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Television Preview: ABC's 'Revolution' is more a mystery than a magical tour

Friday, November 17, 2000

By Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

Even if you care that Paul was Twiggy's favorite Beatle, "The Beatles Revolution" may leave you wondering how you could possibly care what Ricky Martin, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal or Tim Allen have to say about "the most important artists in the history of not just art but history."

 
 
'The Beatles Revolution'

WHEN: It airs tonight at 8 on ABC.

   
 

Or words to that effect.

There is a certain goofy acid-damaged, read-too-many-Kesey-novels charm in Sinead O'Connor's assessment of the group as "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Four Freshmen, maybe.

Mostly, though, it's just a bunch of talking-head celebrities prattling on as though the world is waiting just for them to talk about the Beatles because, after all, they are celebrities, regardless of their utter lack of insight.

Some have insight.

Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards speak with great authority on both the Beatles and the times, although they're featured sparingly. And Brian Wilson drops in long enough to say he always thought of "Sgt. Pepper" as the greatest album ever.

But rather than spending more quality time with the likes of Wilson or the Soundbite Formerly Known as Pete Townshend, the documentary tends to focus on three figures apparently chosen at random -- Tommy Hilfiger, Mike Myers and Kate Hudson (whose connection to the Beatles, we're reminded, is her having played a character named Penny Lane in "Almost Famous").

Hudson's most revealing quote is "It must have been wild."

She's right. It must have been. So why not talk to people who were there and part of what was going on?

Instead, they give you model Christy Turlington talking about what stylish lads they were "at every stage," a point disproved conclusively by later footage of McCartney singing "Let It Be."

The biggest problem with "The Beatles Revolution," though, is that it tries too hard to prove to viewers that a revolution did, in fact, occur. What the Beatles did to change the world is obvious and in no need of gross exaggeration.

They're credited early on with having saved the world from a time in which the biggest-selling album was "by a recording artist known as the Singing Nun," as though the Singing Nun was ever emblematic of the music of the time or that, in fact, the Beatles put an end to such novelty records -- when, in fact, the week that "Nowhere Man" began its climb to No. 3, the American charts were topped by Sgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets." The week before, the charts were ruled by Nancy Sinatra with "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'." See how much the Beatles changed the world?

They're also credited with bringing African-American music to a wider audience. For proof of this, they show the Beatles singing "Shout," an Isley Brothers song the Beatles never even put out on a record. Never mind that by the time the Beatles hit America, Fats Domino had earned not 1 but 37 Top 40 singles. All without the Beatles' help.

Or "Help!," a movie without which, we're told, there would have been no "Laugh-In," "Batman" TV series, Monkees or anything sexy.

Chris Kirkpatrick of 'N Sync drops in to place the Beatles in perspective as the "original boy group." Note to Chris, you dope: The Beatles were a band, and there were boy groups long before them.

With "A Day In the Life," we're reminded, the Beatles "summed up the whole world in a pop song."

Did you know that because of the Beatles, we have yoga now on every corner?

Somewhere in the first half-hour, I'd already joked, "I'm waiting for someone to tell me the Beatles invented the Internet."

And then they do.

I swear to God, they say the telecast of "All You Need Is Love" created the concept of the global village, leading to the Internet.

And then they find a way to top it, saying the Beatles were "partly responsible directly" for the falling of the Berlin Wall.

It's because of documentaries like this that kids like Chris Kirkpatrick grow up so confused.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So are two hours. If you really want to know about the Beatles, shut the TV off and read a book. Or listen to the records.



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