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Главная / Книги / Периодика / Статьи / The Beatles (Part II) (Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock - 1 января 1969 года)

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The Beatles (Part II)

Издание: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock
Дата: 01.01.1969
Автор: Nic Cohn
Разместил: Elicaster
Тема: Битлз - разное
Просмотры: 1473

Soon after he'd owned up to using acid, early summer 1967, I did an interview with Paul McCartney and he was into a whole different level from anything I'd ever read by him before. No put-downs, no jokes, no frivolity whatever - he was most solemn and his eyes focused somewhere far beyond the back of my head. 'God is in everything,' he said. 'People who are hungry, who are sick and dying, should try to show love.'
Having gone through acid, the next inevitable step was that the Beatles went into meditation: George Harrison climbed his mountain with the Maharishi and soon the others had swung behind him, they'd renounced acid and devoted themselves to lives of total spirituality.
Undoubtedly, all of this was a major triumph for Harrison. it must have been sweet indeed to have Lennon and McCartney follow his lead, and he made the most of it, he came out on TV and looked beatific and scattered dicta like chaff. 'This is going to last all our lives,' he said, and he sat crosslegged on the floor.
Meanwhile, during the first weekend that the Beatles spent with the Maharishi, September 1967, Brian Epstein had died, aged thirty-two.
Inevitably, being so successful, he'd been the butt of much schnidery within the industry, and, generally, he'd been rated pretty low. Paraphrased, the party line was that he was really a less-than-averagely shrewd businessman but he'd gotten lucky one time, very lucky, and he'd happened to be hanging round as the Beatles came by.
Also, beyond incompetence, he was meant to be weak, vain and maudlin. Most of this was true. Just the same, I liked him.
The main thing about him was that he wasn't moronic, he wasn't even entirely fascist. He wasn't much criminal and he didn't have people beaten up and he didn't automatically scrabble on his knees each time someone dropped sixpence in a darkened discotheque. More, he read books and went to theatres and understood long words. No use denying it: he was intelligent.
By the conventions of British management, this was all eccentric to the edge of insanity and it changed things, it set new standards. After Epstein, managers became greatly humanized: they weren't necessarily any more honest but they were less thuggish, altogether less primitive and, sometimes, they even liked pop itself.
Beyond the Beatles, of course, Epstein had handled whole Liverpudlian armies - Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Cilia Black, the Fourmost, Tommy Quickly. In the beginning, around 1963-4, these were all hugely successful but, mostly, they were light on talent and, Cilia excepted, they didn't sustain. Still, Epstein always stayed remarkably loyal to them, never kicked them out. Partly this was due to injured pride, but partly it was conscience, principle, integrity - the whole bit.
Just how much did the Beatles really owe him? Well, he was no Svengali, no alchemist and, obviously, they would have happened without him. He wasn't greatly imaginative, he pulled no outrageous strokes for them but he was steady, painstaking, and he didn't flag. Occasionally, his inexperience betrayed him into raw deals but, taken overall, he worked well for them.
Most important, he was a mother figure - he cared for them, reassured them, agonized on them, nagged them, even wept for them. He needed them. Even towards the end, when they'd outgrown management and would no longer take orders from anyone, he was always there, always available, devoted and doggy as ever. He could always be fallen back upon. And, most of the time, his advice was good and they took it rightly. After all, in all the time he managed them, they never once made fools of themselves.
His major problem was anti-climax.
Having managed the Beatles, having helped make maybe the biggest entertainment phenomena of this century, he still had to manage the rest of his stable and he'd been a lonely, neurotic man at the best of times but, in his last two years, he got quite frantic - he financed bad plays that flopped and promoted tours, sponsored a bullfighter called Henry Higgins, turned the Saville Theatre into a would-be pop shrine, and he kept thrashing about for new diversions to keep himself amused. Nothing worked. Everything bored him.
Already, in the last days of Epstein's life, the Maharishi had been taking his place as resident mother, as adviser and comforter in chief (a development that must have struck him as a betrayal), and now, with Epstein dead, the guru had the field all to himself. Like I said earlier on, meditation was a logical progression from acid, just because it did the exact same things for you as acid did, except that acid-love was artificially-induced and nirvana was natural. And so, when the Beatles jumped, half the hip end of pop followed dutifully behind them, Donovan and the Beach Boys and Mick Jagger, Eric Burdon and the Doors, and the Maharishi's Indian headquarters got all clogged up with hair and hippie beads.
As for the guru himself, he was less than impressive and, by spring 1968, the Beatles had left him.
Meanwhile, Christmas 1967, they'd showed Magical Mystery Tour, their first self-produced film, and it was bad; it was a total artistic disaster. It was the first real failure they'd ever had but still it made profits and hardly weakened them at all. That's just how secure they'd become - they were establishment, institutionalized, and nothing could touch them.
