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THE BEATLES '1'

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

3.91 | 68 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars It's fall, 1963. I'm barely 14. Lights out at my house is 9pm but I usually lie in bed listening to my miniature transistor radio long after that hour because music is my escape from the humdrum of suburban life. One evening I'm tuned in to Russ "The Weird Beard" Knight's show on KLIF and he announces that he's about to play a record by a quartet from England that's unlike anything anyone listening has ever heard before. I am skeptical. He plays "I want to hold your hand." He's right. My life is forever changed.

The Beatles phenomenon will never be repeated. It was a cosmic confluence of right time, right place, right attitude and right haircuts, to be sure, but there was so much more to it than fortuitous coincidence. It required the added magical ingredients of immeasurable amounts of pure talent, unfettered creativity, limitless imagination and bold chutzpah to alter it from being just another fad into a historical line of demarcation on an equal par with Hiroshima. I can only speak from the perspective of an average American teenage boy of that era but my peers and I had just had our na´ve beliefs about grownups blown to smithereens by the murder of JFK. On that fateful November Friday we collectively sensed that the truth wasn't being told to us and two days later we knew it never would. (Scoff if you like but one nut/one gun doesn't have a thousand loose ends.) Our future looked dark that season so when this fabulous ray of light came streaming through our tinny radio speakers we latched onto it for dear life. Here was something we could trust wholeheartedly. The healing power of rock & roll. The swine in Washington could take their filthy politics and shove them where the sun don't shine. This new music was going to deliver us from evil and it was exclusively OURS. Keep your Sinatra and your Elvis. We don't need 'em. We've got The Beatles and they've got us. Later, gators.

"Whoop de doo, old geezer," you may be saying to the screen. And that's okay. You have the right to feel patronized but that's not my intent. Like so many things, I guess you had to be there. In that case I present "1" as concrete evidence to the magnitude of what the Fab Four accomplished. Facts don't lie. Greatest hits packages are a dime a dozen yet only a few contain a number one single, if at all. This has 27. From a 7 year span. Unreal. And when traveling down this aural highway even the most jaded of critic must concede the unmatched influence these songs had on musical as well as societal trends in that tumultuous decade. It's plain as the freckled nose on your face. Radio was the weathervane of those times and no matter what the elder program directors thought, they had to play whatever The Beatles put out. The public appetite for them was insatiable and there was no alternate source. We had TV, of course, but they only showcased bands that'd made it big on the airwaves first. Top 40 radio ruled and these tunes became the consciousness of a generation by default. Every new release sounded nothing like what had come before and each number reinforced our notion that we could and should think for ourselves, not just shuffle along with the accepted norm. So, what's this all got to do with prog? Everything. The Beatles sowed and cultivated the mindset that gave young musicians the courage and means to consider and explore all possibilities. John, Paul, George and Ringo made progressive rock inevitable.

"1" encapsulates 1963-1970 in a nutshell (or, as Ian Anderson would say, in a warm sporran).

Phase One: "Love Me Do," "From Me to You," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Can't Buy me Love." Ridiculously simple fare, right? Well, after years of being beaten down by the likes of Herb Alpert, Pat Boone and Jan & Dean these songs were akin to "Close to the Edge" in comparison. The unbridled, aggressive enthusiasm these tunes contain heralded an era of puberty-fueled freedom heretofore unknown by our ancestors. Who cared if they only sang about love? It was all we needed.

Phase Two: "A Hard Day's Night," "I Feel Fine," "Eight Days a Week," "Ticket to Ride" and "Help!" Once our initial mass euphoria slacked off a bit they felt compelled to clue us in on a glimpse of reality. Since she's telling all the world that her baby buys her diamond rings, you know, you're going to have to work hard for a living for longer hours than you prefer yet don't be shocked if she flags down a train and leaves you high and dry one day and it devastates your psyche so much that you need therapy to recover.

Phase Three: "Yesterday," "Day Tripper," "We Can Work it Out," "Paperback Writer" and "Yellow Submarine." Once you get past your sappy yearning for the past when love was such an easy game to play you'll realize that chicks can be fickle as hell and it takes a lot of compromising to find compatibility with one and then when you get married your clinging wife won't understand that all you want to do is hang out with the friends who live next door and share funny cigarettes with tapered ends.

Phase Four: "Eleanor Rigby," "Penny Lane," "All You Need is Love," "Hello, Goodbye" and "Lady Madonna." It's becoming evident that all the lonely people are always going to be with us no matter what so we might as well turn on and dream of utopia because there's nothing you can do that can't be done and the planet doesn't really know if it's coming or going half the time and, anyway, did you think that money was heaven sent?

Phase Five: "Hey Jude," "Get Back," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Something" and "Come Together." Yo, dude, things didn't work out like you hoped so let's begin to make it better by returning to our California grass roots before they crucify us all in Vietnam and, by the way, if you're asking me if love will grow I don't know because I've got joo joo eyeballs.

Phase Six: "Let it Be" and "The Long and Winding Road." We're outa here, kids, but we'll leave you with a few tips. When you find yourself in trouble you can always go to your creator who'll tell you to leave things you can't control anyway alone already, get off your pity potty and get on with your life's journey. You ain't got it so bad, bucko.

Another point to ponder with "1" is that you didn't have to be a fan to know these songs by heart. You really had no choice. They were like the air you breathed. There's no semi- obscure album cuts on here (although that's where you'll find The Beatles' clever prog muse at her most innovative and productive) because every one of these #1 singles spent most of their allotted time spinning in heavy rotation as they beamed out from even the most remote of transmitters. They resonated throughout the globe. They served as the soundtrack for the common everyman who was coming alive in the 60s and, as I have tried to document with a dash of dry wit, their omnipresence became a running lyrical commentary, if not a major instigator, of the wholesale changes that were occurring all around him in that heady era. I know of what I speak. All I can say is that, despite all the craziness, you would've loved it there. It was a trip.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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