SHOW BUSINESS: Becoming the Beatles

A new two-CD set of live British radio performances displays pop's premier group growing from imitators to assured artists

The lads politely introduce themselves to the radio audience. "I'm George, and I play a guitar," etc. Then the Beatles' leader speaks: "I'm John, and I too play a guitar. Sometimes I play the fool." In the beginning, John Lennon was the group's soul and wit, its Elvis and its Groucho. But unlike Elvis, the early Beatles had the quick, larky humor of kids assured enough to make fun of themselves and everyone else. And unlike the Marx Brothers, these were no anarchists -- they were many a mother's daydream of the pop star her daughter might bring home.

All of...

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