Singers: The Unbarbershopped Quartet

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Adults may not dig, but how could 20 million teen-agers be wrong? The Beatles are fab. The Beatles are great. The Beatles are different. The Beatles are cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

All week long, the four young British singers progressed through scenes that might have been whimsically imagined by Dante. Whether it was New York or Miami, teen-aged girls by the massed thousands closed in as if to devour them. They pressed in and literally over the Beatles' limousines, standing on hoods and tops, screaming. On a brief trip to Washington, hundreds of grotesquely clawing hands reached toward them through the massive iron bars that partition Union Station. At a sell-out concert in Manhattan's Carnegie Hall, the Beatles stood on the stage in a hail of their beloved jelly beans, while flashguns intermittently lighted the great interior like night artillery, and they boomed their electrified rock 'n' roll into the wildly screaming darkness.

Real Fuel. All this seemed redolent of flackery, and the Beatles were certainly well publicized. But no press-agent can light a blaze like that—he can only strike a match here and there and pray to the pressagents' god. The Beatles are being fueled by a genuine, if temporary, hysteria. In every part of the U.S., teen-agers are talking about little else, and superthatch Beatle-size wigs are being sold by the hundreds of dozens. But part of the Beatles peculiar charm is that they view it all with bemused detachment. If they are asked why they think they qualify as, well, four Rockmaninoffs, they disarmingly concede that they have no real talent at all.

They are pure and classic idols. All they have to do is lift their arms or shake their waterweed hair to provoke screams that would blot out an allclear signal. This is the oddest thing in the Beatles' strange celebrity. They are adulated singers whose swarming fans scream so steadily through each song that they cannot possibly hear what is being sung. Every so often the Beatles step forward and shout, "Oh, shut up," but that only quintuples the screams. Perhaps this is because the audience already has heard on records what it is missing in mere reality:

This boy would be happy just to love you,

But oh my/ai/ai/ai

That boy won't be happy 'til he's seen you

Cry I ail ail ai

There is a considerable difference, however, between the coleopteran flight of these four English boys and the phenomenon of Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra in his swooner phase. Presley made his pelvis central to his act, and the screams of his admirers were straight from the raunch. Sinatra's Adam's appie bobbed in Morse code, and no lass misread the message.

But the Beatles are really Teddy bears, covered over with Piltdown hair. The one word that teen-agers use over and over to describe them is "differ ent." They are different not only because they all grope around under four years' growth of hair. They are different because they are as wholesome as choir boys. They only stand and sing. In a mass of misses, they only bring out the mother.

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