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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Wednesday, January 23 2002

Pop culture "phenoms"

Though I've never been a big fan of the Beatles, one facet in their career has long fascinated me. That was that for a few years it seemed they could do nothing wrong, so far as musical tastes and buying patterns were concerned. Everything they released went gold. It was especially interesting because members of the group were also its main songwriters, unlike Elvis Presley who, before them, had been the only recording phenomenon to top the charts with just about every release, year after year.

And after the Beatles broke up, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Ritchey had long strings of successive hits, but it seems that the producers of their phenomenal albums had more to do with their successes than the performers. In the later cases, most of their hits were on one album each, with the singles released one by one to maximize their exposure and public acceptance. In contrast, the Beatles managed to put out one top-selling album after another, even changing their style from one pop era to another.

I look at this as a writer, primarily, rather than in appreciation of the music. It seemed with Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison, that the more success they had as composers, the easier it got to keep the flow going. Maybe it's just a reaffirmation of the aphorisms that success breeds success, nothing succeeds like success, and when you're hot, you're hot. Even practice makes perfect might apply.

Other "phenoms" who seem to have been similarly blessed over recent years include playwright Neil Simon, and some of the early figures of network broadcasting, like Arthur Godfrey and Kate Smith (it seems there were others), who had daily programs in the afternoon and also prime-time weekly evening shows. Frank Sinatra may be included because he was atop both the music recording and acting fields, it seemed as long as he wanted to. And that has been true, too, to a lesser degree, with Cher Bono.

In historical "show biz," William Shakespeare comes to mind as the one whose work always got uniformly rave reviews. In the novel branch of publishing, I reluctantly have to allow that writers like John Grisham, Stephen King and several others whose names I don't recall are comparable to at least the Beatles, turning out one best seller after another, year after year. Though nothing they write will be read a century from now (I'm betting), neither are likely the works of Elvis or the Beatles to be immortal.

What makes such a "phenom"? And what does make a classic, anyway?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

More daffynitions (end of series)

The Washington Post's Style invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some winners:

Glibido: All talk and no action.

Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Arachnoleptic fit: (n.) The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

Beelzebug: (n.) Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at 3 in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Caterpallor: (n.) The colour you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an a--hole.

—Sent by Bill Dalrymple

Thought for the day

Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards.

—S. Kierkegaard

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