Beatle mad… Chris Rock
Beatle mad… Chris Rock
To mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first York appearance, Chris Rock explains why they remain the Best. Band. Ever

 
Right OK, here goes… my name is Chris Rock and I am a Beatle fan. There I admit it, and now the whole world knows my guilty secret. Now that wasn’t too bad was it?

I was born in October 1962 – the same year and month that The Beatles had their first chart single released, Love Me Do. Obviously I don’t remember that, but, what I can vaguely recall at infants school is the class all sat around in a semi-circle and chanting the lines “We all live in a yellow submarine” over and over again, whilst the teacher accompanied us on her old, battered acoustic guitar. Hmmm… not the best song to be introduced to The Beatles with, however, thus began my interest, my passion, OK my infatuation, with the group.

rialto-posterWhat is it that elevates this band above the heads of all others, and has left a legacy that still resonates down the years to all generations? After all, it is 43 years since the band split up, the Bootleg Beatles tribute band has been going three times longer than the original band, and yet the universal appeal and inspiration The Beatles still radiate is magical. This is the reason I have set up the York Beatles Appreciation Society, can other Beatle fans give me a definitive answer?

I want it to be a society where we can meet up in York on a regular basis and discuss the various and endless topics that being a Beatles fan throws at us. What draws you to them? Is it the music? The personalities? The humour? The style? The philosophy? Or a mixture of everything?

I remember back at Art College in the early Eighties having a heated debate with a fellow Beatle disciple. She vehemently insisted Lennon was the driving force, the musical genius and the soul of the group, and no argument was going to sway that view. Passions can run very high indeed with Beatle fans!

I grew up in Teesside on a uninspiring 1970s council estate, but I used to wish I had been born ten years earlier, just so I could have grown up and experienced the Sixties for myself. OK, we can all look back at the decade through rose-tinted spectacles and only see what we want to see – don’t forget that many people still lived in poor quality Victorian housing, complete with outside toilets and no central heating (I can still vividly remember the smell of hundreds of sooty coal fires hanging in the air on a cold, damp day).

The interior of the Rialto, York
The interior of the Rialto, York

To many the “swinging Sixties” swung right by them, and it was not until the 1970s that they could afford a colour TV, or an automatic washing machine (my family included, I can still visualise seeing Slade for the first time on Top Of The Pops in glorious colour).

The Sixties really was a time of radical social change, the drab and dreary postwar years giving way to an explosion of colour in materials, fabrics and fashion. The new “teenager” had a sense of freedom and certain amount of disposable income for the first time. Then there was rock’n’roll. The early Sixties had lost its way as far as the popular music scene was concerned. Those heady, noisy, exciting early rock icons like Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly had been toppled by ballad singing, moody, clean cut solo artists like Joe Brown, Adam Faith, and a host of American chart toppers.

What the youth was waiting for was the punk-like musical explosion that would herald the real start of the swinging Sixties. And The Beatles fronted that new shock-wave of sound and style.

Just ask any young band about their influences and they will somehow permeate back to the Beatles. And one thing is certain, there will never be a time or a band like that again

Many now slate the early Beatles songs, but just look what they put out from 1963 to 1966, seven LP albums! (Try doing that now Mr Cowell). They progressed creatively from She Loves You to Eleanor Rigby in just four short, mad Beatlemania years. That I think is the crux of my attraction to the group: their musical diversity is prodigious and will never equalled.

I have had many a discussion with my close friend Gary about the Beatles. Together we became fascinated by them in the Seventies, and we often ask the question: did the Beatles instigate or follow the musical and cultural style which defined the Sixties?

The Beatles came to York four times in 1963 – February 27, March 13, May 29 and November 27 – and played all the shows at the now long gone Rialto Theatre on Fishergate. It is 50 years since that first visit. This is another reason why the York Beatles Appreciation Society has been formed, I want to record a visual and verbal record of those visits for posterity.

What was it like to attend one of their live shows? How did it feel to be there at the start of a musical and cultural phenomenon? Did you meet them? Did you work at the Rialto and get a photograph? Your memories and your memorabilia is all we have now of those exciting times, it’s something we will never experience again and I will certainly never see.

To some The Beatles are over-played, overstated and maybe even over-rated. That’s fine, that’s their viewpoint, I would never try to persuade a non-Beatle fan against their will. I will however argue my corner, just ask any young band about their influences and they will somehow permeate back to the Beatles – they might not even know they’ve even been influenced. However, one thing is certain, there will never be a time or a band like that again.

If you want to be a part of the society or have anything you want to add to the archives please get in touch, or visit the web-page – all are welcome, any age, any gender, we all have one interest in common – The Beatles.