The following is an editorial carried in the morning issue of the Tokyo Shimbun on August 14:
50 Years of the Beatles: Move beyond Our Songs
In front of me there is a black-and-white photo. It is a photo taken in August 1962 of the Beatles performing at the Cavern Club in their hometown of Liverpool. They are sporting the mushroom haircuts and collarless suits that were later to become their trademark. The four are all there, wearing matching slim ties. Ringo, who had just joined the band, is sitting impassively behind John and Paul.
The group’s foursome had been decided, and two months after this photo was taken they made their recording debut with “Love Me Do.” John’s harmonica playing on that song is very impressive. This was the year that the legend began.
In the 1950s, liberated from the oppression of the war, young people had found the leeway to search for their own culture. It was a culture of offensive melody, rhythm, and liberal lyrics. Rock music was a symbol of their resistance to the people who until then had been repressing them. Against the background of economic growth, young people sought further change.
The mass media were developing, the world was drawing rapidly closer, and national borders were melting away. The stage was set for the appearance of the first ever international idols.
The attraction of the Beatles, of course, lay in their sound. There was Paul’s rich musicality closely embracing the times, and John’s incisive artistry jumping ahead of the times. The extraordinary talents of these two, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes spawning a chemical reaction, led to the creation of a series of great songs.
The shrewd business strategy of their manager, nicknamed the “fifth Beatle,” was something new as well. He made effective use of television and other visual media appearing at the time to attract fans to live concerts and sell records like hot cakes. It was an approach that still resonates today. The Beatles incessantly continued to create trends that were not yet in the dictionary.
The Beatles’ tunes have been enjoyed and sung by parents, and their children, and their grandchildren, for half a century. The secret of this longevity lies in the fact that even now the world’s music scene stands in the framework left behind by the Beatles.
While the Beatles have not faded, though, today they occupy the domain of classic music. John and George are no longer with us, and Paul, who sang “Hey Jude” at the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games, is 70 years old. At the closing ceremony of the Olympics, an image of John appeared together with a sound track. He seemed to be appealing for a new generation of artists to come forth and take over the torch from them.
I like the editorials in the Tokyo Shimbun, because unlike other newspapers they are extremely orthodox and highly trustworthy. For me, who came up to Tokyo in 1963 and have witnessed the changing times, the August 14 editorial, “50 Years of the Beatles: Move beyond Our Songs,” was a wonderful essay. I have taken the liberty of quoting the full text here because I want you all to read it.
As for me, looking ahead, I wonder with a sigh what the future has in store.