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Beatles the Greatest Rock Band... or the Best Pop Band?
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There are several ways to approach this question. Yes, the Beatles were indeed the greatest Rock group, or no, other bands were superior and ultimately more significant as influence. Or, the Beatles were indeed the best but in the Pop than Rock idiom. In other words, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and/or Fill-in-the-Blanks were more notable as generators of ROCK music. While Beatles undeniably made a lot of Rock music, they were more famous for what would be labeled as Pop. And, given the rather airy, fluffy, and innocuous characteristics of Pop, one could argue the Beatles weren’t the main inspiration for the best of later Rock, i.e. Beatles influenced bands like the Raspberries and XTC than the richer acts following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, and even the Byrds or the Kinks. Partly, it’s because the #1 priority of Pop is to please, not to wander too far off the range of approved or acceptable taste. (Beatles burst into stardom because, for all the high decibels and delirium of Beatlemania, they were adorable even to adults. And later, their supposed experimentalism was more significant for its crossover popularizing effect than cutting-edge originality. For example, Beatles didn’t so much pioneer, let alone invent, psychedelia than made it palatable to those outside the subculture. Beatles served as the bridge between the hip and the square, between the young and the old, and between the pioneers and the popular. They were like cultural diplomats between the crowd and the establishment.) So, apart from their seminal breakthrough in 1962-1963 with thundering sounds(though even there the secret to their success owed largely to smoothing the rough edges of Rock n Roll with soothing harmonies while simultaneously pumping up the volume — Little Richard’s gas with Everly Brothers’ coolant), Beatles were hardly the leading force(than its most prominent face) in most of Rock Culture of the 60s, especially as John Lennon, like Brian Wilson, increasingly lost his way, leaving it up to the Pop-oriented Paul McCartney to steer the course until the inevitable breakup. One thing for sure, most people would agree that the Beatles were the greatest all-around-band, i.e. not the absolute best in any particular area but more than proficient in each.

Anyway, I bring this up because of the definition of ‘pop’ and ‘rock’ in the recent book YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! THE STORY OF POP MUSIC FROM BILL HALEY TO BEYONCE by Bob Stanley.

Stanley writes: “I wanted to argue that the separation of rock and pop is false, and that disco and large swathes of black and electronic music have been virtually ignored by traditional pop histories. The situation has changed considerably in recent years, though rockism still exists, and snobbery is still rife… What exactly is pop? For me, it includes rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, house, techno, metal, and country. If you make records, singles and albums, and if you go on TV or on tour to promote them, you’re in the pop business. If you sing a cappella folk songs in a suburban pub, you’re not. Pop needs an audience the artist doesn’t know personally — it has to be transferable. Most basically, anything that gets into the charts is pop, be it Buddy Holly, Black Sabbath, or Bucks Fizz… What creates great pop? Tension, opposition, progress, and fear of progress. I love the tensions between the industry and the underground, between artifice and authenticity, between the adventurers and the curators, between rock and pop, between dumb and clever, between boys and girls. A permanent state of flux informed the modern pop era and taking sides is part of the fun… So, is modern pop music just chart music? Well, partly… Yet the charts did not always reflect emerging movements. Instead, the new music would percolate, inspire, and — eventually — burst into the charts at a later date. When did the modern pop era start? In 1955, when the first Billboard Top 100 was printed…”

According to Stanley, Rock music isn’t distinct from Pop music but merely a part of Pop, a large inclusive tent. In a way, he’s right. Most, if not all, of Rock was meant to be popular music, and stardom is a big part of what Rock is about. If you don’t make it out of the garage or the high school dance scene, you simply don’t matter in the annals of Rock.
The problem is there are more than one definition of ‘pop’ and ‘rock’. From a purely commercial vantage point, much of what Stanley says is true. But ‘pop’ has several connotations, just like ‘art’ does. For example, ‘art’ can mean any creative endeavor, not only by professional artists but by kindergarteners with crayons, prisoners with time to kill, and housewives with painting as hobby. Quality or worth doesn’t come into the equation in this conception of ‘art’. But there’s another meaning where ‘art’ is something of excellence, originality, sublimity, beauty, truth, and/or genius. By this definition, even most of the output by the most renowned artists wouldn’t quite make the grade. So, even a serious writer may produce just one or a handful of works that qualify as ‘art’. By the generic definition of ‘art’, Rembrandt and George W. Bush both created art. But ‘art’ defined by the highest criterion is exclusive than inclusive.

‘Pop’ can be defined commercially but it’s also a matter of style and sensibility. While there is an element of ‘pop'(as common denominator) in most Rock music — as people in music obviously want fame and fortune — , ‘pop’ as a musical style connotes a certain essence that may be missing or not-so-prevalent among certain popular musical forms. It’s a matter of intent and ‘statement’, the difference being ‘pop’ is first and foremost eager to please, amuse, and entertain. It’s about joy, about giving the audience what they want.
Thus, pop has a soft quality, like soda-pop. Whiskey is also popular and, purely from a commercial vantagepoint, could qualify as a popular drink, but it’s certainly not a soft drink. Because pop’s main objective is to appeal to as large an audience as possible(or the largest possible audience within a certain demography), it is the most fluid of musical forms, copping styles and accents from just about anything to add spice and sparkle but also to remove any element that might give ‘offense’ or seem obtrusive for mass appeal.
Whatever works to make another hit song, the underlying logic of Pop. But for this very reason, pop isn’t grounded in anything. It appropriates and absorbs but remains detached and disloyal. Rock overlapped with pop in that Rockers also lifted ideas from whatever they could get their hands on. Black music, folk music, English ballads, Jazz, Classical Music, and etc. But, there was a key difference in the emphasis and outlook. Rockers, especially following in the heels of Bob Dylan, believed they had to find their own voices and visions, to digest the influences into something personal(as statement or style), and remain true on some level to what they are than always re-tailoring the music for maximum commerciality. Maybe Pink Floyd would have had more hits with some cues from the Moody Blues, but they stuck by their guns. At the peak of his fame, Dylan withdrew and was visible during the Summer of Love. It was all about being true to himself(but then, it was Dylan’s only ticket to stardom as he fell short by conventional standards of popular music). In this period, he was mostly making music in a basement with what would become The Band. He was doing what he loved most, what was most meaningful for him, an approach generally antithetical to the ‘pop’ sensibility.

