stance promoting the direct expression of utilitarian
ideals, music critic Walter Everett said about Lennons political ideals.27
However, the reaction from the counterculture was not so generous
toward Lennon. In Jon Weiners book Come Together: John Lennon in His
Time, he lists a number of damning quotes from counterculture publications. Rock critic Jon Landau in Rolling Stone said: Hubert Humphrey
couldnt have said it better. Robert Christgau, in The Village Voice, called
for a nuanced response from critics while simultaneously denying one for

206

Artificial Paradise

himself. It is puritanical to expect musicians, or anyone else, to hew to the


proper line, he wrote. But it is reasonable to request that they not go out
of their way to oppose it. Lennon has, and it takes much of the pleasure
out of their music for me. The Berkeley Barb claimed Revolution
sounded like the hawk plank adopted in the Chicago convention of the
Democratic Death Party. The New Left Review summed up Lennons treatise as a lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear. The San Francisco-based
leftist magazine Ramparts had just one reaction: Betrayal. The magazine
took issue in particular with the idea that a millionaire pop artist could tell
us in 1968 that everything was going to be alright.28 Later that year, Nina
Simone, perhaps still feeling the sting of Martin Luther Kings murder, felt
compelled to counter Lennon in her own rewritten version of his song where
she urged Lennon to clean his mind.
When the Beatles released Revolution that August, the Rolling Stones
followed the same week with Street Fighting Man, which was their own
incendiary response to the rise of violent revolt. Back in March, Mick Jagger
had attended an antiwar rally at the U.S. embassy in London, where
mounted police were having their hands full controlling a crowd of 25,000
people. At the demonstration, he met one of the organizers, activist Tariq
Ali, a member of the Trotskyist International Marxist Group. Besides the
rally in London, Jagger was aware of the student rioting in Paris on the Left
Bank as well. That summer, the Rolling Stones took a new song they were
working on called Did Everyone Pay Their Dues? and changed the lyrics
to address the upheaval that Jagger was witnessing. Unlike Revolution,
the Stones Street Fighting Man opens with a sharply strummed acoustic
guitar to the sound of marching drums. As Jagger reports the sound of
marching feet, to accompany the drums, he invokes a signicant line from
Martha and the Vandellas 1964 hit Dancing in the Street. While she
describes summer as a time for dancing in the street, Jagger rewrites the lyric
to tell us that summer is the time for ghting in the street. What Mick Jagger
and Keith Richards pick up on is how Dancing in the Street unwittingly
became associated with street revolt. In Street Fighting Man, they make
that connection more explicit. Dancing in the Streets at rst was intended
as nothing more than a happy dance tune, but once it hit the airwaves, the
song became a rallying cry for urban American blacks. As riots were tearing
apart the inner cities, young black activists, like H. Rap Brown, began using
the song as a recruitment anthem.
The Rolling Stones sound as if they are joining in with their guns blazing,
but Street Fighting Man is even more ambivalent than Revolution.
Jagger recognizes that people are ghting in the street, and he says he wants
to join in, but he also understands that all he can do is sing in a rock n roll
band. Rather than commit themselves to a position in the song, the Stones
instead strike a provocative pose. Where Lennons Revolution is clearly
a blatant attack on violent insurrection, Jagger and Richards can only sell

Turn Me On, Dead Man

207

rebellious attitude. At the end, Jagger may sing about his desire to kill the
King, and rail at all his servants, but revolution is just a notion in his head.
He dreams of being a street ghting man, but he knows that hes just a singer
left observing the battle raging around him. The disappointment for radicals
lay with their belief that the Beatles were supposed to be on their side.
In their mind, their music was supposed to change the world. Whereas
Lennon felt that the Beatles music existed to free your mind. As radicals
sought to have the band join them at the vanguard of the struggle, Lennon
preferred to map out a world of possibilities beyond the institutions and
bureaucracies that the extremists wished to obliterate. To paraphrase Pete
Townshend in Wont Get Fooled Again, Lennon understood that the
new boss would be just like the old boss.
Not all of the left, though, was critical of Revolution. The SDS (Students
for a Democratic Society) newspaper at Cornell University actually praised
Lennons pacism. You can argue about the effectiveness of non-violence
as a tactic, but it would be absurd to claim that it is a conservative notion. . .,
the paper stated.29 Not surprisingly, some conservatives did speak out in
favor of the song. William F. Buckley praised Revolution in his syndicated
column and found himself being attacked by the ultraright John Birch Society.
According to the Birchers, Lennon was no better than Lenin. They thought he
was towing the Moscow line against left-wing infantilism rather than actually
being antirevolutionary. The only aw with Revolution was essentially in
its explicitnessits need to tell us what to think. Hey Jude, on the other
hand, was the song that Czech citizens sang while vainly attempting to block
Russian tanks that very summer. McCartneys epic masterpiece
provided a passionate appraisal of loss while simultaneously transcending
the pain that loss can cause. Along with being the most successful Beatles
single ever released, selling well over ve million copies, Hey Jude (which
borrows its melody from the Drifters Save the Last Dance For Me) is a
deeply considered song about the reconciliation of grief.
McCartney had composed Hey Jude during the period that the Lennons
were divorcing. As John was taking up with Yoko, Pauls concern was for
the emotional welfare of his ve-year-old son Julian. One day, while driving
to Weybridge to visit Cynthia and Julian, McCartney started singing a
melody with the words Hey Julian. Later, as he drove home, he started
changing the lyrics from Julian to Jules, then later to Jude because he remembered liking the name Jud, a character in Rodgers and Hammersteins 1943
musical Oklahoma! While Julian may have inspired the song, Hey Jude
also foreshadows the ultimate end of the Beatles. McCartney brings a whole
new depth to his performance of the track. He sings it with as much a sense
of profound grief as he does with the hope that better tidings will come.
When the song reaches the climax, with the orchestra soaring and the chorus
chanting na-na-na-na, hey Jude, McCartney ardently scats and shouts his
way to the slow fade-out. But his shouts here arent the celebratory, rousing

208

Artificial Paradise

screams of a young man nding his freedom, as he did in Long Tall Sally
or Im Down. McCartneys cries in Hey Jude are lled with a release
from pain. They are the cries of possibilities lost, but possibilities still hoping
to be found. Perhaps its that inherent sense of loss indelibly woven into the
fabric of the song that touched Czech nationals. They took Hey Jude to
their heart as a song that best expressed their fading pride during the demise
of the brief freedom of the Prague Spring.
In 1980, Lennon made the rather provocative argument that the song was
unconsciously addressed to him, rather than his son, and (for John) it
revealed more about McCartneys torn emotions surrounding their faltering
partnership. If you think about it, Yokos just come into the picture,
Lennon remarked. Hes saying: Hey Judehey, John.. . .The words go
out and get hersubconsciously he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. But
on a conscious level, he didnt want me to go ahead. The angel inside him
was saying Bless you. The devil in him didnt like it at all, because he didnt
want to lose his partner.30 Its a fascinating interpretation that Lennon
makes here. After all, McCartney took the name Jud from Oklahoma! a
musical that is essentially about a love triangle. It tells the story of a cowboy,
Curly McLain, who romances a farm girl named Laurey Williams, while Jud
Fry, the farmhand, threatens their love affair. The musical essentially
follows the tension created by this conict. Given that the presence of Yoko
Ono in John Lennons life created a triangle between McCartney, Lennon,
and Ono, one that would ultimately spell the end of the Beatles, his choice
of Jude couldnt have been more tting. Despite the growing tensions
between them, however, it was a testament to both Lennon and McCartneys mutual trust that when it came to their art, they would always come
to the others aid. Lennon was instrumental in assuring McCartney of the
one lyric he was planning to omit. I had the line, The movement you need
is on your shoulder, which doesnt make literal sense, McCartney told
Johnny Black in Mojo. I said, Ill change that. John said, You wont.
Thats my favorite line. Because it works in its own way. If anyone else
had said that, I might not have listened. We could insist that one of us trust
the judgment of the other. We trusted each other enough.31
Hey Jude was the Beatles longest single clocking in at 7:11, but it
wasnt the longest single. That honor belonged to Richard Harris version
of Jimmy Webbs overwrought MacArthurs Park (7:20) from earlier in
May. George Martin was actually concerned about the length of Hey
Jude, but the Beatles refused to shorten it. When Martin told them that
DJs wouldnt play it, Lennon told him they would if they knew it was the
Beatles. Oddly enough, McCartney didnt plan on the songs extended
conclusion, but he just kept getting carried away with the ad-libbing.
According to Walter Everett, the ending was likely inuenced by the Maharishi as a wordless four-minute mantra with a grandeur that seems to
suggest that given the proper understanding and encouragement, Jude has

Turn Me On, Dead Man

209

found his courage and moves on with grace and dignity.32 After Martin
had recorded the orchestra to provide the overdubbing in the coda, he asked
if they wanted to overdub their voices joining in the chant. While one of the
string players expressed indignation at being asked and informed Martin
that he wasnt a session singer and bolted, the rest stayed andsession singers or notthey received overtime pay. But the more consequential spat on
Hey Jude occurred between McCartney and Harrison. As Paul rst sang
the verses of the song, George answered each one with a guitar line parroting
McCartney. Frustrated over many issues, including having to run the band
in the emotional absence of Lennon, McCartney barked at Harrison to come
in on the second chorus. But Harrison was fed up feeling like a sideman to
Paul and shot back for Paul to essentially go fuck himself. By the time of
Hey Jude, the Beatles were no longer collaborating equally to create great
music. Each member simply staked out his own territory and then demanded
the others to back him up. Somewhat ironically, Harrison would base his
1971 track Isnt It a Pity, a song that addressed his aggravating problems
with McCartney, on Hey Jude. Hey Jude may have been a powerful
reconciliation song, but it couldnt heal what ailed the Beatles.
In the spring of 1964, as America was swooning to the magic of Beatlemania, a young convict incarcerated at McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington State was starting to take notice of these merry minstrels. Charles
Manson was originally known as no name Maddox when he was born to
an unmarried 16-year-old named Kathleen Maddox in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A few weeks after his birth, he was given the Manson surname of a laborer
boyfriend of Maddox, William Manson. Growing up, Charles never came
to know his biological father. Kathleen was meanwhile a heavy drinker with
a criminal background. When she and her brother were sentenced to ve
years imprisonment for robbing a Charleston, West Virginia service station
in 1939, Charles was placed with his aunt and uncle. But when his mother
got out on parole in 1942, Charles and his mother lived a nomadic life in
cheap hotel rooms until she nally abandoned him. The court placed the
young Manson in the Gibault School of Boys, in Terre Haute, but after
10 months he escaped to nd her. When he nally caught up with his mother,
he was soundly rejected.
From there, Mansons young adult life was lled with various burglaries
of grocery stores that landed him in a juvenile center in Indianapolis. Manson would eventually escape and commit more robberies only to be placed
in more training schools until he became aggressively antisocial. An illiterate, who nevertheless had an IQ of 121, Manson was a dangerous offender
imprisoned until 1955 when he was paroled. That year he married a hospital
waitress whom he supported via odd jobs and auto thefts. They moved to
Los Angeles a year later in a stolen car while his new wife was pregnant with
his son, Charles Manson Jr. After he was charged with theft, Manson

