Within the Beatles/Without the Beatles

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

There are places I’ll remember all my life though some have changed, Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain. All these places had their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall, Some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all The Beatles (Rubber Soul).

Whether you dig their music or brand them as part of the whole Sixties’ naivete, the fact remains that The Beatles were enormously influential, ranging from pop culture to communication to philosophy.

From Paul meeting John, to the American tour, to the build-up of Apple, to the final break-up, the story of The Beatles’ rise to fame has probably been chronicled in hundreds of books the world over. Phillip Norman’s SHOUT! The Beatles in Their Generation is a different perspective, a biography without the thoughts of the subject, done without help from the subject, in fact, but still a fascinating read of exactly that—The Beatles in their generation. Unfortunately, as things turn out, there’s more of the “generation” than The Beatles themselves.

Norman delves into the age with gusto, explaining each nuance of the times, every phenomenon with sociological accuracy. You get a real good insight into the kind of life that was lived about half a century ago. Norman lays on the groundwork about the kind of culture prevalent at the times, and exactly how the time was right for the descent of The Beatles into the world. Almost half of the book is taken up with the story of the early days.

Norman seems to have dug up every groupie, stalker, lawyer, and former Quarryman who was ever around to witness a Beatle event. The result is a singular record of Beatlemania, of the ups and downs of the crazy pantomime that it became. And yet, it leaves you without a conclusive picture of who the Fab Four really were. He says at the very beginning: “I would like to acknowledge the invaluable help given to me by the four ex-Beatles...Unfortunately, I cannot do so...none would agree to a formal interview.” Thus, inspite of 382 detailed pages, the reader is left without much beyond John the mocker, Paul the scrupulous, George the silent and Ringo the...well, Ringo. Norman joins the “John was the real frontman and only thinking songwriter” club and underplays McCartney’s role and contribution. Things also go a little astray in relating their passage from just another pop group to super stardom. It all seems to happen a little too quickly and remotely - we get no real insight into what it was like to be suddenly turned into demi-gods.

The enormous output of songs is followed extensively, but The Beatles themselves appear as mere cogs in the songwriting machine. There is no indication of why their songs form such an important part of our consciousness even today. Norman also devotes quite a bit of space to detailing the business shenanigans that went on behind the scenes. In the end, even the spectres of Brian Epstein and Stu Sutcliffe (the supposed “fifth Beatle”) that hover over the whole book seem clearer as individuals than the four gentlemen themselves. In fact, Paul criticized the book when it was first published for its inaccuracies. There is lots to be learned from SHOUT!, but without a Beatle account there is not much to say for it as “the definitive biography” of The Beatles, as The New York Times Book Review called it.

Title: SHOUT!: The Beatles in their Generation
Author: Philip Norman
Publication: FIRESIDE – Simon & Schuster Inc.

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Double Standards

Sunday, June 11, 2006 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

The Da Vinci CodeImage via Wikipedia
SECULARISM is a word, which has been abused by our politicians, just to please a few because of their precious votes. It is hard to understand why people take so much pride in calling themselves minorities. Keeping up this trend the state government took up the issue of “The Da Vinci Code” with the Centre. It is an internal matter of the Christian community. But the government acted just to please the so called minorities. What stand did the government take against artist M F Hussain, who painted Hindu goddesses nude? Even after repeated protests, the government did not act just because he is from a minority community.

Does it mean that the majority community, the Hindus don’t have any value for their sentiments. In India’s history, we have seen the Mughals and then the Britishers rule the country, stamping on the religious sentiments of Hindus. Its the same today, with the so called minorities being silver spoon fed by our politicians. It is time the government stops adopting double standards towards Hindus and others or else a religious revolution is surely on the cards.

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PM on Reservations

Sunday, June 04, 2006 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Shri Arjun singh at 2006 JNV National Integrat...Image via Wikipedia
IT is indeed a matter of great shame that the country has to go through such turmoil just for the fancy of a few politicians like Mr Arjun Singh who should have retired long back. But what is more disheartening is the fact that this is all happening with the support of Dr Manmohan Singh. In one single stroke, he has lost all the respect that he had gained over the years as a ‘reformist’ leader who could take India to greater heights. Unfortunately, the Congress government is hell-bent on taking India backwards by a few centuries. Over the 50 years that the Congress has been ruling India, it is safe to say India is what it is, not because of the Congress party but despite of Congress party. As for our the Prime Minister, I am afraid that with the stand that he has taken, he has lost quite a lot of honor.

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Endless Absurdity

Sunday, June 04, 2006 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 18:  Author Dan Brown's ne...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Judging from the actions of Indian lawmakers lately, it appears that they are in the race to win an unannounced contest to decide who contributes most to taking India back to the medieval ages.

If one Union minister is not thrusting quotas in education down the country’s throat, another is sparing no opportunity to shrilly remind private industry that its turn is next. If over-eager chief ministers aren’t falling over each other in banning the screening of an innocuous film in their states, political goons are preventing other films from being released over perceived “insults”.

And to top it all, Parliament is passing laws to cover its own misdeeds and anyone who dares to question it is told “It’s Parliament’s right to pass laws”, never mind the need for propriety, morals and standards in public life.

My sentiments have been outraged over the long list of absurdities that our politicians have been indulging in. I think the demand for a ban on our political class as a whole is more than justified.

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