The Financial Times noted, “Is there really anything new left to say? In fact, objective cinematic accounts of the Fab Four are surprisingly few,” in its write up announcing the DVD release. Admittedly, the Financial Times said briefly that the documentary, successfully captures the excitement that greeted their arrival in America.
Perhaps, it is the revisiting of the excitement of those times as this reporter witnessed when seeing the film back in October is the reason for its success.
Most of the people I interviewed and talked to who remember those times back in the early 1960s, were enthralled when they saw the documentary. And even if they were more critical of those times as they are now older, the film spurred many recollections.
Among them was professor Kenneth Womack, Ph.D. of Monmouth University of West Long Beach, New Jersey. While most of my initial questions were regarding the Ron Howard documentary, the professor of English who also serves as Dean, at the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Monmouth, talked more about the times. Prof. Womack has just published a new book on the subject entitled, “The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four.” He also provided insight as to why The Beatles were so influential.
I would like to get perspective, I asked Prof. Womack, on how and why The Beatles endured well after they had broken up?
“As a ‘brand,” he replied, “the Beatles made a number of moves that, in hindsight, established them as a blue-chip cultural phenomenon. And they began making these moves even during the legal turmoil associated with their disbandment. A major case in point would be the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ compilation albums released in 1973. The brainchild of Allen Klein, these double-LPs afforded the band with the veneer of a legacy act. While Klein is often seen, and rightly so, as a notorious figure in the Beatles’ circle, the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ LPs played a key early role in the group’s incredible longevity—right on through the Beatles’ ‘1’ LP and into the remasters and the present day.”
Also, I asked him, can it be said that because The Beatles were able to go on to solo careers was because each had their own formidable talents and abilities?
“In their own ways,” he said, “the band mates were virtuoso performers. Their emergent solo careers in 1970 and beyond certainly make this point resoundingly clear. It is interesting to note that the lion’s share of their solo success occurs in the years in closest proximity to their disbandment. To my ears, this demonstrates the many ways in which they were truly the sum of their parts—formidable as solo artists, but truly better as a working unit. Together, they enjoyed 27 US and UK number-one hits. But impressively, as solo artists, they topped the U.S. and U.K. charts 20 times — the last being George’s ‘Got My Mind Set on You’ —which underscores a resounding musical influence.”
Because each Beatle member became a major talent of his own, I had to ask Womack. Which would you say was more influential, John Lennon or Paul McCartney. And, what was it about John Lennon that pushed him to ‘cult-like’ status? Or is that an exaggeration?
Womack had this to say.
“I like to think of them as two sides of the same coin. In his best moments, John was a musical visionary, while Paul’s finest instances find him as a musical virtuoso. Too much is made of them as veritable opposites — a marriage of highly divergent personalities. We need to remember that they came from a fairly homogeneous culture, with very similar life experiences upon which they drew. To my mind, they were a creative marriage made in heaven. As their solo careers unfolded, Lennon’s sound clearly misses Paul’s rich sense of melody, while McCartney’s music too often lacks John’s edge. Some of Lennon’s cult-like status is certainly rooted in the awful way in which he was wrenched from the world, but also in the five-year hiatus that punctuated the end of his life. He had already achieved a level of mystique in his own right. In many ways, the Beatles, too, have enjoyed the power of mystique, given that they disband in September 1969 to leave the world stage as a working band… forever. There is something innately powerful in that sense of permanent absence.”
Recalling the shocking news that hit and stunned fans in 1980, I asked the professor a more specific question about John Lennon. Had he not been killed by “a lone nut” as it were, would he have eventually just blended into the background along with is Beatle bandmates?
“John’s senseless murder was the historical game-changer for the band,” said Womack, “without a shadow of a doubt. As friends and creative partners who likely would have worked together again in some capacity, they were robbed of his life in a cruel and terrible way. But worse yet for John, as a person he barely had the opportunity to turn 40 and grow into middle age, where he would have undoubtedly enjoyed many insights about his life, his past experiences, and his music. I think he would have emerged as a cultural giant in a very different way had he survived into the 1980s. There was an optimism in his words and music that we sorely needed — and need even more perhaps in the present day.”
For more information about the Ron Howard documentary, “Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years” and to learn about its release on DVD and BluRay visit The Beatles web site. And, see the page on Facebook.