More important, they launched Apple. In the beginning, this was conceived as a huge artistic and business complex, covering records and films, merchandising and electronics and music publishing, TV and literature, plus any other assorted media that might arise, and it was going to straddle the world in one vast benevolent network, handing out alms to anyone and everyone that deserved them. Young poets that couldn't get published, musicians and designers and inventors, unrecognized talents, everyone, they were to come straight to Apple and the Beatles would review their case in person, the Beatles would help.
Inevitably, such saintliness was short-lived: the Beatles promptly found themselves besieged by massed no-talents and maniacs and charlatans, bummers of all descriptions, and they began to cut back fast. Within a year, the whole Utopian structure had boiled down to not much more than one indie record label, no better and no worse than any other.
Undeterred, the Beatles plunged on headlong into project after abortive project - there was a full-length cartoon film, Yellow Submarine, which did nothing much in England and cleaned up in the States, and there was a stage adaptation of John Lennon's In His Own Write, which was successful, and there was also a John Lennon art exhibition, which wasn't, and there was an excursion into boutique-management, which was a mistake, and, finally, there was a mammoth double-album, ninety minutes and thirty tracks long, which was mostly just boring. And John Lennon got divorced from his wife and took up with Yoko Ono, a Japanese lady, and, between them, they came up with an album full of squeaks and squawks, Two Virgins, with nude pictures of themselves all over its cover. And Paul McCartney called Lennon a saint. And George Harrison wrote further mock-Orientalisms on the soundtrack of a film called Wonderwall. And Ringo Starr, of course, went right on shooting snooker.
In America and in England, they had become two separate things. In the States, where pop was followed with great solemnity by a majority of under-thirty intellectuals, they were still taken with extreme seriousness, seen almost as divinities, and their every word was debated and analysed as though it was oracular; but, in England, pop still remained essentially an entertainment and only a small Hip cabal viewed them with reverence. Elsewhere, they had come to be regarded as cranks, millionaire eccentrics in the grand manner, vaguely regrettable, perhaps, but harmless.
Despite this, they continued to sell records by the million. Flying, they were up so high by now that no folly and no pomposity could bring them down again. They had gone beyond.
At this stage, when no outside influence could destroy them, they chose to commit hara-kiri. Ever since they had stopped touring and Brian Epstein had died, they had begun to drift apart. Where once they had been inseparable, a four-man sect as secret and exclusive as the freemasons, they now divided. Lennon and McCartney no longer wrote together. Harrison refused absolutely to remain subservient. McCartney was furiously jealous of Yoko Ono, who had replaced him as Lennon's first lieutenant. There were quarrels, shifting alliances, tacit conspiracies.
Apple brought the breach out into the open. Having been created in a spirit of near-evangelism, it degenerated into the most squalid haggling. When it foundered, everyone came forward with opposing solutions for its rescue. McCartney wanted it made more businesslike, Lennon even more experimental. Some of its employees made off with the petty cash or planned palace revolutions. Ringo Starr grew sick of the whole conception. Disillusioned aides published sordid disclosures. Everyone blamed everyone else.
Finally, it became obvious that something concrete must be done to put Apple straight and Lennon, Harrison and Starr combined to bring in Allen Klein as their new manager. Klein was a notable (some would say notorious) American manipulator from the Philadelphia era and Andrew Oldham had brought him in to co-manage the Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards, Oldham found himself outmanoeuvred and Klein emerged as sole overseer. Partly because of this and partly because of earlier games in America, he'd established an unequalled reputation in pop for shrewdness, toughness, and stamina; in other words, for winning.
At that level, he was obviously what the Beatles needed. But McCartney opposed him, called him untrustworthy, and suggested that Apple's affairs be entrusted to his father-in-law, the New York lawyer Lee Eastman. He was over-ruled in this and sulked. By now, he and Lennon were hardly on speaking terms and. in any case, Lennon was so wrapped up in Yoko that he became bored with the Beatles, started thinking of them as some adolescent game that he'd now outgrown. By the end of 1969, for all practical purposes, he'd left the group.
The break-up of the Beatles, however, was not made official for almost another year and, when the news was leaked, it came from McCartney. Increasingly ostracised by the other Beatles, he'd finally resigned all hopes of a reconciliation and pinned his trust on a dramatic splash, hoping to bring himself both sympathy and renewed image.
It didn't work. As with everything else in their last years, the Beatles' end was a mess, involving law suits, accusations and counter-accusations, inexhaustible bitchery.
Separately, the four Beatles then began to churn out solo albums, each hoping to outdo the rest in sales and critical acclaim. George Harrison won.
Somewhere in all the confusion, he'd outstripped his masters. He had acquired the knack of easy tunefulness that they themselves had lost and his capacity for making banalities sound like revelations grew greater all the time. He won Phil Spector as his producer and, together, they achieved the major hit of 1970, a song called My Sweet Lord. Whining, Harrison kept repeating that he wished to see his Lord but it took so long, while a girlie chorus chanted Hare Krishna in the background, as though they were advertising washing powder. 'Civilization has reached rock-bottom,' pronounced P. J. Proby. But there were many who hailed it as a work of genius.
