The rise to Beatlemania

“According to the band’s press officer, Derek Taylor, all four Beatles had abandoned their religious upbringings by 1964. In an interview for the Saturday Evening Post, in August of that year, he stated that the Beatles were “completely anti-Christ. I mean, I am anti-Christ as well, but they’re so anti-Christ they shock me which isn’t an easy thing.”

Where did the Beatles “anti-christ” beliefs begin? According to Derek Taylor, by 1964 all 4 of the Beatles had abandoned their religious upbringings.  In 1965, this was further confirmed during an interview with Playboy magazine.

McCartney: “We probably seem antireligious because of the fact that none of us believe in God.”
Lennon: “If you say you don’t believe in God, everybody assumes you’re antireligious, and you probably think that’s what we mean by that. We’re not quite sure ‘what’ we are, but I know that we’re more agnostic than atheistic.”
Playboy: “Are you speaking for the group, or just for yourself?”
Lennon: “For the group.”
Harrison: “John’s our official religious spokesman.”
McCartney: “We all feel roughly the same. We’re all agnostics.”
Lennon: “Most people are, anyway.”

So where did it all begin?  When were the Beatles introduced to gnostic thinking? Where did they get all of the esoteric knowledge that was imprinted within their songs and album covers since the very early Beatle years? Were they always prone to such beliefs?  According to wikipedia, this was not so.

McCartney and Harrison were both baptized as Roman Catholics during childhood, although McCartney was raised non-denominationally; his mother was Roman Catholic and his father was a Protestant turned agnostic. Harrison was raised Roman Catholic.

An interesting theory that surrounds the Beatles is the possibility that John “sold his soul” for 20 years of fame and fortune- to become the “toppermost of the poppermost”. I myself do not really adhere to this particular view- as I do not believe in the slightest that the Beatles had any “dark” or “evil” intentions, besides the intentions to gain favor for themselves, and their own personal success. However, it is an interesting notion to examine. Since John died violently at the age of 40 in 1980- using this theme, that would mean his soul was “sold” in 1960.  And where were the Beatles in 1960? In Hamburg, Germany.

And who did they meet in 1960 in Germany?  Astrid Kirchherr.

Astrid_Kirchherr

Kirchherr met artist Sutcliffe in the Kaiserkeller bar in Hamburg in 1960, where he was playing bass with the Beatles, and was later engaged to him, before his death in 1962

Stuart-Sutcliffe-with-Beatles-Hamburg-1961-stuart-sutcliffe-27300883-759-506

Kirchherr somehow managed to single-handedly make the most dramatic and significant change to the Beatles image of their career.  Prior to their meeting, the Beatles image was that of slick-greased hair, leather and cowboy boots.  They had a very rough and “bad-boy” image. She is credited to giving the Beatles their mop-top haircut in which they became known for.

All my friends in art school used to run around with this sort of what you call Beatles haircut. And my boyfriend then, Klaus Voormann, had this hairstyle, and Stuart liked it very very much. He was the first one who really got the nerve to get the Brylcreem out of his hair and asking me to cut his hair for him. Pete [Best] has really curly hair and it wouldn’t work.

Kirchherr says that after she cut Sutcliffe’s hair, Harrison asked her to do the same when she was visiting Liverpool, and Lennon and McCartney had their hair cut in the same style while they were in Paris, by Kirchherr’s friend, Vollmer, who was living there at the time as an assistant to photographer William Klein.

Kirchherr in 1960 belonged to the “existentialism movement” which was gaining popularity in Europe during those times. The movement has its’ origins in the mid-to-late 19th century, but reached it’s peak in the mid-20th century in France. In France, the movement was known as “Les Beat”(Beat-les).  Existentialism is defined as: “a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.”  To me, that sounds very much like the philosophy of Thelema and Aleister Crowley.

Thelema (/θəˈlmə/) is a religion based on a philosophical law of the same name, adopted as a central tenet by some religious organizations. The law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”

Existentialism became popular in the years following World War II, and strongly influenced many disciplines besides philosophy, including theology, drama, art, literature, and psychology.

