Sunday, October 22, 2006

In The Dock: The Beatles

The time is nigh for the inaugural installment of the new regular feature here on The Art Of Noise entitled In The Dock.

Each week one contributor will present their case for the prosecution of something (be it a band, album, venue, genre, concept etc etc), while another will offer a case for the defence.

Meanwhile you, readers, are the jury. Have a look at both cases below, and then leave any comments and your verdict - either guilty or innocent - in the comments box, taking into account the strength and persuasiveness of the arguments as well as any particular feelings / prejudices you may have one way or the other.

The jury's overall verdict will be announced every Friday, so be sure to get your individual verdicts in by then.

Right, without further ado...

This week's subject: The Beatles.

The case for the prosecution (Lord Bargain)

I was sitting at a friend's house for a huge family dinner last year where the hosts had been gently ribbing my friend for an hour about her exploits at school and her old boyfriends. It was a bit of light-hearted ribbing, but you could see her getting more and more irritated with the mickey-taking. Eventually, she cracked. She pointed at me and loudly exclaimed, "Well, HE doesn’t like The Beatles!!!"

The room went silent apart from a series of sharp intakes of breath. Tens of unbelieving eyes focussed on me in absolute horror. "I’ll get my coat..."

The Beatles introduced pop as it is currently known. In fact, they probably changed the musical landscape forever. These facts are largely undisputed. However, I don’t like them and moreover I have no idea why they ever had the impact they did.

Lyrically, they made Huey Lewis look like Bernie Taupin. How can you possibly hold them in that sort of esteem with genius like "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah"? Or how about "we all live in a yellow submarine"? Or "here comes the sun, and I say 'it’s alright'"? Did they ever write anything lyrically profound? Or a decent protest song? Or anything with any emotional depth whatsoever (and no, that doesn’t include "help me if you can I’m feeling down")?

Indeed 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' was recently voted the worst song of all time. How can you be the greatest band in the world ever and be responsible for the worst record ever made? Any other geniuses of rock on that dubious list? No, I thought not.

Instrumentally they were also distinctly average. If you had to create a supergroup of 1960s musicians, the members of The Beatles would individually get nowhere near it. Any of The Who, The Kinks or The Stones would have taken precedence, never mind the combined talents of, say, Clapton, Baker, Winwood, Davies, Cocker, Morrison or Bevan.

The Beatles were a band waiting for Stock, Aitken and Waterman to happen. Mass market appeal, slick production, image and songs that took less time to write than they did to sing. I don’t really see why they are any different to, say, McFly. Four young lads playing their instruments distinctly averagely but churning out some decent catchy three minute pop records in front of a gaggle of screaming pubescent girls. And yet whilst McFly aren’t going to go down in the rock 'n' roll hall of fame (rightly so) there seems to me no fundamental musical difference between them.

Culturally and socially there is the world of difference, but that’s not what we are talking about, is it? We are talking about the catalogue and output of a pop band which, in The Beatles' case is distinctly average. It has also been elevated to some sort of genius status by thirty years of wannabe musicians claiming erroneously that The Beatles were their main musical influence just because it made them sound credible.

The Beatles invented modern music as we know it, but it strikes me that they fundamentally missed the point. It was left to people like The Stones to take the idea of youth culture forward whereas had it been left to The Beatles, their pappy playground tosh would have died a very quick death. The Stones, God love them, embark on their annual Steel Wheelchairs Tour having not written a decent record in twenty-five years, but how long would the Beatles have lasted churning out their pithy soulless dribble on an annual world tour?

The Beatles were the Microsoft of their era. Lots of better products and lots of better alternatives were available, but they were muscled out of the market by something inferior that offered mass appeal. They were so benign and 'safe', without an ounce of teenage rebellion that parents the world over must have been delighted for their kids to like the Beatles. Inoffensive, unchallenging and vacuous.

The final point is that the vast majority of cover versions are regarded as inferior to the original. With the Beatles, I think the opposite is true. Think Nina Simone’s 'Here Comes The Sun'. Joe Cocker’s 'With A Little Help From My Friends'. Candy Flip’s 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. Let’s be frank, I even prefer Will and Gareth’s 'Long And Winding Road' to the overproduced overblown original.

