March 10, 2023
The history of civilisation gives us plenty of examples of different forms of art and their development during a particular era, be it painting, sculpture, literature or music. The last became much more powerful as far as its impact on populace is concerned during the last century, especially towards the second half. One such art group, in music indeed, was the Beatles. They started their music group in the early sixties of the last century and dominated the world of music for a decade. It is not that they died or disappeared after that short period, but that the fervor of their impact came down after the four Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr broke up as a team.
In the progress of humans into civilised societies, there have been the rise of several movements, one of which is the creation of parallel societies. Most of these parallel societies came up on certain principles or belief systems, most of which were against existing ones. Some of these were also extremely dangerous ones, such societies like the Ku Klux Klan. All the same, there were also many which were admired by many, including common humans.
One such movement was the Beatles. In the early sixties of the twentieth century when the ‘Beatle Mania’ struck, the world looked up to them with great appreciation because they stood as a representation of a parallel society that sprung against traditional belief systems and pseudo human relations. They proclaimed to the world that human living has to be transparent and value-centric. They also provided the youth of the world a sort of a mania of rebellion and functioning in the radius of enchanting music that provides opportunities for rejecting what was then considered the standardised and typical human behaviour. They believed in music and its impact on the creation of happiness for all humans. They symbolised a form of counterculture and acted as the paragon of excellence of influencing youth of the world living with a sense of disillusionment with the then existing culture of war and violence. They became signposts for rebellion expressed through the finest form of art, music.
When they started, it was a pop revolution in the making. Beatlemania referred to a sort of excitement of the youth. The music exalted their minds in an exaggerated manner. Screams of teen age girls as symbols of gender revolution and forms of protest against sexual repressiveness and the rigid double standards against women were apparent fall out of the mania. Young men with their long Beatles hair and unshaven faces became a symbol of a cultural revolution, vastly different from the cultural revolution of the Chinese. Most youth who admired Beatles were saying ‘no’ to brutal sadistic behaviour of men to women, and, show off big muscle as male characteristic and power. The youth melted into rock music in their Beatlemania.
America took a little time to accept the Beatles who visited the US only in the middle of 1964. There is a book by Randell Stephens, Professor of American and British Studies, titled ‘The Devil’s Music’ where the author refers to the Beatlemania. He says that the Americans condemned it in the beginning and later embraced it as rock music which had the power to move people. America was in the grip of a national depression after the assassination of John Kennedy, and therefore, was not in a mood to accept or try anything new. Critics attribute the acceptance of Beatle music late by the Americans to their sad plight after the Dallas incident of a very brutal extermination of a hope for a brighter future of the Americans in the murder of their beloved young president. All the same, they embraced Beatlemania very soon. More music critics are of the opinion that the Beatles reoriented American music by shaking of the mid-century conformity.
The origin of the name itself is interesting. It all started in Liverpool, the music capital of the United Kingdom in the mid twentieth century. There was already a music band called ‘Crickets’ in late fifties. So, the new group wanted similar but different name. It was named Beetles first to have it almost in the same lines of the existing band, then changed over to Silver Beetles for some time. They thought it will be worthwhile to have a pun on the word beats of music and spelt it as Beatles in August 1960 making it a unique word. They influenced the whole world through their music, rock music indeed. They created music and presented it to the world, especially to the youth. The type of food that they ate, the type of clothes that they wore and their hairstyle represented their rebellion against the existing culture. People who assembled to hear the rock music not only admired the movements of the singers and the players of musical instruments, they also started moving in the same fashion by being in the crowd. There had even been statements made that the Beatles were more popular in the western world than even Jesus Christ. Such a statement had also created enough trouble in yet another parallel society of orthodoxy. In fact, the albums that they brought out, several of them, became the most popular music albums of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet, though the music still live, the band was disbanded by the end of the sixties of the century.
Subsequent to their breaking up, there had been tragedies that awaited them. John Lennon was shot dead in New York in front of his wife, Yoko, on 08 December 1980. He was killed by Mark David Chapman who resented the popularity of the singer. It is said that Lennon’s last sentence to his wife was that he should go and visit his son who was waiting for him at his residence. George Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. Paul McCartney continues to bring out music albums. Likewise, Ringo Starr is turning 82 and still continues to contribute to music.
Their love of music and the intrinsic culture of rebellion that they nourished also came into focus when they decided to reject the western culture and embrace the eastern or the oriental. In 1968, they came to India, all four of them with their wives. They located themselves at Hrishikesh Ashram of Mahesh Yogi in the fourteen acre plot in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve on the banks of the Ganges. They believed that the eastern civilisation had plenty to offer them for the parallel society that they lived in. In fact, their arrival and their fascination for Rudraksha, cotton and kavi clothes representing hermitage, hand-woven clothes and the Indian villages introduced India and her culture to the western world which looked up to the Beatles with reverence.
Their life in Hrishikesh changed their life styles too. They converted themselves to vegetarianism. A large number of their followers followed. They too took up place in the Hrishikesh Ashram. They lived there for almost two years, all of a sudden, they left the place. John Lennon accused the Yogi of a sexual assault of Miya Farrow, a follower of the Beatles and later a disciple of the Yogi. Lennon did not change from his allegation till his death. Miya Farrow herself confirmed the molestation case. Once, after they returned to England, Lennon wrote a song in the name of the Yogi himself in which the accused Yogi of molestation. However, he changed the name of the song into ‘Sexy Sadie’ to avoid the name of the Yogi. One should not forget to mention here that the other Beatles were silent about the incident. The major issue of John Lennon’s allegations was that the other Beatles did not confirm it. Lennon came to India with a broken affair with Cynthia, who was also with him then and there was also Yoko Ono, the Japanese lady who followed him ardently. Later Lennon took the latter as his life-mate and they had a son. As far as the Yogi was concerned, he left his beautiful ashram and went to Switzerland where he died in 2008.
The Uttarakhand ashram still remains there. It is considered that the Beatles made two civilisations meet together. It was closed after the Yogi left. However, on public pressure it was reopened in 2015 and today people are allowed to visit the ashram. There is a Photo Gallery of the 1968 visit of the Beatles. The fourteen cottages still are maintained and people have access to them. Far at the height of the ashram, there is a Vegan Caffe started in 1889, the place attracts people from all over the world, especially those who remember the Beatles.
It is said that the Beatles fell out after a decade for very mundane reasons like one of them getting a higher percentage of royalties. Beatle lovers refused to accept this reason. Some of them who are intellectual in nature attribute the reason to be natural as a collapse of a hugely but quickly built parallel society. Yet, no one can reduce their importance in the world of music.