The Beatles on the Cover of TIME (Courtesy Time Inc.)
September 22, 1967
Less than 4 months after the release of their pivotal album masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967, TIME magazine featured bizarre caricatures of The Beatles on the cover of it’s latest issue – accompanied by a feature article on the band.
It so happens that I own a copy of that issue (now selling for as much as $70 on eBay) and I dug it up to give you some of the flavor of the piece.
Although I can’t reprint the entire TIME article for copyright reasons, some of the highlights of the essay are:
The article’s author, TIME staffer Christopher Porterfield, was clearly a fan of The Beatles – and especially of their newer music.
First, he quoted American music composer and Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist Ned Rorem:
“They (The Beatles) are colleagues of mine, speaking the same language with different accents. In fact, She’s Leaving Home (a track from Sgt. Pepper’s) is equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote.”
Porterfield enthusiastically pointed out that The Beatles appeared to have a talent for expressing their moods – comparing that aspect of their music to several songwriting giants of the past, such as Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein.
And, in what he called “cheerful skewering,” he described the early music of The Beatles:
“(It) had exuberance and an occasional oasis of unexpected harmony, but otherwise blended monotonously into the parched badlands of rock.”
Following that up, he found the growing sophistication of some of the more recent Beatles songs such as John Lennon’s insightful Nowhere Man, Paul McCartney’s Paperback Writer and signature ballad Yesterday, the George Harrison sitar-saturated Norwegian Wood, the timeless Eleanor Rigby and the Ringo Starr-sung animated film classic Yellow Submarine, as sharp departures “from Big Beat banalities.”
Porterfield also had high praise for 1967’s nostalgic Strawberry Fields Forever (the non-album B-side of their single Penny Lane) stating:
“With its four separate meters, freewheeling modulations and titillating tonal trappings, (it) shows that the Beatles have flowered as musicians.”
And again, he ardently compared their music to that of some heavyweight classical music composers – Johann Sebastian Bach and Gustav Mahler – and even then-contemporary German composer & electronic music specialist Karlheinz Stockhausen – noting that, like many of The Beatles’ modern-day music contemporaries such as The Doors, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Cream and The Byrds:
“Most of these groups write their own music and thereby, try not only to arrive at their peculiar mixture of elements, but also to stamp their identity on whatever they do.”
And, from a non-musical, but rather social standpoint, he quoted Sid Bernstein – the music producer & promoter who’d claimed to start music’s British Invasion by being the first to bring The Beatles to the U.S. from the UK; in fact, he organized three Beatles New York concerts, and outrageously stated:
“Only Hitler ever duplicated their power over crowds. I’m convinced they could sway a presidential election if they wanted to.”
And that’s a part of how The Beatles looked to a TIME magazine music writer in 1967 – high praise indeed!
Source: TIME magazine (September 22, 1967)