The Beatles: How long will they last?
By Lloyd Shearer
August 2, 1964
For the next 50 days an epidemic of Beatlemania will scourge this continent.
The Beatles' first motion picture, a plotless, innocuous 90 minutes of filmed nonsense called A Hard Day's Night, will be released early this month. A few weeks later the Beatles will tour the U.S. and Canada in a series of one-night stands at $25,000 per night against 60 per cent of the gross, whichever is higher.
Already multimillionaires, this likeable quartet of British mopheads will pick up another million by the time they depart New York on September 21.
In the hectic, colorful history of show business there had been nothing or no one to rival their fantastic success.
No act, no single entertainer, no group has garnered so much publicity, played before such tremendous crowds, earned such enormous amounts of money, sold so many recordings and by -products in so short a period of time.
in the past 6 months, for example, the Beatles have sold 10,000,000 albums at a royalty of 17 cents each. Last February when they first came to America, they sold more than 1,000,000 copies of single record in one day. By the end of 1964, Malcolm Evans, who handles their by-products -- everything from wigs to wallets -- estimates that more than $50,000,000 worth of their products will have been sold. The Beatles' share: 15 per cent.
As for exposure, they have appeared on TV and stage before some 300,000,000 people. Wherever they've rocked and rolled, they have prompted riots, faintings, swoonings, screamings, impassioned female outbursts of love and near-violent demonstrations of teenage hysteria.
Publicity wise, only one even in the past year -- the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- has been accorded more space by the world press.
A few weeks ago, Brian Sommerville, 33, the press agent who has handled their public relations since they were unknowns in their native Liverpool, quit his job and took an advertisement in the London Times seeking a new one. His explanation: "There is nothing more I or any other press agent can do for the Beatles. They have had total and constant exposure in the press. All I can say is that it has been a most incredible and exhausting experience."
|Beatles fan Geraldine Bridge, London secretary, carries her strong enthusiasm for the quartet to a Kent beach|
How long can the Beatles maintain their unprecedented popularity?
Alistair Taylor, their general manager, says, "I agree that they have waned somewhat in England. there are several reasons for that: one, they established so high a peak they had to slow down a bit; and tow, they have crossed the teenage barrier into the adult world. Everybody, regardless of age, in England likes the Beatles. Now, when adults like an act that teenagers discovered, the teenagers become suspicious and their enthusiasm begins to wane.
"But what you must not lose sight of, " Mr. Taylor declares, "is that the Beatles now have a great future as film stars. in addition they are all talented musicians, and several are excellent composers; as you know they compose their own tunes.
I should say they will remain on the show business scene as a top attraction for many, many years to come."
Colonel Tom Parker, manager of Elvis Presley, a forerunner of the Beatles, believes the quartet will last "just as long as they continue to project the image of being nice, pleasant, unpretentious, fun-loving young fellas.
"A lot of people," Colonel Parker avers, "say the Beatles are a phenomenon, that they'll pass just as quickly as they came on. Reminds me of what they told me about Elvis. 'He's a passing fancy,' the wise-guys explained to me in 1955, 'can't possibly last.' Well Elvis has been around for almost 10 years now. He's become a full-fledged movie star. I predict the same thing will happen to the Beatles. They're blessed with what we in show business call 'star-magic.'"
The executives of United Artists apparently held the same belief 10 months ago, before the Beatles set foot on America soil. They signed the boys to a three picture deal, shot the first film outside London this past March and April. The demand for its release in this country has been so strong that United Artists has been able to sell tickets in advance, an unheard of procedure for a regular run film shown at ordinary prices.
Since dozens of other pop groups, many with similar Buster Brown haircuts and tight Edwardian suits have become their aggressive, competitive imitators, the Beatles hoped motion pictures will afford them a new lease on life. they anticipate that the medium will bring them a wider, more literate, serious, sophisticated audience than the pop-disc and teenage public they now have.
In line with this they quietly, two months ago, bought their own motion picture studio a few miles from London. Once their United Artists deal expires, there is no doubt but what they will produce their own films. They personal manager and discoverer, 30 year old Brian Epstein-- "We call him the Fifth Beatles," they say -- is not one to miss any financial opportunity. Reportedly, Epstein gets from 20 to 25 cents of every dollar his Beatles earn.
