Saturday, November 22, 2008
Vatican remembers the Beatles
Vatican remembers the Beatles
The Vatican on Friday praised the Beatles in a newspaper article that appeared to bury the hatchet on John Lennnon's infamous 'more famous than Jesus' remark.
Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said Lennon's comment, which sparked outrage in the mid-1960s, ''today just sounds like a quip from an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success after growing up with the Elvis myth''.
In the article, marking the 40th anniversary of the famous White Album, Vatican music critics said ''snobs'' might dismiss the Fab Four but ''the talent of Lennon and the other Beatles gave us some of the best pages in modern pop music''.
The critics said: ''38 years after the band split up, the Lennon-McCartney songs have shown an extraordinary resistance to the effects of time, providing inspiration for several generations of pop musicians''.
Osservatore Romano made its peace with Elvis in July.
It recalled the the once-outlawed pelvis-twister as a ''nice, sensitive young man'' who was doomed by fame.
Lennon made his comment on March 4, 1966, to London's Evening Standard.''Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink... We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me''. (I doubt either rock n roll or Christianity will go the way of the hula hoop, unless their current stagnation becomes permanent.)
The response was immediate. Christians, especially in the American South, made huge pyres of Beatles albums and Protestant pastors threatened fans with excommunications - though the Vatican did not comment. Elvis fans had been threatened with excommunication by Protestant churches a decade earlier. (The American South has a long history of losing culture wars, starting with slavery, but I have to give them this, they don't give up. They just lose, as the Republican party has just learned with the crash and burn of their 'southern strategy".)
I can remember being caught up in Beatlemania, and I vividly recall this remark from John Lennon. My mother was not pleased, although she did not insist I burn my Beatle's 45's. I had none of their albums as albums were too expensive for my limited allowance. My side of the bedroom was a shrine to George Harrison, while my sister's side was a shrine to Paul McCartney. John Lennon was a little too outspoken for his own shrine in a good Catholic household.
The second movie I ever saw in a theatre, was a Hard Day's Night. My mother took my sister and I as a special treat. Plus she wanted to get a better idea of what this insanity was all about. She laughed her ass off and later became a big fan of Monte Python and weird British humor in general. She was changed by Beatlemania.
My dad loved 'Hey Jude' and Paul McCartney's wistful voice when he sang "Mother Mary come to me, speaking words of wisdom. Let it be." For my dad, it was a prayer, not a song and he would frequently play "Let it be" on his state of the art souped up stereo. That is, when we weren't being endlessly subjected to Franky Yankovich and his polkas. Dad was not approving of Franky's son 'Wierd Al', appalled in fact, but he absolutely fell in love with the Moody Blues and Simon and Garfunkle. He too, was changed by Beatlemania.
I remember with fondness my daughter sitting on grandpa's lap as he rocked her to sleep while listening to 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters', on the no longer state of the art souped up stereo. The stereo may have been outdated, but the grandfatherly love wasn't. Generations bonding through music, that's not outdated either. So let the 'snobs' dismiss the fab four, the Vatican is right, the Fab four did give us some of the best pages in 'rock n roll', and it still sounds great, and it still bridges gaps.
Perhaps this is one time the right and left can agree on something. "Let it be."