the beatles -- 2/11/22
Today's selection -- from The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson. George Harrison visits Illinois in 1963 and discovers that the Beatles, though already number one in England, are unknown in America:
"'The thing I like about the Beatles is their great sense of humor--and their talent, naturally,' George Martin tells journalist Alan Smith. 'It's a real pleasure to work with them because they don't take themselves too seriously. They've got ability, but if they make mistakes they can joke about it. I think they'll go a long way in show business.'
"The Beatles record both singles in the allotted three-hour time frame, and the producer watches from the control room. As they wrap up, he presses the Talkback key, and his posh voice comes into the studio: 'Gentlemen, you've just made your first number one record.' ...
"But there's one fact the boys can't escape: nearly every band from England has failed to make it there. The Beatles won't tour America until they've achieved a number-one hit, John vows, later saying of the American audience, 'We knew we would wipe you out if we could just get a grip on you. We were new.'
"George, though, brings back some daunting intelligence after a September 1963 visit to Benton, Illinois, where his sister, Louise, lives. 'They don’t know us,' he reports. 'It’s going to be hard.'
“But in England, it seems everyone knows them. When they return to Heathrow the following month after a tour of Sweden, the size of the crowds gathered to welcome them home astonishes even Ed Sullivan, whose eponymous variety show is among the most popular in America. Sullivan wagers that the excitement is translatable to the American market and invites the Beatles to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
“In November, they'll play for royalty. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother asks the band to perform as part of a celebrity musical lineup that includes Marlene Dietrich and Burt Bacharach at her annual charity event. Her younger daughter, Princess Margaret, and Margaret's husband, Lord Snowdon, also attend (Queen Elizabeth, pregnant with Prince Edward, does not). John makes sure the glittering show at Prince of Wales Theatre, in London’s West End, is unforgettable.
"'’For our last number,’ he announces from the stage with a mischievous grin, ‘I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.’
“It is a cheeky thing to say (John originally told Brian he was going to ask the audience ‘to rattle their fucking jewelry’), but the audience is charmed."