Granted, Pop could be personal as figures like Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson illustrated. McCartney was essentially pop — he said Cole Porter meant most to him — , but he wasn’t compromising his ‘authenticity’ to please the audience; his very essence was pop to the core, just like Steven Spielberg is, at the personal level, a born popular movie-maker. Same was true of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
But even with McCartney and Wilson, there was an understanding of the difference between personal pop and poppity-pop. The Beatles were offered “How Do You Do”(that became a hit for the Gerry and the Pacemakers), but they declined as it simply wasn’t for them. They didn’t just want hits but the kind of hits that showed the world who THEY really were.
McCartney wrote a perfect melody with “World Without Love” but passed it off to Peter and Gordon as it just didn’t fit the Beatles image. On PET SOUNDS, Brian Wilson aspired to create beautiful pop music with richness and complexity hitherto unknown to the genre, and it confounded many at the time: too arty for pop fans, too pop for serious listeners. Though Wilson always remained within the pop genre, he wanted to bring the fans into his world than go on presenting his songs in their world. He went from candy-seller to a builder of candy cathedral.

That said, when someone sets out to create a pop tune, he or she first and foremost has the audience in mind. Anything that pushes the buttons, pleases them, hits the charts(as validation, and/or makes a buck. In contrast, while no Rocker prefers obscurity to fame, he clings to the integrity, real or delusional, of keeping it real. There is a difference between selling and selling out. (Often in Rock, short-term gain can translate into long-term loss, especially if the popularity is limited to a loyal fan base. When Phish, worthless in my opinion, went in a more ‘pop’ direction with BILLY BREATHES album, it brought them closer to mainstream acceptance but threatened their standing with the core fan base. If Pink Floyd had gone disco in 1977, they might have scored a hit or two but would have been on shakier grounds with their cult-like fan base, key to their reputation and long-term standing. This is why certain acts forsake anything overly pop-oriented, especially if their forte is something other than catchy hit tunes. Not everyone is a Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, or Carole King/Gerry Goffin. Of course, there’s another factor related to the double-edged nature to Rock’s serious side, which can be a means of greater and deeper achievement or an excuse for inferior talents to justify their lack of popular appeal. Seriousness can be a shovel that digs up the gold or a crutch that props a leaden talent despite its pretensions.) The Pop tunesmith and/or performer need not worry about ‘selling out’ since it’s understood his express mission is to crank out hits. No one would blame Neil Diamond for selling out.
In contrast, the Jefferson Airplane got flak for becoming the Jefferson Starship. From surrealistic pillow to plastic wrapper(though Starship had two first rate songs). And they especially got eviscerated over “We Built This City” in the 1980s. Given their place in the Sixties pantheon of Folk Rock, Psychedelia, and Satirical Rock, it was painful for some Boomers to see them whore out to MTV culture in the Reagan Era. (Personally, I rather like the song.)

All musical genres evolve and change, but there is a core structure or theme that makes each of them what it is, distinct from the others. So, while there are various kinds of blues, there is something common, integral, and intrinsic to all genuine blues music. Likewise, country music has changed over the years, but it’s still about rural folks and has that ‘twang’. The spirit inhabits a specific body. In contrast, pop is like the transmigrating soul without permanent attachments. Pop, like the monster in THE THING(John Carpenter), can take on any form without being true to that form. Pop is plastic than glass, ceramic, or metal; it’s like T-1000 in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. Pop samples everything, flirts with everyone, lifts from anything, and toss out whatever, all in the name of making the next hit. Pop is essentially formless as it ever shapeshifts, always in pursuit of the next hit; and whatever form(or forms) it happens to inhabit at the moment, anything is open to alteration to make the song immediately appealing and/or inoffensive to the largest possible audience.

Thus, even as pop sensibility flows through and encompasses everything, it remains detached and independent, just like 007 with women. The only thing pop is wedded to is the charts. Yet, for all its promiscuousness, pop also plays ‘cute’ or ‘innocent’ because it operates on the basis of amnesia and anesthesia. Pop makes you forget all the world and all your problems in its euphoric high or relaxing sigh, which works not unlike drugs. Pop sensibility at its most banal is elevator music designed to calm your nerves and leave you feeling comfortably numb — no wonder the mental ward in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEXT plays nothing but muzak, which is like pop candy turned into cotton candy.

Brill Building was pop-centric because it rummaged for styles from just about anything to come up with the next hit. Its composers were fixated on the charts for validation, and it worked like magic for a time.

Perhaps, the finest practitioner of pop in the Sixties was Burt Bacharach who composed hits for Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass among many others. “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head” is almost a perfect distillation of pop’s essence. Bacharach is an interesting case because his genius for choosing just the right notes was unparalleled, but this very flawless quality rendered the songs almost unhuman, like mannequins perfect in form but devoid of souls. It was like a musical equivalent of magazine ads with the perfect poses, products, and scenery. “This Guy’s In Love with You” is wonderful but comes perilously close to elevator music, airbrushed in every detail and mood. In contrast, there is something of Paul Simon’s dreams, a real poignance, even in his most beautiful melodies like “April Come She Will”, “America”, and “Bridge over Troubled Water”.