So, there we have it. I have gone on t'internet and argued that Gareth Gates is better than The Beatles. Right. Perhaps I should get my coat after all...

The case for the defence (Del)

Being asked to defend The Beatles is a bit like taking a penalty into an open goal at Old Trafford. It appears deceptively easy, but you know that one little slip will see the ball fly harmlessly over the bar into a sea of baying Manchester United fans [how did you know Lord B was a Man Utd fan? - Ben]. Not good. So, this is my justification of what I think is the blindingly obvious: that the biggest band in the world ever also just happen to be the best band in the world. Ever.

And the obvious place to start is with the music. I’m not going to bother trying to convince you that The Beatles wrote and performed some amazing songs. You know what they sound like already. You know if you like them. But I will say that I remain in awe of the sheer quantity they produced, and the breadth of styles they covered. Their workrate was phenomenal: twelve studio albums in eight years (one a double album), plus three compilation albums' worth of material released only as singles or EPs. That, in the modern parlance, is a shitload of songs. Even allowing for the longer length of albums these days, and multiformat singles, no-one has since come close to that sort of productivity. They sold a fair few of them, too.

Now, for the content of those albums. Is there anything they didn’t try? Straight up rock 'n' roll and R&B, morphing into psychedelia, soul, blues, avant-garde, rockabilly, folk, surf rock, silly comedy songs, music hall, easy listening crooning (mostly Ringo’s), ill-advised cod reggae (Paul, we’re looking at you), and so on. Actually, that’s not fair, I rather like ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. But you can certainly like The Beatles and dislike that song at the same time. Hell, George and John did…

Then there’s the experimentation. ‘Revolution No.9’, the freak-out track at the end of The White Album, is the most widely distributed piece of avant-garde art in history. Not bad for a band who were singing "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" six years previously, and getting excited about using "she" instead of "I" or "you". They could never be accused of resting on their laurels. The Beatles took risks, but never for the sake of it. They managed to combine forward-looking, experimental writing and recording techniques with a sense of pop that can only be called genius.

They turned the concept of ‘the song’ upside down, and still had the grans singing along. They reintroduced the drone element of Indian music that had been missing from Europe for, oooh, what, 800 odd years, and stuck it in a song about John having some illicit how’s yer father. (They’d be irritating if they weren’t so bloody good.) They took EMI’s frankly rather crap studios apart with producer George Martin and stuck everything back together in bizarre ways just to create the sounds in their heads. American producers with cutting edge technology tore their hair out trying to recreate the sounds that The Beatles and Martin had created with little more than a few pieces of string and a frying pan, and as such they had a huge effect on the way records were produced. For instance, the recording effect known as "flange" which makes things sound spacey, is so called thanks to a rude in-joke between Lennon and Martin. The filthmongers.

Now, let’s see. Prolific workaholics, check. Musical visionaries, done. Studio avatars, yup. Ah, but in the end, what did The Beatles stand for? It’s a bit much to say that The Beatles were the 1960s, but they represent so much of what we now think of when we think of that decade. Love, peace, freedom, working class ambition, counterculture, and British success. And the last should never be underestimated.

Before The Beatles, British pop music had never really crossed over beyond these shores. When Beatlemania kicked in the doors of America, Japan and the rest of the world, it gave Britain a voice and influence it has continued to enjoy ever since. It showed that British music could sell, encouraging record companies to invest in UK artists and inspiring those same artists to greater heights. If the Beatles hadn’t happened, Britain could have ended up a backwater of musical mediocrity. This, more than the songs, more than the cultural influence, is what every music fan has to thank John, Paul, George and Ringo for, whether you like what they played or not.

* * * * *

Thanks to Lord Bargain and Del. Now it's over to you. Guilty or innocent - YOU decide (to paraphrase some TV show or other). The comments box is open and awaiting your verdicts...

36 Comments:

Blogger SwissToni said...

hm. The thing about a band as highly regarded as The Beatles is that is surely impossible for them not to be overrated, isn't it?

