Pop Music: The Messengers

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sway a presidential election if they wanted to." If that is farfetched, the fact remains that when the Beatles talk—about drugs, the war in Viet Nam, religion—millions listen, and this is a new situation in the pop music world.

It is not altogether a bad situation, either. And it could be worse. At least the fact that nobody ever bothered to ask Elvis Presley about anything indicates a certain level of discrimination.

In any case, callow as their ideas sometimes are, the Beatles exemplify a refreshing distrust of authority, disdain for conventions and impatience with hypocrisy. "I think they're on to something," says their friend Richard Lester, 35, who directed their two films. "They are more inclined to blow away the cobwebs than my contemporaries."

Kids sense a quality of defiant honesty in the Beatles and admire their freedom and open-mindedness; they see them as peers who are in a position to try anything, and who can be relied on to tell it to them straight—and to tell them what they want to hear. As for the parents who are targets of the Beatles' satirical gibes, they seem to be able to take a large number of direct hits and still come up smiling. Says Chicago Public Relations Man Walter Robinson, 39, father of three boys: "The Beatles are explorers, trusty advance scouts. I like them to report to my kids."

Within the Maze. Characteristically, the Beatles are uncomfortable on their pedestals and soapboxes. They have always insisted, as Paul McCartney says, that "the fan at my gate knows really that she's equal to me, and I take care to tell her that." John Lennon's remark that "we're more popular than Jesus," which set off an anti-Beatle furor last year, was not a boast but an expression of disgust. Though he phrased it ineptly, he was posing the question: What kind of world is it that makes more fuss over a pop cult than over religion?

To discourage fuss, the Beatles lead their private lives within a maze of high hedges and walls, security guards and secret telephone numbers. Even John Lennon's art-nouveau Rolls-Royce, painted with a rainbow of swirling floral patterns on a bright yellow background, has smoked one-way glass in the side and rear windows to keep the curious from peeking in. The boys make occasional outings to such London nightspots as The Bag of Nails and The Speakeasy, but must plan them with a military eye for the element of surprise and a ready path of retreat in case they are mobbed. Only in the past few months has it become possible for them to walk through the city like ordinary mortals. Ringo Starr explains the fine points of the art: "If you're not dodging and running, you don't get people excited. If you take it cool and just trot about, they leave you."

Otherwise the Beatles live in a style that is quietly luxurious—as well it might be, considering their income from records, films, television appearances, song publishing and copyright royalties, and assorted tie-ins with Beatle mer chandise. The most conservative esti mates put the net worth of Harrison and Starr at $3,000,000 each, and of Lennon and McCartney at $4,000,000 (because of their extra earnings as songwriters). The figures could easily be twice as high.

Stockbroker Belt. The three married Beatles and their look-alike wives own

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