The cover on a new LP album called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a photomontage of a crowd gathered round a grave. And a curious crowd it is: Marilyn Monroe is there, so are Karl Marx, Edgar Allan Poe, Albert Einstein, Lawrence of Arabia, Mae West, Sonny Liston, and eight Beatles.
Eight? Well, four of them, standing around looking like wax dummies, are indeed wax models of the Beatles as most people remember them: nicely brushed long hair, dark suits, faces like sassy choirboys. The other four Beatles are very much alive: thin, hippie-looking, mustachioed, bedecked in bright, bizarre uniforms. Though their expressions seem subdued, their eyes glint with a new awareness tinged with a little of the old mischief. As for the grave in the foreground: it has THE BEATLES spelled out in flowers trimmed with marijuana plants.
With characteristic self-mockery, the Beatles are proclaiming that they have snuffed out their old selves to make room for the new Beatles incarnate. And there is some truth to it. Without having lost any of the genial anarchism with which they helped revolutionize the life style of young people in Britain, Europe and the U.S., they have moved on to a higher artistic plateau.
Cunning Collages. Rich and secure enough to go on repeating themselves--or to do nothing at all--they have exercised a compulsion for growth, change and experimentation. Messengers from beyond rock 'n' roll, they are creating the most original, expressive and musically interesting sounds being heard in pop music. They are leading an evolution in which the best of current postrock sounds are becoming something that pop music has never been before: an art form. "Serious musicians" are listening to them and marking their work as a historic departure in the progress of music--any music.
Ned Rorem, composer of some of the best of today's art songs, says: "They are colleagues of mine, speaking the same language with different accents." In fact, he adds, the Beatles' haunting composition, She's Leaving Home--one of twelve songs in the Sgt. Pepper album--"is equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote." Conductor Leonard Bernstein's appreciation is just as high; he cites Schumann. As Musicologist Henry Pleasants says: "The Beatles are where music is right now."
Like all good popular artists, the Beatles have a talent for distilling the moods of their time. Gilbert and Sullivan's frolics limned the pomposities of the Victorian British Empah; Cole Porter's urbanities were wonderful tonics for the hungover '30s; Rodgers and Hammerstein's ballads reflected the sentiment and seriousness of the World War II era. Today the Beatles' cunning collages piece together scraps of tension between the generations, the loneliness of the dislocated '60s, and the bitter sweets of young love in any age. At the same time, their sensitivity to the absurd is sharper than ever.
By contrast, their early music had exuberance and an occasional oasis of unexpected harmony, but otherwise blended monotonously into the parched badlands of rock. I Want to Hold Your Hand, the Beatles' biggest hit single--it has sold 5,000,000 copies since 1963--was a cliché boy-girl lyric and a simple tune hammered onto the regulation aaba popsong structure. But the boys found their conventional sound and juvenile verses stultifying. Says Paul McCartney: "We didn't like the idea of people going onstage and being very unreal and doing sickly songs. We felt that people would like it more, and we would like it more, if there was some--reality."
Thus it was that the group's chief lyricist, John Lennon, began tuning in on U.S. Folk Singer Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin'); it wasn't Dylan's sullen anger about life that Lennon found appealing so much as the striving to "tell it like it is." Gradually, the Beatles' work began to tell it too. Their 1965 song, Nowhere Man ("Doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to") asked: "Isn't he a bit like you and me?" Last year's Paperback Writer cheerfully skewered the craven commercialism of the hack.
An even sharper departure from Big Beat banalities came as Tunesmith McCartney began exhibiting an unsuspected lyrical gift. In 1965, he crooned the loveliest of his ballads, Yesterday, to the accompaniment of a string octet--a novel and effective backing that gave birth to an entire new genre, baroque-rock. Still another form, raga-rock, had its origins after George Harrison flipped over Indian music, studied with Indian sitar Virtuoso Ravi Shankar, and introduced a brief sitar motif on the 1965 recording Norwegian Wood. Now everybody's making with the sitar.
Copping Out, Plugging In. Meanwhile, the growing sophistication of the Beatles' outlook found expression in a series of sharply observed vignettes of English life. The most poignant was last year's Eleanor Rigby, who
Lives in a dream, waits at the window,
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door ...
Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear ...
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there ...
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
Fantasy took flight in their songs...
Fantasy took flight in their songs, from Yellow Submarine's childlike picture of a carefree existence beneath the waves to the vastly more complex and ominous vision in Strawberry Fields Forever of a retreat from uncertainty into a psychedelic cop-out:
It's getting hard to be someone .
