Why The Beatles Were The Fab Four

This is a revisit of one of my favorite articles, hope you enjoy it:

Last October John Lennon would have celebrated his 71st birthday. For those of us who grew up on a steady diet of Beatles hits, who suffered our growing pains along with the roller coaster of their career, this is a hard thing to imagine; both in that we’ve gotten this old and that John Lennon has left the building.

The Beatles were as much a part of my adolescence as was the color of my bedroom. Black and white 8X10 glossies of each of them hung on my closet door and I regularly, faithfully, bade them goodnight. Special headphones were purchased for my stereo system so that I could play Beatle albums at a deafening volume without driving the rest of the family to murder. John Lennon’s voice was as familiar to me as my father’s.

People who’ve taken Tarot classes with me have heard me say that part of what made the Beatles an archetypal force in our culture is that they were a quaternary, a “foursome of totality,” just like the four directions or the four elements or the four seasons, the four chambers of the heart or the four parts of the orchestra. The Beatles were the most Fab of Fours.

As part of this particular quaternary, each individual within the group had their own distinct personality, energy, and voice:

  • John: Intelligent, outspoken, spokesman for the group, the AIR element
  • Paul: Sweet-faced, dreamy, romantic lyricist, the WATER element
  • George: Quiet, reliable and stabilizing force, the EARTH element
  • Ringo: Flashy, free-spirited percussionist, the FIRE element

Of course these are only my attributions; valid arguments could be made for many other combinations. The point is that four specific individuals came together to create a phenomenon. I’ve often wondered if they would have been so “big” had there been only three or even five members of the group, instead of four.

I looked online to see if anyone had published a Beatles Tarot deck, but couldn’t find one. This, too, is hard to imagine! I’m not going to do any big research or strain my brain on this, but here’s what we’ve got to work with, just off the top of my head:

  • The Fool: The Fool on the Hill
  • High Priestess: Let it Be
  • Empress: Lady Madonna
  • Hierophant: Dr. Robert
  • Chariot: Baby You Can Drive My Car
  • Hermit: Across the Universe
  • Wheel: Revolution
  • Hanged Man: I Saw Her Standing There
  • The Devil: I Am the Walrus
  • Tower: Helter Skelter
  • Star: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
  • Sun: Here Comes the Sun
  • Judgment: Hey Jude
  • World: Imagine
  • Knight of Swords: Paperback Writer
  • Three of Wands: I’ll follow the Sun
  • Ace of Pentacles: Penny Lane
  • Ace of Swords: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
  • Four of Pentacles: I Me Mine
  • Five of Cups: Yesterday
  • King of Cups: I’m Just a Jealous Guy
  • Five of Pentacle: I’m a Loser
  • Nine of Pentacles: And Your Bird Can Sing
  • Four of Cups: Nowhere Man
  • Nine of Cups: I Feel Fine

And that’s without even trying. If you like this game, the Aeclectic Tarot website has a fun link to more: http://www.tarotforum.net/library/62/2003-10/matching-beatles-songs-lyrics-or-title-to-tarot-cards-20031030.shtml.

All the lyrics, the flashpoints to the past, all the intangible emotions that are attached to these songs stick with us because the archetypes never grow old. They may change shape and color and outline but the symbolic energy within them remains constant, whether they show up in the images of the Tarot or in popular music.

It would be lovely to see the archetypes of the Tarot and the cultural archetype of the Beatles come together (whoa, an inadvertent pun!) in a Beatles Tarot deck. Even though the copyright wrangling would be an impossible nightmare, and even though John Lennon himself “don’t believe in Tarot,” a Beatles Tarot would be a wonderful thing to behold.

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