At the end of they day though, the case for the Prosecustion includes the following couple of sentences:

"The Beatles introduced pop as it is currently known. In fact, they probably changed the musical landscape forever. These facts are largely undisputed"

For me, this shows that the honourable Lord Bargain is falling into the same trap as everybody else - setting the Beatles up as some sort of Holy Cow. Undisputed? Bollocks. I do not agree that The Beatles either introduced pop as we know it or that they changed the musical landscape forever. They were a fantastic, imaginative band, sold (and continue to sell) a shitheap of records and they have proven to have incredible longevity. But a lot of their canon is shit.... the White Album is uniformly held up as one of the greatest albums ever. Wouldn't it have made a better single album though? one with all that experimental crap taken off?

Don't get me wrong: the highs that the Beatles reached on a fairly consistent basis have been attained by very few others in the history of music. Why can't we just enjoy them as a band though? Why does the appreciation always turn into adoration? Have you noticed how everyone is quick to turn Heather Mills-McCartney into a money-grabbing demon? Do you reckon that's because she is (and she may well be), or because she is having a pop at the saintly Paul, one of the Holy Beatles?

Exactly.

Having said all of that, there are millions of ways in which the beatles were different to McFly. Dear God, are your ears painted on? Oh, and for the record, I despise the Joe Cocker version of "A Little Help From My Friends" almost as much as I hate "The Long And Winding Road" (all versions, including the original).

And "All You Need Is Love" is terrible, lazy rubbish.

ST

7:42 am  
Blogger Damo said...

I just know that they bore the living daylights out of me for the most part. Quite a few albums are 'Beatles-influenced' but for my money many are just 'pop-influenced' or 'psych-influenced' and there were plenty of other bands around that could also have provided that influence so I don't by the "If it wasn't for..." argument. Chalk one up for the prosecution.

I apologise if this sounds horribly flippant - if I wasn't going to be so busy this week I would have expanded on this somewhat.

10:40 am  
Blogger James said...

I feel that it is somewhat redundant to say this, but there is no getting away from the fact that The Beatles were a bloody great band in an era of bloody great bands.

I'm afraid that I buy almost none of Lord Bargain's arguments. Sure, they were never the greatest lyricists, but to cite the songs he did is downright unfair. Where is the mention of 'Eleanor Rigby', 'For No-one', 'In My Life', 'I am the Walrus'? I am not claiming them as the greatest lyricists ever, or even of the 60s, but they certainly deserve more credit.

I also hate - with a passion, no less - 'Ob-Li-Di', and as Del points out, so did John and George. But that is the consequence of being a band that dips their toes in as many ponds as The Beatles did. There are, quite simply, bound to be songs that will work, while others won't. This might be a indication of the band's limitations - but being a gloody great band does not eliminate the possibilities of limitation.

I will also concede that instrumentally, the Beatles were not at the front of the pack. What they were, however, was far more ecletic and innovative than almost all of their peers. The band that you imagine, for instance, 'Clapton, Baker, Winwood, Davies, Cocker, Morrison or Bevan' (and what the HELL is Morrison doing in that list, other than propping up the bar???) would have remained blues obsessives, stretching no musical boundaries had they not been trying to catch up with the sounds that The Beatles were creating.

The rest of Lord Bargain's argument seems to revolve around this statement (and idea) - 'Inoffensive, unchallenging and vacuous'. All three of these words are not only incorrect, but they also betray the total weakness in Lord Bargain's argument. He has failed to understand The Beatles in their own context. The musical environment, much as the social environment, was changing at a mesmerising pace in the time between 65-70, and The Beatles were on the crest of that wave, responsible both directly and indirectly for much of that propulsion. They were the symbolic figureheads of that social upheaval, being working class lads that had climbed to the top of the social ladder, contributing seriously to many of the public debates of the time - war, politics, sexuality, art, personal liberation, drugs, religion. Now, I completely agree that those efforts were not always very successful or even well-thought through. But to even enter that ball-park immediately renders the statement above 'inoffensive.....' obsolete.

I have inadvertantly gone off on one there. apologies..... erm, chalk one up for the defense....

12:06 pm  
Blogger Lord Bargain said...

I certainly give the Beatles more credit for their contribution to the "social context" more than I do for their output - I'm just saying I think both have been blown out of all sensible proportion. I also think it is very risky to argue that point without being there to see it first hand as the arguments are necessarily taken from second-hand accounts written by those with a slanted viewpoint of their own (and thus the "Beatles are great" feeds itself).....

and I could have easily included "I Am The Walrus" in their pantheon of useless lyrics, had I thought of it.

