The trove of Beatles-related materials collector Ray E. purchased included a collage of articles TWA PR specialist Bill Liss assembled after he flew with the group to New York.
He sent the collage to Robert Helmer, his manager in Kansas City, for Robert's teenage daughter.
The "Moptops Arrive Here Tomorrow" subhead (right, below)—with TWA circled by Bill—was one of the clips. It fits my memory of a time when media stories about the band usually were disparaging.
I thought it would be interesting to see what else the Journal American—out of business since 1966—reported about the group's 1965 stop in New York City. Waukesha Library, the largest in my county, obtained August, 1965, NYJAs for me on microfilm from the Library of Congress.
The "Moptops Arrive Here Tomorrow" clip was part of a spread titled: "Shush! Beatles and a Shaggy Dog Sleeping." Mort Young (born, 19331) opens with: "Will there be a shaggy dog roaming the 32d and 33d floors of the Warwick Hotel the night of Friday (shudder) the 13th? Or will it be one of the Beatles..."
Their just-released album and movie Help! included "Yesterday" and other great and enduring songs.
In the full article that follows, Young calls those attending The Beatles concert at Shea Stadium "intruders."
Warwick Hotel news conferenceThe excerpt below references The Beatles news conference that was conducted on the afternoon of Friday the 13th not long after they arrived in America. Starting with a bombastic bang, Bill Slocum (19152) reports it "didn't do them [The Beatles] any harm but set journalism back a century."
Band members are portrayed as focused on money. For example, "...but a few asked precisely the commercial questions The Beatles wanted asked. About records, movies, future plans. They sounded like shills."
The third paragraph states The Beatles "snapped savagely at a legitimate question about 'What is it you don't like about America?'" Nearly always able to outfox the impertinent, band members replied they "don't like reporters."
Pukey snobbismToward the end of the piece, Slocum decides to "leave the spot where I could hear the questions and answers" because "somebody asked, 'Who is your favorite movie star?'" He proudly informs readers that he is many, many stations above wanting information on that! "I shall go to my grave not knowing who is the favorite movie star of The Beatles."
In sticking to his opinion that the group's primary interest is financial, Slocum concludes: "They also looked bored except when engaged in commercial discussion."
In the following, Parsons (18813) and Manners (19034) describe Beatles enthusiasts as "shrieking addicts." Band members, they report, while focused on security, are even more concerned about being "left alone" which would be "awful." What they really care about Parsons and Manners seem to imply is adulation.
Shea Stadium concert
Below is Slocum's take on the Shea Stadium concert. The band's appearance brought New York City "close to a major disaster," he begins. "It was terrifying."
"The Beatles played for 34 minutes," he continues, "and I didn't watch them for 30 seconds." Negatives abound; positives are few and directed at government officials.
"Couldn't care less"
In the continuation of Slocum's story (below), The Beatles are characterized as "unkempt young men making odd noises out at second base" and attendees, a "mob." Other loaded words include boil, nabbing, glassy-eyed, disaster, hysterical, terrifying, madness, anguished, terrified, mad. He poses the question, "What happened at the concert itself?" And answers: "The hell with that, I couldn't care less."
Sticking to the pattern and tone established earlier, Slocum writes the following into his conclusion: loudest, ache, roar, shrill, piercing, scream, ice picks, savage, abandon, madness, riot, death, dying, disaster, hysteria, riot, tragedy.
Journalists such as Manners, Parsons, Slocum, and Young not only failed to appreciate the artistry and motivations of George, John, Paul, and Ringo but seemed irritated by the group's success.
They refused to give The Beatles' music serious consideration and didn't evaluate why the band was loved by so many. Contemplation of The Beatles' towering performance and recording accomplishments was beneath the haughty dignity of many mid-sixties commentators.
Less obvious truths such as The Beatles' reshaping of the male appearance and blossoming message of love and peace were missed entirely.
Much of this attitude probably was rooted in plain old fear of change—resistance to the familiar being pushed aside by the new.
And clearly it catered to a group of "grown-up" Americans, perhaps a majority, who didn't like or understand what they heard coming from the radios and record players of their daughters and sons and what they saw tacked and taped to bedroom walls and glowing black and white from TV screens.
Fifty years later, it's hard to imagine why some adults of that era were offended by how The Beatles looked and sounded. Their long, combed-down hair was a major contributor to the annoyance but the question—the mystery—is why?
At the time, Jesus was normally depicted with shoulder-length hair and no one seemed to care, in fact, many of those same grown-ups worshiped him.
"Whatever is in style looks good"
The Beatles, like Apple Computers, another counter-culture phenomenon at first, are completely mainstream today. Long hair is common, Rock all around, and Apple is the largest company in the world.
My mother, with the birth name Marie Bertha Emily Westfahl, advised me at a young age, "Whatever is in style looks good."
She was born in 1906, played the organ as a girl, and loved dance music, particularly polkas. She never said anything unfriendly about The Beatles and bought a Gibson Melody Maker electric guitar for me the year they played Shea, so I could try to be just like them.
2. Jordan Sprechman, Bill Shannon, This Day in New York Sports, Sports Publishing LLC, 1998, page 331.