Francis Newton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Beatles are an agreeable bunch of kids, quite unsinister (unlike some of the American teenage comets), with that charming combination of flamboyance and a certain hip self-mickey-taking, which is the ideal of their age group. They are in fact the 'new Elizabethans' for whom the bishops called 10 years ago. Much of their appeal has nothing to do with music at all, but with clothes, haircuts and stance. What they sell is not music, but 'the sound', a slightly modified version of the heavily accented, electronically amplified noise which has long been familiar to rock-and-rollers and could at a pinch be described as the musique concrète of the masses. Anyone can produce that sound, and practically everyone with the money for the rather expensive gear has done so…. Mersey-side—and the Beatles—emerged as the recognised Nashville of Britain about a year ago, when entrepreneurs first became aware of the size of the market for the beat groups which had grown up spontaneously in provincial cellars and halls…. There is generally only one idol and it happens that this sympathetic group of lads has been cast for the part. They are probably just about to begin their slow descent: the moment when someone thinks of making a film with a pop idol normally marks the peak of his curve. In 20 years' time nothing of them will survive. (p. 673)

Francis Newton, "Beatles and Before," in New Statesman (© 1963 The Statesman...

(The entire section is 606 words.)