So who is Astrid Kirtchherr? Where did she come from?  Very little is known.  I have searched the depths of the internet with little avail- which makes things that much more suspicious. Family names are left out of her family life details, genealogy sites have been of no help, however one thing I did find was her father was a top executive at Ford Motors Germany Branch during WWII. Now this might just raise a few eyebrows, and although officially denied- Ford Motors does not have a squeaky-clean image when dealing with the issue of Nazi Germany and WWII- but that is a whole other conspiracy theory.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/nov98/nazicars30.htm

id_mbgpw_full

Could it be possible that upon meeting the lovely and influential Astrid, the boys also fell privy to her ideals of fulfilling your true destiny by acting in accordance to your own will? Is this where gnostic belief and ritual began to be a part of the Beatles scene?  Did John realize his “true will” and start the propeller of what was to become Beatlemania??? No one will really know for sure what happened during those days in Germany. But one thing we can be sure of- once the Beatles mingled with Kirchherr  and Vorrmann- they transformed from the original 5 Beatles of grease and leather to the 4 Beatles of moptop fame. Upon returning to Liverpool from Hamburg, (Pete and Paul were arrested and deported for attempted arson on December 4th, 1960, George deported for working underage November 30th, 1960, and Stuart stayed behind due to a cold”.) the group played at the Casbah in Liverpool, where Chas Newby sat in for Stuart who was still in Germany with Astrid.

 Newby was shocked at the vast improvement of their playing and singing after the residency in Hamburg, and was struck by how powerful Best’s drumming now was, pushing the group to play harder and louder. (It was probably due to McCartney that Best developed a loud drumming style, as he would often tell Best in Hamburg to “Crank it up” = play as loud as possible)

On Tuesday, December 27, 1960, the Beatles played at the Litherland Town Hall in Liverpool, England. On this night The Beatles found the crowd responding very differently from anything in their past. Teen-agers rushed to the front of the stage and began screaming, and crying for their new-found idols, The Beatles. (Whom most assumed were from Germany- due to their billing- “The Beatles- from Hamburg”.) Was it mere innocence, or was it more of an enchantment that made these girls act the way they did for their idols (idols that were relatively unknown previously)? Pete Best was drumming for The Beatles and remembers the Litherland performance as an explosion in the fortunes of Beatles. It happened before any single hit record or before wide national attention and soon it would spread around the world.

“The Silver Beatles” Photo by Astrid Kirchherr

Bob Wooler, in speaking of this show in a 1981 interview, would recall of the crowd:

They were transfixed. They were looking up and I was looking down at the sea of faces. They hadn’t seen or heard anything like it before. I’d never seen anything like it. The Beatles were sensational. They had such a magical influence on people. Thy put everything into their performance. People went crazy for their closing number, “What’d I Say.” Paul took the mike off the stand, shed his guitar and did fantastic antics all over the stage. They were all stomping like hell and the audience went mad!

Pete Best was interviewed at the King Lynn Arts Centre on 15th of October, 1999. After saying a few words about his memories with the Beatles, he took some questions from the audience. Pete sat on a stool very close to the front of the stage and invited questions. One question that was asked was simple, but intriguing.

Q. Did you ever follow their interest in Eastern Religion?

A. I got there before them. I was born in India!

Phillip Norman, a well renown Beatles writer; during a discussion about George Harrison’s Cloud Nine release in 1987 said the following:

“when he was a small boy he told his mother not to talk about him to the other mothers, he didn’t want the others, he didn’t want nosy mothers knowing about him. So for someone private to become one of the Beatles was a very heavy psychological disaster.

The Beatles is not a normal story, it’s a supernatural story, and the pressure was supernatural. And it required supernatural luck to recover from it. And George has recovered from it.

He’s the one we’re going to have to ask about the Beatles, there’s no one else to ask now, because Paul won’t tell you and Ringo doesn’t know. Paul re-writes history, all the time. Ringo – well he just doesn’t know, he drank the drink, he smoked the joints, he had the girls and he drummed the drums, that was Ringo. And John isn’t here.

Beatlemania was a hysterical, chaotic movement that made fans behave in irrational, spell-bound manner that was mysterious to the older generations. The Beatles roamed the earth, playing for hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide- even Kings and Queens, presidents and Prime Ministers enjoyed in their splendor. In Adelaide, Australia The Beatles enticed the crowd of 300,000 that arrived to try and catch a glimpse of these four lads from Liverpool. The Beatles were magnetic. The fans were in a frenzy. It was magical.