210

Artificial Paradise

had his parole revoked and he found himself back in prison in San Pedro,
California. Before he was released in September 1958, Rosalie received a
decree of divorce from her incarcerated hubby. Within a few months, Manson was back on the street and pimping a 16-year-old girl. He would marry
another young woman with a record for prostitution and moved to New
Mexico to continue his dubious career choice. When one of his hookers
was arrested, Manson was brought back to Los Angeles for violation of
his parole and for trying to forge a check. He was then ordered to serve a
10-year sentence at McNeil Island.
Noted by psychiatrists as both a psychopath and a supreme narcissist,
Manson might have remained an anonymous chronic criminal doing
continuous hard time had it not been for his cellmate: Alvin Creepy
Karpis. Sharing a cell with Karpis, once one of the FBIs Most Wanted
Criminals when he ran with the Ma Barker gang in the thirties, Manson
learned to play guitar from the career criminal. According to the famous
bank robber, when Beatlemania hit in 1964, Charles Manson saw himself
as the next incarnation of the Beatles. Its quite possibly he saw as deeply
into the potential of the Beatles phenomenon as anyone, far deeper than
any objective newsman or social commentator, and knew that a universe
of potentials, dormant the day before, had now come to trembling life,
explained Devin McKinney in Magic Circles. [It was a] chance to make a
mark on his time, to inuence mass consciousness. His time to go insane.33
When Manson was released from prison in March 1967, the Beatles had
retired from public performances and he saw it as the perfect moment to head
back to Los Angeles to fulll his dream. First, he made his way to Berkeley to
play guitar on campus and wooed with song and charm a librarian named
Mary Brunner, his rst groupie. During the Summer of Love, Manson headed
to Haight-Ashbury to gather followers that he would ultimately lead to the
desert. After traveling by bus, like Ken Keseys Merry Pranksters, or perhaps
even like the Beatles in Magical Mystery Tour, Manson toured up the California coast nabbing young disciples like Susan Atkins, Bruce Davis, Patricia
Krenwinkle, and musician Bobby Beausoleil, who were all cast-outs from
middle-class homes. Mansons group moved into a two-story house in
Canoga Park outside of Los Angeles in January 1969. They painted their
house yellow and Manson would call it the Yellow Submarine. It was in
this fairyland residence in a white middle-class suburb that he began his rant
about a race-war apocalypse where blacks from Watts would kill the rich
white piggies in Beverly Hills until whites would retaliate. He told them that
he heard it all on this new Beatles record, an album everyone was calling the
White Album.
In 1968, the divisiveness within the Beatles, their absence from the stage,
and the powerful aura they continued to project had begun to spark a different reaction in the counterculture from the early euphoria of Beatlemania.
If the Beatles could dream up an imaginary ideal audience to take home with

Turn Me On, Dead Man

211

them on Sgt. Pepper, why couldnt their audience also dream up imaginary
Beatles? But the fans dreams were nowhere near as benign as the Beatles
own versions of them. When their new album had reached the public airwaves toward the end of 1968, it sparked an alternate history of the group.
If Manson heard the Beatles as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there
were other listeners who heard clues about deaths, cover-ups, and deceptions. The cover of the album to be known simply as The Beatles may have
been white, but the cryptic inuence it had and the troubled circumstances
surrounding its creation were indeed very dark. The Beatles was their rst
group album on Apple Records and they began recording it between late
May and early October 1968. Pretty much all the material had its roots in
the Maharishis ashram back in February. Just before the revelations of the
yogis indiscretions sent the Beatles packing, the environment was actually
bringing them much calm, due to lack of drugs and other distractions. They
found themselves in a languid period of prolic creativity. In fact, they had
written so many songs there that they had begun contemplating it as a
double-album. In May, Lennon and McCartney came to George Harrisons
house in Esher to record demos of 23 songs they were considering for this
new record. By the end of the month, they started recording at Abbey Road
with some additional sessions at Trident Studios. The Maharishi Yogi once
said, Dont ght darkness. Bring the light, and darkness will disappear.
On The Beatles, the group brought both darkness and light.
The Beatles reects most strongly the disillusionment growing within the
group, as well as the violent upheaval happening in the world. For example,
the pure fun of the opening track, Back in the U.S.S.R., couldnt be separated from the grimness of the Soviet tanks rolling through Czechoslovakia
earlier in the year. The splendid R&B doo-wop parody of Happiness is a
Warm Gun couldnt be removed from the horric assassinations of Martin
Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, or for that matter, Valerie Solanas
attempted murder of artist Andy Warhol. Revolution 1 & 9 was intrinsically linked to the violent student upheavals in Paris and the United States.
Savoy Trufe might seem a triing Harrison track about Eric Claptons
obsession with chocolates, but the song is about tooth decay and the possibility of having ones teeth yanked out. Piggies joked about the pampered bourgeois clutching their forks and knives, but the Manson clan
would take up those same carving blades to kill some of the Hollywood
bourgeoisie within the next year. How can one today hear Yer Blues,
where Lennon cries out for the release of death and hanging up his rock n
roll, when hed get his wish 12 years later? As diversely joyful as many of
the songs were, they couldnt escape their shadow sides.
Its not surprising that The Beatles had cast such a dark shadow and had
inspired so many sinister fantasies when it was recorded in such an acrimonious atmosphere. First of all, Yoko Ono was by Lennons side throughout
the recording. Her presence undermined the professionalism of the group

212

Artificial Paradise

dynamic in the studio. It was uncomfortable because she was the rst one
to break the stronghold, recalled George Martin. Here you had a castle
of four corners. Even I wasnt a part of that. And they were impregnable;
the four of them together were bigger than any individual parts. Then Yoko
comes in and one corner is exposed.34 Besides breaking that inner circle,
she also offered unsolicited advice on the quality of the recordings. For
instance, during a playback of Lennons Sexy Sadie, she told McCartney
that she thought the band could have played better. With Yoko driving a
wedge between Lennon and McCartney, Paul started controlling the
sessions to the degree that during Back in the U.S.S.R., he took over the
drums when he decided that Ringo wasnt doing what he asked. Angry and
hurt, Ringo quit the group until he got enticed back for a lmed promo
12 days after the recording.
One day saw Lennon complaining that they were working too long (ve
days) on McCartneys ska-driven Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, while on another,
McCartney was fed up with Lennons week-long recording of the avantgarde Revolution 9, a piece he didnt even care to see included on the
album. Since nobody cared for McCartneys ballad Blackbird, he did it
himself. A few months later, when he was ready to tape his blues-driven
Why Dont We Do It in the Road? he didnt even bother to ask anyone to
join him. As for Harrison, he was miserable throughout the sessions. After
his spat with McCartney during the recording of Hey Jude, he wrote the
sarcastic Not Guilty in angry response for being such a bother. In the song,
he slammed his mates for not letting him have a more equal role in the songwriting chores. But he was also still bitter over the groups total rejection of
the Maharishi. Apparently, Harrison believed that the rest of the group
blamed him for being scammed by the yogi. Not Guilty was dropped after
an astonishing one hundred takes, so Harrison decided to play hooky when
McCartney came to record I Will. The bickering had become so vicious
that it even spilled into the control room where engineer Geoff Emerick had
been growing more and more distressed with the daily bouts of meanspiritedness. So when McCartney turned on George Martin during one
session, Emerick decided that he had enough and quit. Engineer Ken Scott
took over for the remainder of the recording sessions. Martin would also
soon take a spontaneous vacation from the record when the bickering
continued to disrupt production. Chris Thomas, who within a few years
would produce Roxy Music and Procol Harum, stepped in to helm the storm.
Despite the turbulence recording it, The Beatles still has a rich diversity
of musical pleasures. The record opens with the fade-in sound of a Pan Am
101 ight immediately invoking the anticipation of the plane that rst
brought the Beatles to America in 1964. But while the opening chords of
Back in U.S.S.R. echo the American rhythms of both Chuck Berry and
the Beach Boys, the plane is actually arriving in the Soviet Union. Written
by McCartney in Rishikesh, the title was partially inuenced by a comment

Turn Me On, Dead Man

213

Mike Love made to McCartney about doing a Soviet version of Chuck


Berrys 1959 hit Back in the U.S.A. In Berrys song, the irony of a black
man lamenting the joys of returning to America with its juke boxes,
hamburgers, and skyscrapers without mentioning the racial segregation
and other inequities was, of course, deliberate. But in Back in the U.S.S.R.,
McCartney plays off the ironic paradoxes in Berrys song. Instead of American landmarks like Chicago or New Orleans, McCartney refers to Ukraine
as if he were citing girls in bikinis lounging on the beaches of California. In
one radio interview, McCartney said he was envisioning a Russian spy
who had become Americanized to the point that when he goes home he
starts using American phrases to his Russian girlfriend. The parodistic
elements go even deeper when McCartney refers to one of Chuck Berrys
contemporariesRay Charleswhen he refrains Georgia on My Mind.
Back in the U.S.S.R. is an agile piece of rock n roll that illustrates just
how much the Beatles learned from their antecedents. After years of paying
tribute to Berry by covering many songs from his catalog, theyve now written a song of their own that even Chuck could envy.
Back in the U.S.S.R. concludes with the jet cross-fading into the gentle
sound of the acoustic guitar of Lennons Dear Prudence. This delicate
ballad was also composed at Rishikesh for Prudence Farrow, Mias sister,
who had spent long periods in isolation meditating rather than mingling with
the group. Lennons song was meant to coax her out before she went
completely stir-crazy. As it turned out, Prudence went beyond stir-crazy.
She was becoming ashen, not recognizing anyone but the Maharishi. She
overdid the meditatingwe couldnt get her to come out of her room, Pattie
Boyd recalled. She stayed in it for something like two weeks, as if she was in
a trance. We took turns trying to visit and talk to her, but to no avail. She was
trying to reach God faster than anyone else.35 To this day, Farrow defends
her dedication to TM, saying that she was more devoted to meditation than
socializing after the Maharishis lecture. Eventually, the Maharishi did place
her in a discussion group with John and George and she became quite
outgoing with them in talking about the benets of meditation. Oddly,
Lennon never played the song to her. It was Harrison who told her about it
before they departed. The rst time she heard the tune was when the record
came out in November 1968. Farrow continues today to teach meditation
in Florida. The nger-picking style that Lennon uses in the song, drawn from
folk styles of an earlier era, was taught to him by Donovan in India. John
showed a lot of interest in the Carter Family picking style I was using, and
over two days I taught him, and he immediately started writing in this new
style, Donovan recalled.36 Lennon would continue to employ that graceful
manner of playing on Julia, as well as later on Look at Me from Plastic
Ono Band.
For all those obsessed Beatles fans who were searching for clues about
them in various songs, Lennons Glass Onion is his sardonic reply to all