Both Lennon and McCartney were less highly praised. Without McCartney, Lennon sounded tuneless and charmless, schlurping neck-deep in gesture and self-pity; without Lennon, McCartney sounded raucous - his essential lightweightedness was exposed brutally and all that survived was coyness, feyness, a certain melancholic facility. In both cases, their lyrics were remorseless in banality.
Meanwhile, Ringo Starr was also active, producing a stream of albums, some made up of standards, other of Country 'n Western. They were nothing musically but likeable enough and Ringo seemed to have fun on them. For myself, I found them overwhelmingly less objectionable than anything his ex-colleagues were creating.
However, it wouldn't be fair to judge the Beatles' whole output by their solo aberrations. Obviously, one has to go back to their collective efforts and, above all, to Sgt. Pepper. Then one can start to generalize.
What does one say? That they were good? That they had talent and that Lennon/McCartney were the most inventive, wide-ranging and melodically ingenious writers that pop has produced? That they added whole new dimensions to rock 'n roll, that they introduced unthought-of sophistications, complexities and subtleties? Finally, that they marked a major turning-point in Western culture, the first moment at which popular art became truly respectable in the highest intellectual circles, not just as something to be patronized or camped but to be aped, revered?
Clearly, all these things are true; and yet I have never liked the Beatles much, nor been impressed by them. At a lesser level, I have also thought them bad for pop.
The crux of any argument about them must be Sgt. Pepper, which was a breakthrough in various ways. It was the first ever try at making a pop album into something more than just twelve songs bundled together at random. It was an overall concept, an attitude: we are the Lonely Hearts Club Band, everyone is, and these are our songs. It was ideas, allusions, pastiches, ironies. In other words, it was more than noise. Some of the songs were dire (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, She's Leaving Home, Within You Without You) and others were pretty but nothing (When I'm 64, With A Little Help From My Friends) and a few really worked out (Lovely Rita, A Day In the Life, I'm Fixing A Hole and Sergeant Pepper itself). In any case, the individual tracks didn't matter much - what counted was that it all hung together, that it made sense as a whole. Added up, it came to something quite ambitious, it made strange images of isolation, and it sustained. It was flawed but, finally, it worked.
So, if Sergeant Pepper passes, what am I grousing for? Well, it did work in itself, it was cool and clever and controlled. Only, it wasn't much like pop. It wasn't fast, flash, sexual, loud, vulgar, monstrous or violent. It made no myths.
But, after all, why should it? Why should the Beatles be forever limited, in bondage to pop? Why shouldn't they just expand and progress as they wished, regardless of categories? No reason - they were responsible only to themselves.
The only thing was that, without pop, without its image and its flash and its myths, they didn't add up to much. They lost their magic boots and then they were human like anyone else, they became updated George Gershwins. Admitted, the posh Sundays called them Art, as Gershwin was once called Art for Rhapsody In Blue; and it was true in a sense but what, by definition, is so great about Art? The standards and disciplines involved are harsh, after all, and the Beatles hardly measured up. By pop standards, Eleanor Rigby or A Day In The Life might be complicated, path-finding; viewed as Art, they were desperately shorn - glib, simplistic, complacent.
The comparison with Gershwin, in fact, is not unjustified. Just as Embraceable You and / Can't Get Started were flawless popular songs but Rhapsody In Blue was disastrous pretension, so with the Beatles. At the level of Baby Let Me Drive Your Car or Hard Day's Night, they'd been inventive, funny, acute and that'd been enough; in Sgt. Pepper, they retained the same qualities but their new ambitions demanded something more. Ingenuity and quickness weren't remotely enough, and the loss in power proved fatal. They went flat: after all, what does third-rate Art have on Superpop?
In the end, the way I like it best, pop is teenage property and it mirrors everything that happens to teenagers in this time, in this American twentieth century. It is about clothes and cars and dancing, it's about parents and highschool and being tied and breaking loose, it is about getting sex and getting rich and getting old, it's about America, it's about cities and noise. Get right down to it, it's all about Coca Cola.
And, in the beginning, that's what the Beatles were about, too, and they had gimmick haircuts, gimmick uniforms, gimmick accents to prove it. They were, at last, the great British pop explosion and, even when their songs were trash, you could hear them and know it was mid-twentieth century, Liverpool U.S.A., and these boys were coke drinkers from way back.
Anyhow, they changed and, because they were so greatly worshipped by the rest of pop, almost every group in the world changed with them. Thereafter, there was no more good fierce and straight-ahead rock 'n roll, no more honest trash.
At least, with the Beatles, there remained a certain wit and talent at work but, with their followers, there was nothing beyond pretension. Groups like Family and the Nice in England, or Iron Butterfly or the Doors in America, were crambos by their nature and that was fine - they could have knocked out three-chord rock and everyone would have been content. But, after the Beatles and Bob Dylan, they've turned towards culture and wallowed in third-form poetries, fifth-hand philosophies, ninth-rate perceptions.
It is hardly their fault, you could hardly blame them directly; but the Beatles brought pop to its knees. Finally, Bert Berns summed them up better than anyone. One afternoon, halfway through 1965, he sat in a decaying West Hampstead caff and looked gloomy over a picture of the Beatles. Then he shook his head in infinite sage sadness. 'Those boys have genius,' he said. 'They may be the ruin of us all.'