There is an element of personal pride in Rock sensibility that is missing in the Pop industry. While every artist in Rock History wanted his songs to be as popular as possible, there was also the personal pride of conviction, being true to oneself(and to one’s fans who remained loyal through thick and thin). So, disappointment in sales didn’t necessarily dent one’s sense of pride, just like a serious novelist still feels the pride of achievement even if his work doesn’t make the NY Times Best Seller List. In contrast, a popular novelist’s main, or even sole, worth derives from whether the book finds an audience or wins approval from an established one. Likewise, whereas the Rock artist has the consolation of creative pride even with commercial failure, the failure to chart is a death knell to the pop tunesmith, someone like Neil Sedaka or Neil Diamond, even Elton John. Not that the composers of pop hits like “Downtown”(a smash for Petula Clark) and “Like to Get to Know You”(by Spanky and Our Gang) were strangers to personal pride, but the real validation came with the public. This was especially true of those who only composed, thus remaining faceless and anonymous. Even with the best days behind him, the performer remains recognizable and may go on the nostalgia circuit with the old hits, whereas a composer who can no longer produce hits has no place in the culture at all.

The Monkees were the Beatles’ brand of Personal-Pop processed further into formula. Pop can take just about anything and render it ‘safe’ and ‘harmless’ — psychedelia began as controversial Drug Music(with songs like “Eight Miles High”) often banned from the airwaves, but soon, the Monkees were doing it with “Words”, the Buckinghams added surreal sounds to “Susan”(essentially a pop softie), and the family band Cowsills were hallucinating the Flower Girl.

There is also the Pop Paradox, i.e. Pop music is so ‘elitist’ because it’s so ruthlessly competitive as a popularity contest. Even though marketed to the masses with the lowest common denominator(at least in terms of meaning and depth), it operates in a cutthroat environment where only a few rise to the top and the rest hardly matters. And because most people are fools, they are harder to fool. You can fool intellectual types that atonal stuff is the music of the future, but the hoi polloi wants something like “Yesterday” or “Jump”(Van Halen), not Arnold Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone(deaf) music.

Pop music culture is almost athletic, a gladiator event where only the strong survive. It is no mean feat to come up with tunes with immediate mass appeal; indeed, many have said there’s nothing more difficult in music. Even the most learned musicians and music scholars couldn’t come up with viable pop tunes even if they tried. It’s a knack that some people have, and even with them, the muse is as unpredictable as the weather; someone for whom pop melodies rained like cats and dogs can suddenly find himself in a prolonged drought. Writer’s block is nothing compared to the musician’s block.

The constant pursuit of another hit can drive composers to depression, even desperation. Many have turned to drugs and destroyed themselves. In a way, musicians had it better before the rise of pop music industry. They could just work on their music whether it had popular appeal or not because there was no such thing as an instant hit, made possible only with electricity and mass urbanization. Classical composers weren’t sitting over their pianos fixated on nothing but popular tunes. (Of course, AMADEUS would have us believe that Mozart was the greatest ever for his knack for catchy melodies, a hit-maker before a culture existed to accommodate and reward such a talent. It as as if Mozart was proto-Elton-John born too early.)

Hit-making became especially nerve-racking with the rise of youth culture. Young people aren’t known for their patience, and explosion of Rock n Roll and then Beatlemania meant the hit had to have unprecedented immediacy(whereas in earlier times, Frank Sinatra was enough to get the girls all crazy). Movie culture also went the same way. Long gone are the days of the prestigious Hollywood movie rolled out as a Road Show to gradually make its way across the country. In the age of blockbusters, new releases must rake in top dollars in the first few weeks or else it’s a bomb.

Even the biggest names in pop music could fade instantly without a steady stream of hits, and Paul McCartney certainly sunk like a stone after “No More Lonely Nights”, his last first-rate pop tune. In this sense, pop music is ephemeral. Even when a pop tune has lasting appeal, the song remains without the singer, especially if it’s one of those one-hit wonders. Plenty of oldies are played without no one caring who wrote or performed them.

In contrast, the more serious kind of Rock music is relatively shielded from travails of the charts because of a devoted fan base(and new crop of admirers who, though not great in number, keeps forming because of the music’s lasting value). Neil Young didn’t have a lot of hits but gained a lot of respect. The Grateful Dead likewise. Their aura and cult grew so big that the charts hardly mattered. But then, there haven’t been many notable Rock artists worthy of deep devotion and serious attention. More bands were like Kiss than Led Zeppelin. Even for most Rockers, it was a matter of do-or-die with the hits.

Of late, it seems pop composers are losing less sleep over coming up with that zinger for the charts. Over the years, the pop music industry have mastered the formula of treating music as chemistry than creativity. Especially with the primacy of the DJ in the club scene, the industry identified which combination of rhythms and beats produce the maximum vibes to keep the crowd happy. In the past, hit-meisters were always looking for that elusive melody around which the rhythm-and-beat were arranged, but now that the rhythm-and-beat have been made so vibrantly infectious, the melody has been rendered almost secondary or incidental. As anyone in hip hop or techno can tell you, it’s easier to master the repetitious features of rhythm and beat than to string together a series of notes that makes for a memorable melody. ?
If you got the formula down pat, you need only to add a little variation here or there to keep the kids grooving or dancing. A good amount of effort and/or inspiration surely went into writing “Dancing Queen” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” for ABBA but probably not so much with the songs of Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Rihanna(with the exception of the skanky-masterpiece or ‘skankerpiece’ “Umbrella”), and Taylor Swift. Also, as the kids are satisfied with the chem-fix of good vibes, they don’t really care if the song is original or not, good or bad. Brill Building at its best produced gems whereas the current industry is about the chems, the product of culture ‘scientists’ who approach music like candy bars in a confection company. The precursor to this was the Bubblegum Pop of the late 60s with songs like “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Sugar, Sugar”, a #1 hit for the fictional cartoon band the Archies, though even the tunes for these songs were rather inventive if not ingenious by today’s standards.

