The Lads (50 Years later)
by Ken Taub
THE GREAT GREEN ISLAND WAS ON FIRE.
The Germans bombed Britain and Ireland night after night for over seven months. Between September 7, 1940 and May 16, 1941 there were seemingly endless tons of explosives dropped on the civilian population of Britain. London was attacked 71 times, Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth eight times; other cities were hit hard as well. It has become known to history as The Blitz, but what it was in fact was a relentless, single-minded, incendiary attempt to bring the land of legendary kings, Newton and Locke, Shakespeare and Dickens to its bloody knees.
Into this apocalyptic whirl of hell-fire a young man was born. It was not a serene spot in which to enter the world, but then his childhood years were rarely easy, starting at the very beginning, birthed into this ring of fire. His mother named him, in part, after the steadfast, cigar-chomping prime minister who shook his fist toward the skies, at the death-wielding pilots of the Nazi regime.
Only three months prior, another boy, once known as Richard, was born in the same city. Not the strongest of children, he was struck by a number of illnesses in his early years. Two years later, in June of 1942, with Britain still on its heels, another boy, in the very same Southwestern working class city, christened James by his mother Mary, came into this world at war. His father was not home for the birth, he a volunteer firefighter in a time of much burning. Then, eight months later, a fourth child was born, and his parents named him George, after the King; he the last of the four children of Harold Hargreaves Harrison and his wife Louise.
The four boys and their families survived The Blitz, and the war. Britain became great again, and won the war, having vanquished the greatest foe in all its storied, thousand-year history.
Three of the boys became teenage friends, starting making music together, and found themselves, a mere fifteen years after this cataclysmic war ended, performing in the back alleys of Hamburg, Germany, the very same country that tried to destroy their homeland during their childhood years.
It was that thing beyond ironic. And it -- their coming together, their singular music making and so much that followed -- wound up being as history-making as the world war that preceded the quartet they created and the songs that they wrote.
In the fall of 2012 it was exactly 50 years since the Beatles first hit the charts, and we know much about this world famous band and about each band member, John Winston Lennon, Richard Starkey a.k.a. Ringo, James Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
But history is about time, and perspective. With the vantage point of a half-century, one can well ask, aside from their dozens of unforgettable songs and their indelible influence on Western culture (and in Russia, and Japan, and South America too), what their place in history might be. In what ways did these four lads -- born in a time of massive destruction, with their nation hanging within a hair of its very existence -- change not only rock and pop music, how did they change the world, our world, in the 1960s and up to this day?
RECENTLY, in mid-August, I drove my 14 year old son home from 2 weeks of sleep-away camp in upstate New York, and the CD from the Cirque d’ Soleil hit show LOVE was playing (it being a wonderful remix of some of their greatest music), and my son was singing along to all the songs even as he played a game on the iPad. At one point he murmured out loud, “The Beatles are timeless.” His simple comment to no one in particular pleased me greatly, not only because we were both singing along in spots, and not only because he knew the words to songs written over thirty years before he was born, but because he had stated aloud the very thing I had just been thinking: “Yes, they really were that great.”
The Fab Four was no fad. They were, and remain, the very opposite of a passing style; another fad in a culture of endless, evanescent fads.
So, if the human race does not hit the Big Wall, and actually survives this wild cyclone of a century, yes, the odds are great that come the year 2112, or even 2412 and beyond, our (presumably still-human) descendants will not only be listening to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, but to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles as well, and maybe even singing along to Eleanor Rigby, as my young son did.
For the foreseeable future and well past, the Beatles’ legacy is set, musically-speaking. But beyond the music, what? Past Hey Jude, Here Comes the Sun and other harmonies, what else did they leave to us, and to history?
The short answer I think is peace and light; as in a sweeter kind of shared, transnational peace, with a sometimes softer light on the lot of us. At the least, we were given a nicely rendered view of human accord, and what's possible -- with a terrific soundtrack.
Now, before you run away screaming or roll your eyes and think Oh please, know that I am being serious here, and not traipsing through the fields, sniffing flowers, and not smoking anything.
I do think future historians, not just future music lovers, will look very kindly upon the Beatles and The Sixties, that endlessly experimental, wildly clad (and often unclad) Go-Go decade in which they came into ascendance. Perhaps not a great new dawn, but a major pivot point. Forget the Age of Aquarius. Think arms linked with strangers as well as friends.