214

Artificial Paradise

of their obsessions. The title Glass Onion was the original name John
wanted for the Apple band, the Iveys, who would instead become Badnger.
This hodgepodge of song associations, which references a number of Beatle
tunes like Strawberry Fields Forever, The Fool on the Hill, Lady
Madonna, I Am the Walrus, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, puts
down those who seek to nd any substantial meaning in their lyrics. Steve
Turner describes Glass Onion as a playful response37 to those who try
to go deeper into the Beatles material. Critic Ian MacDonald, more accurately, sees darker repercussions here. As prominent advocates of the
free-associating state of mind, the Beatles attracted more crackpot xations
than anyone apart from Dylan, he wrote in Revolution in the Head.
While, at the time, they may have seemed enough like harmless fun
for Lennon to make them the subject of the present sneeringly sarcastic song,
in the end they returned to kill him. 38 Lennon failed to consider that
his ambivalence about being a Beatle would ultimately have tragic ramications. Since he had made himself the point man for Beatles fans
most utopian longings, he didnt recognize that making fun of their
fetishes would sew the seeds of betrayal assassin Mark Chapman would
act upon.
McCartneys Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is a ska piece based on an African
phrase for life goes on. Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott, a stylist with
dark glasses and African clothes, rst uttered it to Paul in the Urhobo
language that is used by the Warri people in the midwest region of Nigeria.
McCartney had rst met Scott, who came to England in the fties, at the
Bag ONails nightclub in Soho, London. Scott had already played with
Georgie Fame, backed Stevie Wonder, and made a memorable guest appearance on the percussive opening of the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the
Devil on Beggars Banquet (1968). Scott ultimately created his own
Ob-la-da Band where, in concert, he would shout out, Ob la di, and the
crowd would cry, Ob la da, and he would answer back with, Life goes
on. Scott, who would die from pneumonia in 1986, also played the congas
on the Beatles track. But he was somewhat miffed with McCartney when it
eventually came out because he felt that he deserved some of the royalties.
Paul defended his decision not to pay Scott saying that it was only a phrase
and Scott didnt cowrite the song.
But the Beatles had their own frustrations with the tune. Fortunately
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Das driving piano melody ended up partly inspired
by Lennons dislike of the composition. Paul came along with this kind of
ska thing and John actually wasnt in the studio, George Martin recalled.
We got the thing more or less together, but we were having a bit of difculty with it. Then John came in, slightly stoned, and said, Whats this rubbish youre doing? He went over to the barrelhouse piano and said, Right
then. Here we go. One, two, three, four, da da da da da dum dum dum.
It was a corny introduction, but it worked.39

Turn Me On, Dead Man

215

The song is about Desmond and Molly, two members of a musical group,
who fall in love and eventually marry and have kids. The name Desmond
was thought to be a tribute to ska artist Desmond Dekker (The Israelites).
McCartney made a lyrical error, though, when he said that Desmond,
instead of Molly, stayed home and did his pretty face. The band liked
the sexual ambiguity, however, and the lyric stood. While most of
the Beatles accepted the song, Lennon continued to hate it (no doubt because
the idea of life-going-on-la-di-dah would hardly appeal to him). The tune
drew a line of demarcation between him and Lennon that mirrored the divisiveness growing within the band. McCartneys stance against Lennon here
was defensive, pushing the song on the group, as Lennon had been pushing
Yoko on the Beatles. When the band gathered, though, to record the
harmony vocals, the tensions had magically drifted away. Geoff Emerick,
who would leave The Beatles sessions after recording this song, recalled
the way the bickering dissipated once the band had found the underlying
harmony in their music:
Thats all it took for them to suspend their petty disagreements; for
those few moments, they would clown around and act silly again, like
they did when they were kids, just starting out. Then as soon as theyd
take the cans off, theyd go back to hating each other. It was very
oddit was almost as if having the headphones on and hearing that
echo put them in a dreamlike state.40
Although Pauls desire to see the track as a single never came to be because
of Lennons objection, the Scottish band Marmalade took it to #1 in the U.K.
charts for two weeks. The track would also inspire the Happy Mondays
song Desmond, included on their 1987 debut album, which many thought
plagiarized Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. The resemblance was indeed pretty
strong. Their album was even withdrawn because of complaints from Apple.
When it was nally rereleased, Desmond was no longer on the CD. Well,
we gave the game away calling it Desmond, recalls leader singer Shaun
Ryder. 41 When the song Lazyitis, which had a strong resemblance to
Ticket to Ride, turned up on their Bummed album in 1988, Ryder smartly
covered himself. We eventually had to give the credits to David Essex, Sly
Stone, Lennon & McCartney, and the fuckin Wombies, I think.42
Wild Honey Pie was the type of abstract, experimental pop McCartney
would do later on his rst solo album. Paul originally improvised it as a
group sing-a-long in Rishikesh, but on The Beatles its nothing more than a
deliberate piece of gibberish featuring Paul singing honey pie over a guitar
vibrato as a harpsichord appears to quote the theme from The Addams
Family TV show. Wild Honey Pie sets out to deliberately mock the
smooth and harmonious pop stylings of the Beatles. Days earlier, Lennon
had already done much the same thing with his own longer experimental

216

Artificial Paradise

pastiche called Whats the New Mary Jane? which McCartney vetoed.
(The song would eventually turn up on Anthology 3.) Maybe the rest of
the group was uncertain about including this brief bit of nonsense on The
Beatles, but Pattie Boyd loved Wild Honey Pie so it was ultimately
included. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill was composed by
Lennon at Rishikesh adapting a melody based on Mack Gordon and Harry
Revels Stay as Sweet as You Are, which he rst heard in Norman Taurogs 1934 lm College Rhythm. Signicantly enough, the movie is about
how an All-American football star (Jack Oakie) suddenly, upon graduation,
nds himself out of favor and unemployed.
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill is another sing-a-long ballad
that draws allusions to William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill), the American
cowboy showman in the late 1800s. Its also based on Richard Cooke III,
whose mother, Nancy, was on the Maharishis retreat with the Beatles at
the ashram. Cooke was an American college graduate, a preppy with a crew
cut, who visited Rishikesh to see his motherbut also ended up meeting the
Beatles. The caustic Lennon didnt take too kindly to what he called in the
song this all-American bullet-headed Saxon mothers son. Bungalow
Bill tells the story of a tiger hunt expedition that was organized by a Texan
hunter, where Cooke and his mother traveled three hours by elephant to
take part. While hiding in a traditional marsh, they awaited the tiger. When
it crossed their sights, Cooke shot it through the ear. When they arrived back
at the ashram, Cooke started to feel some guilt about the hunt and, along
with his mother, had a meeting with the Maharishi (coincidently with Lennon and McCartney in attendance). The yogi was naturally upset, but
Cooke told him that hed never again kill another animal. When Cooke
was asked by the Maharishi about what he would do if hed ever have the
desire to kill another animal, Lennon questioned Cookes sincerity. Cooke
told Lennon that, in this case, it was either the tiger or them. But Lennon felt
the whole expedition was foolhardy.43 Given the macho bravado of Cookes
actions, its likely no accident that Lennon provides a melody in the chorus
that echoes the antiwar protesters whod been chanting, Hey, Hey LBJ,
how many children did you kill today?
While My Guitar Gently Weeps is George Harrisons sad lament for a
group that he felt had lost its power to love. The title came from a toss of I
Ching coins leading him to the phrase gently weeps. Harrison had begun
recording the song in July 1968, but the other Beatles werent that interested
when they heard his acoustic demo (which has since been released on both
Anthology 3 and Love). After writing a larger rock band arrangement for the
song, the Beatles recorded over 14 takes, from dusk to dawn, on August 16.
But the other band members still wouldnt warm up to the track. Lennon and
McCartney had brought little enthusiasm to many of his compositions, so Harrison (in utter frustration) sent out for his new friend, guitarist Eric Clapton, to
take part in the production. He gured by bringing in this blues guitar virtuoso

Turn Me On, Dead Man

217

from Cream, he might just wake up his partners. Clapton was, however,
initially reluctant to play on a Beatles song, especially since the group rarely
went looking for outsiders to perform with them. But Harrison ultimately convinced him that this would spark some interest in the track from the rest of the
group. While My Guitar Gently Weeps did indeed inspire the group, in fact,
because this doleful anthem would eventually turn into an FM rock classic.
Although the tune expresses a fair dollop of self-pity, Claptons mournful notes
lend a graceful majesty to the song. Since Claptons guitar solo didnt have the
trademark Beatles sound, though, the engineers had to electronically process it
through ADT (automatic double tracking) to wobble its pitch. ADT was an
electronic system for double tracking by which you could link tape recorders
and create an instant simultaneous duplication of sound to capture on tape.
This process allowed the engineers to alter Claptons trademark sound so that
it sounded more like Harrisons guitar gently weeping.
Happiness is a Warm Gun is a cleverly constructed Lennon pastiche of
the history of rock n roll. The title comes from a parody of the Happiness
is a warm puppy bromide in a Peanuts comic that was featured in an
American gun magazine. The magazine inserted the line, Happiness is a
warm gun. George Martin brought the magazine to Lennons attention
shortly after Robert Kennedy was assassinated. The song breaks down into
three parts. The rst section, a ballad, was inspired by an acid trip that Lennon took with Derek Taylor, his friend Pete Shotten, and road manager Neil
Aspinall. Having started this new song, Lennon was looking for some
phrases to help him nish it. He asked them to give him comments that best
dened a really smart girl. Taylor replied, Shes not a girl who misses
much. The line shes well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand
came from a discussion Taylor and his wife had at a bar in the Isle of Man
with a man with a predilection for moleskin gloves. According to Taylor,
the multi-colored mirrors reference came from a newspaper story about
a soccer fan in Manchester City who had been arrested by the police because
he had mirrors placed on his shoe tops to look up womens skirts. The lyric,
lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime, was
inspired by this shoplifter who wore a cloak with plastic hands. He would
rest them on the shop counter while his real hands would pocket items.
The second section of the song shifted from a lyrical, impressionistic
observation into a heavy rock arrangement. Happiness was partly based
on Lennons relationship with Yoko (whom he called Mother Superior),
but it was also about his addiction to heroin (I need a x cause Im going
down). This part of the tune gets presented in a slow dirge that he would
also provide for his later heroin song Cold Turkey. The third section,
which drew upon a favorite R&B doo-wop song by Rosie and the Originals
called Give Me Love, features Lennon using gun imagery as a form of
sexual innuendo. Besides the sly humor of the bang-bang, shoot-shoot
chorus, the song has an eerie prescience in light of Lennons murder by that

218

Artificial Paradise

very same weapon. [Happiness is a Warm Gun] juxtaposes [the] past with
[the] present and nds horror in the contrast, wrote Devin McKinney in
Magic Circles.44 Like Not Guilty, Happiness is a Warm Gun would
also be completed in over one hundred takesbut the effort here reaped
better rewards. Happiness is a Warm Gun is one of Lennons most intricately imaginative rock songs.
Martha My Dear was titled for McCartneys two-year-old English
sheep dog, but the theme is succinctly summed up by Steve Turner as a plea
to a girl who has always been the singers muse: he asks her to remember him
because he still believes that they were meant for each other.45 Although
Paul claims that this quaintly pretty song, which he based on an exercise he
used to teach himself the piano, is literally about his canine friend. Turner
believes the song was his sweet farewell to Jane Asher. Asher had broken
off their engagement when she found McCartney having an affair with an
Apple employee. So Pauls new romantic muse was an American photographer named Linda Eastman, who he met in May 1967 at a Georgie Fame
concert at Londons Bag ONails club. Since Eastman was on assignment
taking pictures of some of Englands top rock acts, they found time to get
together again at a Procol Harum concert at the Speakeasy. After attending
a launch party for Sgt. Pepper, she went back to New York. But in May
1968, they hooked up in the Big Apple when he and John went to announce
the formation of Apple Corps. During the recording of The Beatles, Paul
invited Linda back to London where they nally started to date.
Lennon wrote Im So Tired in response to the long lecture sessions with
the Maharishi that left him with insomnia. But the track is also about his
growing xation on Yoko, with whom he was just beginning to entertain
having an affair. Recorded at 3 a.m., Lennon sounds like hes carrying not
only the weight of sleeplessness but the burden of years of rock n rolling
as well. By the time of The Beatles, Lennon was starting to strip away the
melismatic style in his voice that made it such a pleasure to hear him sing
This Boy, Eight Days a Week, Any Time at All, Yes it Is, and
A Day in the Life. On Im So Tired, he pares down his voice to a blunt
instrument that tears through to the essence of his own self. In order to
achieve the kind of intensity and authenticity that he reaches here (and even
later on Yer Blues), he sacrices beauty for truth. John seemed to be
getting closer to the essentials of his soul, which might be identied as a
refusal to settle for anything short of perfection combined with a clear
understanding that perfection doesnt exista dilemma that, given the
history of the Beatles era and the years since, is something more than one
mans hang-up, wrote critic Greil Marcus on Im So Tired.46
If John reaches for the painful truth of his being, Paul continues to rise above
true sorrow in order to reach a state of grace. He gets there on his lovely ballad
Blackbird, a song he wrote for the American Civil Rights struggle in the
wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April. Composed at