The secret to Pop Sensibility is not to go ‘full retard’ or ‘full rock’. Even when pop flirts with rock, the trick is to render it sweet, pleasant, euphoric, like “Go All the Way” by Raspberries that begins with Hard Rock riffs but coasts on soaring melodies, something the Beatles perfected in 1962 with “Please Please Me”, their most foundational and influential song that served them and countless British Invasion acts well until 1965 when the music went in a new direction.
In the war comedy TROPIC THUNDER, Robert Downey Jr. in a black role — one where he doesn’t quite go ‘Full Negro’ — teases out the reason for the failure of ‘SIMPLE JACK’, that it went ‘full retard’, which made it too much for the general audience. A true Rocker isn’t afraid to go ‘full retard’ or ‘full rock'(or simple jack flash), whereas a pop star must tread carefully around excess lest the overall pleasantness be sullied. No wonder Jimi Hendrix Experience hardly made for an ideal introductory act for the Herman’s Hermits. Of course, what is deemed ‘excessive’ is relative, and plenty of harmless pop songs in the now might have been deemed racy or downright scandalous in earlier times.

Indeed, it’s useful to distinguish Rock Stars from Rock Artists though, of course, a band could be both, as were the cases with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Bruce Springsteen & the E. Street Band. But most Rockers didn’t aspire to be artists and cared only about fame and fortune. No one would mistake Bon Jovi, Europe(with the hit “The Final Countdown”), Van Halen, or ZZ Top as Rock artists. 99% of Heavy Metal is just mindless blue-collar get-paid-get-laid music. There is little ‘artistic’ content to “Cum on Feel the Noise” by Quiet Riot or “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, and even if bands like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and AC/DC developed loyal fan bases over the years, the nature of the investment was markedly different from the subcultures around figures like Bob Dylan(whose works have inspired countless dissertations and scholar tomes) and Pink Floyd, the favorite among intellectuals and bohemians. Another useful distinction is Art Rock(aka Progressive Rock) and Rock-as-Art. Even though Pink Floyd is sometimes included in the Progressive Rock category, it’s more the case they made great Rock music with artistic worth than consciously added artiness to Rock in the manner of Yes and Roxy Music, though Moody Blues and the Beatles at their more pretentious were there first. Dylan was Rock-as-art, whereas Donovan was a precursor to Art Rock.

Bob Stanley says ‘rockism’, whatever it is, had the effect of suppressing literary interest for certain kinds of popular music, such as disco, but he’s missing the point. Naturally, music critics or scholars want to write about something substantive and stimulating(even intellectually), something worthy of analysis. Much of pop music is to be enjoyed, not examined closely(unless one is studying to be a composer oneself) or interpreted. Therefore, the dearth of books about certain subjects isn’t the fault of ‘rockism’ or ‘snobby’ neglect. Writers like to write about something, and there simply isn’t much to write home about most music or movies. Why are there many more books about Stanley Kubrick than Ron Howard? Howard made some solid movies, but they don’t yield much beyond entertainment value. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is open to endless interpretation(and one of the most revolutionary works in cinema) whereas APOLLO 13 can be enjoyed but isn’t much to think about. Lots of music, even fabulous music, have little value beyond enjoyment, and there’s wrong nothing with enjoyment, but mere pleasure doesn’t inspire much thought.
How many books have been written about roller coasters or water slides? Likewise, food critics prefer to write about French cuisine than burgers and fries.
Now, from a purely cultural or sociological perspective, anything is worthy of study. John Hughes movies of the 1980s offer a glimpse into the trends of the decade, but any serious student/scholar of film would rather write about Martin Scorsese or David Lynch than about Hughes or Michael Bay. Of course, there are talents like Steven Spielberg and, yes, the Beatles, who’ve mostly worked in the popular idiom but invite interpretation, revision, and reappraisal because their talents have been either so prodigious or profoundly altered the cultural landscape. Shaun Cassidy had some decent hits, but don’t expect music writers to form a line around the block in eager anticipation to write about him. Indeed, even in Stanley’s book, some figures and fashions get entire chapters to themselves whereas most acts only get a passing mention. At any rate, while some ‘rockists’ may use ‘pop’ almost as a pejorative, most rock lovers also love pop. Whether they do or don’t regard Stones as Rock and Beatles as Pop, most Stones fans also loved the Beatles, and vice versa. Only the most stuck-up types among the bohemian crowd emphasized ‘versus’ over ‘and’ in their radical tendency to divide the world into opposing camps or ‘thesis’ vs ‘antithesis’.

Furthermore, the main targets or ‘victims’ of ‘rockism’ have been white acts, not black ones. While many black acts have gotten less literary attention than the biggest white acts, especially Dylan-Beatles-Stones, they were highly praised and respected, even revered, not least because Rock music owes so much to Rhythm n Blues and other forms of black music. So, the usual targets of ‘rockists’ were ‘white-bread’ acts like ABBA, the Carpenters, Olivia Newton-John, and Anne Murray OR about whites-imitating-black-music without originality or inspiration, like Rare Earth with its hit “Get Ready”.
And ‘rockism’ could actually be anti-snobbish, with special animus reserved for bands like the Moody Blues, Yes, King Crimson, (early)Genesis, and etc., though such purism, especially among the punk crowd, could be arrogant and even self-righteous. Because of the victimological idolatry around blackness, Stanley tries to spin ‘rockism’ as possibly ‘racist’, but nothing could be further from the truth. More often than not, ‘rockists’ were knocking a bunch of white acts for either lacking soul or faking it. ‘Rockists’ really hated Captain & Tennille. While it’s true that ‘Rockists’ in general preferred White Rock uber alles, their notion of the greatest sin was being ‘white bread’ or fake chocolate.

Where ‘rockism’ has been problematic, even detrimental, wasn’t when it upheld standards — favoring Dylan over Donovan, Pink Floyd over the Moody Blues, Stones over Aerosmith, and etc. — but when it employed (pseudo)intellectual conceits to lavish praise on certain ‘schools’ or personalities based on attitude, ideology, or specious rationalizations that made sense only to the purveyors of the rot and the suckers stupid enough to fall for anything hyped as ‘radical’ or ‘ahead of its time’.
This dire trend has befallen every field of art and entertainment. Modernism initially produced genuine pioneers like Pablo Picasso but later made excuses for the garbage of Mark Rothko and the inane products of Pop Art, all of it sustained by intellectual conceits to be taken on faith or loopy logic.