After the Beatles’ brief pop reign, the world became a slightly better place for our wayward species. A small planet got not only a better brand of pop music, it got a little smaller, and tighter. It surely became more soulful.
Out of the mass murdering, wickedly destructive war they were born into, they birthed and handed to the rest of us not only a high caliber songbook, but something else, something larger. From these four lads we received a gift basket of lovely lines and peace-laden themes, splashes of wit and whimsy, and that larger thing: a great coming together, as in a newly refashioned harmony, the likes of which are rarely seen in this world.
One small example: About 12 years ago, a small office condo morphed from my former ad agency into my wife’s current yoga studio. It’s been a delightful adventure, not to mention a healthy pursuit. Now, it’s not lost on me that the Beatles introduced Ravi Shankar and the otherworldly sounds of the sitar to the West, but they also introduced many millions to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. They swung open the door to many things Indian, especially its psychedelically hued spiritual culture, which very much includes yoga.
Several renown Indian yoga teachers brought yoga to worldwide prominence by the middle to late 20th century. But the larger bridge of this great cultural transmission came courtesy of the American Beats and the Beatles. How many people would be attending yoga classes in Europe and America today, or practicing meditation – whether TM, Zen retreats, or at home with a candle -- without the Beatles’ trip to India, and all they brought back with them? Maybe half the present number, maybe less. Who knows?
What we do know is that these musical Marco Polos brought Indian culture closer to the West by many a mile. India itself went from British colony to feisty Independent two decades before George Harrison first used a sitar as a background instrument in the song Norweigan Wood. In the 1940s, near-saintly Gandhi earned special adoration around the world. But India got its first real taste of modern, global rock star status after John, Paul, George and Ringo came and went in early 1968.
Will the world be fundamentally changed with many millions of people in almost every country now taking yoga classes, doing meditation and other mindfulness practices? We can’t know unless we time travel and take a peek. But my guess is that advanced education for young people worldwide does make a difference, and for the better. In the same vein, metaphysical fitness, no less than physical fitness, will have a real impact on our divergent, increasingly interdependent world. The benefits of yoga and meditation are more than just personal. They can be decidedly global and political, too.
Now, I’m getting older, and quickly, but I’m not daft. Yet. I know what happened in the world since the Beatles broke up in 1970. In the past 42 years, America alone has been involved in Vietnam, the sometimes bloody side of the Cold War, Somalia, Iraq twice, Bosnia, the War on Terror, Afghanistan – not to mention all the other internecine conflicts and awful bloodshed in Africa, the Mideast, Sri Lanka, Asia and elsewhere.
So what’s different now?
While more attracted to vampires than ever, we are perhaps a little less bloodthirsty now than we were in the mid-20th century, and surely since that vast, horrific war 70 years back. But we are still the premier killer species, especially of each other. Our evolution over the last 50 or 75 years can be measured in micro-meters, if at all; so much so that the institution, and the phrase, United Nations is still considered a sorry weakling, or a bad joke.
That duly acknowledged, the world has also changed significantly since WWII, and not only in regards women’s rights, civil rights, and because of mass communications, tech, the Web and social media. It changed because of how many of us remain profoundly anti-war, and far more likely to grab onto new ideas from different cultures, seeking commonality and friendship with others who were once called, and considered, Foreigners.
This all matters I should think, and for this profound change in our global community, I give the four lads from Liverpool a good deal of the credit and a large round of applause.
Really? Yes, because they not only inspired millions of teens and 20-somethings around the world to start garage bands, and they not only influenced hair length and style, they laced their lyrics and their collective being with joy, playfulness – and acceptance. Specifically, acceptance of our frailties and our silly quirks. But all the more so, acceptance of our great potential as a human family to come together and give it a go. The lads gave us permission to keep playing past 20 with childish glee, sharing the fun, and sometimes the love, rather than brawling. They had us sing a little ditty together or laugh about how absurd so much of it all is, and in doing so gave the rest of us not just their charm and wit but a feeling of shared perspective. And a larger community.