2:19 pm  
Blogger James said...

I think that proportion is a key word here. I would agree completely that The Beatles adoration is disproportionate. Hell, I think that they are key to the development of popular music since the 50s, but I do agree that they certainly warrant critical re-assessment. And I do also take your point regarding critical standpoint (re: social context). 'I am the Walrus', however, is genius!!!!

3:29 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Listen to Maxwell's Silver Hammer, and read a book called "How to live life without loving The Beatles".

http://www.freespeechbooks.com/

7:03 pm  
Anonymous jonathan said...

What a cracking debate to start off our series. Both advocates have made impassioned pleas. On balance I am won over by Del's argument fo the defence, which is so cohesive and comprehensive that I find I have nothing useful to add! Free The Fab Four...

9:39 pm  
Blogger Del said...

Win or lose, sink or swim, one thing is certain, we'll never give in. Side by side, hand in hand, Beatles fans forever.

Arf.

11:11 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

God bless you for trying, Lord B, but I'm afraid you were onto a loser from the start for my money. Yes The Beatles are widely overrated, yes they produced some tosh (as does every band / artist pushing the envelope - though their tosh wasn't always experimental, admittedly) - but they were a genuinely thrilling and revolutionary phenomenon in so many ways. I think Del captures that side of the argument perfectly. So I'm going for a not guilty.

ST: So what's your verdict, then? We'll have no fence-sitting here...

11:46 pm  
Blogger Ian said...

I go back and forth on this one, and honestly neither side touched on the bits that bug me about the Beatles or endear them to me, but ultimately I think I have to side with the prosecution.

The historical argument I don't buy, for the same reason I don't believe it when someone argues that if Archduke Ferdinand hadn't been shot WW1 (or something very much like it) wouldn't have happened.

I think both sides are overstating the case, but I think the defence's side (not the defence himself, you understand) tends to be so numerous and, often, smug, that I feel the need to balance things out.

1:23 am  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

The Beatles are as guilty as sin marinaded in genocide.

To Putin's saltmines with what's left of 'em, with no chance of early parole.

7:52 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

I'm not sitting on the fence. No offence, but the defence case made me want to side with the prosecution. He had the bad grace to be perfectly rational about his love of the Beatles (as did James in the comments), but I tend to side with Lord B. I like the Beatles, but I hate the (largely) uncritical way in which they have been canonised.

Have you listened to "Glass Onion" recently? Utter rubbish.

ST

11:07 pm  
Blogger Martin said...

I wasn't going to join in, but nobody calls "Glass Onion" utter rubbish and gets away with it. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," however, makes me think that Heather should take Macca for every penny he's got.

I've got a huge amount of time for The Beatles, but agree that they don't deserve to be canonised. In my opinion their status isn't necessarily derived from the quality of their output but the fact that they did a lot of influential things first. Of course other bands (The Stones as contemporaries, for example, or any other band since) have done certain things better, and Lennon and Macca wore their influences on their sleeves (count the number of covers on every album before Rubber Soul, for example). However, seemingly simple things like playing tracks backwards and feedback first found their way to vinyl thanks to The Beatles.

Of course if they hadn't done it somebody else would have, which is why I don't think they deserve to be canonised. I think their greatest achievement lies in their earlier, poppier songs. Before J,P,G&R, Britain's pop kids had the likes of Tommy Steele, after whom 'She Loves You' sounds like 'Pretty Vacant.'

11:40 pm  
Blogger Del said...

Hmmm. I really don't follow the logic of saying "Well, someone else would've done it." Kind of like saying Einstein wasn't that clever, cos someone else would've proved that E=mc2 in the end anyway. And he was wrong about the atomic bomb. And what was that hair all about.

As for the rational thing...well, I was trying to be objective, I suppose. 750 words is startling short, as you will all discover only too soon I'm sure! I'm certainly not for uncritical adoration, quite the opposite.

And one last point... I had no idea LB was a Man Utd fan, it was just a lucky guess! But there is an interesting analogy there. My brother was saying recently that he wasn't sure whether he hated Man Utd, or their fans. Even if you don't like Man U, you can't help but admire them, much like the Beatles, I would imagine. But God, the fans can be annoying... Is it the Beatles fault that they've been worshipped in such a way? John and George actively despised it and talked the band down whenever possible. They were just a band, a band that made it really really big.

