Picks and Pans Review: Talk Downunder
After filming A Hard Day's Night in 1964, the Beatles descended on Australia and New Zealand, where Beatlemania was epidemic. Everywhere they went they were besieged by screaming fans and reporters. These recently unearthed tapes of radio interviews and press conferences the Fab Four gave during the grueling 19-day, 32-concert march are as copious as one could want—almost 70 minutes of live conversation on a single disc. Quality is something else. There are no revelations and precious few anecdotes. Only horseplay, banter and wisecracks leap out of the commotion. "Hello, everybody listening, this is George Harrison of the Bottles," deadpans the quiet Beatle. Later, when asked if the group has any "special plans" for Ringo's 24th birthday the next week, George says, "Shake his hand, give him a gold watch and tell him it was nice. You retire when you're 24, don't you?" When a reporter notes that the Vienna Boys Choir is in town (Wellington, New Zealand), the Beatles immediately erupt: "I must go see them!" "I believe they're wild, man, you've got to watch it when they're on." Adds Lennon, dryly, "Vienna Boys Choirmania, I'd call it." What comes through is valuable in a McLuhanesque sense for being so banal; the album shows how cooped up, bored and baffled these energetic young men were. Straitlaced, literal-minded reporters asked the same earnest questions over and over. The most haunting quote is Paul McCartney's. Queried about fans leaping onstage during concerts, he said, "You realize they're not going to belt you or anything. They're not trying to get you, really, they're just sort of coming up to say hello."
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