Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beatlemania 2012

"Late one night, not very long ago, I had a dream that the Beatles were still among us, making us laugh and sing in the same way they did when they were the undisputed Princes of the Planet Earth all those years ago. That's what was so wonderful about the Fab Four: they not only sang like the scruffy angels they were, but they were so damned funny! All one has to do is view the films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help" and you're once again reminded that they were a great comedy team - one of the greatest. When I awoke from that dream - thinking it had been real - the blunt realization that the Beatles are gone forever was too depressing to even contemplate."

From "The Rant"
June 5, 200
Brian Sager is the son of my friends Brian and Terri Colgan Sager. That's a photograph of him on the left. On the day that he was born in 1994, the Beatles had not made a record in almost a quarter of a century. John Lennon had been dead for thirteen-and-a-half years. And yet that time divide was not about to stop him from joining me at the 2012 Fest for the Beatles which is taking place this weekend at the Crowne Plaza Meadowland Hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey. In fact what struck me about this event more than anything else were the number of kids Brian's age - and even younger - who were taking part in the festivities.Think about it. That would be the equivalent of several hundred teenagers in 1969 getting together to celebrate the legacy of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra - the hottest and best selling recording act of 1926. Although I have no documentation to prove this one way or another, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I don't think that ever happened. Call it a silly hunch on my part.

On a warm July day in 1957, fate would instigate the meeting of two teenage boys at a Church picnic in Liverpool, England.
Each would discover that the other shared a mutual passion for American rock 'n' roll music. The older boy, impressed with the younger one's musicianship, asked him if he would like to join his little skiffle group which was called the Quarrymen. The younger lad agreed. Fifty-five years later and across the ocean, a couple of thousand strangers would come together to celebrate the legacy of that chance encounter between John Lennon and Paul McCartney five-and-a-half decades ago.

The Beatles
are a topic I could go on all night about. The quote at the top of this piece I wrote nearly five years ago on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. At the time there was a peculiar trend in cultural revisionism that was implying that this classic recording had never really been that good to begin with. I quoted one writer who even had the chutzpa say that most of the tunes on it "are pretty bad". One of the "pretty bad" songs he sited as an example was the brilliant collage of psychedelia and circus music, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. That was enough for me to spring to the defense of that album. Sgt. Pepper is a masterpiece. I was reminded yet again of its timeless relevance yesterday as we walked through the many exhibits at Beatlefest 2012. At one point we could hear the haunting voice of John Lennon echoing through the halls, singing A Day in the Life. He is a ghost that refuses to go away, reaching out to us from beyond that unknowable void.

I attended my first Beatles convention with my brother Pete in September of 1975. It was held at the old Commodore H
ilton in New York City, a place which doesn't even exist anymore. I was the same age that Brian Sager is now. He would not be born for another nineteen years. Gerald Ford was living in the White House. George Harrison and John Lennon were still alive. "All those years ago" as George's song laments. It was a different world then. I was a different person. You were, too, I'm sure. Everything has changed. Everything.

The featured
guest speaker at that convention was good old Mal Evans (photo left) - the Beatles insider and jack-of-all-trades; a man who would do, could do (and did do) anything and everything for the Fabulous Fabs - including bringing in talent for their record label Apple. The group Badfinger was Mal's discovery. Pete and I spent some time chatting with him and he was as sweet and gentle as his legend suggests. Do you remember that scene from the film Help, where the ice explodes and a channel swimmer emerges from within asking Lennon for directions to the White Cliffs of Dover? That was Mal! It is the most hilarious scene in that ultra-hilarious movie. But as funny as that moment is, it has been forever ruined for me by hindsight. I watch it now and cannot help but think of the horrible fates that awaited both Mal Evans and John Lennon.
Four months after we met him, Mal would descend into a psychological storm from which he never emerged. Severely depressed and in despair. he barricaded himself inside a Los Angeles hotel room with a gun. Over the telephone, he told his girlfriend that he was going to kill himself. The LA cops saved him the trouble. They burst into the room and fired several shots into his body, killing him instantly. They could have tried to save him. They didn't. You've gotta hand it to the LAPD. You really do.

