Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Beatles before the 'Big Bang'

SCIENCE doesn't yet know what occurred before our universe exploded into being. But we do know what happened before the "Big Bang" that produced the Beatles. OUPBlog's Gordon Thompson takes a fascinating look back.

By the end of 1961, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison had adopted the “pilzen kopf” hairstyle (or "Beatle" cut) from the German students they had seen sporting it during their Hamburg gigs. After hearing the Beatles play in a Liverpool club (a "claustrophobic former vegetable cellar"), future band manager Brian Epstein was convinced he had discovered a diamond in the rough. But even he realized that the mountain to fame would be steep. At this point, the Beatles were mimicking the "leather-jacket look of American rocker Gene Vincent." According to Thompson, their stage presence left much to be desired. During sets, they played songs disjointedly (randomly stopping and starting), "spiced their stage banter with profanity, flirted with women, left cigarettes burning on the edges of their amplifiers, gnawed on sandwiches, and emptied bottles of Coca Cola into their thirsty mouths."

In short, they were the epitome of "adolescent thuggery" and seemingly condemned to "playing the same Liverpool clubs and dance halls over and over with occasional trips to Hamburg for little pay and even less of a future." Nevertheless, Epstein pitched the future "Fab Four" at his record shop on a quiet Sunday in December 1961. Thompson writes:
"Their previous manager Allan Williams had warned him away from the band, but Epstein represented an elegant, polite, and persistent force of nature, an anomaly in Britain’s often-seedy entertainment industry. If they took him as their manager, they would have (a) to clean up their stage presentation (e.g., no more private or obscene jokes on stage and no more smoking, eating or drinking on stage), (b) to play preplanned organized sets (i.e., no more rehearsing songs during a performance), (c) to carefully control their stage time, (d) to arrive in a timely fashion for engagements, and (e) to exchange their leather jackets for tailored suits. The preternaturally punctual Epstein would provide them with their weekly schedules, typed and annotated with instructions on how best to please their employers and audiences. He took a percentage of their income, but he immediately set to converting aspiration to realization."
The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

1 comment:

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