February 13

Changing the World: “Here Come the Beatles!”

images (1)When The Beatles came to the United States on Feb 9, 1964, and performed on The Ed Sullivan show, it did not change the world. Not at all.  That came later.

To say the country or world was changed at that moment is like saying that Jesus’ birth changed the world.  Well, yes and no.  Certainly His birth was the sin qua non of His ministry but He changed the world during His later life, i.e., in His death, burial, and resurrection.

A more accurate date for The Beatles’ culture-changing impact might be August 28, 1964, when Bob Dylan truly introduced the group to marijuana.  It was their first real experience with the drug and being stoned; the effect on their music was obvious.

Consider the following lyrics from the early ’60s, before Dylan decided to “Meet The Beatles” and more:

I Want To Hold Your Hand Lyrics

Oh, yeah, I tell you something
I think you’ll understand
When I say that something’s
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Oh, please say to me
And/You’ll let me be your man
And, please, say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand
I/You’ll let me hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you, I feel happy inside
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hi’e

Yeah, you got that something
I think you’ll understand
When I say that something’s
I wanna/I’m not gonna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you, I feel happy inside
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hi’e
I can’t hide
I can’t hi’e

Yeah, you got that something
I think you’ll understand
When I feel that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

She Loves You Lyrics

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

You think you’ve lost your love
Well, I saw her yesterday
It’s you she’s thinking of
And she told me what to say

She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
But now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind

She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad
Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad

You know it’s up to you
I think it’s only fair
Pride can hurt you too
Apologize to her

Because she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
She loves you
And you know you should be glad
Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

The-Beatles-the-beatles-32839194-999-855Earth-shaking?  Paradigm-shifting?  Hardly.  I’m never even sure they were particularly clever. They were typical, run-of-the-mill lyrics of the pop/rock’n’roll culture of the day.  Certainly The Beatles, by virtue of their attractiveness and charisma, made the songs famous and memorable.

“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” were both released in 1963, meaning they were written prior to the group’s encounter with Dylan.  In contrast, look at the lyrics for two songs released just a few years later:

For No One Lyrics 

Your day breaks
Your mind aches
You find that all her words
Of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

She wakes up
She makes up
She takes her time
And doesn’t feel she has to hurry
She no longer needs you

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years

You want her
You need her
And yet you don’t believe her
When she says her love is dead
You think she needs you

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years

You stay home
She goes out
She says that long ago
She knew someone
But now he’s gone
She doesn’t need him

Your day breaks
Your mind aches
There will be times
When all the things she said
Will fill your head
You won’t forget her

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years

Eleanor Rigby Lyrics

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie
Writing the words of a sermon that no-one will hear
No-one comes near
Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No-one was saved

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?

the beatlesBoth of these songs were released in 1966 and, presumably, written shortly before their release.  The subject matter in “For No One” is a common one: Neil Sedaka had already sung “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” in 1962.  But notice the tone and emotional valence of The Beatles’ tribute to breaking up: it is hardly upbeat and, in a word, melancholy.  It was typical of most of The Beatles’ music once drugs became a fifth member of the group.

And then there’s “Eleanor Rigby”:  where did that come from?  It reflects the isolation and lost-ness of (at least) young people of the day.  Prior to the Beatles, I know of no singer or group that included funerals and death in their catalog of dance tunes.

Things had changed for the Beatles; things began to change for people.  Melancholy and tragedy was a frequent theme in their music and in the moods of their fans.  Not all their songs in this period were sad but almost all of them were unlike anything that had gone before.

Here are two of my personal favorites, taken from Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966):

Norwegian Wood Lyrics 

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair

I sat on the rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She Said She Said Lyrics 

She said
“I know what it’s like to be dead
I know what it is to be sad”
And she’s making me feel like
I’ve never been born

I said
“Who put all those things in your head?
Things that make me feel that I’m mad
And you’re making me feel like
I’ve never been born”

She said, “You don’t understand what I said.”
I said, “No, no, no. You’re wrong.
When I was a boy,
Everything was right.
Everything was right.”

I said
“Even though you know what you know
I know that I’m ready to leave
‘Cos you’re making me feel like
I’ve never been born.”

She said, “You don’t understand what I said.”
I said, “No, no, no. You’re wrong.
When I was a boy,
Everything was right.
Everything was right.”

I said
“Even though you know what you know
I know that I’m ready to leave
‘Cos you’re making me feel like
I’ve never been born.”

She said, she said
“I know what it’s like to be dead.
I know what it is to be sad.
I know what it’s like to be dead . . .”

 images
Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall Pat Boone or Elvis Presley singing lyrics like these in the ’50s and early ’60s.  And, for that matter, neither did Chuck Berry, Bo Didley, or Little Richard.  These are drug songs, not necessarily about drugs (although some of their post-Dylan lyrics were) but certainly reflecting the effects of drugs on their minds.

And this doesn’t even get us to 1967 and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which profoundly changed rock music from something to dance along with to something to sit and listen to, reflect upon, and embrace.

And it also doesn’t cover The Beatles’ use of LSD, which began somewhere between March and July of 1965.  A fascinating account of their initials trips and comments from John Lennon and George Harrison can be found here.

In light of this, I find it surprising that so many Christian writers have seemed to embrace The Beatles and their music in recent weeks.  It is as though Lennon’s statement that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus – which might have been true with young people in Britain in those days – or the album pyre that took place in various places in a ridiculous reaction to his words never happened.  And what of John and Oko’s famous “sleep-in”?  Or, more importantly, The Beatles’ tremendous influence on their fans that resulted in marijuana and other drugs suddenly being in vogue among middle-class, white teenagers in the ’60s?

I will close by saying that, as an outlier and atypical Evangelical Christ-follower, I have no problem with The Beatles.  I own vinyl albums, tapes, CDs, and digital copies of almost all their music and continue to listen to it 50 years later.  And it is especially the post-Dylan songs and albums that I enjoy most and most frequently.

And I’ll stop just short of endorsing or approving of marijuana use for other than medical purposes.   But as a past pot head, I will say that I understand the nature and direction of The Beatles music subsequent to their introduction to drugs.  I find the songs neither pro- nor anti-Christian, although the messages certainly do not align with the Bible’s view of life, meaning, and purpose.  But as far as originality, creativity and excellence go, there aren’t many other groups that come close to The Beatles.




Posted February 13, 2014 by Doc Mike in category "Things to Consider

3 COMMENTS :

  1. By JD Taylor on

    Lord only knows what they could have done if they had met Carlos Castenadas instead of Dylan.

    Reply
  2. By Michael Russell (Post author) on

    They didn’t need Carlos: they had a dentist/friend who, though never dropping acid himself, decided to put a tab into after-dinner coffee for The Beatles and their dates. So began the hallucinogenic phase of the group.

    Reply

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