*Random thoughts from the weekend about the Beatles and television, because why not.
Crazy fun fact I learned this week: The first time a Tamla/Motown song was ever played on British radio, the Beatles were playing it.
This knowledge comes from a Paley Center event I went to Friday evening, a talk with Beatles scholar Mark Lewisohn, who just released the first of a comprehensive three-volume set on the band, titled “Tune In.”
Lewisohn was talking specifically about the American music that influenced the Beatles, and about the band’s 1964 visit to the United States. I had some familiarity with the topic thanks to the Beatles class I took in college, but this added so much depth to my understanding.
Rather than simply rattling off some of the Beatles’ influences, Lewisohn talked about how these American acts specifically influenced the band. It wasn’t just “they listened to Elvis, they listened to Carl Perkins.” He went into why the Beatles were drawn to certain acts, and what particular elements of the early performers’ styles they tried to emulate. One point I found particularly interesting was about the different ways Elvis and Buddy Holly influenced the group. Elvis, they worshipped because of his onstage persona. (“Elvis was absolutely God to the Beatles,” Lewisohn said. “Well, they weren’t yet the Beatles. But he was God.”) They knew right away Elvis wasn’t a very good guitar player, but they wanted to move and perform like him. Buddy Holly, on the other hand, didn’t have Elvis’ moves, but they wanted to play the guitar as well as he did.
Talking about the Beatles’ first visit to the US, he went beyond the Ed Sullivan Show and talked about major differences the Beatles noticed between the United States and Britain, particularly with regards to television. They just could not get over the in-your-face nature of US TV ads – how even the broadcasters themselves delivered commercial messages. Lewisohn said they found that hilarious. Albert Maysles, a documentarian who followed the Beatles during the 1964 trip, joined this portion of the talk, and a clip from his film was shown, of Paul explaining to a group of people the difference in TV advertisements. I didn’t write it down word-for-word, nor can I find the precise clip online, but he did a great newsman impression, something like “The situation in China is very bad, and did you know, you should be drinking…” as he holds up a bottle of something. It was charming, of course.
(Another great Paul moment – because what Paul moment isn’t great – was also from the Maysles documentary, when New York radio host Murray the K had each of the Beatles announce his station call letters, WINS, on the air. They all attached some joke to it, but Paul’s was the best: “W-I-N-S Winston Churchill.”)
Oh, and about the Motown-on-British-radio fun fact…isn’t that nuts? I can’t remember the exact date, but the Beatles’ rendition of “Please Mr. Postman” was the first Tamla/Motown tune to play on British radio.
Completely unrelated, but another wonderful moment of culture from this weekend…
Saturday Night Live‘s spot-on parody of what a Wes Anderson horror movie might look like.
Despite my nagging Royal Tenenbaums obsession, I’m not a Wes Anderson buff. I think I’m just intrigued with the way he carries so many of the same elements through each film…Bill Murray, Futura, made-up book titles…plus, his movies are so nice to look at.
This SNL trailer parody was just perfect. I mean, it captures everything Wes Anderson is known/loved/hated for (although now that I think about it, where’s Bill Murray?) and has the most wonderfully pretentious title: “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders.”
What I love about this:
- Alec Baldwin as the Narrator – Alec Baldwin was onstage during Edward Norton’s monologue, but I didn’t connect the dots until my roommate pointed it out during the clip. Duh, Alec Baldwin was narrating a Wes Anderson movie.
- “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” as the music, because it’s the soundtrack to my favorite part of The Royal Tenenbaums.
- Edward Norton’s excellent Eli Cash impression: “Hey hun, I think we’re about to get murdered.”
- “The New York Times calls it, ‘You had me at Wes Anderson.'”
The rest of the episode was solid, but this was a gem. That is all.