Beatles in Australia 1964

With so many magical references to the beginnings of Beatlemania, and their subsequent rise to the top- it is hard to imagine how these 4 young kids from Liverpool achieved their unprecedented successes in any other way. After the record-breaking concert performance at Shea Stadium, August 15, 1965 John is reported to have said “I have seen the top of the mountain”.  This was the “peak” of Beatlemania- and soon after the death and resurrection esoteric symbolism would begin within the Beatles workings. The first album to be released after this “peak” of the Beatles career was “Rubber Soul”. “Soul” of course refers to the spiritual remnant of humans after death, “rubber” possibly implying the bouncing back [or resurrection] of the “Beatles Soul” after it’s symbolic climb to the peak of the mountain of fame. The four Beatles on the cover are all looking down- as into the a pit grave or the hole that has been dug for them.

The next album to follow Rubber Soul is of course the infamous Butcher Album- “Yesterday and Today” again, the title symbolically referring to the death and resurrection of the Beatles and their acquired fame. For more about the symbolism behind this album- please see my “Apotheosis of the Beatles” post. This album cemented the theme of death and despair- and subsequent “rebirth” of the Beatles.

Revolver had many working titles, including “Abracadabra”, “Magic Circle” and “Four Sides of the circle”. http://www.beatlesbible.com/features/working-titles/  And the song “For No One” from the Revolver album, recorded in May 1966, and Released August 1966 had a working title: “Why Did It Die?”

Many avid “Paul is Dead” believers will argue that this symbolism is not present until after Paul’s “supposed” death date of Sept. 11th, 1966- but I am representing these “truths” in a different light. Is Paul REALLY dead and replaced by a look-alike? Or does it go much deeper than even we can comprehend? You mustn’t forget that John Lennon was an art student.  Many of the Beatles companions  (including Stu Sutcliff and Astrid Kirchherr) were art students as well.  All of which would be very well versed in art symbolism, art surrealism, and other popular art movements of the era.

According to theartstory.org the following concepts are key ideas in the use of symbolism in art:

What unites the various artists and styles associated with Symbolism is the emphasis on emotions, feelings, ideas, and subjectivity rather than realism. Their works are personal and express their own ideologies, particularly the belief in the artist’s power to reveal truth.
In terms of specific subject matter, the Symbolists combined religious mysticism, the perverse, the erotic, and the decadent. Symbolist subject matter is typically characterized by an interest in the occult, the morbid, the dream world, melancholy, evil, and death.
Instead of the one-to-one, direct-relationship symbolism found in earlier forms of mainstream iconography, the Symbolist artists aimed more for nuance and suggestion in the personal, half-stated, and obscure references called for by their literary and musical counterparts.
Surrealism also had a profound effect on John which he talked about with Playboy magazine in 1980:

Surrealism had a great effect on me, because then I realized that my imagery and my mind wasn’t insanity; that if it was insane, I belong in an exclusive club that sees the world in those terms. Surrealism to me is reality. Psychic vision to me is reality. Even as a child. When I looked at myself in the mirror or when I was 12, 13, I used to literally trance out into alpha. I didn’t know what it was called then. I found out years later there is a name for those conditions. But I would find myself seeing hallucinatory images of my face changing and becoming cosmic and complete. It caused me to always be a rebel. This thing gave me a chip on the shoulder; but, on the other hand, I wanted to be loved and accepted. Part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic musician. But I cannot be what I am not. http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/bbs/jl_yo.playboy/lennon3.html

The Beatles were masters- in many ways more than just musicians. I consider them absolute genius.  They encoded esoteric symbolism into nearly everything they did and they charmed their way into the hearts and souls of the world.  They are immortalized forever by their recordings, and will continue their legacy for years to come. The Beatles were the Da Vinci’s of the 20th century!

“One day, by one means or another we’ll have a record in the charts. If we have to be bent or con people, then that’s what we’ll have to do to get there. It doesn’t matter what it takes to get to the top. It might cause some heartache, but once I’m up there it’ll be a different kettle of fish,” John Lennon

… to be continued….

 

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5 Comments

  1. “…love under will” – yes, wonder if that is the source for the Will name that gets associated with Paul today.

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