Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Beatles' Story - The Beatles
The Beatles' Story
Capitol STBO 2222
I sometimes wonder how I became such a big Beatles fan and why I continue to love them. My father told me that my family watched them on "The Ed Sullivan Show" but I have no memory of it since I was just a toddler at the time. I was barely aware of them during the 1960s and mostly because of the Saturday morning cartoon show about them. When I became a real fan, the group had been defunct for several years. I didn't know anyone among my peers who liked them. I wasn't particularly interested in music, my cultural heroes were professional athletes and astronauts. Then when I was 12 I saw "Help!" on television and I was mesmerized. After that I would never be the same, I was a Beatlemaniac. I grew my hair and combed it over my forehead trying to achieve a moptop. That was when I started collecting records and spending my time at home around a turntable rather than a television set. If I had had any money and if Beatles fan paraphernalia were still easily available, I would have filled my room with it. Instead I had to settle for records and I bought this one quite early much to my subsequent embarrassment - well before I bought "Revolver," "Abbey Road" or the "White Album," yikes. Once I saw it advertised on the back of "Beatles '65", I was obsessed with having it. Finally it turned up in the bin at my local record store and I pounced on it. I loved it and played it until I had memorized it. Given the paucity of books in print about the Beatles at the time, I learned a lot about the early Beatles from this record. As I got older, my adolescent fandom changed and became more music-based than personality oriented and I lost interest in this record. I don't think I've played it at all in the last 15 years. The album is a bit of a rip-off. It is a double album but the sides are extremely short, all under 15 minutes long and side three is less than 10 minutes long. The Beatles are hardly on the album at all, mostly heard in brief snippets taken from press conferences. There are also some excerpts from their songs. Most of the album's content is provided by three narrators, Roger Christian, John Babcock and Al Wiman, who take turns telling the Beatles' story and reciting various quotes from the Fabs. Christian will be familiar to Jan and Dean and Beach Boys fans as the lyricist for many of their early hits and he was also a well-known Top-40 DJ in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Christian also co-produced this album along with Gary Usher who will be familiar to 1960s rock fans from his work with the Byrds and Sagittarius. The rock backgrounds of the producers insure sympathetic treatment of the group and their fans although it is still condescending in spots and the narrators sound more like they are selling soap than describing one of the most exciting events in the history of rock and roll. For all its faults, the album is informative and comprehensive. Side one opens with a recording of the screams at a Beatles concert (although no music is heard) which is followed by a discussion of Beatlemania and its origins with some amusing recordings of hysterical girls gushing about the boys. The narrators then pay tribute to Brian Epstein and discuss his background. John Lennon gets profiled next. Much to my amusement there is a lengthy bit about Lennon's refusal to discuss politics or make public expressions about his beliefs. We all know that didn't last long. The side ends with the Beatles' early history prior to stardom and then a discussion of their finances which is a subject that crops up quite a bit on the record. I think the narrators were more interested in the band's money than their music. Side two returns to the early history of the Beatles with a discussion of the Quarrymen and the origin of the Beatles' name. One of the more glaring mistakes on the record comes when the narrator notes that Ringo came from a group called Rory Storm and The Texans whereas all Beatlemaniacs know that Storm's group was called the Hurricanes when Ringo was in the band. The narration next praises George Martin and Capitol Records for their role in the Beatles' success while somehow neglecting to mention Capitol's rejection of the Beatles' debut album. This is followed by a profile of George Harrison, "blasé with a beat" is their description of him. They falsely give him credit for inventing the Beatle haircut which the group actually learned about in Hamburg from Astrid Kirchherr and her friends and it is well-known that Stu Sutcliffe was the first Beatle to adopt it. The narration notes how much Harrison enjoys the attention of screaming fans which is pretty funny considering how vocal he was later about his hatred of touring and the trappings of fame. Side three discusses their movie, "A Hard Day's Night" and then profiles Paul McCartney. Side four opens with a live excerpt of a performance of "Twist and Shout" which was the earliest legitimate release of a Beatles live track although unfortunately it is only a few bars long. There is further discussion of Beatlemania with some more soundbites from fans and detractors including some idiot who calls them a bunch of "monkeys." Up next is a medley of Beatles songs segueing together in 30 second segments. Finally it is Ringo's turn to be profiled where he is described as the "quiet Beatle" a sobriquet normally given to Harrison. The album ends with a brief discussion of Liverpool. Much of this album is devoted to the narrators explaining the mysteries of Beatlemania, but their answers are simplistic and unconvincing to me. I'm not sure there is a satisfying answer as to why so many people love them. Anyway there is nothing on this album that Beatlemaniacs don't already know and there isn't enough actual Beatle talk to make the album worthwhile. I'm not sorry I have it though, it is an interesting artifact. Recommended for casual Beatles fans who hate to read.