12:12 am  
Blogger Ben said...

I'm definitely with you there, Del... It may have been the case that "someone" would have done it anyway, but as it was that someone was The Beatles - so don't they deserve the credit?

Martin: I'm guessing yours is a vote for the prosecution, right?

(Incidentally, the ground seems to have shifted slightly - not so much whether or not The Beatles are any good, but rather whether or not they're overrated. Perhaps it's shifted because everyone thinks aside from Lord B thinks they're good so that isn't really in question? Oh well - it's all good fun...)

12:54 am  
Blogger SwissToni said...

I'm not having it that the beatles did *anything* first. I did a history degree, so you can't expect me to take that kind of thing as read.

Evidence please.

I put it to you that they were just the first really famous people to try something, thus bringing it to the attention of the masses. That's not at all the same thing as being genuinely innovative.

Put your money where your mouth is. Give me some concrete examples of where the Beatles truly did something first and weren't just influential followers. It's part of their mythos that they were innovative, and it suits that mythos for everyone to assume that everything they did, they did first. I don't believe it - or at least, I won't believe it until the prosecution is categorically able to give examples.

And 'Glass Onion' is shit. Self-referential nonsense that doesn't scan properly. Are your ears painted on? (Straight after "Back to the USSR" too, which is a great song)

ST

7:38 am  
Anonymous Dillweed said...

Everyone who says The Beatles are shit is either lying or retarded.

They are innocent and all the naysayers should be raped in prison.

9:15 am  
Blogger SwissToni said...

thus speaks the voice of reason and objectivity.

11:01 am  
Blogger mike said...

My vote goes with the case for the Defence, both for the strength of the arguments and because, well, I *love* The Beatles.

Beatles weaknesses: erratic quality control, occasionally over-whimsical or over-sentimental, a bit self-important circa Sgt Pepper (yes, it's over-rated), running out of steam with Let It Be, and posthumously diminished by all that endless critical reverence.

Beatles strengths: adventurousness, eclecticism, innovation, songcraft, melodic/harmonic inventiveness, bold arrangements... but most of all, the way that so many of their best songs create their own self-contained worlds, standing completely apart from anything else, completely unique and distinctive, and with the most extraordinarily powerful pull on imagination and memory. These songs are hard-wired into my musical DNA (if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor), and hence cut deeper than anything else.

11:12 am  
Anonymous Alison said...

I'd decided that the defence would have it before I read this debate. If anyone asked why I thought the Beatles were great, my argument would have been ‘because they are’. But then I really can’t remember the last time I played an album and none of their songs would be in my personal top 10, in fact it’s more likely some would be in my bottom 10.

I understand the academic arguments about why they are great; historically speaking their impact and influence can’t be disputed. But, as Lord Bargain suggests, bugger all that; I discovered the Beatles in the 1980s and 90s, not the 1960s. I don’t care whether the bands I love today took their cues from this band. Maybe we should let new ears discover old music without the baggage?

Saying that, I can’t deny that some of their music did blow me away when I first listened and every once in a while I still really enjoy it. So while I’d like to thank Lord Bargain for making me stop and actually think about why I do, I must still find for the defence.

12:44 pm  
Anonymous Russ L said...

Einstein's hair was about 381 times better than the Beatle-cut.

I feel that's the most important thing that needs to be pointed out thus far.

I sahan't say yay or nay. I'm not on the jury, I'm a gawker in the gallery.

12:48 pm  
Blogger Lord Bargain said...

As I am not a liar, I appear to be retarded.

*rolls eyes*

I would make another point: if the Beatles emerged today and were similarly successful would those of you standing up for them here not be decrying them in the same way that you would maybe slag, say, James Blunt or Keane?

I have a suspicion you would, only more so.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, ladies and gentlemen.

2:07 pm  
Blogger Del said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:28 pm  
Blogger Betty said...

Some interesting points here made on both sides.

Actually, to a lot of people of my age, The Beatles were thought to be part of the past and were widely disliked, considered really establishment, particularly to anyone who was interested in punk. Julie Burchill could get away with saying that she didn't care that John Lennon had just died because she hated him in the music press with very little opposition. The Beatles were all-pervading for anyone who grew up in the '60's and '70's. You couldn't avoid their music or older people telling you how great they were even after they had split up and it got a bit annoying.

