Saturday, February 08, 2014

To be fair to the Beatles

I’m going to be really bold and defend the Beatles.

The Beatles rank among my favorite bands of all time. It seems cheap to say that since most music aficionados do, but John, Paul, George and Ringo hold up, all hype aside.

And I do mean all hype aside. I wasn’t around for Beatlemania. John Lennon was shot exactly seven months after I was born. My first exposure to the Beatles was through my long-dead aunt’s collection of early-period records and memorabilia. In general, I don’t subscribe to the idea that baby boomers had the only youth culture that matters. So when I say I love the Beatles, it’s because they earned it.

All sections of their catalog — from their earliest obscure recordings to their teenybopper period to the psychedelic masterpieces and beyond — are exceptional. Their outtakes are better than many bands’ glossiest material. Even when songs suck, they suck as creative attempts, which is the best way to suck. They’re equally fun in small bites and in extended, full-album listening sessions. Their movies and interviews are highly entertaining. Even as a child of the ’80s, I can see how exciting these guys must have been when they were emerging.

I bought two of their CDs a few weeks ago: Please Please Me and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Yes, CDs. Your move, every other band.

The Beatles are the only band that I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t like — because they influenced nearly every genre of music that exists today, and certainly shaped pop stardom. Maybe disliking the hype is understandable, but again, I think the music itself transcends that. At the very least, it’s hard to argue that they were terrible, or that their impact wasn’t genuinely huge.

There won’t be another Beatles — not because nostalgia stacks the deck against today’s talent, but because there already were the Beatles. We don’t need to break that ground again; we simply need to enjoy the ongoing stream of creativity they helped spring 50 years ago. Maybe even be inspired to add to it ourselves.

Yeah yeah yeah.

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