When something fertile is afoot in culture, critics and scholars coalesce around the phenomenon to offer their intellect as a means for laymen to better understand and appreciate the works or to critique them(as great art/entertainment is often dangerous). It is in this phase that the critics are most valuable. They know they are subordinate to the genius and/or inspiration intrinsic to a great work of art or entertainment. But within the mind of every critic or analytical mind is a certain envy of the creative process, just like homosexuals envy the power of real-sexuals to create life. The creative artist is always primary, and the analytical critic is secondary, no matter how good he may be; while artists and entertainers have existed and can exist without critics, the latter cannot do without the former.
To gain control of the culture, the resentful intellectual begins to concoct theories as to what constitutes the avant-garde, the purpose of which is to make theory supersede art as the main focus of culture, i.e. what the artists create is less important than what the critics and intellectuals make of them; the cleverer ones invoke philosophy to, for example, ‘deconstruct’ art, while the dumber ones lean on the crutch of ideology as basis of endorsing or condemning works. Via theory, works of genius can be relegated to the dustbin while works of idiocy can be placed on the altar. So, the modernists in music persuaded entire generations to neglect Jean Sibelius and to fiddle with atonal stuff instead; and T.S. Eliot is now mainly remember for his ‘antisemitism’. It’s like homos, envious of the reproductive power of real-sexuals, cooked up the most ridiculous theories about ‘gender’ where two homo guys can be ‘two fathers’ or a ‘woman’ can have a penis and produce semen because a man insisting he’s a woman must be regarded as a ‘woman’.

Thus, art no longer needs to be justified on the basis of beauty, truth, genius, originality, or sublimity. Rather, as long as it conforms to or is confirmed by the theory, it is said to have value, even great value. The pernicious impact has been devastating. Consider: Even a novice in the arts, with some degree of personal effort, could readily see what made Vincent van Gogh or Picasso great. In contrast, without the theory, one would be totally mystified as to why Rothko matters or why Lichtenstein’s works are anything more than enlarged comic strips.
‘Rockism’ didn’t falter in its evaluation of Bob Dylan, The Band, Buffalo Springfield, Van Morrison, The Who, and Neil Young. It faltered when it pretended Patti Smith was a major talent or Kate Bush amounted to anything. By far the worst product of this kind of theory-obsessed and ideology-driven ‘rockism’ was the massive hype of punk music. While punk, like any musical genre, produced its share of memorable songs, it was showered with far more attention than it deserved on the basis of intellectual conceits of the critical community. Paradoxically, there is a strain of criticism that seeks to render culture critic-proof. When a subculture and its output are taped off with theory, they are shielded from rational scrutiny and assessment. Usually, the subculture is over-valued for its ‘radical’ or ‘subversive’ content, but the implied egalitarianism is bogus because Theory usually gains traction from the prestige of the expounder, who could be a genuine intellectual with deluded ideas or a third-rater selected & promoted by the establishment academia & media as confirming their standards of ‘progressivism’. An example of a genuine intellectual with loopy ideas is Greil Marcus. As for second-raters and third-raters favored by the Power, just look to the New York Times or notice what kind of people receive ‘genius’ grants.

Intellect has a logic of its own, and intellectuals, always thinking, tend to become enamored of their own or someone else’s ideas and get carried away with the idea-for-idea’s-sake. This happened with Greil Marcus in his obsession with punk, more for what it represented than what it produced in terms of listenable music. Marcus became renowned as one of the most intelligent Rock critics with keen insights into the great acts of the 50s and 60s. But increasingly in the 70s and 80s, his ideas got the better of him, and he became immersed in the punk scene as something on which to project his ideals and frustrations.
Likewise, the film community created a cult around Jean-Luc Godard that kept going long after his expiration date as a relevant figure in cinema. Because of the prestige held by the leading critics/intellectuals, these absurdities could go on for a long time, like in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, that is until enough people become jaded and lose confidence in the critical/intellectual community.

Indeed, the rise of what might be called ‘popism’ was a backlash to years of intellectual abuse by ‘rockists’ whose sin, however, wasn’t having standards but abandoning them in favor of ideology, attitude, and/or conceit. Despite the outliers, punk was essentially antithetical to music and anything resembling humanness, but the intellectuals pushed it as an agenda and ‘school’, much like the dogma of atonal music was sustained in the music departments. Just like the modernists had to pretend to like Alban Berg, the ‘rockists’ convinced themselves that LONDON CALLING is the greatest album of the 80s. (At least, the Clash was one of the few punk bands one could listen to with some, if not much, pleasure.)

Then, it’s hardly surprising that Quentin Tarantino became such a darling in the 90s with PULP FICTION. Whatever one thinks about it(and I think it’s pretty foul), it made art/independent cinema fun again. It also engaged the larger public than gaining notice only in the austere corners of the film festival circuit. It sure beat doing one’s best to stay wake through the latest Godard offering and pretending it was ‘important’. (Quite possibly, PULP FICTION may have been the first instance in which the public participated in something like film discourse that had been limited to critics, scholars, and cinephiles. Especially via the nascent internet, it provoked discussion and analysis from top to bottom, one of the few times the cultural elites and the hoi polloi rubbed shoulders so closely.) Perhaps, the godawful grunge was the last hurrah of intellectually conceited ‘rockism’ — there was just enough spirit and personality in Kurt Cobain’s tantrums to make it half-exciting — before the young ones said enough of this anti-musical stuff. To them, ‘rockism’ became as ‘puritanical’ and dreary as Folkie Stalinism came to be for the Counterculture open to new possibilities and welcomed the electrified Dylan. But this could have been avoided if ‘rockism’ hadn’t fallen into the rut of intellectual conceits.

