|A Quart Of Milk, A Dozen Eggs, And...The
|March 6th, 2004|
|Fittingly, I came across this special magazine
celebrating The Beatles initial arrival
U.S. shores--a veritable "40th
Collectors Edition", like it says
there on the cover, don'tcha know?--at
local Hannaford's grocery store.
The publisher's, y'see, happen to be the Florida-based supermarket tabloid specialists, American Media Inc., and that's perhaps the first hint that the 152 pages included between the covers of this oversized (10 3/4" X 9"), square-bound, slick-paper commemorative cash-in is unlikely to rival the Fab-focused specials meticulously assembled by Britain's "Q", "Mojo", or "Uncut" monthlies in recent years and beneficently shipped across the ocean for sale in some of our finer book-selling emporiums. But NOT in food stores. Nope. That's American Media's domain. Which might lead some of you more discriminating Beatle Geeks to reflexively turn up your nose and smugly assume this magazine to be essentially worthless.
|You'd be wrong...
I know, I know--I'M surprised, too. And honest to gosh, if we were to judge it solely on its spare text and dubious factoids, you might well be right. But this rapid retelling isn't really being written for you and me, the more serious (read: obsessed) fan, but rather for that middle-aged lady who sorta remembers seeing the group on TV once or twice--maybe even with Ed himself!--and had a couple of the bigger singles and maybe an album or two. Gathering groceries for the family, our one-time admirer spies the bright, bold, and colorful cover, thinks back to days long past, a wistful smile slowly playing across her face (or his--let's be fair here), and before you know it, the $5.95 spectacular is nuzzling up next to a head of broccoli in a packed grocery cart, destined to be carelessly stuffed into a grocery bag by a clueless teenage stock boy.
And then, the band we've known for all these years, the story we know all too well, is briskly recapped in tabloidese. Just look at those screaming headlines: "What Really Happened When The Beatles Met Elvis" (not much), "John's Nasty Letter To Paul's Wife" (many words of which the "journalists" at American Media declined to print), and "Exclusive: Ringo Serves Tea In His Pajamas" (alert the media!!)--its all pretty silly. An attempt at prestige is fumbled by including the briefest of introductions from one-time promotions head-honcho, Pete Bennett, which provides negliable insight.
A confession--despite the fact that the text is noticeably sparse, I only managed to read bits and pieces. There just didn't seem to be much point in doing otherwise. What few errors I spotted didn't appear of a particularly egregious nature, nor goofy enough to laugh at, and like I said, we all KNOW the story, right? So why buy this latest retread, you ask? Simple--the pictures...
For what could easily have been a totally disposable publication, this collection gets high marks from me by utilizing a lot of rare and unfamiliar photographs, and presenting them in a straightforward but artistically pleasing manner. The art direction is hardly cutting edge, granted, but it IS handsome, and intelligently laid out. A two-page color spread of the boys taping their third Sullivan program, as members of the press swarm around, replete with three related snapshots inserted into the larger composition, gives the reader a wonderfully evocative sense of the elusive magic that permeated the television studio on that landmark day.
The REALLY early years, in fact, get more pictorial play than found in even some of the more exhaustive tracts documenting that era. You don't usually see a two page spread of a nascent publicity shot, the boys looking mildly uncomfortable in unaccustomed suits and ties, their hair just starting to grow Beatle-length--with Pete Best, of all people, smack dab in the middle! And I know I'd never seen that picture of Pete, George, Paul, Stu, erstwhile manager Allan Williams, wife Beryl, and business partner (and calypso singer) Lord Woodbine sitting in front of a war memorial in the Netherlands. Again, generously spread across two pages, this black and white photograph is far more fascinating historically than it is for its limited artistic merit, but hey, I'm not complaining (just wondering where John was, is all...).
There's also shots of Roy Orbison's doomed spouse, Claudette, feeding John a piece of what had to be one of her last birthday cakes; the lads rehearsing in their hotel room, adorned in swim trunks for the Florida Sullivan show remote; several viscerally exciting concert photos that put you right in the midst of the Beatlemania hysteria at its height; a full page color shot of the group posed dramatically in front of the American flag; and--from the "Magical Mystery Tour" shoot--the boys posed informally with topless dancer Jan Carson!?! Yipes! But fear not--in this post-Janet Jackson era, a feathery boa covers Ms. Carson's amiable attributes. Unfortunately...
|(Even more amazingly, in a full page-plus
devoted to a still from "The Magic Christian",
Ringo strolls through a ship's galley alongside
another of the film's star, Raquel Welch,
as over fifty beauteous nude extras man (or
should that be "woman"?...) the
oars on either side of them--AND NARY A SINGLE
NIPPLE IS EXPOSED!?! What a tremendously
well-staged composition on the filmmaker's
part--and what a sad disappointment to those
of us who may appreciate gazing upon images
OTHER than of one Beatle or another...heh...)
