MY THOUGHTS ON THE NOT SO FAB FOUR…….

I made a passing comment within the recent posting on the Banshees cover of Dear Prudence that ‘this isn’t the time nor place to go into great detail as to why I have no great affection for the works of Harrison, Lennon, McCartney or Starr’ – to which RH responded with ‘Can we hear why you frown on the fab four?’

I have tried over the years to avoid negativity within this and the predecessor blog but I suppose I can’t use that as an excuse to hide from the question posed by RH.

I’ll open up my asking you all to take into consideration that my year of birth was 1963 and as such I began to develop a real interest in pop music in a period when the band formerly known as The Beatles had broken up.

My listening at the ages of 8-10 were restricted to the Radio 1 Breakfast Show as I got ready for school and then whatever shows happened to be played in whatever house I was in at weekends, many of which I spent with my grandparents where the transistor set was constantly tuned to the Easy Listening Station known as Radio 2.

At home, my parents had a modest record collection, none of which included The Beatles. Nor did any of my aunts, uncles or cousins have any great affection for them.

In short, at an age where I was really absorbing so much of what was happening around me, my exposure to The Beatles was limited and didn’t really stretch beyond songs I might hear as part of ‘The Golden Hour’ or as requests on ‘Family Favourites’.

Strangely enough, I did find myself really liking the album Band on The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, one that my dad had bought on the recommendation of his mate.  It’s strange to think about this and realise that my dad would have been in his mid-30s at the time of its release, and while he and his mates would seemed really old to me, there is no doubt that when they went to the pub of an evening they talked at length about many things that I would later do at that age – i.e. music and sport.

I did make a connection with Wings and The Beatles, but to my 10-year old ears, the former were far superior to the latter, their songs just sounding so much better.

Fast forward a couple of years and at the age of 12 I have my own Dansette record player and a handful of singles of my own, all of which were chart fodder bought on the back of loving what I was hearing on the weekly chart rundown and appearances on Top of The Pops. I have no time for old music of any sort whatsoever….it was now all about playing the current plastic until I get bored with it or until the next glam-rock stomper had found its way into my collection.

I didn’t even listen to any of dad’s albums via the big headphones any more – something that had always been taken as a real treat and was often allowed as a reward for some achievement or other at school or for helping out with chores at home. Besides, Venus and Mars, the new album by Wings didn’t hold the same appeal as the previous record.

Next thing you know, I’m interested in girls and dancing and I’m buying disco records. And then, like so many others who just happened to be of that age, I became smitten by punk/new wave. ‘No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones’ made perfect sense…….

I’m being flippant with my reference to the Clash lyric from the song 1977….but any respect for Paul McCartney was lost when he inflicted the awful Mull of Kintyre on the listening public, and coming from Scotland, the song had a particular cringe factor.

But what about the other half of the song-writing partnership of the Fab Four? Well, I can’t deny that I was aware of  Imagine as it was played an awful lot on the radio shows at the weekends, but I thought it was boring…that was about as far as my vocabulary extended in those days. Incidentally, I still do.

Oh, and there’s also that Christmas song that he wrote which you couldn’t escape at a particular time of the year….it wasn’t a patch on Slade or Wizzard as far as I was concerned….so nope, John Lennon didn’t do anything for the young me.

My greatest exposure to The Beatles came in the wake of the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. Not only did his latest solo album get all sorts of airplay (as well as a critical reassessment as it had been panned on release), but the solo back catalogue and the songs of The Beatles were all over every radio station for months, and if anything, this made me all the more resentful of the band as I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about….there was just far too much in the way of new, exciting, energetic and meaningful music all around me to take any interest in their old stuff.

Now….the thing is, not all music from the 60s was an automatic turn-off. I had picked up on The Kinks, largely thanks to Ray Davies being name checked by my hero Paul Weller, but then again I still didn’t get the fuss about The Who, the ‘old’ band most closely linked with Woking’s finest. I even found myself liking some of the stuff by The Rolling Stones and in due course would find myself going to see them at the Glasgow Apollo in 1982.