Of late, ‘wokeness’ applies pressure on critics/intellectuals to reassess past works on the basis of racial content — spot the ‘racist’! — or heap special praise on blacks. In popular music, this isn’t difficult to do as one could conceivably fill up the top 10 songs or albums entirely with the works of black performers/artists, but it gets hilarious in cinema, with a piece of junk like BLACK PANTHER receiving unanimous high marks, trashy GET OUT being rated a work of genius, any work showing interracism or ‘diversity’ receiving extra credit, or some mendacious propaganda about ‘racism’ being greeted as courageous — yeah, it’s really courageous to scream ‘racism’ in this day and age. For real courage, I’d like to see someone attempt to make a movie about Nakba or the attack on USS Liberty. (GET OUT is about white people trying to appropriate black bodies deemed superior in prowess. It almost sounds like a twist on the Aryanist theory of Jews appropriating white beauty to outwardly improve the Jewish race while keeping the soul Jewish. Mate with ‘shikses’ and produce more Aryan-looking Jews whose Semitic identity must be reinforced even more. Because mixing with goyim could weaken Jewish identity, the more the Jewish blood is thinned, more the Jewish soul must be strengthened. Jews figure white folks have minds, bodies, and blandness of the universal soul but lack the potent power of the Covenant that binds spirituality and tribality together, and therefore, someone who is half-white and half-Jewish will eventually gravitate toward the latter, especially as Christianity has been weakened and/or twisted into atonement for ‘historical sins’, celebration of Globo-Homo & George Floyd, and worship of Jews/Zion over God & Jesus AND as whiteness has been made synonymous with the demonology. So, Christianity, once a source of moral power and sanctimony, now weakens the West because its only acceptable incarnation must now apologize for the hypocrisy of past Christians, support Zionist tribalism/supremacism, and/or bow before the altars of false gods, especially the idolatry of Holy Homo & Magic-Tragic Negro. The sacral trumps the real in the hearts of many people. In truth, BLM policies have actually led to MORE black deaths, but those grim facts are secondary to the feel-good faith in the Noble Negro as the favored icon of tragic suffering. It’s the thought that counts among the faith-oriented. Marxists favored communism over capitalism even upon realizing the latter did more for the working class in material and individual terms because it was communism that sacralized the worker. Workers under communism materially had less than workers under capitalism but had a quasi-spiritual worth completely missing among the latter. BLM has a similar appeal. Like communism destroyed many more ordinary lives, BLM policies ended up killing more blacks. But at least blacks feel the special glow of sanctity via the racial-idolatrous delusion. As for whiteness, it’s now the duty of the FBI to track down those who put up “It’s Okay to be White” signs. Anything less than total self-abnegation and abasement of whiteness is ‘white supremacism’. In the past, Christianity was de facto the religion of the White West with an implicit sense of strong racial/ethnic pride: We white Christians vs those Muslim Arabs and benighted heathens yet to be saved by Jesus. Today, Christianity is about white apologism, and whiteness has no legitimacy as an identity, heritage, or pride. However, Jewishness allows one to feel proudly Jewish both spiritually and tribally/racially. Jewishness is a soul, whereas whiteness is a hole, one which can no longer be filled by Christianity that has been turned against whiteness as the new original sin. Devil Pope Francis says the West must fling its gates wide open to billions of Africans and non-whites… or else Christianity has sinned once more. Then, it’s no wonder that someone who’s part Jewish and part white will choose Jewish identity even if he looks more Aryan than Semitic. Better a Jewish soul than a white hole. But this may produce its own set of problems. While people like Jeffrey Epstein hoped to create a new breed of Jews via sex with Nordic women, the formula of ‘Jewish Souls in White Bodies’ is too simplistic. After all, the Mischling inherits some of the inner as well as the outer characteristics of the Aryan. So, the offspring could be just as much outwardly Semitic and inwardly Aryan as well as inwardly Semitic and outwardly Aryan, or outwardly mostly Aryan and inwardly part-Aryan. If the inherited personality is Aryan than Semitic, then the Mischling will have to go against his inner Aryan nature to feel and act more Jewish, which may lead to ever higher levels of neurosis.)

A useful distinction is between Rock Music and Rock Culture. Rock Culture comprises the whole spectrum of musical forms of impassioned interest and/or inspiration to the boomers and generations thereafter, at least up to 2000. Thus, the music need not be rock music to be part of Rock Culture. If Beatles or Stones sang soft ballads, they too fall within the tent of Rock Culture. Anything that intersected with the Rock scene and left its mark as part of Rock Culture. Ravi Shankar’s music isn’t Rock, but it was part of Rock Culture at Monterey, especially as it exerted influence on Rock in the psychedelic era. For the most part, Simon and Garfunkel didn’t do Rock and hardly even Folk Rock, but they were relevant to the Counterculture and spoke to boomer feelings of alienation, anxiety, and yearning. “Bridge over Troubled Water” isn’t Rock Music but part of Rock Culture. Rock Culture is less about a musical style than about a sensibility and attitude toward music, the need to make it personal, different, and eccentric, to make it own’s own. Both Burt Bacharach and Paul Simon were brilliant tunesmiths, the difference being Simon was personal in ways that Bacharach never was. Simon’s songs are about his feelings, whereas Bacharach’s songs mean to make the listener feel good. (That said, even Burt Bacharach may be considered as part of Rock Culture because his hits with Dionne Warwick and others had considerable influence on the Boomer rock/pop scene. Brian Wilson sure learned a thing or two from Bacharach.)

In general, Rock Music lacks the cult of integrity at the heart of Rock Culture. Most Rock Music is about short-lived fame for the bands and long-term fortunes for the industry. Consider all the countless imitations of Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, and etc. promoted by the industry to hook the new generation of teeny-boppers and pipsqueaks. And most of the big-hair rock bands of the 80s were little more than noise machines with the same bag of tricks. In this light, this thing called ‘Rockism’ is more about Rock Culture than Rock Music. ‘Rockism’ is about passing the torch lit by Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and Velvet Underground but wouldn’t think twice about hosing down the likes of Twisted Sister, Journey, and Foreigner.
Granted, ‘rockists’ are divided between the cerebral and the instinctive, though the latter tend to intellectualize their primitivism. If the cerebral types prefer the artier styles of Rock, the gutsy types insist on anarchic vitality, disdaining the floweriness of progressive rock and the ‘gay’ affectations of disco. One might see it as more slobbery than snobbery, albeit still qualifying as ‘rockism’ because there is a ‘philosophy’ underlying it. The timid bald guy in HIGH FIDELITY is the artier ‘rockist’ whereas the fat loud guy represents the other end of the spectrum. They rarely see eye to eye, and indeed, some of the biggest ‘victims’ of ‘rockists’ are other ‘rockists’, like when the guys refuse to sell a Captain Beefheart album to a certain guy(who too is a ‘rockist’) because he’s not ‘cool’ enough.