The Beatles, and our response to them, helped to reset our collective compass; at their best even placing a strong damper on our automatic instincts, which we all know can be quite bad. 50 years after Love Me Do made it to number 17 on The Record Retailer chart in the U.K. in October of 1962, we are not a different species than we were all those years ago. After screaming wildly to She Loves You, and later swaying in peaceful, shut-eyed joy to Hey Jude, we have not gone from warrior Klingon to Vulcan, or from little Mussolinis to little Gandhis. But we are different.
Most of us who are over 40, in the privacy of our beings or in certain quiet moments, feel that we are somehow better people after the best of what we experienced in the 1960s, and that the world has moved a bit closer, and to no small extent that change was catalyzed by four musicians from Liverpool, born during World War II, who brought us, in its deadly wake, a little more peace and reconciliation, a whole lot more joy, and a significant boost in what used to be known as Human Potential.
(c) 2012 by Ken Taub
Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on May 28, 2013:
I love the Fab Four. Who doesn't? Anyway, I like this article a lot, though I think it could use a few bold-face subtitles and perhaps a few more photos. There are so many Beatles' photos, ya know? As a sidebar, I listed the Beatles as the greatest rock band of all time. Duh! Later!
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on May 06, 2013:
Glad you enjoyed Jools. Appreciate the appreciation from an honest citizen of the UK. Cheers.
Jools Hogg from North-East UK on February 17, 2013:
Very interesting hub. You're right of course, the whole age was like a second enlightenment but in place of reason was something more in touch with the heart and soul. After war came peace and that peace was uneasy until their generation was old enough to look for other paths to personal peace and when they found it and made sense of it, they shared it - holding hands with strangers as you say .
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on February 08, 2013:
Well, I'm not one to normally blush James... but I sincerely appreciate your enthusiastic feedback. It is both kind and invigorating. Yes, there is a paucity of talent on Hub Pages, but it remains a great place to "practice" one's literary craft, and write from the heart, which matters as much as style sometimes. Thank you again. Ken
James A Watkins from Chicago on February 08, 2013:
Great picture of the Lads. I do not recall seeing that one before. A few days ago, I watched "A Hard Day's Night" for the first time in years. It is still a very good flick.
You are a fabulous writer. Your work here is clearly a cut above what we are used to on HubPages—or anywhere, for that matter. I mean, you are really WRITING! I love your use of the language to create mental pictures. If only I had this talent. Some of my favorite lines you wrote include:
"incendiary attempt to bring the land of legendary kings, Newton and Locke, Shakespeare and Dickens to its bloody knees."
"birthed into this ring of fire"
"the steadfast, cigar-chomping prime minister who shook his fist toward the skies"
"The four boys became teenage friends, starting making music together, and found themselves, a mere fifteen years after this cataclysmic war ended, performing in the back alleys of Hamburg, Germany, the very same country that tried to destroy their homeland during their childhood years."
I am thrilled to see you mention the "CD from the Cirque d’ Soleil hit show LOVE." What a fantastic CD! It is one of my all-time favorites. I adore the Beatles music. During my 20+ years as a touring musician I played and sang a ton of it, though we never had the vocal harmonies to make it our specialty. Our forte was Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and ZZ Top.
I had to smile broadly when I saw that your 14 year old son said, “The Beatles are timeless.”
You are spot on that "they inspired millions of teens and 20-somethings around the world to start garage bands." I am a living testimony to this truth.
I am sure you have seen "George Harrison: Living in the Material World." What a Great film that is!
I could not have enjoyed this article more. Thank you for this pleasure.
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on January 25, 2013:
Thank you GV. I appreciate the compliment, glad you enjoyed. regards, Ken
glassvisage from Northern California on January 25, 2013:
This is a very different look at The Beatles than I have seen, and it really gives me some great insight into this iconic band :) Great writing - like out of a magazine!
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on January 03, 2013:
Thank you Jim. Yes, their influence lives on, along with their singular music. Happy New Year.
Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on January 03, 2013:
This is fascinating and original thought, it seems to me. I stll listen to the "lads," they are on my IPOD (gift from my daughter). I admire much of what Sir Paul does for the world even today (who knew he would ever be a "Sir?")
Maybe even the rapid change in acceptance of gay marriage in this country, five or sex states now, can be traced to that "difference" that you say began with these talented lads.
UP & lots more!
