CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

February 16, 2014

SOUTHERN STYLE: We love The Beatles

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— Last night brought back a ton of memories. Seeing the Beatles last remaining members was bitter-sweet and wonderful at the same time.

Paul is finally showing his age and Ringo is too, although he never stopped dancing around and seems to be in great shape.

Those four young boys from Liverpool sure did shake up the world. Seeing the clips and hearing their music was like living the 60s all over again.

At the time they caused a lot of dissension among most adults whose chief complaint seemed to be with the length of their hair. Now, they look pretty clean cut!

They wore nice suits with ties and they didn’t have jewelry, chains or tattoo’s, and they certainly didn’t sing songs with words like we hear nowadays, words that spread hate, fear, satanism and evil in general of one sort or another.

No, the Beatles sang of their first loves, of simple things like holding hands, of never dancing with another, of peace and harmony, of long winding roads and things that happened yesterday….

One of the interesting things that came to light in the program was that the words to "Let It Be" were penned after Paul had a dream of his mother, whose name was Mary, coming to him and consoling him about the band’s splitting up. His mom died when he was only 15. Most people think that Mother Mary refers to Jesus’s mother.

Another interesting factoid was that Ringo (Richard Starkey) spent a year in a tuberculosis asylum as a child.

Most of the performers who brought the Beatles songs to life were not even born when they were at the top of every chart, making recording history and causing girls all over the world to swoon, cry and faint.

The first time we had an opportunity to see them on television was on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was ten years old. I’ll never forget how exciting it was. The official count was 73 million viewers who were tuned in that night. It was one of those times when everyone remembers exactly where they were.

There were a lot of clips of that episode in the Beatles Tribute. One of the funniest things about that was Paul’s revelation to David Letterman of what happened to him backstage the night of their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.

For some reason, Paul was to sing "Yesterday" by himself. He admitted that he’d never sung the song without the rest of the band, and was nervous. He found himself standing behind the big stage curtains, waiting for them to be opened by one of the stage-hands. The guy turned to Paul and asked if he was nervous. Paul said that he lied and said he wasn’t. The guy laughed and said, “Well, you should be, there are over 70 million people watching,”  just as he opened the curtain.

Everyone had a favorite Beatle. Mine was Ringo. Just something about that silly grin always got to me. But I really liked all of them.

I can remember all the radio stations having polls about who was more popular, Elvis or The Beatles. Most of the time, here in the South, Elvis won by a narrow margin. However, The Beatles gained popularity eventually and in some polls knocked the King from his throne, even if it was just temporary.

Somehow, who in the world knows why, John Lennon tripped over his own tongue and made the worst publicity faux pas of all time. He implied, well, more than implied, that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

The original interview was on March 4, 1966. John's quote was printed in an interview by reporter (reportedly friend of John's) Maureen Cleave in the London Evening Standard.

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

In Britain, it didn’t even raise an eyebrow.

However, five months later, on July 29, an American teen magazine reprinted the quote out of context instead of submerged in an article, and used it as a part of a front page story.

Radio stations in the South banned all Beatles music. Rallies were televised of former teenage fans stomping on their records and holding big bonfires where Beatles materials were burned. John received death threats, and the KKK protested a Beatle concert here in Alabama.

John’s quote, hardly noticed in England, was used to beat Lennon and The Beatles popularity into the ground. John claimed that he was not comparing the Beatles to Christ or God or religion. The reporter to whom the statement was made publicly stated many times that the quote was taken out of context, but the damage was done.

In a failed effort to make things right with fans, John made a public apology. John: "If I had said television is more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think, as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

That statement, no matter what he meant by it, would eventually lead to the downfall of the most popular group in history. It has been estimated that The Beatles had more number one hit songs in a year than most successful groups do in a lifetime.

George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were on their own. Ringo never did much alone, but George and Paul had some success in their solo careers. After Harrison died, Paul was the more frequently seen and heard Beatle.

His personality has a lot to do with his success. In the Letterman interview clips he quips and jokes and reaches out to cuff Letterman on the shoulder in fun. He is probably one of the most down-to-earth celebrities on the planet. His net worth is estimated to be in excess of $800 million.

McCartney is touted as being one of the most successful musicians and composers of all time. He has released sixty gold albums and sold over 100 million singles.  

To this day, McCartney is one of the most respected and loved musicians in the world. And he is still going strong. He recently announced his partnership with Fidelity in a program called "Music Lives".

Because of statistics showing that 27 million American school children would not receive adequate music instruction in their classrooms (even though experts have proven that music education dramatically improves performance both in and out of the classroom) that music in school increases SAT scores by 100 points and keeps kids from dropping out of school, budget cuts have been breaking up marching bands and silencing school choruses from one end of the country to the other.

In a key proposal to combat this distressing trend, Fidelity Investments has joined music icon, Sir Paul McCartney, to begin a new public charity called The Music Lives Foundation. This venture is focused on raising awareness of and crucial funding for music education programs in schools.

"As a boy growing up in Liverpool, I was surrounded by music," said Paul McCartney. "That's just the way it was. The problem is that more and more music programs are in danger of being eliminated. That's why I'm proud to join Fidelity in supporting The Music Lives Foundation. After years and years of playing in a band and making a living doing what I love, I can honestly say, ‘Where would I be without music?’"

Probably at least $700 million poorer, Paul. And by the way, thanks. What you are doing is probably one of the most important things you could ever do to insure that kids will stay in school, be involved in something that, unlike sports, will last them a lifetime, and give them self-confidence and a sense of motivation and self-worth.

We still love the Beatles. Thanks for the memories!