The Beatles: that most excellent order of rock




Pack leader of a falsely soporific Liverpool where hundreds of bands exported the Mersey’s sound in addition to the stagnant mould in their cellars, the Beatles became kings of that London very chic by day and joyful by night, where a starving press was hot at their heels, waiting for a parable for the masses of teenagers. In those days, the image of a Beatle on a toilet bowl in front of a leg crossed journalist sitting on the ground, rather than an ecological hallucination, was something that could have happened. The rest was done by rumours and democratic confidences, mythology and time passing by. The inaccuracies are the starting clues for the game of true or false.

Even the dates are wrong. Some Italian sources report 24th October, the British ones, obviously more accurate, declaim as unchallengeable the 26th October 1965 as the day when the Epstein’s boys (Epstein was the manager of the Beatles) received the honour of Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It was the Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who proposed the nomination of the band. Wilson was hunting for consensus because at that time those four, through sales of music and gadgets, were the most requested English product abroad. As the investiture was announced, there was no shortage of protests: colonels and RAF soldiers, who had received titles for war efforts, gave them back, indignant.

The boys were about to release Rubber Soul – December 1965 – and were about to set the limits of rock music with a decisive leap forward that would be confirmed the following year with the release of Revolver. But this, for the residents of Buckingham Palace, was less interesting.

The crux of the whole issue was Lennon’s statements about the fact that the four smoked a joint in the baths of the Royal Palace. A phrase does not mean anything, especially if pronounced by arrogance or, like everyone else at the time, by a victim of Beatlesmania, like John himself. The incident was later denied by George Harrison and never commented by Ringo and Paul.

Actually, at that time the Beatles used to smoke weed, introduced to consumption by Bob Dylan during a meeting on their ’64 US tour. Details, if the fact actually happened, we will never know.

John’s sharp led further. There was a law in Britain that punished cannabis smokers, but also the owners of the residences where the crime took place. In fact, Queen Elizabeth became liable to condemnation. Three or four years later, the law was modified.

All rock music stars had trouble with justice due to the use and possession of drugs. The Stones know something about it, since they were more busy dodging accusations than producing good ol’ English blues at the end of that decade, and they know something about it the baronets of Liverpool themselves, which, for the honour achieved, were led out from the scandals by a service door and subsequently, as a seal of their perseverance, they were prosecuted like their colleagues.

Returning to that October day, John, to complete his work, told Alistair Taylor, Brian Epstein’s assistant, that he had brought with him two LSD tablets with the intention of slipping them into the Queen’s tea. Plan not completed, of course.

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The existence of a rock star is permeated by an alone halfway between the business-class migrant and the citizen of the world, which indefinitely places him in the jet set of the rich and roll. All or almost all of the stars of the showbiz are among the biggest taxpayers of their origin countries. They become businesspersons, merchants, patrons, and even incoherent, bourgeois, sometimes they are a danger to themselves, but represent, at least at the beginning of their careers, a contrast to the shady consciences and the established order. Each one in their own way, according to their ability and in relation to the placement of their audience.

In the fab four case, all this began to take shape into Taxman (album Revolver, 1966), the rancorous piece by George Harrison against the tax authorities that was the reason why the Beatles were invested with the MBE. They were the top list of the Exchequer, having to pay a surcharge of up to 95% on all their entry, being the Wilson government engaged in a policy of protection of the welfare state, of deflation and equality. The Beatles found themselves in the paradoxical situation in which the more they gained the more they were hit by taxes. The conferment of the title of baronets, therefore, was in fact a sort of hypocritical compensation.

The piece is a tirade against the high tax burden, there’s one for you, nineteen for me, and against the Government, yeah, I’m the taxman, and you’re working for no one but me: if you drive a car I’ll tax the street, if you try to sit I’ll tax your seat, if you get too cold I’ll tax the heat.

Even rich people cry, especially if they are not born rich. The social extraction of the four is essentially proletarian, only Lennon came from bourgeois origin, in spite of his not so quiet childhood and adolescence.

Taxman could be considered a flag to wave in the face of greedy and pimping institutions, in fact the author explained how he felt. George said: When you are born poor, you find a job and start making money. You’re so happy to get rich and you think you’ve done nothing wrong. All those taxes stated the opposite, that it was impossible to change one’s condition in an honest way for those who came from the working class.

The Beatles, at that time of an average age of twenty-five and in the midst of the madness that involved them, were looking around, observing society and the contradictory aspects of it. In the midst of an apparent happiness, John wrote Help!, the demonstration that the essence of the messages got lost in the collective adulation which in some time would have found its end with the end of the tour and the live performances, opening the second era of the fab four, studies and the definitive consecration.

In 1969, John Lennon returned the MBE medal to the Queen. It had been kept by his aunt Mimi in a living room shelf at 251 Menlove Avenue. John asked it back without explaining his intentions, then sending it at Buckingham Palace to protest against British involvement in the Biafran War and the support to the United States in Vietnam. To crown his sarcasm, he added that he was outraged because Cold Turkey, his second solo single with references to drugs, was sleeping at the bottom of the charts. The Queen did not understood his sign and maybe not even the sense of humour.



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