It took me until my mid 20's to admit that I actually loved all those Beatles songs that had been a part of my early childhood.

The fact that they put out some really awful music doesn't detract from their greatness - I think it added to their appeal. The hit and miss bits on The White Album are what make it great. Nowadays mainstream rock bands tend to produce note perfect, hermetically sealed, beautifully crafted records. Fair enough, it's just that those kind of records rarely appeal to me.

There was a humour and spirit about The Beatles which you tend not to find in big selling rock acts these days. I've no idea what James Blunt, Keane or Coldplay are like as people but their music is so introspective and devoid of humour.

Despite the countless brilliant bands around in the 1960's, the Beatles just had it all in one package - the image, the songs, the mix of musical influences, the need to keep changing (at least during their prime), the common touch. It's just the magical "chemistry" which made them great.

I'd go as far as saying that John Lennon is the best ever pop star to come from Britain, despite all of his faults. Passionate, driven, screwed up, had a great voice. I don't think you'd be comparing him to James Blunt or wotsisface out of Keane if he were around and in his prime now.

Ahem, I think this means I support the case for the Defence.

Phew, you can wake up now, I've finished.

2:59 pm  
Blogger Del said...

You see the point I made about the fans? Heheh. I hate most Beatles fans, too, if that helps, but then again I hate most people, so it's somewhat inevitable.

And a quick attempt at satisfying ST's lust for evidence, I had a quick look through wikipedia (as reliable a resource as I have at present!) and came up with the following:

The Beatles were the first to use feedback on a commercial recording on 'I Feel Fine', http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_feedback

They were also the first to use ADT, Automatic Double Tracking, on vocals, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_double_tracking

Sgt Pepper was the first vinyl release to have a continuous run out groove, that looped forever, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt_pepper#Technical_innovation

At the time of it's release, Hey Jude was the longest single to hit Number One. Remained that way until Meatloaf bettered it. Oh and at 2:58 you can hear John shout "fucking hell" which is funny, if not revolutionary, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hey_Jude

A lot of the other effects the Beatles popularised, like tapeloops and reverse effects, had been used before, but mainly by experimental artists. It said that Norwegian Wood was "one of" the first pop records to utilise Indian instrumentation, so that's a half point. And, I think Sgt Pepper was the first album to have 2 solid sides of music with no banding, but I've not found any evidence for that as yet.

And the point about hindsight...I could equally argue that those decrying the Beatles are habitual trashers of the status quo. There's always a temptation to rubbish something as big as The Beatles, simply because of their ubiquity. Which is fair enough. I'd almost argue that The Beatles served an excellent role as something that alternative artists could react against.

And I wouldn't stand up for James Blunt or Keane because I don't like their music. It's nothing to do with success, really, other than the fact that their popularity means I struggle to avoid them. Engelbert Humperdink would be a better analogy. He was huge in the 60's, and indeed kept Strawberry Fields Forever off No.1, yet was also poo.

(My deleted comment was just this post with a plethora of errors!)

3:22 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

I think Lord B's point was that a certain type of music fan will always decry something when it becomes successful. Perhaps James Blunt isn't the best example, but I remember the buzz about Keane just before "Somewhere Only We Know" came out. They were cool, they were going to be the next big thing. As soon as they did become the next big thing, a lot of those people acted as though they were personally offended by their success, and took every opportunity to slag them off as middle of the road, insipid nonsense. It's a backlash that's still going on now. Think of the glee that accompanied the announcement that Tom Chaplain had gone into rehab. You know who you are - and I know that I'm certainly not immune from it

I think what Lord B is saying is that if people like us had championed the Beatles in their early days, and they subsequently became as big and all conquering as we all know they did, then I think that our reactions to them would be different. Almost no matter how innovative they are, there would be some smart arse muso out there who would despise them for being big in America.

A lot of the adulation that the beatles get now is (as Mike sort of points out) as much because we grew up with the sound of their music as it is to do with the fact that they were an intrinsically an absolutely amazing band. WThis stuff is in our bloodstream. We all seem to be pretty much agreed that they are overrated and otherwise adored in a critical vacuum.

