Nothing could be further from the truth. I actually love the Beatles, especially their early songs, but when they first burst on the U.S. music scene, there was at least one boy who felt otherwise. I was in elementary school at the time, and I remember silently standing in line while one boy solemnly held up a sign with both hands. The sign read, “I hate the Beatles.” My guess is he hoped the sign would get attention or goad the girls, whom he suspected of being guilty of Beatles worship, since all the band’s televised performances featured scenes of young girls screaming, crying, and wildly clapping during the songs. Examples are easy to find on YouTube. A boy that age can be excused for using a provocative statement to gain attention, of course.
The city of Cleveland, where I grew up, had a vibrant local rock music scene. I saw many great local bands at school dances, other venues that didn’t serve alcohol, and then in bars (when I was old enough to patronize them). The best of these bands was the Raspberries. They had a few hits before they broke up and one of their members, Eric Carmen, went on to have a successful solo career that included the songs “All By Myself,” “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again,” and “Hungry Eyes,” the latter from the soundtrack of the film Dirty Dancing. When I was in high school the Raspberries were a cover band and did a lot of early songs recorded by the Beatles. The Raspberries were fabulous. Like the early Beatles, they wore matching suits and presented a clean-cut look; unlike the Beatles, they played in small venues, the audience wasn’t screaming, and I could stand or sit pretty much right in front of them. I will never forget their dazzling performances of songs including “Mr. Postman” (my favorite cover performed by the Beatles), “Get Back,” and “Twist and Shout.”
I was reminded of the excitement I felt when the Beatles came on the scene and the wonderful performances by the Raspberries when I listened to a recent interview with Mark Lewisohn, author of The Beatles: All These Years – Volume 1 – Tune In. The author talked about what John was like as a very young boy, including his natural leadership qualities. He also pointed out that playing rock and roll was frowned upon in those days, and that this climate resulted in winnowing out aspiring rock and rollers who weren’t dedicated to their craft. The program also features audio clips of very early performances, showing a lack of polish but abundant raw talent. Mr. Lewisohn was interviewed by Andrew Ford, host of the program “The Music Show,” on 4/19/20, in an episode on Radio National from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, entitled “The Beatles – the early years.”
Click on the title below to listen to this program, or download a podcast to listen to at your convenience:
The Beatles – the early years