It doesn't matter much to me.
Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to strawberry fields.
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about ...
Moreover, Strawberry FieIds, with its four separate meters, freewheeling modulations and titillating tonal trappings, showed that the Beatles had flowered as musicians. They learned to bend and stretch the pop-song mold, enriched their harmonic palette with modal colors, mixed in cross-rhythms, and pinched the classical devices of composers from Bach to Stockhausen. They supplemented their guitar sound with strings, baroque trumpets, even a calliope. With the help of their engineer, arranger and record producer, George Martin, they plugged into a galaxy of space-age electronic effects, achieved partly through a mixture of tapes run backward and at various speeds.
Psychic Shivers. All the successes of the past two years were a foreshadowing of Sgt. Pepper, which more than anything else dramatizes, note for note, word for word, the brilliance of the new Beatles. In three months, it has sold a staggering 2,500,000 copies--each a guaranteed package of psychic shivers. Loosely strung together on a scheme that plays the younger and older generations off against each other, it sizzles with musical montage, tricky electronics and sleight-of-hand lyrics that range between 1920s ricky-tick and 1960s raga. A Day in the Life, for example, is by all odds the most disturbingly beautiful song the group has ever produced. The narrator's mechanical progress through the day ("Dragged a comb across my head, found my way downstairs") is tensely counterpointed with lapses into reverie and with chilling tableaux of frustration and despair:
I read the news today, oh boy,
About a lucky man who made the grade . . .
He blew his mind out in a car.
He didn't notice that the lights had changed.
A crowd of people stood and stared,
They'd seen his face before;
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords . . .
At the end, the refrain, "I'd love to turn you on," leads to a hair-raising chromatic crescendo by a full orchestra and a final blurred chord that is sustained for 40 seconds, like a trance of escape, or perhaps resignation.
It's a long way from "I want to hold your hand" to "I'd love to turn you on."
In between, the Beatles kept their cool, even when they were decorated by the Queen. They managed to retain the antic charm that had helped make them the rage of Britain and that sparkled on millions of TV screens in February 1964, when America got its first glimpse of them live on the Ed Sullivan Show. Only once did they show a serious lapse in taste: the cover of their 1966 album Yesterday and Today was a photograph of the four wearing butchers' smocks and laden with chunks of raw meat and the bodies of decapitated dolls. Reaction in the U.S. was so violent that Capitol Records pulled it off the market, explaining that it was a misguided attempt at "pop-art satire."
Pilgrimage to Liverpool. Now that the Beatles' music is growing more complex and challenging, they are losing some younger fans. Teeny-boppers, most of whom would rather shriek up than freak out, are turning off at A Day in the Life, doubling back through Strawberry Fields and returning to predictably cute 1964-model Beatles--in the form of such blatantly aping groups as the Monkees.
On the other hand, the youngsters who were the original Beatlemaniacs are themselves older now, and dig the Beatles on a less hysterical level. Two years ago, Kathy Dreyfuss of Los Angeles went on a pilgrimage to the Beatles' home town of Liverpool with her mother. "I was such a screaming fan I couldn't eat or sleep," says Kathy, looking back from the very earnest vantage point of 16. "I realize now I was submerging all my problems in the Beatles. I still like them, but it isn't such a madness. Now their songs are about the things I think about--the world, love, drugs, the way things are."
In exchange for the teeny-boppers, the new Beatles have captivated a different and much more responsive audience. "Suddenly," says George Harrison, "we find that all the people who thought they were beyond the Beatles are fans." That includes not only college students but parents, professors, even business executives.
Hardy Minority. Considering that the Beatles' trademark is offbeat irreverence, their effect on mature audiences is oddly amusing. If the teeny-boppers made the Beatles plaster gods, many adults make them pop prophets, and tend to theorize solemnly, instead of seriously, about their significance. The Rev. B. Davie Napier, dean of the chapel at Stanford University, says that "no entity hits as many sensitive people as these guys do." Napier, who has dwelt in past sermons on Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby, is convinced that Sgt. Pepper "lays bare the stark loneliness and terror of these lonely times," and he plans to focus on the album in an address to freshman students. Atlanta Psychiatrist Tom Leland says that the Beatles "are speaking in an existential way about the meaninglessness of actuality." There is even a womb's-eye view. Chicago Psychiatrist Ner Littner believes that the Beatles' "strong beat seems to awaken echoes of significant early experiences such as the fetal intra-uterine serenity that repetitively reverberates to the mother's heartbeat."
