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Singers: The New Madness

3 minute read

A midnight panic swept through the crowd at Carlisle; girls screamed, sirens wailed. Four thousand stood all night at Newcastle, faces pinched and grim in a drenching rain. Fifty bobbies were needed to fight the crush at Hull in Yorkshire. “Beatlemania,” as Britons call the new madness, was striking everywhere, and last week the Queen Mother herself confronted the four young Liverpudlians responsible. There on the stage of London’s Prince of Wales Theater stood a wild rhythm-and-blues quartet called the Beatles, and there across the moat of Establishment faces sat the Queen Mother. “Those in the cheaper seats, clap,” cried the Beatles’ leader. “The rest of you rattle your jewelry.” Then the Beatles broke into From Me to You, and the Queen Mother beamed.

A Maniac’s Shaping. Though Americans might find the Beatles achingly familiar (their songs consist mainly of “Yeh!” screamed to the accompaniment of three guitars and a thunderous drum), they are apparently irresistible to the English. A short year ago, they were back in Liverpool singing such songs as Twist and Shout and Love Me Do into the din of the tough Merseyside pubs. Now they earn $5,000 a week playing one-night stands all over Britain. Their records have sold 2,500,000 copies, and crowds stampede for a chance to touch the hem of the collarless coats sported onstage by all four of them.

Although no Beatle can read music, two of them dream up half the Beatles’ repertory. The raucous, big-beat sound they achieve by electric amplification of all their instruments makes a Beatle performance slightly orgiastic. But the boys are the very spirit of good clean fun. They look like shaggy Peter Pans, with their mushroom haircuts and high white shirt collars, and onstage they clown around endlessly—twisting, cracking jokes, gently laughing at the riotous response they get from their audience. The precise nature of their charm remains mysterious even to their manager. “I dropped in at a smoky, smelly, squalid cellar,” he says of the day he discovered them, “and there were these four youths. Their act was ragged, their clothes were a mess. And yet I sensed at once that there was something here.”

Just Ciggies. Such talk amuses the Beatles, who all talk and behave like students of If—. Says Beatle Spokesman John Lennon, 23: “The day the fans desert us, I’ll be wondering how I’m going to pay for my whisky and Cokes.” The other Beatles—Guitarists Paul McCartney, 21, and George Harrison, 20, and 23-year-old Drummer Ringo Starr (who wears four rings on his fingers)—are also keeping their heads. “We’re not interested in living it up,” says Ringo. “All our money goes into Beatles, Ltd., and we take only enough out for clothes and a few ciggies.”

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