Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Two of Them

I've seen this picture for years. Only never really looked at it until very recently.

The single most dynamic and important partnership in the history of 20th century music, caught in freeze-frame magic at the literal beginning of their superstardom. This photo, after all, was taken upon their arrival in New York City in early 1964 and stands as one of the earliest captured moments of what we now know as the British Invasion. Just by the time and place alone, not to mention the brilliance and magnitude of the two men pictured, this photo stands as one of the most iconic in the history of rock-n-roll.

But look a little closer, as I did recently, and note some fascinating details. The looks on their respective faces stand to represent, I think, a pretty accurate look behind the curtain at each of them.

There's John Lennon at 23, the sly rapscallion, effortlessly doffing his cap as he glances off to his right, offering a sneaky grin that has even the tiniest hint of a sneer attached to it, as if he's in on a joke only he can understand.

There's Paul McCartney, two years younger at 21 and a touch more innocent, his hand warmly draping his friend's shoulder, his smile more open and playful, his mouth reflecting a bit more than John's the sheer wonder of the moment.

And each of them is looking at something totally different. John's glance is sideways, Paul's is upward and straight ahead. Each fully aware of what this moment means, even if no one else does yet.

This is their first time on American soil—the United States being the holy grail for British pop artists, a territory desperately desired by all yet never before conquered by any. And keep in mind, this is a mere 13 months after their first British hit, so while they've been stars in the United Kingdom and Europe for a while, it's not like it's truly old hat to them yet.

And yet in both of those faces, the sense of total confidence, to an almost defiant degree. And clearly neither of them is spooked by this moment. Instead both know not only exactly why they belong here, but also exactly what's to come before too long. Maybe they can't see the full future. Maybe they can't yet see Revolver and Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. Maybe not. But they definitely see something. And they know it's going to be huge.

This is a photo of two men who know that greatness is just about to come within reach, and they know they are ready to grab it. And never let go.

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