The Beatles' first movie, named by themselves, A Hard Day's Night, is basically a showcase for their rock n roll act. Its story line, if it can be called that, deals with four happy Liverpool lads called Paul (Paul McCartney), John (John Lennon), George (George Harrison) and Ringo (Ringo Starr), who play their music all over Great Britain, generally pursued by hundreds of screaming girls. Into the company of this fore-some comes Mixing John McCartney, Paul's grandfather, played by Wilfred Brambell, who is dedicated to the principle of divide and conquer.
the production deals with the attempts of Paul's grandfather to louse up the Beatles' act in the course of 36 hours. The Beatles play themselves, sing six new numbers, are each given a stretch of film in which to shine as individuals.
Regardless of what the critics do to it, a Hard Day's Night, which cost only $750,000 will probably gross from $5,000,000 to $15,000,000 on a worldwide basis, with Epstein and his boys taking an estimated 50 per cent of the profits.
"On the basis of fan loyalty alone," says David Picker, vice president of United Artists, "we expect the picture to do smash business. The loyalty the Beatles inspire is incredible, especially in America."
What is the basis of the Beatles' fanatical fandom? And fantastic appeal? Ask the teenager girls who swoon and scream at the sight of these young long-hairs, age 21 to 24, one of whom, John Lennon, is married and the father of a 13 month old baby, and they come up with such assorted answers, "They're cute. They're tough. They're the most. When I listen to them, I just quiver all over I love them because they're so nice. Underneath their hair a girl knows, she just knows, they're gentlemen. We girls love their beat, their sound. They're something new. Maybe they're English and maybe they aren't teenagers, but they belong to us."
A British psychologist, John Gabriel, author of Children Growing Up, defines the teenage cult of Beatlemania as "adolescent idealism." He says, "Perhaps most adolescents must worship an ideal and realize that such worship is nebulous before they are able to love an ordinary human being and accept him despite his imperfections."
According to Gabriel, adults should not sneer at the teenagers' mass love crush. When hey scream at the Beatles, he believes, they are proudly announcing to the world that they have discovered their ideal or perfect human being. Shy and insecure because of their age, they find safety in numbers and conformity, contagion in the enthusiasm generated by their girlfriends who adore the Beatles.
American psychiatrists offer a different explanation as to why the four young men who've played their way from $15 a night stand to the top echelon of the entertainment world, arouse such intense fever in the American girl.
Dr. Ralph Greenson, who treated Marlyn Monroe and dozens of other Hollywood personalities in the past 25 years, says flatly, "In appearance the Beatles present an impression of sexual ambiguity (the truth, of course, is that the Beatles are swingers who have lived in Paris and Hamburg, love and know cultivate the society of women, all sizes, ages and shapes).
"In teenagers," Greenson goes on to say, "there is difficulty in getting involved with a completely masculine figure. Girls of 12, 13, 14, 15 and even 16 are fearful of getting involved with a man of 23 or 24. Whether they know it or not, these girls are using the Beatles as a compromise. The Beatles seem so young and kid-like and feminine with their long hair and youthful ways, they pose no sexual threat. There is something of the baby about them. And that's why the teenagers are attracted."
Another psychiatrist, who prefers to remain nameless, says, "Just examine the pop-singers who have excited our young women. Rudy Vallee was thin-voiced and fragile looking. Frank Sinatra, before he became snarling and tough, was as thin as a pipe-stem. When Elvis Presley first turned up, what kind of motions and gyrations did he go through? They were bumps and grinds and pelvic motions. Basically these are female motions, the kind of gestures female dancers use.
"The Beatles perhaps are truly masculine," this doctor continues, "in real life. But on stage, with their long hair and tight suits and Cuban heels, they seem to engender important feminine ingredients. The girls sense this. They identify with it just as their mothers unconsciously identified with Sinatra and their grandmothers with Vallee.
"In my opinion the Beatles will last only as long as they engender that identity. Let them cut their hair, and they'll lose half their following overnight."
Fred Martin, former public relations director of Capitol Records, traveled with the Beatles on their last tour, "I don't discount the psychiatric explanation of their success," he states. "But the fact is that these four guys have the best rock n roll act in the business They're not phoneys. They know music.
"Their success is relatively new and sensational. But they've been around a long time. They've played England, Germany, France; they've played with other groups. They know harmony and counterpoint.
"They were poor, came from the wrong side of the tracks in Liverpool. They're down to earth. They put on no airs. They're good natured and polite. Audiences establish an immediate rapport with them. They're successful because they're good. In my book it's as simple as that."
Whatever explanation, be warned, Beatlemania is on its way. The Beatles make their feature film debut August 11. After that --- bedlam.