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The Beatles in Vatican Newspaper L'Osservatore Romano
13 April 2010
6.47pm
PeterWeatherby
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This was all over the news yesterday, about the Vatican featuring a laudatory article about The Beatles in their weekend edition of the "official" Vatican newspaper.  For example: Pope finally forgives Beatles for past excesses.

Anyway, I did some digging around the Vatican web site to find the article, and I eventually found it - in Italian.  Luckily, I've got just enough Italian under my belt to make a mess of the translation, so for anyone who is interested, here's my entirely unofficial and unsanctioned translation of the article.  Hopefully the Vatican web site will publish an official English version of the weekend edition in the next few days.

 

On April 10, 1970, The Beatles Disbanded

Seven Years that Rocked Music

True, they took drugs; overwhelmed by success they experienced indulgent and uninhibited years; in a burst of bravado, they even said they were more famous than Jesus; they enjoyed sending mysterious and cryptic messages - even Satanic messages, according to unlikely exegetes - fueling rumors and urban legends about their lives, as well as the supposed death of one of them; certainly they were not the best example for the youth of their time, but neither were they the worst.  However, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and insignificant.  Forty years after the tempestuous breakup of the Beatles - officially on April 10, 1970, but in fact taking place the year prior, at the conclusion of the recording of Abbey Road - their beautiful melodies remain, like precious jewels, which changed pop music forever and continue to stir the emotions.

Even still today, the most serious fans still lament the premature ending of the group that had released their first album in 1963, and continue to speculate how many other pearls the Fab Four personalities could have given us, if discontent and misunderstandings had not irreparably cracked a partnership that seemed based, above all, on friendship.  A legitimate question, but ultimately speculative.  More or less deliberately - as is only fitting for the greatest - Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr decided to quit while they were at the height of success and creativity.  They said all that there was to say, in the course of those seven years and thirteen albums that changed the history of pop music.  Perhaps there was nothing further to add.

Given that the collective had to be dissolved in order for there to be greater individual liberty, they chose - although with no small amount of regret on any of their parts - to continue on as soloists, giving us some good work, Lennon (Imagine) and McCartney (Band on the Run) in particular, but never reaching the same heights that only group effort had made possible.  Certainly it was not easy to shake off so weighty a past.  They were The Beatles, the most famous and acclaimed group in the world, and for a while the burden of the myth seemed crushing.

It was foreshadowed in McCartney's Let it Be, the title song of their final album (in order of release, but not in order of recording), which in fact contains a statement intended above all to prevent the separation: "Let it be," he sings, repeating the words spoken in a dream by his mother Mary.  But these words became, rather, the announcement of an end to the bitterness, perhaps inevitable, but no less sorrowful for that fact.  Paul asks anxiously: will there be an answer?  In April of 1970 the answer that millions of fans around the world had hoped for - news of the reunion of the four - never arrived.  There never came a reunion between them, not even for one, unforgettable concert.

But rather than regret what was not to be, it is perhaps more interesting to ask the question of what pop music would be without the Beatles.  Only seven years earlier - although musically speaking, it seems more like a century - the four lads from Liverpool erupted onto the scene and caused a revolution.  They became idols for a generation that was eager to be liberated by narrow breaches from the cultural customs that were too traditional and oppressive, especially the musical customs.

They appeared on the scene with the demeanor of good boys, with smart and cheeky smiles, and they outperformed the competition, climbing the charts repeatedly with national and foreign songs as (apparently) simple as they were compelling.  Above all, they were different: in their sound, in their aura, in lyrics increasingly complex and refined, in rich suggestions of unimaginable contamination and of experiments never before conducted. These songs were a blast of innovative wind across a landscape largely stagnant, except for a few timid breezes.

Oceans of words have been written about their magical creative alchemy, a mixture of genius and instinct.  But what really matters is the value of their musical legacy, which, for the influence it had and still has, is inestimable.  Dozens and dozens of groups were inspired by them (and continue to be so), relied on their insights, and benefited (more or less consciously) from their experimentation, especially their technological experiments.  Famous performers sang their songs in a myriad of reinterpretations, with varying degrees of success, and even today there are cover bands all over the world that reproduce the Beatle repertoire.

