Strawberry fields forever, but please, no Beatles reunion

January 23, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

It doesn't matter whether we like it or not, or whether it's an affront to all things good and just, or even whether it's a sacrilege, the "three remaining Beatles" are going to record again.

At the risk of sounding alarmist, I would like to make one small observation: This would be the worst thing that has ever happened. Yes, ever.

What I mean is, worse than the Chevy Chase show.

Worse, even, than Richard Nixon, who may have had Mitchell and Erlichman and Haldeman and the plumbers but at least wasn't saddled with Ringo.

Don't they get it? There are no Beatles.

The Beatles broke up as the '60s ended, but they died forever in 1980 when Mark David Chapman blew a hole in John Lennon's head and then waited calmly, while reading "The Catcher in the Rye," for the police to take him away.

The "three remaining Beatles" are not the Beatles. They're Paul, George and Ringo. Paul has spent the intervening years smoking ganja and writing silly little love songs. George, when not defending himself on plagiarism charges, searches out other living legends to record with. Ringo? Well, isn't being the luckiest man who ever lived enough?

What are they going to call themselves in this latest incarnation -- Most of the Beatles? The Fab 3?

Other reunions to look for: the Three Horsemen of Notre Dame, the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It started innocently enough. Of course, so did Julius Caesar's stroll through the Roman senate on a certain March day. In this case, the BBC is putting together what may be the definitive Beatles' retrospective. The timing is right. It was 30 years ago the boys came to America in what would be the most significant landing in these parts since Columbus'.

The "three remaining Beatles" all agreed to cooperate. Now, I wouldn't mind hearing them do some old Beatles stuff, as they're expected to do. In fact, whenever Paul's playing anywhere nearby, I'm there. I know the past is a different country, but I don't mind visiting occasionally.

I just don't want certain things -- the Constitution, the White Album -- tampered with.

According to reports, the Beatles may release four to six CDs' worth of stuff stored away at the Abbey Road studio. But they also plan to record new music. If we can trust legendary Beatles producer George Martin, it would be only a song or two. I hope we can limit the damage to that, but there are frightening rumors.

One has it that they've asked Yoko for tapes of John's from the late '70s so they can use his voice on the new music. This would be much worse than Sinatra's phony-baloney duets, although I would pay to hear Frank and Paul team up on "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

This is the Beatles, people. I can't emphasize that enough. This is different. This is not a Platters reunion. This is not the Rascals, young or otherwise. It's not the Bee Gees. You can miss one Gibb.

Most of these rock reunions are painful in the best of circumstances. Pete Townshend has to play behind glass because he's blown his ears out. If you like the Beach Boys, never see them again. You'll toss all your albums if you do.

OK, bad music is one thing. The Beatles are another. The Beatles were not just a rock group. The Beatles were, well, the Beatles. You can't explain them exactly, although it is fair to say they saved rock and roll.

Rock was pretty much dead, except for Phil Spector and the black sounds coming out of Memphis and Detroit. The founders were all gone. Buddy Holly was lost. Elvis went in the Army, and came back in a jumpsuit. Little Richard got religion. Jerry Lee married his 13-year-old cousin. Chuck Berry went to jail.

It was all Bobby Vinton and Chubby Checker. Then the Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan, Beatlemania exploded, and the '60s, for better or worse, were upon us.

The Beatles invented the rock album as we know it. They probably invented the music video. Their range of music was extraordinary during the brief time they recorded.

Then it was over. People tried to get them back together, but John wouldn't allow it, turning down as much as $50 million. He didn't turn down the money because of a tiff with Paul. He turned it down because some things, he knew, could not or should not be replicated. In art, it always turns out that somebody wants to know why you can't put arms on the Venus de Milo.

I don't believe in Beatles reunions.

Instant karma's gonna get them.

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