I’m guessing a few of you will be scratching your heads at all of this given there is no consistency in my line of thinking; yes, I could be accused of being belligerent in my unwillingness to embrace the songs of The Beatles. But hang on…..some of the songs themselves are fine, but only when covered by those bands that I do have time for, especially when they turn them into something which sounds new and original rather than a cover. I just find the output of the most successful ever rock’n’roll band to be dull and tedious.

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – The Beatle$
mp3 : The Clash – 1977
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Getting Better

PS : I finished this off in advance of reading a contribution to the debate by Echorich via the comments section at the Dear Prudence posting:-

“I completely understand having a natural aversion to The Beatles. Honestly, it isn’t something you can justify with words.”

And that’s it in a nutshell….it would have saved me a couple of hours baring my soul and recounting my very young years!

JC

19 thoughts on “MY THOUGHTS ON THE NOT SO FAB FOUR…….

  1. Great post JC. Doesn’t come across as negative. I too cringe at the canonisation of the Fab Four and I sort of like them. They’re good at pop, they’re better than many but they ain’t the be all and end all and we should stop pretending that they are.

  2. JC’s aversion demonstrates the subjective nature of music. You can’t like everything. A disconnect to a particular band is par for the course for the average music lover but when it comes to The Beatles it’s somehow viewed as heresy.

    I describe the music of The Beatles – much to the annoyance of many – as elevator music. I don’t do this to provoke a reaction it is genuinely how I feel. The music of The Beatles was often in the background as I was growing up but I never did engage with it. It was just there floating aimlessly.

    Later in my early teens, as I explored my own paths of music, I became more than a little irked that journalists were re-writing musical history with The Beatles as it’s saviour e.g. the first to write and record their own material. This seemed to be roundly accepted. Never let the facts get in the way of a story, eh?

    To me The Beatles were a very successful, hyped, boy band; a band that I did take the time to listen to (what was I missing?) but it remains a band that holds no emotional resonance for me. I will qualify that no emotional resonance comment … Golden Slumbers did make an impact when I was very young and I still listen to it.

    I’m delighted that JC posted Getting Better by The Wedding Present. I seem to connect better to some cover versions than I do the originals and this is a corker of a cover version. It’s here that I could go on about Bob Dylan …. but I won’t.

    This may be of interest to some: How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music by Elijah Wald.

  3. Dear JC – What you’ve done is replaced 60’s nostalgia with punk nostalgia. Quite common in people of advancing years. I cringe every time one of my FriendFace chums from the 1960’s posts yet another video of some 60’s band.
    Agree with you about “Double Fantasy” – a crap album reassessed because Lennon got shot.
    There’s a (probably) apocryphal story about a New York talent agent commenting on Buddy Holly’s death by saying “Good career move”, which more or less sums up the critics’ change of heart about “Double Fantasy” .

  4. Great post and follow-up comments.

    My Beatles knowledge (if you can even call it that) really
    extends only to the ‘A Collection of Oldies… but Goldies’
    compilation I used to listen to as a young child. I can’t fault
    any track on that LP but beyond this record I’m largely in
    unknown territory. Isn’t that awful?

    A long time ago my good friend Andy made me a CD called
    ‘The Beatles: Not As Bad As You Thought’ though, and I
    will spin that again.

  5. Being your age I also didn’t care to explore the Beatles beyond the ‘hits’ on the radio as I had my collection of Clash, Jam, Ramones, Nina Hagen, Talking Heads, etc to keep me more than interested. I differ from your experience in that I loathed the Wings and the only album from the post-beatles solo effort I would listen to was my brothers ‘Concert for Bangladesh’.
    Once I began to actually explore the band beyond the “boy band” days of Help! I could hear how bits and pieces of their efforts pushed music forward. Take for instance ‘Helter Skelter’ First heavy metal song? Maybe, maybe not but you can’t argue with the energy and the structure of the song being proto-metal.