One of the coo
lest things about attending any Beatlefest is the vibe. For the most part, fans of the Beatles tend to be really nice people. I think I'm a fairly nice guy. Brian Sager is most definitely a very nice guy - but that doesn't really count, come to think about it. He comes from an extended clan of very nice people on both his mom's and his dad's side. But other than his two siblings (Hello, Meghan! Hello, Michael!) none of them are huge fans of the lads from Liverpool to the best of my knowledge. Niceness just sort of runs in that family. It has little to do with his being a fan of the Beatles I'm sure.

But walking
through the exhibits which took up two floors of the Crowne Plaza, you get this indescribable sense of serenity and kindness emanating from the people attending. This could be renamed "The Convention of Niceness" and I don't think anyone would complain all that much. Total strangers smile, laugh and sing with one another. All around us there was a feeling of (Dare I say it?) LOVE - as in "All you need is...." These folks really believe it. I do, too. It has been like that at every Beatlefest I have attended down through the years - and I have attended so many of them that I lost count of the number a long time ago. 
Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain,
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,
That grow so incredibly high....

-John Lennon
From Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

What made John,
Paul, George and Ringo so special (to my mind at least) was that they tried to appeal to the better angels of our nature. I once said that if I could boil down the essence of the Beatles' message into one sentence it would be this: We are the makers of our own dreams. The "culturally correct" hindsight of 2012 dismisses the Sgt. Pepper record as childish, ponderous and naive - but is it really? We've become so crude and obscene as a culture in the forty-five years since it was released, some of us now view the images of "tangerine trees and marmalade skies" from Lucy in the Sky through a cracked prism of cynicism and scorn - but whose fault is that??? The fault, dear Brutus, lie not with the Beatles, but with ourselves. That piece I wrote five years ago was called Why the Beatles Still Matter. Here's another paragraph from it:

In 1995, the night the video Free As a Bird premiered on national television (the first 'new' Beatles song in over a quarter of a century), I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again - Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away - was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, 'Oh, Tom! What's the big deal?' I told her that no one who didn't live through that turbulent era, could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation."
I was dead wrong when I wrote those words half a decade ago. You don't need to have been part of their generation in order to "get" the Beatles. There are untold millions of young people today who appreciate them. Brian Sager certainly does. Incredibly, a band that made their last recording forty-three years ago - two of whose members are no longer living - was the best selling group for the first decade of the twenty-first century. And it's not just the baby boomers who are buying up all of those CD's. The reason the recording industry has been on the decline in recent years has nothing to do with downloading - and everything to do with quality. There is good music being made these days but it is not part of the main stream and is, in fact, labeled "alternative". Quality is seriously lacking in 2012. The Beatles were a quality act. Case closed.
Forty years of biographical scholarship informs us that these were four very flawed, imperfect - and in many respects - troubled men. But, oh, that music. That timeless and beautiful music. I'm willing to forgive these guys just about anything. I was only four months shy of my twelfth birthday when the Beatles broke up in 1970. When I was a little boy they were the princes of the planet. To me they seemed to be invincible. They weren't. The deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison proved that. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are today elderly men for whom eternity now beckons. They were as vulnerable in their grip on this slender thread of life as any of us. Imagine that.

As Paul said a
t the end of Yellow Submarine, "We brought back lots of lovely souvenirs!" Indeed we did! Brian is probably the only human being on this planet born after 1960 who is into vinyl. He picked up a handful of 45 RPM's (including Ringo's It Don't Come Easy) a pristine copy of the 1964 Capitol LP that introduced them to America (Meet the Beatles) and a t-shirt for his lovely lady friend. (Hi, Nina!) In addition to a DVD and a book, I was able to obtain a hole for me pocket. Those things are a tad hard to come by these days, you know.

It was quite a day in the life. We drove away from the place in the late afternoon secure in the knowledge that those Northern Songs will last forever.

All you need is love!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

The Beatles: An Authorized Biography
by Hunter Davies

There's nothing you can do that can't be done, ya dig?


The photograph at the bottom of this article of Brian Sager and the author of this hideous liberal diatribe was taken in June of 2010 at a Ringo Starr concert at Bethel Woods in Sullivan County, New York - site of the original Woodstock. The photo was taken by Brian's dear old dad. Just thought I'd throw that in.