But however argued, Rockism was bound to fade in significance for the simple and inevitable reason that everything is creatively exhausted(at least in originality) and burns out. It happened to modernism in painting. At least, key modernist painters like Pablo Picasso became household names and for a time captivated the world. Modernism in music hardly left a mark outside academia. The problem wasn’t so much the spirit of experimentalism but of dogma that insisted the new music must wholly reject the old(and timeless) and adhere to rules etched in stone by a handful of dour theorists. Besides, whereas a picture, like it or not, remains outside the viewer who can ponder or ignore it as he chooses, music intrudes into the senses, and thus, it can be either more pleasurable or more painful. Given the direction of modernism in music, it’s no wonder even those who were open to modern painting weren’t so keen on modern music.

At any rate, an art form has most promise as subject of serious discussion when its potential for personal expression and aesthetic experimentation is at its peak. But in time, not only are the possibilities exhausted but the enthusiasm wanes as well. Maybe U2 of the 80s was just as talented as the Beatles, but a mass psychosis like Beatlemania could never happen again. Then, just like cinema went from the Film Generation of the Sixties to the Box Office fixations of the Eighties, the pop music scene moved past the seriousness and got back down to business; furthermore, the ascendancy of blackness in rap & hip-hop and the skank-idol wasn’t exactly conducive to intellectualism. The popularity of the TV show AMERICAN IDOL was a sign of how irrelevant ‘rockism’ had become, but then, the batch of serious rock bands since the new millennium were mostly bummed out retreads of past acts, though “Hate Me” by Blue October is a stunner and Cold Play, though flaky, recorded some of the most breathtaking tracks in Rock.

The rise of post-modernism and uninhibited hedonism meant the new generations were less inclined to care about artistic hierarchy, and if hierarchies must exist, they must be aligned with the agenda of PC or ‘wokeness’. The Rock generation of the Sixties was in a transitory period: Even as key intellectual voices at the time pushed against old certitudes, they’d inherited and internalized the ‘bourgeois’ standards of seriousness. Susan Sontag, born in 1933, wasn’t part of the boomers but young enough to stand out as a fresh voice among her peers in high culture. At any rate, despite her salvos at entrenched hierarchies, her methodology was forbiddingly serious. This is what the Rock generation took for granted, happy to be ‘liberated’ in their youth and hedonism. But despite what they threw themselves into and wallowed in, their formative years were partly in the pre-Rock era, and it wasn’t as if adult-culture vanished overnight in the Sixties. (It’s also instructive that most of the Rock n Rollers of the Fifties styled themselves after men, not boys. And when Elvis turned thirty in 1967, he showed off his manhood, rather at odds with the Peter-Pan-ism of the Counterculture. On the other hand, the Counterculture took itself very seriously and believed it was on the cusp of profound revolutions of the soul and psyche through music, drugs, and protest.) Boomers were shaped and affected by something more than youth culture, and this may explain the multi-layered quality of the great Sixties bands that later was generally missing among generations that only knew youth culture. In his memoirs CHRONICLES, Dylan recollects how he spent a lot of time educating himself with serious books on arts and history. In retrospect, Grace Slick was grateful for the serious and excellent education she received in the pre-60s era. The seriousness could lead to pretension or solipsism but also have a restraining effect on the urge to push solely in one direction. For example, while sexuality was very much a part of Rock, rockers wanted to be something more than sex symbols. Jim Morrison styled himself a poet and visionary. Grace Slick oozed with sex appeal but regarded herself an artist, whereas in our day, the utterly shameless pornification of culture has led to skank-acts where singer-dancers do precious little than hiss and howl about their buns & pooters and ‘twerk’ like insane baboons.

Finally, Pop Music is too big and broad a concept for Bob Stanley to coax out a definition of ‘modern pop’ that is limited to youth music of the English-speaking world, mainly US and UK, from 1955 to the present. While it’s true that Rock music originated and was dominated by the Anglophone world(though it inspired counterparts in virtually all languages), popular music has been around since the advent of mass culture and urbanism and especially with the rise of the radio and the record player, and every society has its own popular music, some of which have little or nothing to do with Rock Music/Culture. Therefore, narrowly associating ‘modern pop’ with the Anglophone world since 1955 is like associating ‘pride’ with homosexuals, as if ‘gay pride’ is the real or ultimate expression of pride when, if anything, it is not only limited to homosexuals but shamelessly misconceived, as what real pride is there in a guy taking a dong up his bung?
In a way, the most depressing thing about music culture in the US is the utter lack of interest in anything but English-language pop(and maybe some reggae and Afro-Pop). While the movie business has long been dominated by Hollywood, film culture has always been about appreciation of world cinema and all the genres. For all the talk of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ in the music scene, there’s hardly any interest beyond what’s produced in the Anglophone world. Given that the language barrier matters far less in music than in movies, one might expect music lovers to have wider-ranging tastes, but it isn’t so. Perhaps, the rise of Art Film trained cinephiles to develop a certain patience, whereas Rock Culture, despite its serious artists like Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd, encouraged the audience to call out for instant thrills, and most music around the world just doesn’t cut it in this regard. Of course, another factor is the sheer volume of music recorded every year. Even a leading movie industry like Hollywood produces around 200 movies per year, the annual count of albums and songs must be in the many thousands. Given the sheer volume produced by US or UK alone, music lovers have little time for music from outside their familiar zone.