Turn Me On, Dead Man

219

his Scottish farm, and adapting a melody loosely based on Bachs Bourree in E
Minor, Blackbird is a plaintive number that speaks to the inspirational core
of the movement. The stately inuence of Bach, which brings a graceful calm to
the song, dates back to when Paul and George used to play Bourree together at
parties when they were teenagers. (McCartney would once again resurrect
Bachs inuence in his song Jenny Wren from his 2005 Chaos and Creation
in the Backyard.) Like most of the tunes on The Beatles, Blackbird began its
origins at the ashram with some help from Donovan. But McCartney may well
have been familiar with the 1962 Obie-award winning civil rights musical Fly
Blackbird, which featured songs by C. Bernard Jackson and James Hatch.
The term blackbird like the phrase nigger began with pejorative intent,
but in the sixties, blackbird became a word reclaimed with pride by civil
rights workers. After the majestic sound of McCartneys birds taking ight,
George Harrisons Piggies delivers us right into the trough. From its opening
mocking notes on the harpsichord, Piggies bears the same musically baroque
touches of Blackbird. But Piggies is a deliberately churlish mocking of the
middle class. Critic Steve Turner rightly points out that, during this same
period, pigs was a derogatory term applied to the police (initially by the radical
Black Panther Party), and earlier to the authoritarian leaders of George
Orwells allegorical novel, Animal Farm. 47 Piggies grovels in
cannibalistic and carnivorous imagery. While its likely that the tune inspired
the comedy troupe Monty Pythons gleefully mocking The Lumberjack
Song, which Harrison fully enjoyed, Piggies is too mean-spirited to reach
the inspired absurdism and lunacy of The Lumberjack Song.
Turner correctly described Rocky Raccoon as a musical western48
inspired, in part, by the Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster song, Black
Hills of Dakota, which was sung by Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953).
But the composition also has its roots in the Robert Service poem The
Shooting of Dan McGrew (1907), which is lled with romantic heartbreak
and revenge. Rocky Raccoon is a more playful version of Marty Robbins
1959 tragic western allegory El Paso. But McCartneys song is largely
about spiritual renewal. When Rocky, a young upstart, is taken aback after
his girl, Nancy, goes off with his adversary, Dan, he attempts to gun him
down. But he discovers that Dan is a lot quicker on the draw. While recovering in his hotel from a gunshot wound, Rocky nds Gideons Bible
(a staple in every hotel) and realizes that although Gideon has long since
checked out, the book will serve to help with good Rockys revival.
Rocky Raccoon also welcomes back Lennons harmonica which makes
its rst appearance since Im a Loser on Beatles for Sale. The country
and western Dont Pass Me By is Ringos rst song where he gets the sole
writing creditthough its not unlike his cover of Buck Owens Act Naturally. The title of this agreeable tune is actually rather appropriate as it had
been passed over since 1963 (apparently Ringo was trying to get the group
to record it for years). I wrote Dont Pass Me By when I was sitting

220

Artificial Paradise

around at home, Ringo recalled. I only play three chords on the guitar and
three on the pianoI just bang awayand then if a melody comes and some
words, I just have to keep going.49 If While My Guitar Gently Weeps
was helped by the soulful licks provided by Eric Clapton, Dont Pass Me
By is given a jaunty bit of country swing by Jack Fallons violin.
Why Dont We Do It in the Road? was conceived in India when
McCartney had encountered two monkeys copulating on a path. Singing in
the same ribald voice he used for Lady Madonna, McCartney wanted to
contrast the natural way animals approach sex as compared to humans.
Apparently, John loved the song but was deeply hurt when he wasnt
included on the session recording. But Turner argues that Lennons chagrin
had more to do with McCartney writing in a style more associated with
him (something that McCartney would himself acknowledge in 1981).
Sometimes they would try to outdo each other by composing in a style
more often associated with the other, Turner writes in A Hard Days Write.
This explains why [The Beatles] contains the sensitive Julia and sentimental Good Night by John in Pauls style, as well as the gritty rock n roll
numbers like Helter Skelter and Why Dont We Do it in the Road? from
Paul a` la Lennon.50 In contrast to Why Dont We Do It in the Road?
I Will is a charming bossa nova ballad inspired by Astrud Gilberto and
Stan Getzs 1964 hit The Girl From Ipanema. With both Ringo and John
providing percussion, Paul sings one of his rst devoted love songs to Linda
Eastman. Following McCartneys adoring lyric is Lennons quiet but
complex Julia. Where Pauls composition is direct and simple, Lennons
Julia catches the ambiguity of his painful regrets for his lost mother and
the desire for his newly found mother (and lover) Yoko Ono (who is the
ocean child in the song). It was natural that John should turn to Yoko
because he had already developed a grand illusion about her wisdom and
powers, regarding her as an almost magical being who could fulll his every
need and solve all his problems, explained Albert Goldman in The Lives of
John Lennon.51 Lennon would conrm this view in subsequent interviews.
Before Yoko and I met, we were half a person, he said. Theres an old
myth about people being half, and the other half being in the sky or in
heaven or on the other side of the universe or a mirror image. But we are
two halves, and together we are a whole.52
One time, it was McCartney who had been Lennons other half, but as the
group identity of the Beatles had fallen away, John looked to Yoko to help
consolidate the new self he was in the process of creating. The opening lines
quote the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibrans 1927 collection of proverbs, Sand
and Foam, where Gibran says, Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say
it so the other half may reach you. (Gibran was quite popular with the
counterculture through his book The Prophet.) Julia is Lennons attempt
to reverse the trauma of having lost his mother by now gaining a new matriarch. Johns voice as he calls out his mothers name. . .is like a baby holding

Turn Me On, Dead Man

221

its arms up to be kissed in the bath, Goldman wrote. In this song John is
again the sweet child who ourished before he was traumatized by Julias
adultery and subsequent abandonment of him.53 Lennon digs beneath the
layers of bitterness and anger that had festered in the years since her death.
With no satisfaction brought forth in his triumph as a Beatle, he now sought
communion with Yoko and that brings out the gentle sorrow of the song.
As he gives up Julia, the muse of his best work as a Beatle, he takes his rst
step in giving up the Beatles for a new lease on life with Yoko Ono. However, Julia would only be a temporary respite. The gentle longing would
later be transformed into the blinding rage that would fuel Mother on
Plastic Ono Band.
From the rst loud tumble of Ringos drum ll, reminiscent of his intro to
She Loves You, Birthday is a giddy piece of rock n roll made all the
more fun by its all out intensity. (The song was more or less made up on
the spot.) Surprisingly, both Lennon and McCartney dismissed it as a piece
of trash, yet its probably the trashiest fun the band has had since their early
days. In essence, it was the music of their roots that inspired the evolution of
Birthday. While borrowing the opening riff from Rosco Gordons 1960
song, Just a Little Bit, the rest of the track actually has a passing resemblance to the Tuneweavers 1957 hit, Happy, Happy Birthday. After
recording the backing tracks of Birthday, everyone took a break to go
watch the British television premiere of The Girl Cant Help It (1956),
which featured all the acts that made the Beatles possible. First there was Little Richard singing the title song, then Fats Dominos rumbling Blue
Monday, followed by Gene Vincents irresistible hiccup Be-Bop-ALula, and then the Platters plangent Youll Never Know. When the lm
ended toward 11 p.m., the group was perfectly in tune with their musical
roots. They charged into the studio, making up the lyrics on the spot, adding
Pattie Harrison and Yoko Ono to do backup vocals. Birthday is a ringing
celebration of both the past and the present.
By contrast with the party atmosphere of Birthday, Yer Blues comes
out of the deepest and most intense funk. Composed by Lennon as his marriage to Cynthia was collapsing, this blistering confession also reveals just
how desperate his longing was to be with Yoko. Cast in the 12-bar blues
form, Lennon sings the blues with the same intensity that Paul brought to
Birthday, but his is a cry of dissatisfactionwith being a Beatle as well
as being addicted to heroin. After writing songs that many critics attributed
to the inuence of Dylan, Lennon makes that connection even more explicit
in Yer Blues. In a moment of self-loathing, Lennon casts himself as the
alienated Mr. Jones from Ballad of a Thin Man. Yet Yer Blues stands
alone as the most passionately driven song about suicidal thoughts ever
written.
One day, while inspired by a lecture from the Maharishi, Lennon and
McCartney both decided to write songs about their newly found spiritual

222

Artificial Paradise

values. Lennon rst composed a tune called Child of Nature, where he


spoke of how the natural surroundings of Rishikesh had transformed him
into a child of God. Lennon begins his song as a confessional ballad (similar
to the style of his later Working Class Hero), where he speaks of his
dream of nding transcendence. Although Child of Nature is a poor
cousin to the similar Across the Universe, its melody would survive to
eventually become Jealous Guy on his 1971 Imagine album. McCartney
answered Lennons song with his far superior Mother Natures Son which
would be included on The Beatles. McCartneys ballad, which was
completed at his fathers house when he returned from India, was loosely
based on Nat King Coles Nature Boy, a song he rst heard when he
was a kid. Unlike Lennon, who seeks deliverance in Child of Nature,
McCartney looks for harmony with the world in Mother Natures Son.
Theres a desperate yearning in Lennons tune to nd a better world to save
him from the place in which he occupies. McCartney has no such qualms.
In his piece, he may be a poor young country boy, but hes happy being
mother natures son. He basks in the beauty of the waterfalls, the daisies
blowing in the wind, and spreading his toes in the grass. George Martin
provides some delicate orchestration behind McCartneys gentle acoustic
guitar pickingexcept for the odd inclusion of the seventh chord on the
brass that concludes the song. That chord leaves a dissonant echo, perhaps
the unresolved possibility that things arent quite as harmonious as Mother
Natures Son suggests.
John Lennons Everybodys Got Something to Hide Except Me and My
Monkey denitely comes from a disharmonious placebut it yields nothing but pure listening pleasure. Originally titled Come On, Come On, this
dynamic and pulsating cut was tersely addressed to the rest of the band.
At the time, Lennons perception was that the other Beatles were paranoid
about his rather symbiotic relationship with Yoko (especially as they
expressed discomfort about her being present at all the sessions). Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of
love, Lennon told Playboy interviewer David Sheff in 1980. Everything
is clear and open when youre in love. Everybody was sort of tense around
us: You know, What is she doing here at the session? Why is she with
him? All this sort of madness is going on around us because we just
happened to want to be together all the time.54 Since no one in the past
had ever brought his girlfriend, or wife, into the recording studio, it was only
natural that the band would balk at Lennons manner of being in the glow
of love. In truth, Lennon wasnt in the wonderfully amorous state he
describes. Hed been emotionally crippled by his excess use of LSD.
He had just experienced the collapse of his marriage. His emotional distance
from Paul McCartney was getting worse. And he was currently growing
more deeply dependent on Yoko Onoplus they were also getting addicted
to heroin. To spare themselves the wrath of Lennon, the group walked on

