A few years back, I attended an “oldies” concert featuring some of the biggest groups from the ’50s and ’60s. One of the artists was Dion Dimucci, whom you may know better as part of Dion and the Belmonts. Remember?
“Teenager In Love” ? “Runaround Sue”?
Except now Dion was alone. He didn’t have his Belmonts. So he asked if anyone in the audience would like to come on stage and act as his backup group. I was with my musician friends. We loved early rock and roll.
We ran on stage.
In the hot spotlight, with the crowd cheering, I felt, for a moment, like it was 1959, and we were one of those sweet- singing doo-wop groups with the high, greasy pompadours and the red checkered jackets. I had in mind a photo of the Belmonts where Dion is crooning, his hair greased back, his fingers snapping, raised like castanets. For one brief moment, I was in the picture, too, right behind him.
“You guys know any of my songs?” It was Dimucci talking to us, leaning in, so the crowd couldn’t hear him. His tone was gruff. His body blocked the spotlight. Suddenly, I was looking at the balding head of a middle-age man, with wrinkles under his eyes and too much makeup on his cheeks. His clothes were modern. His voice was not young. It quickly hit us that this was not 1959, and we were not in the doo-wop picture. We were on stage with an aging troubadour who’d been singing the same damn songs for 30 years. It wouldn’t be the same
I thought about that last week, when I heard the remaining Beatles — Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — were getting together to record some music. Like that night on stage, I felt a thrilled rush, followed by a cold splash of reality.
And here’s what I concluded: I wish they wouldn’t do it. Get together at private parties, sing in their living rooms — but please, don’t put out a Beatles song for the whole world to hear, judge, and evaluate.
For it is doomed to disappointment.
The Beatles were more than a band, they were a phenomenon. And they were inseparable from their decade. In the ’60s, when a Beatles song came out, it was a major event. We turned up our car radios, or the clock radios next to our beds, and we heard the DJ say “a world premiere of the new Beatles song .
. . ” and we wondered: Would it be a fast one? A slow one? A psychedelic one? Would Paul sing lead? Or John? Or Ringo?
That’s how big a deal it was. And once we heard it, we called each other to compare thoughts. What do you think? What did it mean? We memorized the lyrics. We searched for hidden content. The ’60s were a decade of change, and as the Beatles changed, we changed, too. They went from neckties to Nehrus, from bowl cuts to ponytails, from cigarettes to drugs, from love songs to “Let it Be.” But their great gift was making melody out of all modes of music, rock, psychedelic, sitar, so you could sing along to “She Loves You” as well as “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
For kids in the ’60s, the Beatles became a traveling companion. They held our hands for the long, strange trip. Wherever we went in that decade, they went, too. Imagine it on MTV
It is no longer the ’60s. And one of the Beatles is dead.
Without John Lennon, of course, they are not the same group. Lennon was the conscience and the bite of the Beatles. Losing him is not like losing the Belmonts.
But more than that. If the remaining Beatles make a song today, it will not be awaited on the clock radios or buzzed about by schoolkids. It will be over-covered. Over-hyped. Larry King will want interviews. MTV will want a video. A Beatles song with some director guiding a video ruins the whole joy of what used to be their music: imagination. Yellow Submarines, an Octopus’s Garden.
Besides, the Beatles were woven into the tapestry of a decade. That tapestry is complete. What would they write now? A ’90s love song? A rap tune? Where would it fit? People would try to force it into the Beatles legend and find no room. No open slot. It would be the first Beatles song without a home.
I don’t want to see it. I know that’s selfish. But for those of us who grew up in the 60s, the Beatles may be the last memory that hasn’t been fed through the recycle machine — unlike Vietnam, miniskirts, the Brady Bunch, and Andy Warhol.
That’s important. People I know in England say that kids still go to Abbey Road and pose for photographs, in groups of four, crossing the street, one going barefoot, to simulate the famous Beatles album cover.
Call it crazy. But to me, that’s all the re-creation the Beatles need. Putting them back in the studio only runs the risk that our fond memories are dwarfed by new ones, receding hairlines, gruff voices, and the already too-loud reminder that nothing is the way it used to be. Who needs that?