    It’s like a GenXer judging the Clash by having only heard Train in Vain, Rock the Casbah, Should I Stay or Should I Go, London Calling over and over on the radio/film soundtracks and growing up hearing B.A.D. as your only ‘new’ sounds from them. Stummer/Jones Lennon/McCartney etc
    I’d recommend someone do an ICA but I think that was be more a self-pleasuring effort on their part than a way to introduce folks to some unique unappreciated gems or to the true arc of the Beatles from Hamburg bar days to their exploration of various musical approaches to ballads to the inevitable tension/implosion of having too many talents in one place. We’ve heard it all, over and over.
    Can’t believe I am defending the Beatles…

  6. There’s a continuity of sorts in popular music history. In other words, one generation has inadvertently (via parents/siblings) or intentionally listened to and borrowed from the previous generation’s tunes, in order to create their own unique sound. Do you really believe that the artists you admire so much didn’t listen to anything that came before?

    It makes no sense to me at all to shut one’s ears to great music from any decade, just because it’s “old” OR “new.” In the words of Duke Ellington, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind . . .”

  7. Being the lawyer-on-call to Villain Towers I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. I LOVE the Beatles. Always did. Like JC I was also born in 1963, but I had an older sister and three close cousins that were 4, 7 and 10 years older than me. They gave me my first ever vinyl record, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. My dad took me to see that film when I was 5, and I was hooked at that early age. Yes, yes, there are numerous Beatles tunes that have been played to death and no one needs to hear again. Still, there are countless album sides that I never get tired of. Every record they did broke new ground, filled with new sounds and songs people have been trying to emulate for 50 years. Bands that are favored on TVV–The Jam, XTC, Elvis Costello and countless others–wear their Beatles admiration unabashedly.

    To me, the Beatles represent youthful melody, art and expression in a pure form, uncolored by anything else. Much of what they released after they stopped touring was totally experimental. Take a song like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as one example. Couldn’t be less pop or rock: the instrumentation was a double string quartet. Can’t think of any other act that could have pulled that off in 1966. Or 1976 or 1986. And Paul recorded that when he was 24. In fact, every single thing the Beatles did they did in their 20’s. When they called it a day George was only 27. It amazes me that the group accomplished so much, put out such a wide variety of music, when they were so young. A lot of the canon might sound dated as artifacts from a psychedelic era, but that was only because they essentially invented their genres. The Beatles influenced absolutely everybody that came after them and a fair number of their contemporaries.

    I don’t own much post-Beatles material, apart from song early McCartney LPs. Lennon’s stuff I find particularly uninspiring and him to be somewhat of a hypocrite. But I’ll play and listen to the non-mega hits all day long. And, being a bassist, McCartney’s lines are beautiful and fun to learn and play.

    I totally understand the reasons people don’t like the Beatles. They’re legitimate and I don’t feel compelled to change anyone’s mind. As a rule, I’m generally averse to mainstream popular acts on principle. But I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Beatles songs that I’m satisfied with and will stay with me til the end.

    Just don’t get me started on Yoko…

  8. I’m (yet) another reader who just views The Beatles’ music as something that’s just… there – not good, not bad but something that I can’t really get excited/ interested in. Maybe it’s because what they did “created the template” for the music that I do love, but really, so what. Being first is laudable, but doesn’t mean you did it best. I didn’t grow up with them, with parents who loved them, with siblings who loved them, or even hearing them much on the radio. Perfectly pleasant but I want something more from what I listen to. Rather than a Beatles ICa, perhaps a Beatles covers ICA is a job for someone (JTFL?)

    And what about Yoko?

  9. Across The Universe – Rufus Wainwright
    Something – Musiq Soulchild
    Getting Better – Gomez
    Lovey Rita – U-Roy
    A Day In The Life – The Fall
    She Said She Said – Black Keys
    Revolution – Nina Simone
    We Can Work It Out – Stevie Wonder
    Happiness Is A Warm Gun – Breeders
    Because – Elliot Smith

