The London Telegraph has a story of a moment in Beatles history that’s been untold until this week. It was the Summer Of Love, and the Fab Four were in an Abbey Road studio, hooked up to a worldwide satellite TV broadcast, performing “All You Need Is Love.” In the US, it was seen on PBS stations. In the UK, it was on the BBC.
What you may not know is that the show included artists and performers from 14 countries, each chosen to represent their homeland: Pablo Picasso from Spain, Maria Callas from Greece, etc. The Beatles were the entry for England, and that did not go down well with some viewers.
In letters sent to the BBC — revealed this week for the first time in response to a Freedom of Information request — British viewers complained, “We did not do ourselves justice” and “Have we nothing better to offer? Surely this isn’t the image of what we are like. What a dreadful impression they must have given the rest of the world” and “We flaunted The Beatles as the highlight of British culture, no wonder we have lost our image in the eyes of the world.”
John, Paul, George, and Ringo were never told of the negative feedback. In fact, manager Brian Epstein was told by the BBC that the audience loved it.
That may have been true — that the vast majority of the audience enjoyed their performance — but there were then, just as there are today, a group of people who just weren’t going to like anything “these kids” did. It may be difficult to believe, 43 years after Beatlemania came ashore, that anyone could view the band that way, but there were plenty of people on both sides of the ocean who felt threatened by changing tastes in pop culture encroaching on their safe world of entertainment. They were appalled by rock and roll, sure it was a horrible but passing fad, and determined to diss it whenever exposed to it.
Now, of course, the generation that grew up loving The Beatles has, in many cases, grown up to have adopted the same curmudgeonly attitude towards the musical favorites of the current younger generation: “Oh, these kids today, with their hair, and their music, and their clothes!”
Four decades ago, that meant rock and roll, hair to the shoulders, and pants that were too tight. Now, it means hip hop, hair that’s different colors, and pants so loose they hang off the butt.
The real pressure will be on the next generation to come up with musical tastes, hairstyles, and fashion choices that offend their parents. All you need is….time.