"Obsessed fans still don’t get it

If you weren’t watching CNN last Wednesday, you missed one of the most unforgettable train wrecks in television history. Larry King did an incomprehensible interview on CNN last week with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison to promote the Las Vegas show Love, which features music from the Beatles.

It was something that had to be seen to be truly believed. Watching it, one got the impression that it might have been a Dadaist farce or a deliberate put-on. But, unfortunately, it was not.

King, looking like he needed a change of Depends, interviewed the haggard-looking ex-Beatles with seemingly no clue about who they were or what they once did, only that he had an hour of time to kill with them.

“We'll take a break and bring all four on, the widows and the living,” he said, and once he did, it got even weirder.

Asking Starr about Lennon’s death, King said, “George, where were you?”

McCartney called him out on the mistake and King swatted him with his notes. It was a surreal night and the Beatles must have thought they were having acid flashbacks.

While it was hilarious in all the wrong places, it was also kind of sad seeing McCartney, once the picture of youth, aged 65 and being interviewed by King, now 73 and fading fast.

(The Fab Two weren’t Larry’s only victims last week. King’s interview the following night with Paris Hilton was even more of a water-torture trick, if that’s possible.)

The interview was a low moment in Beatles history and it begged the question, “Why are the Beatles still promoting themselves?” They most certainly do not need the money; sales of their albums continue at a steady rate.

The pictures of the Cirque de Soleil dancers bouncing on trampolines to Beatles music in Vegas were odd, too. Why does the public need a dance musical featuring mash-ups of Beatles songs?

Why can’t they just, to use a phrase, let it be?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Beatles. Their music is full of warmth and emotion and positive energy. The songs they recorded will likely still be listened to 100 years from now. They recorded a remarkable amount of quality material in a very short time.

Yet there still seems to be some kind of compulsion on their part to keep the flame burning, even after 40 years and after half the band has died.

In the 1990s, the three surviving Beatles reunited to record backing instrumentation for a song John Lennon had written shortly before his death. The song, “Free as a Bird,” is quite lovely in its original cassette demo.

But, in a rare lapse of taste and/or judgment, Harrison, McCartney and Starr added layers and layers of acoustic guitars and backing vocals to the song, making it seem like a cruel exercise in musical necrophilia.

It may not be all the Beatles’ fault, though. I place a large degree of blame on their most obsessed apostles, who continue to analyze their material, demand new material and keep debate alive about songs written 40 or more years ago.

The surviving Beatles are victims of their past successes, trapped by their fans who demand new versions and new reinterpretations of the old music and zealously attacking those people — from Yoko Ono to Heather Mills — who are seen as incompatible with the fans’ view of the world.

Almost 40 years after they broke up, Ono is still demonized on Beatles’ Web sites and message boards as the one who destroyed the band. Those who stand up for her are demonized. It’s really very strange to read the screeds of Beatlemaniacs in 2007.

So while the Beatles are constantly releasing new discs and approving projects like the Vegas musical, it’s only because their obsessive fan base demands it.

One man got it right, though, when talking about the Beatles: “If the Beatles or the ’60s had a message, it was to learn to swim. Period. And once you learn to swim, swim. The people who are hung up on the Beatles' and the ’60s' dream missed the whole point when the Beatles' and the ’60s' dream became the point. Carrying the Beatles' or the ’60s' dream around all your life is like carrying the Second World War and Glenn Miller around. That's not to say you can't enjoy Glenn Miller or the Beatles, but to live in that dream is the twilight zone. It's not living now. It's an illusion.”

The speaker was John Lennon, in his last major interview before his death in 1980. He understood it. The Beatles fans of 2007 should also understand that.

Let it be. Let the Beatles rest in peace n




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