Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carroll Bryant Remembers The Beatles

A lot of people have a lot of memories regarding the Beatles. Unlike many Beatles fans, I never got to see them perform in concert together or even individually. In fact, growing up, I always considered the Beatles as, okay? Yeah, you heard me, they were just okay. However, you have to understand that while I was growing up, I was an Elvis Presley fan. As my late grandfather would say, "There's two kinds of people in this world, Elvis fans and Beatles fans. You're either one or the other."

It wasn't until I was 18 years old and reported to my command in the United States Navy when I would meet my first "die-hard" Beatles fan. His name was Hrisko.

I remember when we first met the first thing he asked me after introductions and while shaking hands was, "So, do you like the Beatles or Elvis?"

It appeared Hrisko thought a lot like my grandfather. Maybe that's why he and I would become such good friends.

It wasn't that I held any disdain towards the Beatles, but in my youngest of youth I would always tell Beatles fans that it took four Beatles to equal one Elvis.

The truth be told, I grew up admiring the Beatles more as individual song-writers and singers than I did as them as a group. Take Paul McCartney & Wings for example: Great songs! In fact, "Jet", "Let Me Roll It", and "Listen What The Man Said" still rank high on my all-time favorites list. Taking nothing away from the amazing works of Lennon and the song, "Mind Games". (Another all-time favorite of mine.) And his "Double Fantasy" Album.

Then there is George Harrison and "Got MY Mind Set On You". And of course, the classic Ringo song, "My Sweet Lord".

Yet, when I met Hrisko that day, he made it a point, or perhaps more of a mission, to get me to see the collective works of the Beatles and what they brought to the table within the confines of the music industry. The fact is, I always knew and understood perfectly what they brought to the table, I just never wanted to go on record with those thoughts. So in turn, turnabout being fair play, I decided to try and convert him to the Elvis side. Let the games begin.

I know of all the Beatles songs, starting with such hits as "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "Hard Days Night", and "Love Me Do" - The list goes on and on. But my argument was always that the only reason there was the Beatles was due to the fact that there was an Elvis first. Not that Elvis did anything special except take African American blues and pushed it into the mainstream and transforming it into "Rock and Roll". Then of course, came the Beatles to America.

I'll admit that the Beatles took what Elvis started and lifted it to a whole new level. That level opened the doors to such groups as "Black Sabbath" and perhaps "The Doors" as well as the legendary "Jimi Hendrix" and "Janis Joplin". I mean, the Beatles raised the bar, so to speak, for other artists to take the next step with this new found toy called rock and roll. Even such acts as "The Who" and "The Rolling Stones" came onto the scene and continued to expand this sound into new frontiers. This all led us straight into the seventies man where rock and roll was fully unleashed by the sounds of "Fleetwood Mac", Jefferson Airplane", and of course, "Eric Clapton" and so many more.

Hey, without the Beatles coming onto the scene, one has to wonder how long it would have been, and who it would have been to lay down that ground work for other artists, but I can never forget that without Elvis paving the way, the Beatles may not have been well received in the United States. Okay, maybe they would have, I don't know. But that's the whole point, we may never know one way or the other.

To get to the point where I could fully appreciate the Beatles as a group, I had to begin with my favorite Beatles songs and work backwards from there. Those songs are, "Strawberry Fields" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". Only when I did this was I able to begin realizing the impact of what the Beatles did, and how they helped to take what Elvis brought to the forefront, and led us all down a road of no return when it pertains to their involvement of helping to shape the world of rock music. Sure, Elvis got us gyrating - but the Beatles took us to a whole other consciousness. They forced us to look inside ourselves and see the inner beauty of the whole world as well as the ugliest sides that exists in mankind. I guess in truth, they weren't afraid to "go there" with it. And let's face it, had they not went there with it, there's still a chance we never would have gone there on our own.

Okay, so it took four British boys from Liverpool to take what Elvis did, and lift us to sacred ground. That notorious move also opened the doors for the 80's and "The British Invasion" that took place. Every record producer, label and manager wanted to "discover" the next Beatles. Can we still remember when the world was ready to anoint "Duran Duran" as the coming of the second Beatles? Yeah, that didn't quite pan out, did it? I guess there will never truly be a second coming of the Beatles, and perhaps it took the Beatles to "break up" to show us this.

But the spirit of the Beatles lives on. There's no doubt about it. Like so many others, I will always wonder if their legend would have grown more had they stayed together throughout the 70's and beyond. I always wonder "what if" all those amazing songs they did as individuals after the break up would have served the Beatles legend more if they released those songs as the Beatles? I suppose we will never know the answer to that question either. I would like to think that the Beatles legend was better served by breaking up the band. I think only by what they were able to achieve as individuals could their collective works as the Beatles be viewed as what it continues to be .... LEGENDARY!

As for Hrisko and his mission to enlighten me where the Beatles are concerned? Mission accomplished my old friend. When the day came for me to leave the Navy, I shook my friends hand for one last time, noticing in his shirt pocket a cassette he had recently purchased barely sticking out. "What's that?" I asked him. He just smirked and rolled his eyes. "It's an Elvis greatest hits tape."

Mission accomplished for both of us. 

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