I'll be tackling the subject of the Beatles again on September 11. That will be the fiftieth anniversary of the day they walked into Studio Two at the EMI studios on Abbey Road in London and recorded their first song, Love Me Do. 
Here are some links to other pieces I have written through the years about the Beatles:

Why the Beatles Still Matter


We're Off to Abbey Road!

Our Excellent Adventures at Abbey Road


Happy Birthday, Ringo!


It's Johnny's Birthday!

December 8, 1980

Within George, Without George
Tom Degan's Ultimate Fantasy Flashback (Lennon meets Nixon)

Fifty Years of the Beatles

And remember, kids, "Nothing is Beatle proof"!

Jammin' with the Fabulous Sager Kids, June 2010, Bethel, NY


At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Harry from Mass said...


Nice piece on the Beatles.

I just want to say to the few non atheists here to say a prayer for Dick Cheney's heart transplant to be a success.

Who knows, maybe his new heart is from a progressive and he will start building houses with Jimmy Carter!

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

The Beatles are timeless, Tom, like many artistic forms. They formed the nucleus of the renaissance that followed in their footsteps. They were graced with the understanding of the human condition, and it came through like an avalanche in the impeccable lyrics that we all know by heart to this day. They were perfect.

Harry from Mass, your comments, as usual, show a complete disregard for, and disinterest in, the difference between good and evil. The paradox is unmistakeable.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

The Beatles Forever. There are many examples of the fact that "Nothing is Beatleproof." Anywhere you go and in any situation, there is always some way they creep into the experience. I have never seen it fail.

They will live on the hearts and mind of this world forever. I haven't had anyone to go to the fest with in a long time. I'd love to go back there someday and just hang out. Amazing times, amazing times. Unforgettable...

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Just the Facts! said...

BTW the way, I share with Tom his memories of the era of the Beatles. It was magical.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

It has been said, "If you don't like the Beatles, you don't like music."

And if "All you need is love" is not universal, then what is?

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Harry from Mass said...

JG said

"They were perfect."

I just want to say JG that you too are perfect and because of your most supreme intellect you belong in that small elite group (.0000001 percenters also known as the Politboro in old Russia) of central planners who should control the lives of everyone else.

JG, you are my favorite marxist!

I believe it would be a beautiful thing if Dick Cheney's new heart was from a progressive. It may be just the thing to rid the bad karma present in so many angry progressives. Remember JG, Cheney had nothing to do with stealing the Florida vote count from Al Gore.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Please, folks, on this particular conversation thread let's keep the focus on the Beatles, okay? No one wishes Dick Cheney any ill will. Seriously.

Thank you.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Tom, a very nice tribute to the Beatles. Sometimes lost in the admiration for their songs is the incredible advances they made to recording technology. They did things in the studio that were completely unheard of up until then.

It is too bad that some posters suffer from attention deficit and have to bring in Dick Cheney who has absolutely nothing to do with the Beatles.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Modusoperandi said...

Just the Facts! "BTW the way, I share with Tom his memories of the era of the Beatles."
You share the memories? But that's SOCIALISM!!!

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Oh, but Charles you're so wrong! Dick Cheney has everything to do with the Beatles! He and Paul McCartney were born in the same year!!!

But seriously, folks....

Thanks for the note, Charles!

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Harry from Mass said...

OK Tom,

I apologize for getting off topic. Your Richard Nixon pose with the peace signs is appropriate!

I just have one bone to pick with Dave Dubya. He says if you don't
like the Beatles, you don't like music.

I agree with the belief that either you like the Beatles or you like Elvis.

I like the Beatles.

My guess is the guy who just had the heart transplant was an Elvis fan.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Harry from Mass, inadvertently agreed it was fraud when he claimed...

"Remember JG, Cheney had nothing to do with stealing the Florida vote count from Al Gore."

But at least you're in agreement that it was stolen.

For what it's worth, I'm absolutely sure neither Paul or Ringo had a hand in the great heist, either.

And your point is...?

At 7:54 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Harry from Mass,
If you are saying that the Beatles and Elvis is an either or, I would really have to disagree as I like both. Each was unique and made their own contributions to the popular music scene.

At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Modusoperandi said...

Is the title of this post a play on words or something?

