Monday, November 24, 2014

Obsession with The Beatles, 1964

I was perusing a timeline from the year 1964, a watershed year in American and world history in so many ways. A military coup in South Vietnam pulled us into a decade-long war, the passage of a Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the United States, Nelson Mandela went to jail and kicked off the ultimate transformation of South African politics.


And looking at the upcoming week, between the Roman Catholic Church replacing Latin with English in its prayer services and the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Martin Luther King Jr., I see this line: "Ringo Starr's tonsils are removed." (The 50th anniversary will be Dec. 2nd, should you want to plan an anniversary celebration.)

Here's an interview about that event:




People who complain rightly about our fascination with reality TV may have forgotten where this level of obsession first raised its ugly head: With the rise of The Beatles, who in 1964 were not only the most popular entertainers in the world but perhaps the most recognizable people in it, short of a president or pope. I am second to none in appreciation for their amazing music, but did we really need to contemplate the state of Richard Starkey's throat?

Movie magazines and the tabloid press had long carried stories -- most of them invented by publicists -- about stars, often purporting to say what they were "really" like. (As if they would then or now share their deepest secrets with journalists!)

But when The Beatles came along, audiences couldn't get enough information about their most insignificant habits: What they wore, ate, drank, read, smoked or slept on. The fact that Ringo sang in a clogged baritone (when the other three let him sing at all) didn't stop the media from contemplating the effect of the operation on his voice or the band's output.

Psychologists can speculate why people who eat this stuff up remain so attached to pointless minutiae. I just wanted to point out that my generation set the tone for an inanity that has now prevailed for half a century. 

2 comments:

Shamash said...

Don't forget Elvis.

He set the standard for teen idol way before the Beatles.

Lawrence Toppman said...

Very true. And Sinatra before him. But I wonder if every removal of a nose hair was analyzed in quite the same manic fashion.