A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles’ famous Shea Stadium gig is most famous for showing why The Beatles decided to quit gigging. If I didn’t know better I’d almost come to the conclusion that they weren’t a very good live band. It’s not a very good performance, and the boys look sweaty and unenthusiastic. It was their blessing and their curse that none of them was a natural frontman. On one hand, it prevented anyone from emerging as the de facto focal point and leader. On the other hand, it made them not very dynamic live. Eyewitnesses tell that The Beatles did put on a blazing live show, before they got famous. Their days in Hamburg are legendary, although that might be rosy nostalgia, for the surviving recordings aren’t especially impressive. It seems that even in Hamburg or The Cavern, the Beatles weren’t an act on the dramatic level of The Rolling Stones or The Who. When the Mania struck, they stopped even trying, for as the evidence shows, no one was listening to them play anyhow. They couldn’t hear themselves over the screaming, and the audience certainly couldn’t hear them for screaming. Unceasing adulation may seem like a desirable thing, but it’s not the same as having a rapport between artist and listener. The Beatles became the focus of a mass catharsis for repressed teenagers, if you want to get all sociological about it. The performance itself was beside the point, as a frustrated John Lennon found out when no one noticed him talking gibberish between songs. No wonder they quit touring.