Other over-interpreters include the listeners who--like literary critics dissecting a sonnet--ferret out indirect references in Beatle lyrics and persist in catching a whiff of drugs in such innocuous songs as Yellow Submarine. And there is still the hardy minority that insists on viewing the Beatles as the great put-on of the century.
Not so long ago, the pop scene was going nowhere. Rock 'n' roll had catapulted into the bestseller charts in the 1950s on the chugging riffs of Bill Haley and His Comets (Rock Around the Clock) and the rhythmic caterwauling of Elvis Presley. But even they were bleached-out copies of the vibrant, earthy rhythm-and-blues sung in the subculture of Negro music. Until the early 1960s, rock 'n' roll went through a doldrum of derivative mewing by white singers, with only occasional breakthroughs by such Negroes as Ray Charles and Fats Domino.
The Beatles, along with other British groups--the Rolling Stones, the Animals--revitalized rock by closely imitating (and frankly crediting) such Negro originators of the style as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Soon the Negro "soul sound" surged into the white mass market. The old-line blues merchants have enjoyed a revival, and a younger, slicker breed of rhythm-and-blues singers--notably Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes--have taken up commanding positions on the sales charts. "Until the Beatles exposed the origins, the white kids didn't know anything about the music," says Veteran Blues Shouter Waters, 52. "Now they've learned it was in their backyard all the time."
As the Beatles moved on, absorbing and extending Bob Dylan's folk-rock hybrid and sowing innovations of their own, they were like musical Johnny Appleseeds; wherever they went, they left flourishing fields for other groups to cultivate. "They were saying, 'If you want to get better, here's the route,'" says Art Garfunkel, 25, half of the folkrock duo, Simon and Garfunkel. Nowadays, according to Independent Record Producer Charlie Greene, 28, "no matter how hard anybody tries, no matter how good they are, almost everything they do is a cop on the Beatles." Yet the Beatles' example is not limiting but liberating, as other rock musicians have attested with generous praise. Says hefty Cass Elliott of The Mama's and The Papa's: "They're untouchable."
Today, the rock scene has shifted from England back to the U.S., and particularly to the West Coast (some San Franciscans are calling their city the Liverpool of the U.S.). There, as elsewhere in the States, rock is currently in the-midst of a huge syncretic surge toward a new idiom--and the Beatles' wildly eclectic spirit hovers over it all. As the Lovin' Spoonful's songwriter, John Sebastian, says: "Here we are in the middle of the mulch."
Blues, folk, country and western, ragas, psychedelic light and sound effects, swatches of Mahler, jazzlike improvisations--all are spaded into the mulch by such vital and imaginative groups as the Doors, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Byrds and the new British trio, the Cream. Like the Beatles, most of these groups write their own music and thereby try not only to arrive at their own peculiar mixture of elements, but also to stamp their identity on whatever they do.
Hippie Anthem. None has so far matched the distinctiveness and power of the Beatles' mixture--which, after all, is responsible for having boosted them into their supramusical status. Thus their flirtation with drugs and the dropout attitude behind songs like A Day in the Life disturbs many fans, not to mention worried parents. The whole Sgt. Pepper album is "drenched in drugs," as the editor of a London music magazine puts it. One track features Drummer Ringo Starr quavering, "I get high with a little help from my friends." Another number, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, evokes a drug-induced hallucination, and even the initials of the title spell out LSD, though the Beatles plead sheer coincidence.
The overall theme of drugs is no coincidence
All four Beatles have admitted taking LSD at least occasionally. Yet it is not clear whether their songs are meant to proselytize in behalf of drugs or simply to deal with them as a subject of the moment. In the most recent Beatle pronouncement about LSD Paul McCartney said: "I don't recommend it. It can open a few doors, but it's not any answer. You get the answers yourself."
Some segments of the Beatles' audience read messages into the songs that may never have been intended. The hippie brigade, for example, has adopted as an anthem of sorts She's Leaving Home, which tells of a runaway girl whose parents gave her everything money could buy but no happiness. "Man, that's the story of the hippies," says one of them. A 15 year-old boy who left home to become a hippie interprets the Beatles' songs as a put-down of his parents: "They're saying all the things I always wanted to say to my parents and their freaky friends."
Blowing Away Cobwebs. Even the Beatles' nonmusical utterances tend to take on the tone and weight of social prophecy. "Only Hitler ever duplicated their power over crowds," says Sid Bernstein, who organized their three New York concerts. "I'm convinced they could sway a presidential election if they wanted to." If that is far-fetched, 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 merchandise. The most conservative estimates 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 large homes in Weybridge, part of the suburban "stockbroker belt," 40 minutes from London. John, 26, his wife Cynthia, a former art student, and their four-year-old son Julian, live in a Tudor mansion with a swimming pool. Like the other Beatles, John has a taste for outlandishly gaudy outfits custom tailored in brocades, silks and the like, for gadgets (five TV sets, uncounted tape recorders and cameras), and eccentric collections (a huge altar cross, a suit of armor called Sidney).