This important legacy, however, is not limited to merely philological value, but finds its primary strength in the fact that even today, forty years later, their records are listened to not only by a nostalgic older generation, but also by young adults, and even children.  This was proven in September when several of their digitally remastered albums were released commercially, and leaped to the top of the world's charts; and now, the era of mp3s has brought the greatest popular music group into the future.  It only takes listening to those records to understand why their success is timeless: several songs that sound like they were written yesterday are of the Sixties, and seem unaffected by the weight of time that has rightly made fleeting the noteriery of many once-popular musical groups.

Not by accident - they have survived by themselves without needing to pass through the depressing experience of other geriatric rock groups, whose members still insist on writhing pathetically on stage shirtless and in tight jeans - The Beatles remain the most enduring phenomenon, consistently representative of the history of popular music.  They were the first band to gave dignity to pop art, "exploring the traditions of classical music", as the critic Carl Belz wrote, and also made contributions other artistic experiences, from photography to cinema.  Theirs was an unpredictable evolution from their role as simple entertainers to the most challenging artists, and they were not limited to music alone in their search for "new languages."  In 1967, Luciano Berio saw the substantial connection between The Beatles' work and the "avant-garde", above all the surrealism, the transition from the idea of song to "dramatic sound" freely constructed from fragments of dialogue, clippings, overlayings of recordings.

Because they were particularly attentive to the transformations that empowered the cultural scene during those years, the Beatles were (under the banner of rock) the symbol of a generational revolution, but even moreso they were brilliant popularizers of a wave that others also rode, although with a different look and more anger - "I can't get no satisfaction / though I try and I try", sang the Rolling Stones - but having the same effect on the public.  Through their music, these four lads from Liverpool, beautiful and imperfect, were able to read and give voice to the signs of the era that they even addressed at times, stamping it with an indelible imprint - an imprint that marks the divide between "before" and "after".  And "after", musically speaking, nothing has ever been like it was "before".

The following people thank PeterWeatherby for this post:

Mr. Kite
Not a bit like Cagney.
13 April 2010
6.48pm
PeterWeatherby
A Park in the Dark
Carnegie Hall
Forum Posts: 245
Member Since:
5 February 2010
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Oh, right, and here's the cover page for the edition in question - nice little Abbey Road graphic in the lower right corner.

 

http://www.vatican.va/news_ser.....082q01.pdf

Not a bit like Cagney.
13 April 2010
7.16pm
skye
AZ
Apple rooftop
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13 November 2009
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Thanks for translating that. It's lucky that it wasn't in Latin. I'm still not sure what they mean by Satanic messages.

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
14 April 2010
5.21am
McLerristarr
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skye said:

Thanks for translating that. It's lucky that it wasn't in Latin. I'm still not sure what they mean by Satanic messages.


 

Idiots often think there are things in the songs that aren't actually there. Just like the "Paul is dead" thing, people thought they could hear evil things when playing the music backwards. Of course, when you play music backwards it always sounds either evil or Indian; it's obviously not deliberate.

14 April 2010
10.35am
Joe
Pepperland
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I thought about reporting this, but the Vatican newspaper seems to put out a Beatle-related press release every other month these days. The last time it was in praise of Revolver, and the time before that they were forgiving Lennon for the 'more popular than Jesus' comment.

Obviously someone there is a fan, which is great, but this one seems a bit of a non-story. Thanks for the translation though - it's good to read what they're saying.

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14 April 2010
11.38am
skye
AZ
Apple rooftop
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McLerristarr said:

 

Idiots often think there are things in the songs that aren't actually there. Just like the "Paul is dead" thing, people thought they could hear evil things when playing the music backwards. Of course, when you play music backwards it always sounds either evil or Indian; it's obviously not deliberate.


 

So that whole f-you like superman and so on was seen a satanic. Wow. It can't just be stupid? I thought us protestants were the ones to look for the devil in everything.

Got to agree with you, Joe. Someone's a fan.

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
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