August 30, 2009

One-Hit Wonders: The Beatles.

    The Beatles were an English “rock” group, part of a genre that faded into oblivion soon after the release of their chart-topping album, Meet the Beatles!*  The group consisted of four Liverpool-ians: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. In their first and only US radio single, I Want to Hold Your Hand, shaggy-haired singers Lennon and McCartney beg their audience to “let [them] be [their] man” and eventually “hold [their] hand.” As it turns out, this form of skin contact was to be short-lived.

    Two days after arriving in the United States, “Beatle-mania” reached its peak with the band’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This broadcast was viewed by nearly half of the American population. In the following weeks, American teenagers went into "Beatle-monium" with the majority of youth donning skinny black suits and perfectly-shaped bowl haircuts. But a mere two months later, with the release of aptly-named The Beatles’ Second Album, it seems the Brit band was placed on the back-burner of American culture. The album stirred up more "ap-Beatle-thy" than "Beatle-bedlam." Ed Sullivan refused to have the group on his show a second time for fear that his ratings would plummet along with the band’s record sales. "Beatle-mania" ended just as abruptly as it began.

    Still, what some may consider to be simply a mix of timing and sheer luck is actually a significant moment in the history of music. When the group dropped off the face of the Earth in 1964 they took with them the idea that sex appeal could sell records. Following the lackluster support of their second album, the youth audience seemed to have had enough of the "Beatle-bauchery." This particular sales tactic has yet to be used again in a mainstream sort of way by record companies, as evidenced by the strict dress codes still enforced on today’s rock acts. Their demise also helped bring the end of rhyming in popular music.

So where are they now?
  • Paul McCartney began a solo project in the 70's called Soar, which primarily revamped classic gospel songs. Soar permanently disbanded in 1981, leaving Paul to his secret passion for penning romance novels. 
  • George Harrison is VP of marketing for an off-brand soda company. According to a recent “flashback” article with Eternity Magazine, he hopes to one day “step out of [company President Peter] Lennox’s shadow” and start his own business.
  • On December 8th, 1980, at the age of 40, Ringo Starr was shot and killed outside of the hotel he was staying at. Starr was accidentally caught in the crossfire of a gang-related riot.
  • Most notably, John Lennon has since gone on to pursue a career as a talk show host. His show, Early Chats with Jonathan Lennon, features some of today’s most prominent musical acts including hard-edged Swing favorites Bleak Notes and Rock-Bop darlings With Your Permission. However, when referencing his previous work with The Beatles to his guests, he is generally met with groans of indifference from both the guests and the audience.

(*Exclamation theirs.)