Комментарии (3) - читать все комментарии в теме форума "13. The Beatles (Part II)"

Автор: ElicasterДата: 01.01.17 03:14:53
Это тринадцатая глава из книги Ника Кона (Nic Cohn) Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock посвящённая Битлз, разбитая здесь на две части:Это тринадцатая глава из книги Ника Кона (Nic Cohn) "Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock" посвящённая Битлз, разбитая здесь на две части:

В журнале "Ровесник" (октябрь, 1985) был напечатан перевод этой главы, причём, очень сокращённый:
Рок как есть. Битлз
Ник Кон
Автор: VeeJayManДата: 01.01.17 18:18:31
Займитесь лучше полезным делом!
Автор: ElicasterДата: 07.01.17 03:35:28
Несколько отрывков из книги и их переводы в различных изданиях:
Next come the Fab Four, the Moptop Mersey Marvels, and this is the bit I've been dreading. I mean what is there possibly left to say on them?
...All of them came from working class or lower-middle-class backgrounds in Liverpool...
...Meanwhile, the Beatles had begun to move up a bit...
...And musically, they'd become competent and they had their own sound, a crossbreed between classic rock and commercial R&B, and they were raw, deafening, a bit crude but they were really exciting. At least, unlike any other British act ever, they didn't ape America but sounded what they were, working-class Liverpool, unfake, and that's what gave them their strength, that's what made Brian Epstein want to manage them.

Далее перейдем к великолепной четверке, Moptop Mersey Marvels (чудо с копной на голове с берегов реки Мерси) и я этого немного побаивался. Я имею в виду, есть вообще что-то что о них ещё не сказали?
...Все они вышли из рабочего класса или ниже среднего класса Ливерпуля....
...В то же время, Битлз начали постепенно двигаться вверх...
...И в музыкальном плане, они стали компетентными и у них был свой собственный звук, смесь классического рока и коммерческого ритм-энд-блюза, но они были сырыми, оглушительными, немного незрелыми, но они были действительно захватывающими. По крайней мере, в отличие от других британских артистов, они не подражали американским исполнителям, их звучание было таким, какими они были на самом деле, как рабочий класс Ливерпуля, не фальшивым, и это было то, что давало им силу, то, что побудило Брайана Эпштейна стать их менеджером.

...они начали медленно, но верно прогрессировать. У них появляется свой "саунд" — сырое, оглушающее и резкое звучание. При этом они не копировали американцев, как другие британские ансамбли, а откровенно показывали себя такими, какими они были на самом деле — ливерпульцами из рабочих семей, не обладавшими светскими манерами и изысканной речью, но зато никогда не притворявшимися, как другие эстрадники...
Клуб и художественная самодеятельность (июль, 1980)
П. Аркадьев, музыковед

Теперь пора перейти к великолепной четверке, к этому ливерпульскому чуду - "Битлз". Признаться, мне было страшно приступать к этой главе: что еще я могу добавить к тому, что уже сказано о них? И все-таки попробую. Начну я, пожалуй, с того, что они не копировали американцев, как другие британские поп-артисты, а откровенно выставляли себя такими, какими были на самом деле. Вот в чем была их сила.
Ровесник (октябрь, 1985)
Перевод с английского А. Соколов

Эти переводы (более чем 30-летней давности) интересны тем что, они верны (переводы хорошие), хоть и значительно сокращены по сравнению с оригиналом. Это весьма примечательный факт, т.к. в те же годы в журнале Ровесник печатались переводы, в которых порой проскальзывала неточность и даже откровенная выдумка.


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