Down the hill from John is Sunny Heights, the 15-room tile-and-stucco digs where Ringo, 27, wallows in domesticity with Wife Maureen, a former Liverpool hairdresser, and Sons Zak, 2, and month-old Jason. Ringo, who never practices drums between Beatle performances, has made his place the group's unofficial clubhouse; on the spacious grounds are a treehouse and an old air-raid shelter, and indoors an elaborate bar named The Flying Cow.
George, 24, the newest Beatle husband (he married London Model Patti Boyd early last year), lives near by in a big white bungalow. He and his friends are daubing the outside walls with colorful cartoons, flowers and abstract designs, some in fluorescent paint that shines in the daylight. Unlike Ringo, he practices a great deal, and his music room is strewn with 12 guitars.
Bachelor Paul, 25 (his favorite "bird" is 21 -year-old Actress Jane Asher), is a movie addict, loves "the look of London," tools around town in a spiffy blue Aston Martin DB 5. He lives in a high-walled house in the city's prosperous St. John's Wood neighborhood--oddly furnished, for a Beatle in a tastefully quaint style, including an oldfashioned lace tablecloth on the diningroom table--and has daily bouts of "bashing" at the piano, which he has never quite learned to play.
The Beatles keep in touch constantly, bounding in and out of each other's homes like members of a single large family--which, in a sense, they are. Their friendship is an extraordinarily intimate and empathetic bond. When all four are together, even close friends like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones sense invisible barriers thrown up between themselves and outsiders. "We're still our own best friends," each says.
With good reason. Not only are they welded together by the sheer fact of being the Beatles, but they also share a common lower-middle-class background in the sooty, Victorian shadows of Liverpool. Paul, the son of a cotton salesman, and John, who was raised by an aunt after his father deserted the family, were playing together as early as 1955. George, whose father was a bus driver, joined them in 1958. Two years later they met Ringo (born Richard Starkey), a docker's son. Their families were dubious about musical careers. "If Paul had listened to me," says Jim McCartney wryly, "he would have been a teacher." But the boys persisted. Besides the musical satisfaction, playing in a band was a way to be somebody especially with the local girls-to make some money and exert their nonconformity. And after they linked up with Brian Epstein, the elegant would-be actor and son of a wealthy Liverpool furniture retailer, it was a way to get out of Liverpool. Epstein shrewdly piloted their career until his death last month at 32 TIME, Sept. 8).
So tightly knit is the quartet that a leading idea for their next movie is to present them as separate manifestations of a single person. They constitute a four-way plug-in personality, each sparking the circuit in his own way. Paul outgoing and talkative, spreads a sheen of charm; he is the smoother-over, the explainer, as pleasingly facile at life as he is at composing melodies. George, once the least visible of the group, now focuses his energies on Indian music and philosophy; an occasional contributor to the Beatle songbook, he is the most accomplished instrumentalist of the lot (he has always played lead guitar).
Ringo, a thoroughly unpretentious fellow, is also the most innately comic temperament; he is the catalyst, and also the deflator, of the crew. Most mysterious of all--and possibly most important--is John, the creative mainspring, who has lately grown strangely brooding and withdrawn; he is more thoughtful and tough-minded than the others, reads voraciously. His telephone is usually answered by a tape-recorded voice, asking the caller to leave a message. But Lennon rarely returns calls, instead, so the story goes, plays the tapes over and over with maniacal glee.
Recipe for Orchestra. Since the Beatles gave up touring a year ago, each has had more freedom to tackle individual pursuits. John has a major acting assignment in the forthcoming Richard Lester film called How I Won the War; Paul tried his hand at a movie sound track and wrote a fine score for the current release, The Family Way. But their most rewarding activity is still as a group--making records.
They have transformed themselves from a "live" performing team to an experimental laboratory group, and they have staked out the recording studio as their own electronic rumpus room. To achieve the weird effects on Sgt. Pepper, they spent as much as 20 hours on a song, often working through the night. The startling crescendo in A Day in the Life illustrates their bold, erratic, but strikingly successful method. Says Paul: "Once we'd written the main bit of the music, we thought, now look, there's a little gap there; and we said oh, how about an orchestra? Yes, that'll be nice. And if we do have an orchestra, are we going to write them a pseudoclassical thing, which has been done better by people who know how to make it sound like that--or are we going to do it like we write songs? Take a guess and use instinct. So we said, right, what we'll do to save all the arranging, we'll take the whole orchestra as one instrument. And we just wrote it down like a cooking recipe: 24 bars; on the ninth bar, the orchestra will take off, and it will go from its lowest note to its highest note."
