A Group of One

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The bloom in Central Park. Photo: JH.

Thursday, April 11, 2024. Yesterday was the first really beautiful Spring day in New York with the temperatures reaching the low-to-mid 70s and lots of sunshine. By late evening it had dropped back to the mid-50s. With the possibility of some rain.

Every morning, I check the curbside tree on the sidewalk curbside across from my apartment because the branches have been sprouting tiny pale brown buds.

The buds on the tree in front of my building starting to bloom.

Tuesday morning when I looked, about an inch high on the branches, the buds on the trees were unchanged. But yesterday afternoon about four o’clock, when I was taking a break while standing on the terrace and looking out at “my tree,” some of the same branches had sprouted little bright green buds. The birth of the leaves!

My observations are a sign of Age. As a younger man I might have appreciated (vaguely) hearing about such things. But it would have been an extremely incidental matter. Today with the world I grew up in greatly changed dramatically over the time from then to now.

However, at this time of the year when everything blooms and blossoms, including the children and the cats and the dogs, those tiny buds outside my living room window present the nature of the Miracle in our lives, and the Wisdom of the Ages.

On Tuesday night I was invited to a private party for a book that was just published: All You Need Is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words. With an additional description therein: “Unpublished, Unvarnished, and Told by The Beatles and Their Inner Circle.”

I loved The Beatles. I wasn’t a mad fan but I’m still a fan today. I was there, first living in New York when they arrived to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show (with our friend Harry Benson who was traveling with them and also inadvertently making his debut in America as an international major photographer and a fulltime resident and citizen all these decades later).

Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows this picture taken by Harry Benson of the Beatles arriving in New York for the first time (1964).

I was introduced to The Beatles by my girlfriend Sheila (who I married a couple of years later) and who was still in college. The Beatles were already the rage among her co-students. It sounded first like a gimmick group to me.

When they arrived at what is now Kennedy Airport, as has been shown in previous pages of this Diary and in every other national newspaper internationally, their presence was almost a novelty, as if they were representing the latest fad in a greatly changing world.

Their haircuts, for example, were “extreme” to the ordinary American male at the time, believe it or not. In retrospect, their introduction changed the hairstyles of the American males eventually of all ages, and ultimately all males across the world, to this day.

What would you call that hairstyle you’re wearing? George: Arthur.

At that interview by the press on their arrival, one of the reporters, shouting out to be heard over the excitement, asked “What do you call that haircut you’re wearing?”

George responded: “Arthur!”

Everyone roared with laughter. The serious was funny! No male haircut ever had a name before. But it was “different” compared to the mid-century American male’s haircut. It was not forgotten, ironically. A couple of years later when Richard Burton’s former wife Sybil had moved to New York after their divorce she opened a discotheque, and named it after the haircut: Arthur. It became the hottest must go-to nightclub in town for several years.

All of this came to mind because last week because of the aforementioned book party. At first I was pleasantly reminded of their arrival back then. Yet at the time, the world and over here, the growing menace of our relationship to the wars in South Vietnam was subtly but deeply giving life to major change in our own country. This is apparent all these years later when you make comparisons.

The Beatles on arrival were sentimental but fully modern, thoughtful, amusing, sensitive, romantic and witty. All under the umbrella of a new world. Now that “world” merged with the old, and here we are in the fields of change. This British group, a quartet, were very early symbols of that Change that has occurred across our civilization; and in reflection of the 21st century world and all aspects of it.

Click to order All You Need Is Love.

Paige Peterson, who is a friend of Peter Brown — the co-author of this book with Steven Gaines personally gave me a copy of the book. I will admit that I love the cover. The Four; young but so very serious and yet the kind of rockers who had all the young girls screaming with thrills as they performed. Funny in memory but astounding in person.

Fast forward to one winter night in 1980 in Los Angeles when I was a guest of Beth DeWoody at a screening at her mother Gladyce Begelman and stepfather’s house in Beverly Hills. Right after the film was over Gladyce came into the screening room to tell us John Lennon had just been shot dead in New York in the entry way of  the Dakota, where he shared an apartment with his wife Yoko Ono. This had a profound effect on many of us. Instantly.

The book is a series of chapters by the Four; interviews with the three survivors, much of which was gathered after they’d finished their professional lives as a group.

So we get a very close, inside view of the Four whom Brown knew intimately because he was part of the international image that Brian Epstein created for the group. It was very serious business and it turned into a goldmine in many ways.

Their work with The Four in developing their professional images and introducing them to the world they would be joining as Stars was, in a word, perfect. Because as The Four it was a masterpiece on who they were as individuals, and how with their natural talents they affected anyone who knew them.

For example, there’s a lengthy section/interview with George Harrison, a fascinating individual, quoted in a Q & A:

George in his interview: “Everything is dramedy (ed, combination of drama and comedy).”

“So if you accept gain, you set yourself up for loss. By embracing the day, you automatically have the night.  You can’t escape it. The only way you’re not influenced by such things — if you’re very successful, is not to think that it’s wonderful because you can’t deal with it. You automatically inherit failure, if you take on success.”

He was asked: “When did it dawn on you how influential The Beatles had become?”

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

GH: “We didn’t realize. You know, I think it just went in stages. We kept realizing we were getting bigger and bigger until we all realized we couldn’t go anywhere — you couldn’t pick up a paper or turn on a radio or TV without seeing yourself.  I mean, I think it became too much. We became trapped, and that’s why it had to end, is what I think. Because again, as it says in my book: you have to have space. We were like monkeys in a cage.”

“I think it was helped a bit by the fact that it was four of us, who shared the experience. I mean, there was more than four of us, there was Peter Brown and Brian Epstein, but there was only four of us who were actually the ‘Fab Four’ — whereas Elvis had an entourage and maybe fifteen guys, friends of his, but there was only one man having that experience of what it was like to be Elvis Presley. I think it was far lonelier than being one of the Fab Four because at least we could keep each other laughing or crying or whatever we did to each other. It was definitely an asset being in a group.”

Paul’s interview is very detailed on the development and rise of the group and how it functioned and what the relationships were between each. John and Paul, it seems, were closest in that they were very good collaborators. And there was a strong vibe between them, although John was not easy on Paul or so it seemed in re-telling.

But the book is an excellent collaboration not only of Brown and Gaines, but of everyone that was included in the memory experience. Including Yoko Ono and John’s first wife Cynthia Lennon, mother of John’s son, and a sad story of one who never really recovered from his leaving (for Yoko).

And then there was Ringo, the guy who made the American journalists laugh on the group’s initial arrival in New York to appear on Ed Sullivan. Ringo’s interview is informative while revealing his personality. Which is very serious when talking about his life, their career, and the results. Apparently Ringo was closer to George, as Paul was closer to John.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

But as a group they were, by nature, One. This goes along with other individuals’ recollections that are included  — professionals who were involved or close to the during their great days as the world’s most famous and influential performing group.

The content is a combination of an article, a biography and something good; still fresh three, almost four generations later. If you pick this book up, you won’t be able to put it down until you’ve finished listening … it’s like that.

Those millions of us who were and still are great fans of The Beatles will feel it survive, revive, and taking it all in for you. Collectors of their albums in which remains their unique talented selves, are still drawn to their personal style, the best for all. This book is it.

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