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 30, 2012:
Thanks Jonny, your comments are kind and meaningful to me. Anyone who goes halfway around the world to help those in need is fine by me; with or without pop icons, pop philosophy or good old rock & rock on the headphones as you travel to your destination. cheers for the New Year, Ken
jonnycomelately on December 30, 2012:
Thank you Kenja.... this Hub is most excellent. Well written, grabs the intellect as well as the nostalgia of past decades.
In a world now that allows me to visit a country like Haiti for the past 2 months, a country that rose out of cruelty, greed and bigotry, whilst loving the people and all that they still face to overcome; as you have rightly said, we owe the trailblazers like the Beatles a great debt of gratitude.
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 20, 2012:
Thank you Kashmir. Yes, heard about Ravi and a posted a photo of he and George Harrison on Facebook. Happiest of holidays to you and yours.
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 20, 2012:
Thank you Kashmir. Yes, heard about Ravi and a posted a photo of he and George Harrison on Facebook. Happiest of holidays to you and yours.
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on December 20, 2012:
Hi Ken this was still a great read the second time around ! I don't know if you heard but Ravi Shankar just passed away at 93, he will be greatly missed by all who loved his music.
Vote up and more !!!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas !
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 02, 2012:
Thank you, twice, Kosmo. Let us keep writing, keep reading, and stay in touch. best, Ken
Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on December 02, 2012:
You certainly can write and write, sir. That's what it takes to be a novelist, eh? (Subtitles work great, ya know? Hey!) Well, I'm glad you wrote about he Fab Four and those terrible times during WW II when bombs rained from the sky. Yes, the Fabs were born in the early 1940s, the same time as many British rockers, including Richards and Jagger, both of whom will turn 70 in 2013. Anyway, thanks for the memories and commentary and good luck on future literary projects. Later!
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on December 01, 2012:
Thanks Jean, and so nice to hear from you. I don't over-romanticize the 60s, but I'm glad I grew up then. I'm (largely) happy with the present, and as John Lennon famously said about a Beatles reunion in the late 1970s: " No. Who wants to go back to high school?" as for people being kinder and more open minded back then, not so much... the Right thought: America, Love It or Leave It, while the Left hated all gov't & authority, even ultra-liberal LBJ. In the 1960s. the country was even more polarized than it is today! No matter, the Beatles were, are, and will remain great, positive, popular -- and rightly admired.
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on November 30, 2012:
Very nicely done. I got reinterested in the Beatles when my college aged son learned to play guitar. I found the songs were so good, and forgot that George was my favorite, as the spiritual one (I have stolen my son's All Things Must Pass, I don't know what I did with mine)! I hope history is kind to the 1960's and 70's. People were idealistic, but trying to be true to themselves, in their own, individual ways. I worry that people will just recall a bunch of people rolling around in the mud at Woodstock doing drugs and you know what. People were kinder and more open minded then. There's a great VH1 video on You Tube, where George is with Ravi Shankar, there to promote Ravi's album. Of course, George gets all the attention. I never heard him talk much, but it's four segments and is about 45 minutes long, and George explains his philosophy of life, so if you have time, even if George wasn't your favorite, I think it's worthwhile. It will take you back to that place for a while!
epigramman on November 25, 2012:
......the secret is to make lots of genuine and sincere comments (flood the market, so to speak, with your comments on articles, poems and hubs that have moved you in some way) lake erie time 5:34am canada
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on November 24, 2012:
Thanks for the positive feedback and kindly reviewing. I don't know much about getting Hub Page Fans, I'm fairly new and just added my ninth hub today. If you have helpful hints, great. And thanks again Ep for the response and well wishes. Best, Ken
epigramman on November 24, 2012:
....Ken, with awesome writing like this you should be writing for Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair - I was quite taken on how you can write about 40 years and turn it into so much more than just an overview of the Fab Four themselves but then again that's what great writers do - of which you are definitely one.
We need to find you some more fans and followers so I will post and link this amazing piece of writing to Hubpages FB page and sent it to some of my hub buddies.
Sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 10:02pm and listening a 60's pop music compilation.
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on November 02, 2012:
Thank you Kashmir. Nice to be connected. Ken
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on November 02, 2012:
Love this hub yeah, yeah, yeah !
Vote awesome ! Welcome to HubPages !
Ken Taub (author) from Long Island, NY on September 26, 2012:
Man, what a neat, eclectic mix of articles you have!
Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on September 26, 2012:
Any friend of the Beatles is a friend of mine. Voted up, interesting and awesome.