15
Oct 04

Three Beatles Songs

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Three Beatles Songs

Or perhaps that should be, ‘three Beatlesploitation songs’. When the Beatles wave broke on America, how could the existing pop – girl and boy groups with their bouncy, witty, politely nuanced love songs – deal with it? Easy – they (or someone) wrote about it. The Swans’ “Boy With The Beatle Hair” is an example of this micro-genre played fairly straight. Wistful girl-group pop, cooing harmonies eliding into toy piano – nothing has changed in this world except the haircuts. “My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut” by Donna Lynn is snappier, more upbeat and much funnier, detailing the nightmare effects of the moptop cut on her love life (other girls never used to bother with Donna’s boy – now they swarm round him on account of his swoonsome barnet). There’s a self-awareness here of the insanity of Beatlemania – to which the record is at once contributing and cashing in on.

Even more self-awareness in the very curious “A Letter To The Beatles” by the Four Preps. Here we get the boy’s point of view on the band, and as you’d imagine it isn’t complimentary. Girlfriend writes letter to the Beatles offering them “anything”, they write back asking for “twenty-five cents for an autographed picture / one dollar bill for a fan club card / and if you send it right away you’ll get a lock of hair / from my Saint Bernard”. Girlfriend protests and gets the same form letter back, then she gives in, sends the money and dumps her poor boyfriend! The shamelessness of this particular record railing about shoddy Beatle merchandise is only enhanced by its constant quotes from “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (which unfortunately just point up how much more vim the Beatles had than the Four Preps).

All these singles were from 1964, as you’d expect. They form the tip of a remarkable and frightening iceberg which you’d feel would lend itself to compilation. The Beatles legend tends to stress their achievements as creative subjects and downplay their impact as objects – discussion is usually limited to some eye-rolling over the ubiquity of Beatle wigs and the legend hurries on. These records give a better flavour of how rampant and out-of-control the Beatle brand got – and they’re good pop too.

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