Acid Heroes

September 18, 2012

More Beatlemania

Filed under: Random Archives — Ace Backwords @ 5:59 am

Originally published January 14, 2003


If Horace Dalrimple was the first Beatlemaniac I was to meet, my little sister Jean was the second. 7-years-old, little brat she was. Sometimes late at night after bedtime, sister Jean would lay there in her dark second-story bedroom. Then she’d open up her window, stick her head out the window and shout into the night sky:

“John!  Paul! George! RINGO!”

And always in that order: “John!  Paul! George!  RINGO!” Yelling into the black sky, in the direction of the railroad tracks and the school playground behind our back yard.  I’d hear her voice echoing off the red brick school.

Then she’d close her window and go back to sleep.

To me, it was the Saturday morning “Beatles Animated Cartoon Show” that really got me. They were like the most fun toy of all, them Beatles. They sure looked like they were having great fun. And there was something zany about them. That had that extra ZING about them. I mean, you could argue that the Beatles were manufactured and marketed to us by the media. But there was something organic about the whole process. It went way beyond mere hype. For Horace, sister Jean, and me — and millions of other American kids just like us — responded immediately to the Beatles. We didn’t have to be TOLD that we should buy this. We went after it, hooked from the beginning.  It was a strange confluence of the Beatles, the Baby Boomers and the burgeoning Mass Media all tri-secting at the same place.  To the point where it was hard to tell which was creating which.

I still remember the opening bit of The Beatles Cartoon Show. It started with the 6 open-tuned notes of an acoustic guitar. Later, I would remember that when I learned to tune my guitar as an adult. The Beatles were putting out some high-wattage material, and much of it would stick to us for a lifetime. And you never knew precisely which pieces would stick.

The cartoon Beatles were like superheroes, in a way, and their guitars were their super-weapon. Whenever the guitars came out, the reality amped up and the Beatles took control. Instant Fun. Later, with their psychedelic kiddie cartoon “Yellow Submarine” the Beatles would amp up the theme of the superhero Beatles and their super guitars battling the evil Blue Meanies. But always, the Beatles stood for The Good, doing battle if not against the Forces of Evil, then against the Forces of Dullness. Of drabness. They were like sunshine. Candy. And the battle was against the old farts, the stodgie ones, the ones that wouldn’t let you play, that told you you had to get to work. Clean up your room. Do your homework. The Beatles always appealed to the kids in all of us — and especially when we were in fact kids. One thinks of the scene in “Hard Days Night”, the bitter, cranky old guy, the stone-faced guy. Contrasted to the free and easy Beatles. That was always their image. On top of it all. And yet with just a bit of the cheeky rascal in them. But even that was always done in the name of good; never in maliciousness; they were just trying to liven up the party and have some fun. They were presented to as like four Cat in the Hats. Four Bugs Bunnies; the Beatles cartoon toy. You always sensed that about the Beatles. That they were big kids who just wanted to cut loose. And what kid didn’t.

And what fun they were having! Millions of girls chasing after them. Love! Love! Love! That was another thing that separated the Beatles toy from most of the other toys. They were amping out this message of Love! Love! Love! in a way that the other toys didn’t. The other toys were much more quiet. Even the Barbie toy, romantic-slut that she was, had a very dignified, regal air about her. She never got sloppy with that LOVE LOVE LOVE stuff. She always seemed to play it pretty cool, even with Ken. You couldn’t imagine Ken shouting “Barbie I LOVE YOU LOVE YOU LOVE YOU! ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE LOVE LOVE, BARBIE.” Nah, Ken was a little too uptight for that. And he was kind of a fag to boot. Every hair in place. You could never imagine Ken making fart-noises with his hand, but you could always imagine the Beatles doing that. Especially John. 

The GI Joe toy, on the other hand, was the stoic, quiet type. “Just doin’ my job.” You couldn’t imagine GI Joe being much fun at parties. And Barbie’s parties were even duller. Sitting around drinking tea out of little china cups and talking about shoes.

You could argue, I suppose, that the Beatles toy was in fact an improvement over the Barbie toy and the GI Joe toy. GI Joe glamorized war and violence and killing and Vietnam. Barbie glamorized shallow fashion and image and mindless consumerism and cock-tease sexuality.

In that context the Beatles toy was a breath of fresh air. A celebration of wholesome, exuberant, cleancut FUN! At least on the surface.

Of course a lot of people remember where they were when the Beatles appeared on “Ed Sullivan.” Our whole family gathered around the family television set on that fateful night. The five children and Mom and Dad. We had this big television set, as big as a cabinet with a tiny black and white screen. We had all gathered around that television set a year earlier when Kennedy had been shot. My mother had taken me out of school, 2nd grade, and brought me home. She was convinced the Russians were going to start nuking us at any second. We had a dusty cellar stocked with cans of food in the event we’d need an emergency shelter. Anyway, now I was in the 3rd grade and it was the Beatles. Paul McCartney would later describe the effect they had on America: “It was probably the haircuts more than anything else. To most people we probably seemed like four singing marionettes.”

And that was exactly it. For the Beatles were the coolest most vibrant new toy in the toy-chest. These cheeky, smiling, singing marionettes. “WOO!” Singing joyous songs of LOVE LOVE LOVE! What was not to like.

But there was something very odd about the Beatles toy.

There was something very different that set the Beatles toy apart from the Barbie toy and the GI Joe toy and almost all the other toys in the toy-chest. The Beatles toy was real. For the Beatles were real people.

This would play out in many odd and surprising ways over the next few years. For one thing: many of us didn’t out-grow our Beatles toy. In fact, unlike the other toys, the Beatles toy kept growing along with us, one step ahead of us.


1 Comment »

  1. yeah but G.I. Joe had Kung Fu grip!
    ( ;
    good stuff, write on…
    Space Hippie

    Comment by spacehippie — September 18, 2012 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

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