Monday, February 10, 2014

Dr. Faulkner: The Beatles

Last evening, CBS broadcast a tribute to the Beatles. It marked the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I didn’t see the original broadcast but became aware through TV news and my friends.

I remember that in those days the Beatles were severely criticized.  Their music was said to be simplistic and their voices weak without the amplification.  William F. Buckley said, “The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god-awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music."  And in Newsweek a reviewer opined, “Musically, they are a near disaster; guitars slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of "yeah, yeah, yeah!") are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments."

And of course there was their appearance.  The “mop top” hair styles were a significant target.  David Susskind labeled them, "The most repulsive group of men I've ever seen."  A Life magazine article portrayed them as, “a) they were rebellious; b) they were not masculine; c) they were a threat to civilization as a whole.”  Of course viewed through the prism of time, their hair styles were very moderate compared to others.

Some saw them as the downfall of the American way of life.  Elvis Presley would later tell Richard Nixon, "The Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music while entertaining in this country during the early and middle 1960s."  A strange comment, coming from “old swivel hips.”

Of course, no one thought they would last.  The head of Decca Records said "Guitar groups are on the way out…the Beatles have no future in show business."  And the L.A. Times predicted, "Appallingly unmusical" and "destined to fade away.”

But we all know the rest of the story.  Their music has become iconic and is known and appreciated around the world.  Those who criticized viewed the Beatles through the frame of the past and the present and didn’t see their potential impact on the future.  As usual hindsight is 20/20.

The lesson for us is to look to the future.  What might we be doing right now that will impact the world of education for the next 50 years?  And more importantly, which students on our campus right now will make monumental contributions to the arts, to science, to literature, to politics, to humanity?

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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