Maybe there are plenty of bands as brilliant as the beatles who never got the breaks....

Good research work, btw Del. I'm not all that sold on how groundbreaking the eternal loop on a vinyl record is, but I take my hat off to your efforts.

I'd like to add the solo work of the various Beatles to the case for the prosecution by the way. All of it. Especially "Imagine".

ST

(jesus, did I just compare Keane to The Beatles? How did that happen?)

3:55 pm  
Blogger Lord Bargain said...

I'll add "C Moon" to that, if I may. And I dislike "Imagine" more than I dislike the entire Beatles output added together.

The point I am making, as ST has kindly elaborated on is this: look at the "bands" links to the right of this blog. Where are the Beatles of today (defined by mass appeal/record sales) - the U2, the Coldplay, the REM, the Chili Peppers? Nowhere. And therein lies my point - go back 40 years and I suspect the links on a similar blog wouldn't be the Beatles or the Hollies - they would be the great lesser known artists of the time.

4:21 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

I can hear it now:

"Yeah, well, I saw them playing down the Reeperbahn a few times and got a first press copy of the debut single, but to be honest they've lost it now. Yeah by the time we got to 'please, please me they were shit. They've lost it man. Actually, I always really preferred the Quarrymen...."

7:49 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Lord B: That bands list in the sidebar is all my doing. So thank you for outing me as a "smart arse muso" (and thanks for the term, ST). ;)

It's pointlessly hypothetical to wonder what I might have made of The Beatles in the 1960s - the point is I like them now, and with the benefit of hindsight they can claim to have made a huge cultural contribution. Will Blunt and Keane be able to say the same in twenty years? I think not. Nor Coldplay or U2, for that matter.

And let's not drag solo work into the debate (not much debate there anyway, I wouldn't imagine - all Wings and McCartney solo stuff is shite, for a start). We're talking about The Beatles as a foursome.

11:34 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

you think not, but the point is that you can't possibly know. Who knew in the early 1960s that the Beatles would occupy their current pedestal?

The Velvet Underground are often held up as forerunners to a vast amount of the stuff that people like us (sad arse musos) listen to now, and it took 20 years for "The Velvet Underground & Nico" to go gold. Likewise, there are countless 60s bands who had number one singles who have completely disappeared and been relegated to the "whatever happened to..." columns, if they're lucky.

If you like the beatles - fine - you like them (and hell, I like them). I'm just asking you to think about WHY you like them. Is it possible to separate their music from their wider cultural impact and everything that they have come to represent?

If the answer is bound up in their perceived impact, or indeed anything but their music, then I put it to you that you should be voting for the prosecution.

ST

7:36 am  
Blogger Paul said...

On the whole fans debate - I use the same argument for Tim Henman (a favourite of our resident smart arsed muso).

Got to be honest and say that whilst I like some Beatles stuff, I think they are massively overrated.

I actually quite liked Lord Bargain's McFly analogy. Only problem with that is that I suspect Harry actually is the best drummer in his band, and is unlikely to add to his retirement fund voicing Thomas the Tank Engine.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

ST: "I put it to you" - trying to win me over with some legalese, are we? 'Fraid it's not going to happen. I'm still sticking by my vote for the defence - on the strength of their music's general appeal to me, and regardless of their cultural impact (massive and significant though it is) and whether or not they're overrated (yes they probably are, but for me (at least) that wasn't the issue under debate here).

11:34 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

all I'm saying is that I don't think a "I just like them" vote for the Beatles is all that convincing.

I'm not saying anyone who says that doesn't like them, only that it's hardly a ringing endorsement of the impact their music has had upon you, is it? that kind of acritical acceptance is (for me) tantamount to proving Lord B's point!

Anyway. Enough!

At the end of the day, I own nearly as many albums by the beatles as I do by Morrissey. 'nuff said.

ST

8:11 am  
Blogger Ben said...

THE VERDICTS HAVE NOW BEEN ANNOUNCED (see here).

Please feel free to leave any more comments, though.

10:40 am  
Anonymous CreditDude said...

I think the Beatles have proved to everyone that they are outstanding just because there are still so many people that love them!

9:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greatest band ,greatest songs, greatest image , greatest talent, end of story girls & boys...

5:59 pm  

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