Turn Me On, Dead Man

223

eggshells while seething under the surface. Yet whatever paranoia Lennon
thought the band was expressing toward Yoko, it certainly didnt reveal
itself in this buoyant shot of musical adrenaline. Everybodys Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey sounds more playful than
spiteful, especially since Lennon couldnt resist quoting the Maharishi with
the line come on its such a joy.
If Lennons favorably quoting the Maharishi one minute, the next, with
Sexy Sadie, hes bitterly putting him down. Sexy Sadie was composed
specically to express Lennons disillusionment with the yogi. Originally
titled Maharishi, he changed the title to avoid possible litigation. Apparently, as he and George and their wives were departing, Lennon started
drawing upon Smokey Robinsons Ive Been Good To You (Look what
youve done/You made a fool of someone) and started improvising his
own song. Sexy Sadie is basically the other side of the dreamy acquiescence of Child of Nature. In other words, Lennons attack on the Maharishi is not borne from a place of skepticism, but rather from his feeling of
betrayal. Because Lennon intently needed his utopian dreams to come true,
when they were breached, he struck out with venomous wit and sarcasm.
In calling the Maharishi Sexy Sadie, Lennon implies both the seduction
of the spirit (which brought the Beatles into his ashram) and the seduction
of the esh (which addresses the alleged impropriety against the woman).
But autist Paul Horn believed that the real reason the Beatles (save George)
became disillusioned was because their expectations of the Maharishi were
unrealistic right from the beginning. These courses were really designed
for people who wanted to become teachers themselves and who had a solid
background in meditation, Horn recalled. The Beatles didnt really have
the background and experience to be there and I think they were expecting
miracles.55 Sexy Sadie clearly expresses the pain of having not encountered miracles. Yet while the song does strip away the false piety of the
Maharishi, Lennons voice still conveys both his deeper thirst for spiritual
solace and the sorrow of having not found it.
Before Helter Skelter became irrevocably linked with the Charles
Manson murders, it was merely Paul McCartneys attempt to compose the
loudest rock n roll song imaginable. While reading a review of the Whos
single I Can See For Miles in Melody Maker magazine in 1967, the critic
had described the song as the loudest and most raucous rock n roll song
ever recorded. McCartney decided to rise to the challenge. During the
sessions in the summer, Helter Skelter was initially a stripped-down blues
track not that far removed from the sound Lennon would later create for the
Plastic Ono Band. (Another version was rumored to have turned into a halfhour jam.) By the fall, the group nally laid down the shrieking heavy-metal
version heard on The Beatles. While Helter Skelter is known more guratively as all hell breaking loose, the title actually refers literally to the helical English fairground slide. A song like Helter Skelter is really the idea of

224

Artificial Paradise

an amusement ride as a metaphor for the fall and rise of civilization, McCartney explained in 2004. But its nothing to do with murder or the end of the
world. 56 Manson, however, would hear only hell breaking loosean
apocalypse that he saw the Beatles leading. But Helter Skelter is simply a
tough, relentlessly driving rock n roll song about sexual conquest. As if to
prove that the man who wrote Martha My Dear and Rocky Raccoon
could also turn up the amps as loud as Lennon did on Revolution, McCartney plays pure showman on Helter Skelter. McCartney enjoys the sheer
thrill of getting carried away, as he did on Long Tall Sally and Im Down.
[McCartneys] never had a problem restricting himself to one thinghe can
rock out, be avant-garde, do childrens music, pop to the teensits preposterous that hes seen as the second-best Beatle, remarked XTCs Andy Partridge
about the song in Mojo magazine in 2003.57 McCartneys versatility enables
him to surrender to whatever extremes a musical genre can presentwhether
its the sentimental sap of Your Mother Should Know or the sheets of feedback and pounding drums in Helter Skelter. When the track nally does
ring to a conclusion with the sound of cymbals crashing, Ringo madly tries
to stomp out all the errant noise. As the ringing feedback relents, the beleaguered drummer desperately collapses over his kit screaming, Ive got blisters
on my ngers!
The quiet of the acoustic guitar in Long, Long, Long comes surprisingly
out of the melee of Helter Skelter. This calm, meditative sonnet was one
of George Harrisons rst songs about his devotion to God not written in
the Indian idiom. While Harrison does borrow the chording from Bob
Dylans Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands and adds lyrics that he originally
wrote in a daytimer diary called Its Been a Long Long Long Time, the
tune is one of Harrisons strongest (and least acknowledged) spiritual
numbers. Long, Long, Long doesnt wax poetic verse like The Inner
Light or dismiss those unbelievers as he did in Within You Without
You, Long, Long, Long is a humble, yet ardent plea for acceptance by
God. McCartney also underscores the track with the Hammond organ that
provides a slight liturgical mooduntil the end. While hitting the concluding C major chord, McCartney produces a loud vibrating note that rattles
the bottle of Blue Nun wine sitting on the speaker. As the bottle shakes
violently in harmony with the note, Ringo provides a quick drum roll on
the snare to accompany it. This lucky accident, or act of pure serendipity,
created a sonic effect resembling Gods power shaking the studio walls.
George Harrison nally had his prayers answered.
Lennons Revolution 1 is the acoustic version of the single that
was originally rejected by the band back in May and early Junehence the
title Revolution 1. Honey Pie nds McCartney trafcking again in the
musical era of his father. If the earlier Wild Honey Pie was a sample of
twisted baroque doo-wop, Honey Pie is an earnest swing number done
in the style of Rudy Vallee. But McCartney parodies the crooner style in

Turn Me On, Dead Man

225

the chorus during the guitar solo (I like this kinda hot kinda music, etc.)
that is played by Lennon in a style that apes Django Reinhardt. Since
McCartney treats the song more as a curiosity than anything hes personally
committed to, Honey Pie is a rather blase tribute to the past. On Savoy
Trufe, Harrison writes about Claptons obsession for exotic chocolates
and the extensive dental work he received due to that obsession. The lyrics
relate specically to the names of the sweets in the Macintoshs Good News
assortments. While on the surface Savoy Trufe is a funky tribute to
hedonistic impulses (Harrison even name-checks the phrase ob-la-diob-la-dah), the undercurrent of tooth decay and extractions lends a darker
tone to the track.
Cry Baby Cry, a strikingly haunting tune, was based on an ad Lennon
saw back in 1967 which read, Cry baby cry, make your mother buy.
Although he originally demoed it at the time, Lennon fully developed the
songs mournful melody while in India. By the time he completed it, Cry
Baby Cry was coupled with a verse from Sing a Song of Sixpence (including the schoolyard dare, Cry baby cry/Stick a nger in yer eye/And tell your
mother it wasnt I). On the track, George Martin plays the same harmonium that had rst graced We Can Work It Out. But in that song, the
keyboard melody provided a harmonious bed that helped bring resolution
to the conict being expressed. But on Cry Baby Cry, the harmonium adds
a more ominous note to this baroque atmosphere of kings, queens, duchesses, and children at play. Since the tune examines the life of children of
privilege, Lennon is the ideal writer to bring out the hidden melancholy
buried within the noblesse oblige of the pampered class. Of all the Beatles,
Lennon had the most direct access to childhood, wrote Ian MacDonald in
Revolution in the Head, and this song, with its deceptive sunshine and
mysterious laughter behind half-open doom, is one of the most evocative
products of that creative channel.58 At the conclusion of Cry Baby Cry,
that ends on Lennons breathy tremelo (something critic Walter Everett
suggested may have later inspired Tommy James and the Shondells December hit Crimson and Clover),59 a brief fragment of McCartneys ghostly
Can You Take Me Back appears. Recorded during the session for
I Will, where it shares the same bossa nova lilt of the latters acoustic guitar
arrangement, Can You Take Me Back seems to speak in the voice of the
emotionally wounded children in Lennons song. Since Cry Baby Cry ends
with a seance, McCartneys portion adds a ghostly quality of desolate yearning that provides a poignant coda to a song about lost childhood innocence.
Back in January, McCartney had gathered the group to perform an experimental piece of music involving a 14-minute tape of their instruments
blended with various sound effects and John and Paul yelling out phrases
like Are you alright? and Barcelona! All of this would comprise an
avant-garde piece for an event called Carnival of Light at the Roundhouse
club on January 28 and February 4, 1967. While that unreleased work

226

Artificial Paradise

(which was apparently vetoed from inclusion on the Anthology CDs) has
become the unattainable Holy Grail for collectors of Beatles memorabilia,
Revolution 9 became the rst released audio sound-poem in the Beatles
canon. Composed as a piece of musique concrete by Lennon and Yoko out
of various taped pieces, including radio broadcasts, plus outtakes from the
outro of Revolution 1, Revolution 9 was heavily inuenced by the early
pioneers of Dadaist experimentation. One such inuence, Henri Chopin,
was a French sound poet who composed recorded works that manipulated
tape recordings of the human voice. He emphasized meaning from phonetic
texture rather than the writers text reminding us that language began as
part of an oral tradition. Along with the sound collages of Chopin, Revolution 9 also draws upon author William Burroughs rst venture into
nonlinear narrative where he sliced up phrases and words to create new
sentences in his 1959 novel Naked Lunch. Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen
was (along with John Cage) also one of the early proponents of electronic
music. He already had a big impact on the creation of the Beatles A Day
in the Life on Sgt. Pepper (even getting his face on the album cover). Cage
had developed the idea of chance-controlled music in 1951 that revolved
around the use of the I Ching, the ancient Chinese text used to interpret random events. Where Lennon had little familiarity with the avant-garde
(unlike McCartney), Yoko Onos inuence is felt most directly on this particular track. (It would also form the basis of her collaborative work with
Lennon on their abstract unnished music albums like Two Virgins, Life
With the Lions, and Wedding Album.)
To begin their collage, Lennon and Ono went to the EMI library to retrieve
some tapes to use. They grabbed a number of things from symphonies, sound
effects, and tape test tones, made copies of the parts they wanted to use, and
cut them into pieces. Some were looped while others were run backward.
Lennon would ultimately come to call it a sound picture, a montage of feelings in sound.60 As a piece of organized sound, Revolution 9 is an extraordinarily inventive composition that simulates a world ruptured by chaos.
Voices are heard jumping out of this dense mix of gunre, snatches of classical
music and manipulated tape, but not used to make sense of the world. The
voices are either disembodied from the action or jumping into the fray. Unlike
Revolution, Lennon isnt stridently offering his views on armed revolt;
he and Yoko are painting a vividly complex impressionistic map of the events
that shaped the tragic arc of 1968. Although McCartney desperately wished
to have the piece removed from the record (for reasons that it sounded
too unlike the Beatles), Revolution 9 is essential to The Beatles because
it not only reected the fragmentation of the utopian hopes that the group
once invoked in its listeners but also mirrored the splintering taking
place within the band itself. McCartney was indeed right in saying that
Revolution 9 was least like a Beatles song, but its a piece that revealed
who the Beatles were in 1968. While further developing the effects he rst