  10. Like JTFL, I have older siblings and they listened to The Beatles, so I did. And, like JTFL I like The Beatles, maybe because of my sisters, but most probably because they wrote and produced (OK, that was George Martin) some amazing pop tunes. But they were not the B-all and End-all of my musical tastes, just part of a macrocosm of music that I listen to/buy.
    Yes, there are times when only The White Album will do, but they are few and far between. And I do think that ‘pop’ music would not be anywhere without the way Rubber Soul and Revolver sound. But I also think that ‘pop’ would not sound as it does without Bowie, Abba or some of the jazz greats.
    Some of the solo albums are good, most are hit and miss. Some tracks are keepers but usually for other reasons than being well written. The best solo stuff came after Lennon died and the others wrote songs for him (please listen to All Those Years Ago by Harrison).
    Give me Bowie over The Beatles any day. Give me Morrissey over the solo efforts. Give me anything over Mull of Fucking Kintyre! But listen to some of the album tracks, you might be surprised.

  11. I’m with you and Echorich on this one.
    I had a similar experience to what you describe in the sense that the Beatles weren’t really played in the house that I grew up in, which generally entertained a broad selection of musical genres. I think that we are fairly contemporary in age and my earliest memories of the Beatles is generally the post breakup acrimony and I didn’t really know who they were but they generally came across to me as jerks. Long story short, the authors of the music turned me off to their music.

    I’ve since warmed to some of it but i don’t think that a lot of it is the greatest songwriting in the world like people make it out to be. I think a lot of it entails being contemporary to when it came out, like there are people who think the Three Stooges are the funniest thing ever and I don’t get that either but then I try to think of back when movies and theaters were the entertainment in a culture that was bred on vaudville and I can see how at the time this was probably revolutionary to see on the screen.

    I Want to Hold Your Hand? Sorry, Cole Porter was penning pop songs of equal or greater quality decades earlier. She Loves You yeah yeah yeah? Sorry, this is about an explosion of youth culture and leisure time, they were in the right place at the right time.
    A while back I listened to an interview with the author of a memoir, his book was about losing his son to opiods and the son wanted to drop out of school. The dad made a deal, trying to connect with him, and said you can but we have to watch movies together, you choose I choose and talk about them. So the dad tried to introduce his son to all this pop culture that was influential to him and one of the movies was Help and the kid just hated it. The dad asked him about it and the son’s response was basically, it all seems very affected and I can see through it, all the hamming for the camera just seems smug and forced. Again, I get it, lots of people like the music, fine, rock on, but the elevation of them to the bigger than Jesus status, that’s talking about their generation.

  12. JC – EVERYTHING you said makes complete sense to me…
    As a fellow man from ’63, I know for a fact the first single I ever bought with “my own money” was The Dells – Love Is Blue (I Can Sing A Rainbow) purchased at the famous Colony Records on Broadway, up the street from my grandfather’s restaurant. Yes, there is a complete story there for another time.
    My parents were both born into families that appreciated Classical Music, Opera and loads of Gilbert and Sullivan. They were a bit young for Bobbie-Soxer Era Sinatra and too old for Elvis and the early years of Rock & Roll. They did get caught by the Folk Music wave though around the time I was born so I grew up with a lot of Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, Kingston Trio and even Simon & Garfunkel. Ther wasn’t a Beatles record to be found in my home.
    My father ran a bar and would bring replaced records home to my brother and I when they were retired by the jukebox company, so I too knew much more about Wings and Ringo Star as a solo artist than I ever new of The Beatles. Reading your words on Wings rang so true.
    As I became more and more focused on music, I delved into The Beatles, but found little for me.
    To this day these are the 5 songs which really matter to me from their canon:

    Norwegian Wood
    She’s Leaving Home
    Drive My Car
    Tomorrow Never Knows
    No Reply

    As an aficionado of The New Wave and Post Punk, it has been impossible to miss the cues that bands I love take from The Beatles music and of course many of those bands have included a Beatles song in their repertoire over the years. The ones I enjoy the most are:

    The Chameleons – Tomorrow Never Knows
    Siouxsie And The Banshees – Dear Prudence
    Echo And The Bunnymen – Ticket To Ride
    Cristina – Drive My Car
    Husker Du – Helter Skelter

  13. The NME album Sgt pepper knew my father would make a great ica, you have already featured billy bragg and the wedding present from it and JTFL suggests the fall. Could skip wet wet wet though

    Jules

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.