There's even a pic of the group's drummer apparently auditioning a new look for the boy's trademark locks, one that was undoubtedly rejected due to some serious maintenance issues...
|Now, I couldn't get through this entire review
without mocking SOMETHING in this otherwise
stellar visual presentation, friends--specifically
a couple of the captions. Most serve the
pictures well enough, but the one next to
a gorgeous double-page spread from the "Sexy
Sadie" era (wink wink) is just plain
puzzling. In what is obviously meant as a
staged portrait, the lads' guru sits center
stage, with his world-famous acolytes gathered
blissfully around him, each band member in
turn flanked by an attractive, long-haired
young blonde woman. As this magazine had
already devoted a number of pages to various
spouses, as you might well expect, I was
a little curious when I first encountered
this photo. I certainly knew that was Jane
Asher posed in front of Paul, and Cynthia
before John, with Patti Harrison naturally
in front of hubby George, but I was momentarily
confused as to the identity of the blonde
in front of Ringo. Wife Maureen always was
the least seen of the first generation of
Fab wives, and, gosh, wasn't she a brunette,
after all? Maybe this was Jenny Boyd, Patti's
younger sister, who, after all, WAS known
to've been involved in that whole Indian
episode, right? So, expecting some clarification,
I checked the accompanying caption looking
for some help. Here's what it said:
"Paul, John, George, Ringo and four unidentified women followers with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi..."!!
You read that right--"FOUR UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN"!! Who just happened to join the boys for a formal portrait with their self-described "spiritual teacher"! Who look awfully similar to the ladies seen on more than a few of the preceding pages! Geez--HOW do you miss that one? (The only plausible theory I have is that the beleaguered caption writer had as much trouble identifying Ringo's partner as I did, so much so that, rather than be wrong, or admit ignorance regarding one of the women, he just threw his hands up and said, I don't know who ANY of them are!?! That's the ONLY explanation that makes sense to me, if only barely...) (And by the way--it's Maureen with a dye job. It's gotta be. Ritchie would surely know better than to leave his wife home and have his mug snapped with Patti's little sis, wouldn'tcha think?...)
Then there's the situation concerning a couple of photos found on the very last two pages. With the final dozen or so pages assigned to a quick post-Beatles wrap-up for each now-solo member, page 152 boasts a photo from Ringo's wedding to his second wife, Barbara Bach, back in 1981. Besides the happy couple, George and HIS second wife Olivia are pictured, as are Paul along with his (yes) first wife Linda. Okay--got that image in your head? Good. Now look across to the inside back cover, and there's the Threetles, as they were sometimes called (though not here), Ringo, Paul, and George as seen during the Anthology project. And the informative caption underneath?...
"The first time the Beatles got together since their breakup in 1970 was in 1995."!!
Gee, if Ringo hears THAT, he's gonna be awful bummed to find out that the fellas didn't actually attend his nuptials after all! (Again, the reasonable explanation might be the unstated implication that they hadn't gotten together MUSICALLY since 1970, but it still looks kinda silly, sitting right across from a photo that clearly contradicts its literal definition...)
To break up this plethora of pictures, small blurbs marking significant record release dates are scattered throughout what is generally a thorough and chronological retelling of Beatles history, but this is a mistake, as the listing is perplexing in both what it includes and what it doesn't. Page 23 notes that "My Bonnie" was issued on the Decca label in April 1962, and the NEXT blurb on page 33 notes that "Please Please Me" was released by Vee Jay in February of 1963!! Even accepting that the researcher has cued his data entirely towards the American sequence of releases, it's somehow strange not to see "Love Me Do" in there until much later. More mystifying is, while ticking off every single the Vee Jay label desperately flooded onto the market while it had the chance--even a rerelease of "Please Please Me" in January of '64!!--the first Capitol single that's noted is March 1964's "Can't Buy Me Love", meaning that, yes fans, they COMPLETELY ignore the tune that brought the boys to the top of the U.S. pops, December '63's watershed "I Want To hold Your Hand" 45!?! But somehow three subsequent singles backing up Tony Sheridan--as well as the German version of "She Loves You"--manage to be duly--if dully--noted. Oh well, like I said, don't buy this for the text...
In the final analysis, if you stumble upon this publication when you're out at your local grocery store one fine afternoon, and you've got a few bucks left over after amassing a suitable amount of foodstuffs to feed your hungry family, I'd say yeah, spring for it. I wouldn't call it a "must-have" item due to the deficiencies in the wordage, but I'd be more than comfortable designating it as a "should-have" item because of the fine pictorial presentation of the ever-familiar The Beatles story told, happily enough, with largely unfamiliar images.
Ultimately, you'll have to make your own decision about purchasing this mag. Consider this piece, then, merely food for thought...
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