Saturday, February 07, 2009

Elvis Is Wrong

by Billy Shepherd and Johnny Dean

And John told us: "We admire Elvis Presley a lot for what he has done for the pop business. But we'd never want to make films the way he does . . . he just knocks one out in a few weeks. The way we hear it, he knows almost exactly how much money he'll take at the box-office, because his following is constant. But we found, with the earlier films, that we did pretty well even in countries where there wasn't much of a pop-record market".

Pretty well? At this time two years ago, "Help" had topped four million pounds at the box-office and "A Hard Day's Night" was not far short of that staggering figure.

So the chats went on about what to do in films. And, of course, they're still going on today. The Beatles could have leapt in and done anything that looked remotely good but their high standards of professionalism meant that only the best would do. Finding the absolute best, in any field, is a long-term job. You just have to wait . . . and see!

A reader, and Beatle fan, wrote in to one of the pop weeklies as 1965 came to its conclusion and pointed out some interesting facts about the number of records which shot in the charts at the Number One spot in the first week of release. Now this is, obviously, a tremendous achievement. Oddly enough the first to do it, and that was back in 1958, was Elvis, with his "Jailhouse Rock" . . . and he repeated the dose later on with "It's Now Or Never" and with "Surrender". Cliff Richard and the Stones did it once each . . . but by the end of 1965, the Beatles had achieved this feat seven times.

The records involved were: "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "Can't Buy Me Love", "A Hard Day's Night", "I Feel Fine", "Ticket To Ride", "Help" and the double-edged biggie "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out". Actually that last-named, virtually two "A"-sided record was the first two-sider to top the chart since had done so six years earlier--with "A Fool Such As I" and "I Need Your Love Tonight". This is the very stuff of which pop history is made and it stresses again, with no doubt, just how important the Beatles have been in comparison with other giants of the business.

Still, we were talking about December two years ago specifically . . . and it was all happening. The Hollies recorded a George harrison song; Peter Sellers tackled "Hard Day's Night" in the guise of a Shakespearean actor; "Rubber Soul", the LP, came out with an advance order of half-a-million; the single was an instant chart-topper.

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