Monday, May 27, 2019

The Beatles weren't new men but they did love each other

Driving down to Bath to take part in a chat about the Beatles with former cabinet minister Alan Johnson and Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn I listened to Mark talking about Brian Epstein on Radio Four's Great Lives.

Mark pointed out that the Beatles lived in an era when the male hug was largely unknown and therefore you would look in vain for overt demonstrations of affection between them. That's true enough. I'm sure there are some pictures of the Beatles with their arms over each other's shoulders but I can't bring them to mind just now. They were not huggers. In this they were merely of their time. They were not new men.

At the same time however they seemed to be acting out an entirely new form of male friendship. It's one of the things that America noticed before we did. Groups like the Beatles clearly had a bond between them that went way beyond the bonds of professional commitments. It was one of the most magnetic things about them.

You could read it in the looks that passed between them when they were playing. Dick Lester's cameras searched out those looks. They seemed to say "here we are doing the thing we most want to do with the people we most want to do it with". It might have added "since you clearly cannot be one of us the best you can do is go off, find your own close friends and see if you also can feel this way".

Fourteen year-old Steve Van Zandt saw them on Ed Sullivan and promptly went off and did just that. Poignantly his group named themselves, in emulation of this magical thing they saw the Beatles as having, The Mates.