Turn Me On, Dead Man

227

used on Tomorrow Never Knows and I Am the Walrus, Lennon no


longer expresses interest in inviting us to that comforting place inside his head
(as he did on Theres a Place), he places us instead right at the heart of the
tumult. Paul Leary, of the Butthole Surfers, heard Revolution 9 as Lennons
statement of pure freedom from just being a Beatle. Here was a band that,
just a few years earlier, had girls chasing them down the street and here they
are, deep in the bowels of weirdness, Leary remarked.61
By contrast, coming out of the organized melee of Revolution 9, Good
Night is an overly lush lullaby thats also composed by Lennon. Adapting
Cole Porters True Love from High Society (1956), Good Night was
written as a bedtime song for his son Julian. While Lennon may have
composed it, Ringo gets to perform it. His voice does lend some authenticity
to the sentimental arrangement where Lennon (especially after the turbulent
Revolution 9) might have sounded disingenuous. Good Night is an
attempt to provide a quiet resolution to the discordant elements embroidered throughout The Beatles, but it only offers a tidy conclusion. The
violent undercurrents of the record couldnt be laid to rest by a sleepy soothing lullaby. When The Beatles came out in November 1968, they no longer
wanted to be the Beatles. The Beatles were getting further and further
apart, George Martin recalled. They were writing and recording
their own songs. I was recording not a band of four, but three fellows who
had three accompanists each time.62 This two-record set was not only an
uneven collection of numberssome stunning and some mediocrebut it
was also a preview of their eventual breakup, providing a clue to the solo
work ahead. Looking back today, Wild Honey Pie or Why Dont We
Do It in the Road? wouldnt have been out of place on McCartney. Im
So Tired could have been a perfect t for Plastic Ono Band. Long, Long,
Long set the stage for All Things Must Pass. Ringo could have sang Good
Night on Sentimental Journey, just as his Dont Pass Me By prepares the
listener for his country record Beaucoups of Blues.
Yet the fragmentation on The Beatles provides a valid response to the
splintering of the counterculture, just as Picassos Guernica provided a vivid
impression of the Spanish Civil War. Like Guernica, [The Beatles] is an
excessive whole constructed of impacted vignettes, which nds unity in
radical segmentation and the discreteness of its parts, Devin McKinney
explained. And as with Guernica, one need not be familiar with the details
of its social circumstances to be overwhelmed by its power.63 McKinney
also calls The Beatles the concept album that Sgt. Pepper only claimed to
be because it seeps chaos, breathes it and voices it; ghts it, exemplies it,
is overwhelmed by it, nally seeks a battered refuge from it.64
The records simplicity, according to critic Steve Turner, had also
confounded expectations. It was as if the group had decided to produce the
exact opposite of Sgt. Pepper, he wrote. Long album title? Lets just call it
The Beatles. Multi-colored cover? Lets go white. Clever overdubs and mixes?

228

Artificial Paradise

Lets use acoustic guitars on a lot of the tracks. Other-worldly subject matter?
Lets sing about pigs, chocolates and doing it in the road.65 But was the
album that simple? Its denitely a record of paradoxes, of darkness underscoring light. Its an album borne out of both grief and transcendence. Written
in the spiritual glow of India, The Beatles is also formed by the dark despair of
their disillusionment with the Maharishi. George Martin had always insisted
that it should have been a single album. But he soon realized that the reason
he couldnt convince the Beatles otherwise was because of their contract with
EMI. If they issued the maximum number of titles, their contract would end
sooner and they could renegotiate a new one with higher fees. In the past,
the Beatles had created an alternate world in their studio albums, one that
challenged the status quo of the real world. Now the real world was inltrating their inner sanctum and tearing their alternate world apart.
Visual artist Richard Hamilton graced The Beatles with a white cover. The
band had decided on this minimal design as a partial tribute to their late
manager Brian Epstein who came up with that idea for Sgt. Pepper, but was
voted down. Hamilton had also originated the eponymous album title. But
he gured if the cover was a blank slate, he thought the inside should contain
a potpourri of goodies, including a series of Beatles family photos and a poster
with lyrics on the back. After Hamilton convinced the group to stamp a
number on each edition, giving it distinct value, the band provided four
810 color photos of each Beatle to be included. Curiously, after always being
photographed together as a band, it was signicant that the photos were single
shots that emphasized them as individuals rather than as a group.
When the news reached the Beatles in August 1969 that there had been a
brutal slaying in Hollywood of movie star Sharon Tate and six others by
Charles Manson, a career criminal and cult leader, and that their latest
album had inspired these bloody killings, John Lennon was the rst to speak
out. All that Manson stuff was built around Georges song about pigs
[Piggies] and Pauls song about an English fairground [Helter Skelter],
Lennon explained to the press. Hes barmy, hes like any other Beatle fan
who reads mysticism into it. . .Whats Helter Skelter got to do with kning
somebody?66 Perhaps the conscious intent behind a song like Helter Skelter has nothing to do with kning somebody, but when Manson heard The
Beatles album as a call to murder and a race war, it wasnt just another
symptom of his particular psychopathy. There is a hidden violence on this
record despite being conceived while the Beatles were learning peaceful
mantras in India. The divisiveness inherent in the creation of the album
had unquestionably sparked a different reaction in the counterculture than
the earlier euphoria of Beatlemania.
Besides the times turning stranger, more uncertain after the violence of
1968, artists began to sense duality in the air. What once felt light was
now growing heavy. What once appeared hopeful now looked ugly and

Turn Me On, Dead Man

229

despairing. What had once delivered happiness was now bringing a deep
forlorn sadness. When Donovan wrote his song Hurdy Gurdy Man, he
intended it as a celebration of the free-spirited counterculture. But the music
that characterized that world had changed since India. When we came back
from India, the Beatles did what I would call a very gentle album, Donovan
told Anthony DeCurtis in 2003. There seemed to be a lot of acoustic
guitars on [The Beatles]. And yet when I came back from India, you might
say I went full electric.67 But what you hear in the electricity of Donovans
Hurdy Gurdy Man is just as foreboding as what you hear in the gentle
acoustic guitars on The Beatles. Donovan tells of the Hurdy Gurdy Man
singing songs of love, but the mood he conveys isnt all that loving. His tune
may have been inspired by the Maharishi, but the abiding spirit on the
record could just as easily be Mansonthe shadow Maharishi. Donovan
composed a song that was less a celebration of spiritual renewal than a
harbinger of bad tidings. Hurdy Gurdy Man held warning signs of
utopian impulses turning destructive just as his Season of the Witch had
done in 1966. What listeners could hear in Hurdy Gurdy Man, as well
as on The Beatles, was what Greil Marcus called the shame [pop fans] felt
when the promise of their time, a promise [Donovan] and they shared, failed
to turn into real life.68 The hidden dread of Hurdy Gurdy Man wouldnt
fully bloom until many years later. Director David Fincher, in his unsettling
lm Zodiac (2007), used the song to underscore the rst attacks of the
Zodiac serial killer in San Francisco. On the anniversary of the birth of the
United States, in the former locale of the Summer of Love, the Zodiac struck
his rst victims as Hurdy Gurdy Man played on the radio. And all of this
was a mere month before Manson heard The Beatles as his own calling to
commit carnage in Los Angeles.
Lennon was correct in assuming that fans had taken a mystical interest in
the meanings of Beatles songs, but he hadnt considered the darker caste of
those obsessions (or perhaps he wouldnt have recorded Glass Onion).
If some listeners looked for clues on their albums to nd their way back to
the euphoria of Nowhere Land, Manson sought to create his own Nowhere
Land. Besides hearing messages in the songs included on The Beatles,
Manson and his band of followers left slogans from them written in the victims blood, on walls, doors, and refrigerators. Some of the remarks revealed
the horrible duality of a counterculture gone to seed. For example, on the
door of the Manson Family ranch, a peace symbol, written in blood, was
also placed above the comment nothingness. With the word happy
scrawled along the top, the bottom revealed Helter Scelter [sic]. Between
the two phrases, however, lay an even stranger comment. Part of an old
schoolyard rhyme, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, all good children, was written along
side the peace symbol. A month before Mansons clan resurrected this childhood song, that concludes with all good children go to Heaven, the
Beatles were busy including that very phrase on You Never Give Me Your

230

Artificial Paradise

Money from Abbey Road. But given that Abbey Road wasnt released until
September 1969, Manson couldnt possibly have heard the song. Furthermore, since the Beatles didnt record the track until July 1969, a month
before the horric murders, they werent quoting Mansons Family either.
An act of impure serendipity had linked a band that sang about love with a
man who preached murder and destruction.
From that moment when Manson shared a jail cell with Alvin Creepy
Karpis, he had the Beatles in his sights. From the beginning, Charlie
believed the Beatles music carried an important message to us, recalled
Family associate Paul Watkins.69 But, according to Mark Paytress in Mojo
magazine, that message had grown more ambiguous by 1969:
During 1967, many people rallied around the Beatles ower power
anthem, All You Need Is Love. By late 1968, though, the message
had become confusedand decidedly combative. The White Album,
the most thrilling and bewildering in the Beatles catalogue, was as
coarse and ambiguous as Sgt. Pepper had been lustrous and celebratory. Love had changed nothing. Neither acid nor the Maharishi had
the answer. In fact, with riots and assassins seizing the headlines, the
world had grown uglier still since the Summer of Love.70
Instead of an ashram, Manson found a desert hideaway in an abandoned
ranch. He gathered a largely female following and (like the Maharishi) gave
his own lectures about shedding the ego in order to reach a higher plane.
While deriding the middle-class domesticity his followers had escaped from,
Manson offered them an alternate worldview. He said he gained a fresh
perspective upon hearing The Beatles at a friends house in Topeka Canyon.
Manson heard the record as an epic tale of a race war, where blacks would
rise up against the white world to kill all whitesexcept Manson and his
dutiful followers. For example, Piggies was an attack on the straight
world. Manson apparently liked the line that piggies were in need of a damn
good whacking. The words pig, piggy, and pigs were written in the
victims blood on the walls of Sharon Tates residence, as well as the homes
of the LaBianca family and Gary Hinman. I Will was a plea for Manson
to make his own album (And when at last I nd you/Your song will ll
the air/Sing it loud so I can hear you). Manson would point to Honey
Pie as the one tune that indicated that the Beatles were looking for Christ,
and it was heand hed been found in Hollywood. On Revolution 9, he
thought the Beatles were telling him to lead the charge, to rise up in this
apocalyptic war. Manson essentially saw the Beatles as four angels from
the New Testaments Book of Revelations telling his Family of followers to
leave the desert to escape the holocaust. But it was McCartneys Helter
Skelter that provided the main key to the struggle. When the black man
rose up against the white establishment and murdered the entire white race

Turn Me On, Dead Man

231

(bringing on the helter skelter), Manson and his crew would escape the carnage by going to the desert and living in the Bottomless Pit.
Its not surprising that Charles Manson heard the beginnings of a race war
on The Beatles, especially since the album owes as much to black music as
With The Beatles did in 1963. In fact, the music heard here, in the wake of
Martin Luther King Jr.s assassination, does emulate black discontent rather
than the romantic hopes heard in the Beatle cover versions of Youve
Really Got a Hold on Me or Please Mr. Postman. The anger buried
within the black sound tapped on The Beatles would ultimately nd its
own distinct voice in 2004. A DJ named Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton)
had taken samples from The Beatles and mixed them with the work of rap
artist Jay Zs The Black Album (2003). Jay Z was born Shawn Corey Carter
in the New York projects a year after The Beatles was rst released. Besides
being one of the most nancially successful hip-hop artists, Jay Z was also
the former CEO of DefJam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records. He went
on to co-own the 40/40 Club and the New Jersey Nets NBA basketball team.
Yet even though he was one of the most successful rap artists in America,
after his acclaimed 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, Jay Z decided that hed
had enough of the business in 2003 and wished to retire.
His farewell album was called The Black Album. The Intro told listeners that his time had come to quit. From there, the album became an angry
and deant memoir, not unlike John Lennons Plastic Ono Band, which
summed up his career while reassessing it. On December 4th, he even
featured his mother Gloria Carter describing giving birth to Jay, after which,
he raps about his parents divorce and how he soon took to the streets. When
his mother bought him a boom box, to help deter him from a criminal life,
Jay Zs love of music began. In 2004, shortly after the release of The Black
Album, Jay Z put out an a cappella version of the album to allow for DJ
remixes and mash-ups, which is how the album came to the attention of
Danger Mouse. I had seen that there were these a cappella Jay-Z records,
Danger Mouse explained. I was listening to the Beatles later that day, and it
hit me like a wave. I was like, Wait a minuteI can do this.71 It wasnt
the rst time hed sampled the Beatles either. When Danger Mouse was taking a college class on the History of Rock, the instructor told him how the
Beatles had assembled A Day in the Life from two disparate pieces.
So I remixed A Day in the Life with a song by Jemini The Gifted One,
who was one of my favorite rappers at the time, Danger Mouse recalled.
And that was the weird remix I had on my mixtape: Jeminis Funk Soul
Sensation instrumental mixed with the Beatles.72 Although sampling had
always been a huge part of hip-hop culture since the mid-seventies, the idea
of using one album as a sole source of sampling was totally unique. Without
seeking permission from the surviving Beatles, Danger Mouse rst burned a
sample mix for a few friends, but within a month more than a million downloads had been made from that one copy on the Internet. The Grey Album