At 3:50 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Here's something I've often wondered: Given today's corporate dominance of the recording industry, and everything associated with it, would The Beatles have been able to do what they did in the '60s?

At 4:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

In answer to two questions....


Not that was not a play on words. I had foolishly misspelled "Beatlemania" in the title. The corrections have been made. Unfortunately, it went out to the Hollywood Progressive with that title. OH! DO I FEEL SILLY!

Jefferson's Guardian:

Yes, they could have done what they did. But they would have had to done so on an independent label and would have been called an "alternative band".

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Alice McMahon White said...

Glad to see this post! I am an artist and did a large series of portraits of my teen aged kids based on Beatles tunes. It seems to me that their generation have lots in common with our own, who grew up with a steady diet of the Fab Four on the air waves. Somehow the series worked and I became a bit of a Beatlemaniac in the process. My kids love the Beatles too. I always enjoy your entries Tom, thanks!

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you, Alice. I just can't get enough of them Fabs!

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Just the Facts! said...


It's not socialism is I chose to share the same feelings towards the Beetles as some one else. It's socialism if I am required to do so by government.

At 4:07 AM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

I don't know, Just the Facts. That sounds awfully risky to me. First, you're voluntarily sharing, next you're joining together as, say, a "country" and, say, "voting" in, say, "elections" for, say, "representatives" and before you know it some parasite is getting a slice of your share of Beatlemania!

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Just the Facts! said...

I think you are out of your mind.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Hardly. The only thing I'm out of is milk.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Modusoperandi, don't forget that Just the Falsehoods! is somewhat challenged in the tongue-in-cheek humor department. I believe everything went whoosh! -- right over his head.

It's symptomatic of why this nation is in the situation it is now.

p.s. But fear not; the "free market" will take care of everything.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Smokey Lagumski said...


Do you know that Drew Carey is a libertarian and blames the Socialists for destroying Cleveland?

At 12:50 AM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Smokey Lagumski, really? I remember Drew's Reason "documentary"*, but I don't remember him blaming socialists. Mostly, I just remember watching and thinking, "Why are you only picking the examples tried elsewhere that work, ignoring those that really, really don't?" (see, for example, charter schools, where those that work are quickly buried by those that fail. Fail worse than public schools, often).
Oh, Reason, you and your delightfully naive mix of "privatize it!" and "deregulate it!" Opacity and no oversight is a poor combination.
Don't get me wrong. I like Drew Carey. I don't even mind Reason. But no matter how much I like him, The Invisible Hand of the Market is not infallible. Not even close. Speaking of Cleveland, the Invisible Hand decided that the Cuyahoga river setting on fire was just fine. It was The People, not The Market who changed that (The Market's "Move, change jobs, or sue" fails to note that it's telling people that if they don't like it's negative externalities it's their responsibility to get out of the way, which is a bit like The Invisible Hand clenching in to a fist, punching you in the face, then saying you should've gotten out of the way. That's not how Liberty is supposed to work).

* See a quickly found review, of sorts.

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom If you go through this blog you will find some great info on various Beatles guitars and some stuff I have never read before. Just got to scroll through all the older posts to find the gems.

Regards Den

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, all clowns and half wits., This blog is supposed to be about the Beatles. Focus and stay on the subject.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Obama Leading Senate Dems to Slaughter?
By Dick Morris - March 28, 2012

Outside the Beltway, polling indicates a massacre of Senate Democrats is in the offing in the 2012 elections. Currently, Rasmussen’s polls have Republicans leading Democrats for eight Senate seats now held by Democrats. Nelson is 6 points behind Mack in Florida, McCaskill is 10 behind Steelman in Missouri, Tester is 3 behind Rehberg in Montana, Brown is 4 behind Mandel in Ohio. And, for open seats, Allen is 3 up on Kaine in Virginia, Bruning is 20 ahead of Kerry in Nebraska, Thompson is 15 ahead in Wisconsin, and either Berg or Sand will undoubtedly win in North Dakota. Additionally, the races in New Mexico and Michigan show the Republican less than 4 behind. (The GOP might lose Massachusetts and Maine, but a massive wipeout of Democrats is coming.)

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Harley A. said...