The 41-piece orchestra, as it turned out, consisted mostly of members of the New Philharmonia, who had trouble following the recipe
Unaccustomed to ad-libbing, they had to be cajoled by John and Paul, who threaded among the musicians, urging them to play at different tempos and to please try not to stay together. Partly as a result of filling that "gap," the Sgt. Pepper album cost three months of work and $56,000--which is about as much as it costs to record five albums for London's New Philharmonia Orchestra.
Sound Pictures. Such recording practices are early steps in a brand-new field. George Martin, the producer whose technical midwifery is helping to make the steps possible, likens them to the shift from representational painting to abstractionism. "Until recently," he says, "the aim has been to reproduce sounds as realistically as possible. Now we are working with pure sound. We are building sound pictures."
In fact, some observers predict that "sound pictures" may prove to be the medium through which the Beatles--and the more adventurous rock groups in their wake--can merge with "classical" contemporary music. Already, says Robert Tusler, who teaches 20th century music at U.C.L.A., "the Beatles have taken over many of the electronic concepts in music that have been worked on by the German composers of the Cologne group. They've made an enormous contribution to electronic music."
Whatever else it comes to, the Beatles' approach to recording Sgt. Pepper will serve as a model for future sessions. And the boys themselves will be commanding more and more of the technical operations. "We haven't pushed George Martin out of the engineers' booth," says McCartney, "but we've become equals. The music has more to do with electronics now than ever before. To do those things a few years ago was a bit immoral. But electronics is no longer immoral."
In their other enterprises too, the Beatles are reaching out for total artistic autonomy. They are talking about directing their next film themselves. Last week they careened through the southwest English countryside filming Magical Mystery Tour, an hour-long TV special, for worldwide broadcast during the Christmas season. They are not only providing music but writing, directing, producing and financing as well. When it is wrapped up to their satisfaction, they will offer it to the highest bidder. And they have already written songs--later this year they may do a full score--for a forthcoming feature-length animated cartoon based on Yellow Submarine.
Filling the Gap. Unlike the occasional celebrity who grows to believe his own publicity and uses it as a license, the Beatles have maintained their good humor and, apart from toying with drugs, their exemplary behavior. But fame and instant millions also have a way of inflicting private agonies on public personalities. The Beatles' current solution is spiritualism, specifically "transcendental meditation," as propounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 56, a tiny, cherubic seer with shoulderlength locks. The yogi, unfortunately, is somewhat less than lucid when it comes to describing his insights. Two 30-minute sessions of transcendental meditation a day, he says, enable a person to perceive the divinity within himself. "It is the direct, simple and natural way of coming to That." What's That? Replies Maharishi: "I am That, you are That, all this is That."
That's good enough for John, Paul, Ringo and George, who plan to take two months off to study with Maharishi at his Academy of Meditation in Shankaracharya, Kashmir
"The four of us," explains Ringo, "have had the most hectic lives. We have got almost anything money can buy. But when you can do that, the things you buy mean nothing after a time. You look for something else, for a new experience. It's like your Dad going to the boozer and you want to find out what the taste of drink is like. We have found something now which fills the gap. Since meeting His Holiness, I feel great."
The feeling is mutual. Says His Holiness: "I can bring them up as very practical philosophers of their age. They can do a great deal for the youth which they lead." Precisely what marvels the yogi has in store for his disciples is a good question. Yet for openers he has persuaded the Beatles to renounce drugs. Paul claims that he now realizes that taking drugs was "like taking an aspirin without having a headache." Says' John: "If we'd met Maharishi before we had taken LSD, we wouldn't have needed to take it." Skeptics notwithstanding, the Beatles could well be on to something fruitful again, which may find expression in who knows what strange new musical forms.
And what, after all, could be a more fitting philosophy than transcendentalism for the Beatles, who have repeatedly transcended the constricting identities foisted on them by press and public, whose whole career has been a transcendent, heel-clicking leap right over pop music's high Himalayas? On the basis of what they have achieved so far, it would be rash to dispute George when he says: "We haven't really started yet. We've only just discovered what we can do as musicians, what thresholds we can cross. The future stretches out beyond our imagination."