232

Artificial Paradise

became a hybrid record that simultaneously darkened the Beatles sound


while providing lighter shadings to Jay Zs angry confessions.
All through The Grey Album Danger Mouse doesnt attempt to match the
beat and rhythm of both records as he does nd the right sound to accompany Jay Zs voice and lyrics. But sometimes he nds the right Beatles song.
In Encore, where Jay Z speaks out to fans who want more than hes
already given, Danger Mouse samples the melody of Lennons bitter Glass
Onion, underscoring Jay Zs declarations with John shouting, Oh yeah!
The video for Encore, seen on YouTube, features footage from the TV
special scene in A Hard Days Night. As the Beatles take the stage, with a
worried Victor Spinetti surveying the monitors in the control room, Jay Z
takes the stage to join the group. As the Beatles perform the samples from
Glass Onion, the video shows a simulation of images unassociated with
the Beatles: Ringo doing some record scratching, as Lennon break-dances
in front of a chorus of dance girls. During the pensive What More Can I
Say, where Jay Z laments his monumental career in rap, Danger Mouse
samples the appropriate While My Guitar Gently Weeps. To t the angry
sniping of 99 Problems, Danger Mouse turns to Helter Skelter, with all
its historical associations, to provide vividly searing textures to embroider
the song. Besides introducing the hip-hop crowd to the Beatles music, The
Grey Album also redenes the White Album for a contemporary audience
by discovering its R&B underpinningsunderpinnings that were cured in
the resentment of the dashed hopes of the sixties.
While Entertainment Weekly hailed the CD as the Best Album of the year,
EMI was less fond of it and launched lawsuits. Since Danger Mouse didnt
get permission from EMI to sample the Beatles, their lawyers immediately
sent him a cease-and-desist letter for distribution, reproduction, and public
performance of the album. But in the age of music le downloading, The
Grey Album was alive and well online. Furthermore, in February 2004, to
protest EMIs actions, more than 300 Web sites and blogs staged a 24-hour
online protest called Grey Tuesday where 150 sites offered the album free
for downloads. Today the bootleg is still available to download, despite
continuous legal threats. But Jay Z ultimately ended his short-lived retirement. In late 2006, turning his back on The Black Album, he stormed back
with the hit CD Kingdom Come. In the rst week of release, he was back
selling 680,000 copies. While his denunciation of a ruthless business and a
duplicitous culture continues to breathe life over the World Wide Web
through Danger Mouses The Grey Album, Kingdom Come reinstated his
desire to be back in the game, top of the heap, happily plugging his
highest-selling album in a one-week period.
About a month after Charles Manson became forever linked to the
Beatles story, clues of another sinister happening were just beginning to
brew elsewhere in America. One early fall night in Detroit, a caller had

Turn Me On, Dead Man

233

phoned radio station WKNR-FM to talk to DJ Russ Gibb about the possibility that Paul McCartney was actually dead. Not only was McCartney
deceased, he insisted, but hed apparently been dead for some time. There
was even an imposter performing in his place. The caller had apparently
heard a clue on the track Revolution 9 from The Beatles. As obsessive as
Charles Manson, but without any of his nihilistic impulses, he claimed that
if you played the Number 9 recitation backward on the turntable, youd
hear the words, Turn me on, dead man. When the host did likewise on
his turntablefor all listeners to hearhe discovered that the caller was
indeed correct. From there, fans across the country began scanning different
songs for clues that Paul had actually died years earlier.
When the Beatles decided to retire from the road, they sought to dream a
new life for themselves assuming that their fans would accept promo lms
and albums rather than concert appearances. What they didnt realize was
that as the Beatles had their utopian dream, so did their many fans. In their
absence, fans began imagining whom the Beatles now were and what they
had become. To explain their disappearance, fans were prone to believing
that the group left the stage because of some horrible tragedy. If the Beatles
had been the answer to the trauma and grief caused by the Kennedy assassination, perhaps they too had been the victims of sudden death. And maybe
like Kennedy, they thought, there was a conspiracy to cover it up. The story
went that McCartney had an argument with Lennon during the recording of
Sgt. Pepper. He stormed out of the Abbey Road studios and drove off, ultimately wrapping his car around a tree and killing himself. The surviving
Beatles, apparently worried that their franchise would be in jeopardy, hired
an imposter to play Paul. The surgically reborn McCartney turned out to
be a young orphan from Edinburgh named William Campbell. The search
for clues pretty soon brought forth evidence, all of which was collected
by WKNRs Dan Carlisle and John Small. Along with Gibb, they sensed a
real publicity coup.
First, they produced a special broadcast that gathered all the proof of
McCartneys demise. If you listened to the end of Strawberry Fields
Forever, for example, you could hear Lennon saying, I buried Paul.
(If you truly listened you heard cranberry sauce.) The Sgt. Pepper cover,
in particular, was riddled with clues. Since Paul is the walrus in I Am the
Walrus, he has to be dead because the walrus is Greek for corpse. The cover
of their just-released album Abbey Road would yield particular symbols of
McCartneys death. From there, it turned into an international obsession.
What didnt get asked in all this hysteria was why would the Beatles go to
such great lengths to deceive their fans? The utopian revolution, partly built
on the backs of the Beatles and their music, had only existed in the mind.
When it didnt nd fruition in the real world, the hope for a culture built
on pleasure and inclusion had turned instead to anger, despair, and fragmentation. Since Pauls death came after a series of assassinations, the public

234

Artificial Paradise

trust in idealism had been largely shattered. A lot of us, because of Vietnam
and the so-called establishment, were ready, willing and able to believe just
about any sort of conspiracy, explained Tim Harper, one of the rst people
to publish a story in the Drake University newspaper about the McCartney
death.73
An even larger question remained though as to why Paul became the
subject of this conspiracy theory? There was no Beatle whose combination
of traits both real and perceived, personal and popular, positioned him
better as designated corpse than Paul McCartney, thought Devin McKinney in Magic Circles. John was too loud. George was too quiet. Ringo
was too human. Paul was perfectperfectly beautiful, so beautiful he was
not quite real. Beautiful enough for the death to have a tragic dimension,
unreal enough for it to function as pure myth and magic. Like his generation
and its great social experiment, he was an infant in a grown body, both esh
and spirit, an ethereal presence circling the earth in a radiant membrane of
evanescent purity. What had once made Paul a god among humans now
placed him squarely on his back upon the altar of myth.74 Paul was also
the cute Beatle. If Lennon represented the pleasure principle of the Beatles,
McCartney was the groups sole source of the possibilities offered by pleasure. He embraced the world around him and didnt perceive it as suspiciously as Lennon, or even George Harrison. But because of their
skepticism, Lennon and Harrison also represented the reality principle of
the Beatles (which is perhaps why they became such likely targets for assassins). Paul had represented the Impossible Dream of what the Beatles could
actually be. Unlike Lennon, his music had the expressed purpose of not questioning reality, but of making reality somehow bearable, or perhaps a
happier burden to carry. So he would never be a target of some deranged
fans wrath. But when the Beatles dream had died after 1966, it made sense
to some listeners that the impossible dreamer, Paul, should likely be gone
as well.
As McCartney was trying to insist that he was alive and well and not
William Campbell, the real death of Apple soon followed. After all the
money they had handed out to aspiring artists and charlatans, they were
now going broke. Apples demise was a further reection of the dissolution
of the group itself. In its wake, Harrison grew more introspective and spiritual. He didnt want to deal with the disorganized business practices.
Lennon certainly had no real interest in being a businessman. McCartney,
though, wanted an efcient business (as his current McCartney Productions
Ltd. is today), but he grew disenchanted at losing money and bills that
werent getting paid. When the Beatles couldnt agree on Apple as a group,
it became clear that they no longer had a common purpose as a group.
You could see why Apple fell apart even then, Philip Norman, the author
of Shout! The True Story of the Beatles, explained. There were all these
incoherent, greedy people walking in and thinking just because they were

Turn Me On, Dead Man

235

wearing caftans and bells that that made everything all right. That was the
terrible lesson of Apple, because it was supposed to be for a utopian kind
of youth. But the youth kept on being what they have always beena younger version of older people who have the same mixture of good and bad
qualities.75
After Apple, the last battle that would do them in would be the ght over
their publishing rights. For now, Lennon was seeking solace in his relationship with Yoko, creating controversy with the nude cover of their solo work,
Two Virgins. Harrison took refuge in Eastern philosophy and visited Bob
Dylan in Woodstock where he was recording with the Band in another great
stab at utopianism. Ringo was considering an acting career after having a
small role in the Peter Sellers picture The Magic Christian. But McCartney
began to consider that the isolationism enforced on the band had done them
great damage. He knew that they had to get back to what they once were
before. Once again, as he did with Magical Mystery Tour, he thought of a
lm. Only this time, it would capture the group rehearsing songs for a
possible tour, or maybe a television special. Whatever form it took, he
wanted the Beatles to once again attain the level of desire and commitment
they showed back in 1963 when they rst recorded Theres a Place. But
what McCartney failed to see, as he started to plan what would become
the Let It Be asco, was that where once there was a place, now it was gone.

CHAPTER 8

Come Together
To deal with history means to abandon oneself to chaos and yet
to retain a belief in the ordination and the meaning. It is a very
serious task. . .and perhaps also a tragic one.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi
The reality of the Beatles world by 1969 was pretty far removed from the
aspirations they had years earlier to seek the articial paradise of Nowhere
Land. Just before the release of The Beatles in late November 1968, Harrison had put out Wonderwall Music, the rst solo Beatle album, and it had
little relationship to anything Beatle sounding. Made up of instrumental
musical vignettes of Hindustani compositions (Microbes, Tabla and
Pakava), abstract rock (Party Seacombe), and genre parody (Cowboy
Music), Wonderwall Music is a fascinating collage of genre experimentation. While the lm was pretty opaque as a narrative, Harrisons music
was thrillingly diverse. Harrison wasnt able to sight-read, so he hummed
his ideas to transcriber John Barnham. Since Barnham had a classical background in London, even assisting Ravi Shankar with his score for a TV
production of Alice in Wonderland, he could take Harrisons musical fragments and shape them into passages to t the scenes in the movie.
On November 11, the day before the Yellow Submarine lm opened in the
United States, Lennon and Ono released Unnished Music No. 1Two
Virgins, their rst solo work, which caused a huge row because they were
both stark naked on the front and back cover. As for the music, well, for
two sides you get ambient electronic music, giggling, whispering, and whistling. Two Virgins was also far removed from anything heard by the Beatles,
but unlike Harrisons Wonderwall, it was more of an event than an artistic