As important as the other issues are, it's nice sometimes to leave those behind and discuss something fun.

Ok, so favorite Beatles tunes?

Hard to choose but "Norweigan Wood" is right up there.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Anonymous "...By Dick Morris..."
Do I even need to comment?

Harley A. "Ok, so favorite Beatles tunes?"
Last Train to Clarksville.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Modusoperandi: "Do I even need to comment?"

If you do, it shows you're not focusing.

Harley A.: "Ok, so favorite Beatles tunes?"

Can't even pick a favorite album (post Revolver), much less a song...

Modusoperandi: "Last Train to Clarksville"

Sorry, everybody knows that was by Black Sabbath...

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Modusoperandi, pretty dry humor coming from a drunk Canadian.

At 12:51 AM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Oh, wait. Four guys. Liverpool. Christmas. Now I remember which song I like.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous boltok said...

The Democrat's Ultimate Solution gets destroyed by the Supremes. A white (a hispanic white) democratic southerner takes out a peaceful loving black boy. JugEars creates post election pack with the USSR. JugEars' budget unanimously struck down in the House (go bipartisanship).

Time to ignore the news and focus on some retro tunes.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Harley A. said...

"Time to ignore the news and focus on some retro tunes."

Precisely. The country has been sold out by our politicians. The Neros on both sides of the aisle have been fiddling while Rome has been burning for years. Our government is incapable of proper governance. We no longer hold the reigns to the political process. We as a people no longer even share a common vision for the country. We no longer protect our borders. Our leaders agglomerate power every year. Our leaders are no longer statesmen, they are statists. Our leaders spend irresponsibly and are going to pay for it by devaluing our currency - or worse. I'm afraid we have front row seats for the end game of the "great experiment".

Might as well enjoy some good music while we wait.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Just the Facts! said...


I looked at Newsweek's issue about the Beetles, I didn't find anything not already known, did you?

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Just the Falsehoods!, you claimed...

"I looked at Newsweek's issue about the Beetles, I didn't find anything not already known, did you?"

I dunno...did they change the spelling of their name?

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Picture yourself on a train in a station,
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties,
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,
de Gaulle with kaleidoscope eyes...

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Nancy Reagan said...


Please, just say NO to drugs! Are you also Ellis D?

At 12:05 AM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Nancy Reagan, I do say "no" to drugs. I'm high on life, man.

At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Modusoperandi is a drunk Canadian

JG believes 9-11 was an inside job.

DD is a prison guard, for state of MI.

Kind of makes debating them and hoping to prove a point a waste of your time.

One isn't a US citizen, the next a pure nut case and the last one relies of the taxes of others for his wages. That's middle class America?

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

I'm with Anonymous. Facts, citations and reality aside, all of you people are completely naked under your clothes (and this crippling character fault is on top of your unkempt hair and halitosis). This, and I think we can all agree on this, makes you dismissible and your arguments false. It follows from this that the arguments from Anonymous', et al, by default, are therefore correct.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Thanks MO. Yous kerrect. My eyes done bin opened!

Only Just the Hairy Anonymous fascist cowards are blessed by God with deep wisdom and plain truth.

This is why Just the Hairy Anonymous fascist cowards don't need no librool commie siunce, no librool commie jernalism, no librool commie edjacation, no public services, no law enforcement, and none of them other commie librool Muslim soshalist thangs. And those dang firemen. Them's as bad as them useless cops and prison guards. They just rely on taxes of others and suck up our tax dollars like common crack whores. Let's send em all to Russia where theys sposta belong.

Ain't no Real Amurkin decency left here in Muslim Osamabama's Commie Amurika, ceptin fer Just the Hairy Anonymous fascists tellin us whut's whut.

Yessir. I done figgered it all out now. Thanks to them "Short-haired, yellow-bellied sons of Tricky Dicky".

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Louise Crist said...

I was taking high school driver's ed class the day after The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the first time. I remember thinking<"how could one singing group be such an overnight sensation?" I was not into music so much as a teen because my nose was always in a book. But my husband was and when I hear music by the The Beatles,I get such a nostalgic longing for those courting days. Now I play them a lot,my 7yo and 5 yo grandsons know all the words to Yellow Submaring and the three year old hums along.


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