Friday, February 20, 2009

Non-Stop Comedy

Press conferences in America were something else. The boys kept up a non-stop stream of comedy. Asked what they thought of topless bathing costumes, Ringo said seriously, with that well-known frown creasing his face: "We think they're great. We've been wearing them for years!"

Hectic days, but the big thing was that the Beatles immediately recognised any English face in the audience. Journalists who'd gone out, on spec, to see the boys were instantly recognised. And this is something that holds true even now. It's pointless suggesting that the Beatles are uniformly pleasant to everybody connected with the Press, but they certainly do always remember their mates from the early days.

Over that Elvis and the Beatles bit: it wasn't until 1965, in September again, that the two major attractions actually met up.

And the main point that came out at that historic meeting was that the Beatles virtually felt more sorry for Elvis than did Mr. P. for them. It was John who summed it all up: "When the fans went for you, you were up there all alone. With us, it's four against everybody and we can draw support from each other." And on the flying business, bugbear of all top stars, both Elvis and the Beatles said that they didn't really like it, especially the take-off and the landing. Elvis had, after all, been caught in a two-engine plane when one of the propellers failed. "I was scared", he admitted . . . but all the boys agreed that you simply had to fly to keep appointments with far-flung fans.

But two years ago the main problem, as now, was to keep the peace. It was like war breaking out whenever the Beatles appeared and it must be admitted that there were grumblings of discontent. Radio reporters were kept away from the boys, because of over-strict police control. Journalists never got to ask their questions. Even Paul, who accepted American behaviour with the mildest of comment, said: "It gets a bit much. Even if a friend, a journalist, wants to get in to see us, there's some massive police force putting up the blocks."

Meanwhile, back home, the Beatles were winning just about every pop poll. And getting invitations from their old friends back home. We think Paul probably hit on the essential loneliness of stardom when he said: "I've got this invitation to a wedding of an old mate of mine. I'd love to go. But you know how it would be. Riot scenes and all that. It'd spoil his day and it'd spoil mine. You just can't lead the sort of life you want to. And don't take this as being a knock at the fans, because we owe everything we've got to them . . ."

The Beatles came back to Britain with "A Hard Day's Night" dropping rapidly in the charts. It had had a very good run. They came back with everybody from the Prime Minister downwards singing their praises because they'd been darned good ambassadors and they'd never let Britain down. Their immediate needs included material for a new LP and for a new single. Said George: "We made our name on records and we've got to try to keep up the same standards. We can't just rush into a studio and do something and think that's all there is to it. We must work and work and work . . ."

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