Come Together

237

statement. In fact, in the States, Capitol wouldnt release the record due to
the cover. So, wrapped in a brown paper bag, Two Virgins was issued by
Tetragrammaton Records, a company funded by comedian Bill Cosby that
released albums as radically diverse as Deep Purple and Pat Boone. Before
Christmas, Lennon and Ono went off to take part in the Rolling Stones
TV special, The Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus, a musical jamboree
featuring Jethro Tull, the Who, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, and, of
course, the Stones. Setting up a circus atmosphere with Big Tent performers,
the Rolling Stones provided an opportunity for a number of musical
possibilities. John and Yoko played with the Dirty Mac, a one-off group
put together especially for the show. The band featured Keith Richards and
Eric Clapton on guitars, Mitch Mitchell (from the Jimi Hendrix Experience)
on drums, Lennon on rhythm, and Yoko using her voice to shriek and moan.
By Christmas, while Harrison was happily relaxing with Dylan and the
Band, he got the call that something was up in England with the Beatles.
McCartney had been very aware that the band was growing apart.
He sensed that all wounds could be healed if he could come up with an idea
to reconnect them with their fans. McCartney knew that when they faced a
live audience, they were united as a common front. The tangible contact
with their fans, despite the drawback of the screaming crowds, provided a
chance for them to create their best music. Earlier in the year, McCartney
was already considering the possibility of the Beatles performing in public
again. In fact, there were tentative plans to play two shows at the Roundhouse in North London in December 1968 that never panned out. The
Beatles needed that contact to exist again as a group, otherwise their individual differences emerged more strongly. Most importantly, McCartney saw
that the bands isolation had heightened the growing tension between
himself and Lennon. John couldnt stand Pauls crowd-pleasing attitude,
nor his insistence on doing things a certain wayhis way, wrote biographer Bob Spitz in The Beatles. And Paul, of course, was tired of dealing
with a drug addict who was more interested in staring blankly at the television set than in making records.1 Partly in reaction to the huge gulf growing between them, McCartney put out the call that the Beatles were about
to embark on a whole new concept. In short, he was going to save the band.
The project, originally titled Get Back, was to highlight the Beatles getting
back to the roots of their art and remaking their career by producing a TV
special. Even the concept of the future album cover, where they would
recreate the portrait from their debut album Please Please Me, was to
suggest that the group had come full circle. In the plan, the Beatles would
meet at Twickenham Film Studios to rehearse the songs for the TV special
with an ultimate live concert album as the nal outcome. But what McCartney hadnt realized is that the group he assembled was not the same band
that rst eagerly strolled into Abbey Road in 1962. The Beatles had become
so divided and disenchanted that the strain was obvious even in the music

238

Artificial Paradise

they created. But if McCartney wanted to get back, Lennon and Harrison
wanted to get away. George wanted them to be more like The Band; Paul
wanted them to go out gigging; John wanted to be with Yoko; Ringo wanted
to go home, wrote Patrick Humphries in his Mojo magazine review of
Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardts 1999 book Get Back: The Beatles
Let it Be Disaster.2 George Martin wasnt directly involved in the rehearsals,
so engineer Glyn Johns took charge of the recordings. The sessions themselves began in the cold connes of Twickenham on January 2, 1969. Since
they were doing new songs for this proposed TV special, they didnt do
any multitrack recording. Everything was live from the oorincluding
the bickering. By the time it was over, Get Back had evolved into Let It
Be, a documentary lm directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
Rather than presenting the youthful, brash arrogance of their Hamburg
years, Let It Be revealed the Beatles warts. The tensions brought on by mass
success, their drug use, and their growing differences were no longer
disguised. They werent projecting an image of the carefree rebels they
played in A Hard Days Night. The group instead seemed worn down by
fame and barely tolerant of each other. With the Beatles it got less grouplike, Lennon explained. We stopped touring and wed only get together
for recordings, so therefore the recording session was the thing we almost
rehearsed in as well. So all the playing was in the recording session.3 Out
of this haphazard procedure, power struggles emerged. In the lm, the more
McCartney took charge, the more Harrison grew impatient of being told
what and when he should play. During the early portion of the sessions at
Twickenham, he briey quit the group after a row with McCartney during
a rehearsal of Two of Us. Its clear from the Let It Be lm that with Brian
Epstein dead, the group was essentially rudderless. For McCartney, this
was to be a vehicle for reconnecting with his fans, wrote musicologist
Walter Everett. For Lennon, it was a decision supporting an aesthetic statement that all of his art need not be complex, that most of the profound ideas
and feelings could be best expressed directly, without a lot of bullshit. For
McCartney, psychedelia had been a Day-Glo breeze; for his partner, it was
another perspective on the puzzle of himself. But both yearned for the simple
innocence of youth.4
In order to nd that simple innocence of youth, they rehearsed new and
old songs, including chestnuts like Save the Last Dance For Me and Blue
Suede Shoes. They revisited You Really Got a Hold on Me, Rock and
Roll Music, and Kansas City. Where in the beginning, these songs
provided a road map to their future, they were now simply tunes that echoed
the Beatles past. They were performed too without a whisper of surprise, or
even the desire and hunger they once exhibited. By the time McCartney
would record his own The Long and Winding Road, a wistful summation
of the Beatles career, the yeah, yeah, yeah that ended the song wasnt the
exuberant cry of exhilaration heard at the end of She Loves You. It was

Come Together

239

now an exhausted gasp, more a sign of resignation in which the singer is


forced to nally admit that the Beatles dream was passing. In theory,
McCartneys plan to bring the group closer to their fans made sense, but
he lacked the ability to be direct with them. Pauls tactic was to be more
evasive (hence the Sgt. Pepper disguise) than straight. He tried to keep the
artice of the Beatles alive, just when John Lennon was growing more interested in dismantling it. So when Lennon offered up more personal harrowing
songs like Cold Turkey, about the agony of his heroin addiction, McCartney refused to consider it. Besides, Cold Turkey only served to remind
Paul that Johns songs were now drawn from a new well: the one he and
Yoko were tending. But even before Yoko came into the picture, Lennon
and McCartney werent channeling their differences into the music, as they
once had in songs like We Can Work It Out. Their compositions were
now strong polar opposites. Lennon had privately suffered over Hello
Goodbye supplanting I Am the Walrus as an A-side, and in late 1969 he
must have been seeing the Beatles as the vehicle for the uffy and meaningless Maxwells Silver Hammer, not the politically and socially important
Give Peace a Chance or such verismo confessions as Cold Turkey, wrote
Walter Everett. So John asked for a divorce from Paul, just like from
Cynthia, and McCartney waited until the moment was right to make peace
with himself.5
While Yoko had worked her way into the group dynamic, ultimately escalating the tensions between the songwriting partners, she played off the
eroding relationship between Lennon and McCartney in order to win over
John. But McCartney, not wanting to enrage Lennon, decided to walk delicately around his partnerand took out his frustrations on everybody else.
He began to dominate the sessions as if he alone were the sum total of the
bands parts. But Harrison, in particular, balked at McCartneys bossiness,
especially on that day when he quit. When the TV special was canned in
order to get George back, he returned with a young black keyboard artist
named Billy Preston, who had played with Little Richard. Preston seemed
to provide the salve to ease the friction and bring some civility to the recording atmosphere. But once they moved the sessions from the cold sterile environment of Twickenham to the EMI studio, the Beatles concentrated only
on the album and the documentary lm. To make things more manageable,
Lennon suggested that McCartney take control of the lm and he would
supervise the recording. His idea was to present the Beatles without George
Martins studio wizardry. But where McCartney saw that approach as a
method for the band to get back to their early roots, Lennon perceived it as
a way to reveal that the Beatles were a sham all alonghiding behind
Martins mixing board. So the group recorded endless takes of songs until
they got them right (which they seldom did).
But the sessions did end triumphantly with the Beatles once again mounting a stage on the rooftop of Saville Row on January 30, 1969 to play their

240

Artificial Paradise

rst concert since Candlestick Park in August 1966. The idea to perform on
the roof had come from engineer/producer Glyn Johns. While the band,
Johns, and Lindsay-Hogg were having lunch, Ringo told everyone that there
was a great roof on the building. Johns suggested that they might reach the
whole of the West End of London from that rooftop and hence was born
the rooftop concert. The Beatles had gone from the dark clubs of Hamburg,
to the dank basement of the Cavern, ultimately to go to, what John Lennon
once called, the toppermost of the poppermost. Having arrived there, they
were splintered and broken. But here on the Saville Row roof, they literally
reached the top again. In the studio things had been tense, technical engineer Dave Harries recalled. But they liked the idea of performing to a
public, and the tensions melted away.6
Their music lled the air around London as the bustling crowd below
looked to the sky wondering where this magical sound was coming from.
Having once again found, even at a slight distance, their adversary and
musethe audiencethe Beatles had once again found themselves. John
[hurled] himself into the performance like a rock Paganini, described
Albert Goldman, his long hair blowing back in the breeze, his noodly
body, hugged by a brown fur jacket, bending at knees, waist and neck like
a serpent, as he wrestled with his guitar and shouted the words of the songs
into the mike. 7 The bitter feelings between them had momentarily
subsided as the group discovered each other again through the passionate
sounds they created together. The jabbing notes from their instruments
reached out into the air, to each other, but also to the gathering crowd in
the streets. Steve Devine was a 16-year-old schoolboy who was playing
hooky that day, just as Lennon and McCartney often did in their adolescence to write songs. As Devine and his friend came by off Oxford Street,
he recognized these familiar sounds. Devine couldnt see the group but he
knew that the music was inescapably the Beatles. We were dead excited,
so [we] just stood in the road and watched chaos happen! Devine remembered. It was only the old city gents who were annoyed these hooligans
were disrupting London.8
Once again, the band was reminded of how far they and their audience
had come together. And for the rst time, there were no screams to drown
out their musicnow it was they who were drowning out the everyday bustle in the street. The Beatles were basking in their nal triumph until the
police arrived, not to protect them (as in the past), but to shut them down.
Seizing on the irony, Lennon had recognized that history had folded in on
the band that he once started over a decade earlier. The rooftop concert had
succeeded, at least in spirit to bringing the group back to their beginnings.
As they nished the last notes of Get Back, Lennon gave the crowd gathered in front of him one last, wistful glance. And with his wry humor intact,
he added, Id like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves
and I hope we passed the audition. Then they walked off the stage forever.

Come Together

241

The songs that would make up the Let It Be album were a motley collection. Unadorned by the production standards the group had achieved in
the past, Let It Be was sloppy rather than polished, erratic rather than
passionate. The album went through many permutations before it nally
became Let It Be. The rst version Glyn Johns prepared in March 1969
was a rough mix that included many of the songs that would ultimately
end up on the nal release. By 1969 the Beatles felt a need to move on, so
they showed little interest in the project. But Johns was still asked to prepare
a nal remixed version of what was then still titled Get Back. He rst went
into the Olympic Sound Studios in April and May to prepare the nal master
tape. That album, which contained covers like Save the Last Dance For
Me and an instrumental called Rocker, was set for release on July
1969. The lms distributors though wanted the record pushed back to
September to coincide with the planned TV special and the Let It Be documentary. But since the Beatles were now working on their new record,
Abbey Road, and hardly paying attention to the trials of Get Back, they
wanted their new record out in the fall instead. So the project was further
moved back to December. That month, Johns put together another version
of the album excluding McCartneys quaint Teddy Boy, which McCartney was rerecording to include on his solo record, McCartney. He added
Harrisons I Me Mine and Lennons Across the Universe from his original 1968 recording. But the Beatles still werent happy with a record that
revealed them (stripped of production artice) as a profoundly disconsolate
group. In March 1970, Phil Spector would eventually be hired (without
McCartneys permission) to produce the dormant tapes. The album would
nally be released, along with the lm, on May 8, 1970, after the Beatles
had nally broken up. Ironi