I have spent today addressing the nation on the virtues of our Beatles photo book Looking Through You (see blog: http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/the-beatles-looking-through-you.html), that is to say that, as its editor, I have done eight interviews with local BBC Radio stations, in Jersey, Northampton, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, Berkshire, the West Midlands and Wales. The interviews lasted between ten minutes and half an hour, two were live (which meant I had to watch my language) and all the interviewers seemed to have read or seen the book which meant I was never placed in a position where I had to explain what it was all about.
Where once I did the interviewing, two or three a week on MM, I now find myself being interviewed, which is gratifying and rather fun, well most of the time anyway. Having prattled on about the book and the fab pictures inside, two or three DJs asked me to name my favourite Beatles song and, perverse as ever, I opted for ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, both eulogised about elsewhere on this blog, and I also found myself explaining why The Beatles are still held in such high esteem. The simple answer to this was to cite how prolific they were, 11 studio albums (one a double) between 1963 and 1970, plus sufficient non-album singles (A and B-sides) and odd tracks like those from the ‘LTS’ EP, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine to sequence another three at least. Meanwhile, between 1963 and 1966, they toured the UK five times, America three, Europe twice and made it to the Far East and Australia too. They also made two full length feature films, recorded scores of tracks on BBC radio shows, appeared on TV everywhere and gave more interviews in a day than most of today’s rock stars are inclined to give in a year. All this was accomplished in an atmosphere of great commotion since, as the most famous men on the planet, whether they liked it or not they were adopted by the media as the world’s ‘turn-to’ spokesmen on matters relating to the counter culture.
All this became a bit of a running theme as I did my interviews today and, of course, made even the DJs at these regional radio stations stop and think. Just to put it all into perspective I mentioned that Coldplay, as an example, have now been together for 19 years and released six albums with a seventh evidently in the works. Contrast and compare – and we haven’t even mentioned the quality of the work.
Those DJs who knew a bit about my past asked about the changes that had taken place in the music industry from a journalists’ point of point which led me to discuss the catastrophic decline in circulation of the weekly music press which has led to only one man, NME, left standing. I mentioned that the Beatles Book Monthly, from whose archive the pictures in Looking Through You were selected, sold 300,000 a month at its peak. I also mentioned access: the reason why the pictures in this book are as evocative as they are is because Leslie Bryce, the BBM’s photographer, was allowed virtually unlimited access to The Beatles, at least until 1968. The slick PRs that control today’s superstars, spinning positive stories and choosing only those pictures they consider sufficiently flattering, would do well to study Looking Through You and consider how spontaneous shots, instinctive and natural, can be 1,000 times more flattering in the long term than the posed shots, touched up and photo-shopped, that are the norm today.
Finally, I found myself explaining Beatlemania, or trying to. How do you put into words the impact that The Beatles made in the UK in 1963 and 1964? It’s hard to explain to those who weren’t there, so I opted to describe the scenes at Heathrow Airport when The Beatles were flying in or out, and the newspaper headlines that inevitably followed. Yes, it really was like the photos below that I found on the internet.