Now, what about the Beatles? The problem isn’t with designating them as a Rock band because they were indeed that and much more. Beatles came up with some great Rock songs, several of them, especially “Ticket to Ride”, among the greatest ever. But even though everything the Beatles did is part of Rock Culture, so many of their songs weren’t Rock but Pop. Their pop songs fell under the rubric of Rock Culture for their personalism, which mattered more to Rock Culture than whether the song rocked hard. For example, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”(sung by Nico) by the Velvet Underground isn’t a Rock song but a valuable addition to Rock Culture because it was written from the heart; its emotions are private, even decadent, than generic and familiar. The personal element made even non-rock songs of the Rock Era distinct from the general pop scene that put out hits like “These Boots Are Made for Working”. Also, even when the Monkees came close to affecting the style of the Beatles, the difference lay in originality grounded in individuality vs mimicry of a proven act into viable formula. “Daydream Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” were superb but composed and/or arranged as calculated approximations of the Beatles sound. Even when the approximation was absolutely brilliant, like “Pleasant Valley Sunday”(by the incomparable songwriting duo King and Goffin), it was more the case of replicating someone else’s style than drawing it out of one’s own personal well. Brill Building music can be included as part of Rock Culture because the composers freely borrowed from rhythm & blues/rock n roll and had considerable influence on Rock bands, certainly the early Beatles, but their industrial approach to music stood in opposition to the individualist ideal of Rock Culture where, as with the Auteur Theory in cinema, the personal counted for a whole lot.

So, we are agreed the Beatles were a Rock band, indeed one of the best. But were they greatest Rock band? One could conceivably make that claim, especially within the broader context of Rock Culture. But purely in terms of Rock Music, several other bands are stronger contenders for the title. After all, the majority of the Beatles output were either pop or more-pop-than-rock. For the Beatles, Rock was an option than an obsession(or the mainstay of what defined them). Beatles rocked when they felt like it but often felt otherwise. For the most part, the Beatles lacked the killer instinct of The Who, the bad boy cockiness of the Stones, the dementia of Jimi Hendrix & Led Zeppelin, the private hell of Jim Morrison, the ruggedness of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the angst of Pink Floyd.
The Beatles rocked hardest at the outset, unleashing Beatlemania on the world, and they tried to rock pretty hard near the end, especially on parts of THE BEATLES(aka White Album) and LET IT BE, as if to recapture or reignite the earlier spirit. But even at the beginning, the secret to the Beatles’ success owed to streamlining the rougher contours of Rock n Roll with a slick pop sensibility perfected by Brill Building. Thus, the Beatle Mobile got a bigger engine but also awesome suspensions. The overall impact was seismic, demonstrated by the phenomenon of Beatlemania that was not only unprecedented but remains unsurpassed; only Woodstock was comparable as a cultural event in the Rock Era, but then it represented a culmination whereas Beatlemania was an explosion, seemingly out of the blue like the bullets that killed Kennedy. America wanted happy bullets to be sprayed on them by the mop top assassins. Dave Clark Five arrived at a similar approach and went head-to-head with the Beatles in 1964 and 1965 but faded as a result of their inability to evolve with fast-changing times.

Anyway, the songs that initially made the Beatles were less pure Rock than something like Pop-Rock (or ‘Pock’) or Rock-Pop(or ‘Rop’) or Poppy-Rock. The Beatles were often loud and screamed & shook their heads, but the overall effect was so pleasant and pleasing. Not for nothing was their breakthrough song called “Please Please Me”.
The sheer volume was unprecedented but not assaultive, and teenage girls loved it(as an affirmation of their feelings) and even adults who didn’t care for the music weren’t appalled as many had been with Rock n Roll in the mid-fifties. Indeed, one reason why Elvis Presley didn’t take to the Beatles was they didn’t seem tough enough. For all their volume and the hysterics of their fans, the whole thing seemed a bit ‘cute’. And even though “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” were high-energy, there was something a bit coy, closer to Everly Brothers and even the Teen Idols than the rough-and-tumble pioneers of Rock n Roll. Beatles managed to make it louder but also more innocent. When young women in the mid-fifties fell under the spell of Elvis the Pelvis, it was all about sex, as if the King of Rock n Roll’s stage antics popped their cherries. The screams were primal. With the Beatlemaniacs, it was more like girly shrieks, puppy love gone mad.

And apart from “Ticket to Ride” and “Help!”, many of the memorable Beatles tunes from 1965 to 1968 were more Pop than Rock: “Yesterday”, “Norwegian Wood”, “In My Life”, “I’m Looking through You”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here, There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Fool on the Hill”, “All You Need Is Love”, “Hello Goodbye”, and “Magical Mystery Tour”.

The last two songs on the list could count as Rock, as they’re certainly high-energy, but they are essentially feel-good songs similar in spirit to the Hollies. Same goes for “Nowhere Man”, almost a children’s song. More pulsating pop than raucous rock, more soda than beer. “A Day in the Life”, the finest song on SGT. PEPPER album, also isn’t a rocker, with the loudest feature being a modernist experiment with classical orchestra. And “Hey Jude” qualifies as a rock song only because the second half turns into a scream-fest of na-na-na’s. Otherwise, it is pop.

From 1965 to 1968, the Beatles produced their share of first-rate Rock songs — “I Feel Fine”, “I’m Down”, “Drive My Car”, “You Won’t See Me”, “Think for Yourself”, “We Can Work it Out”, “Day Tripper”, “Paperback Writer”, “I’m the Walrus”, “Lady Madonna”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Revolution”, “Helter Skelter”, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” — , but how do they compare with the greatest Rock songs of other bands in either originality and power? The standouts are “Ticket to Ride”, perhaps their greatest song and among the best of the Rock era”, and “Help!”, John Lennon at his most brilliant, and one could even make a case for George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”(with kudos to Eric Clapton).
Still, even most of the best Beatles Rock songs are overshadowed by the best of the Stones: “Satisfaction”, “Get Off of My Cloud”, “Paint It Black”, “Under My Thumb”, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Street Fighting Man”, and “Honky Tonk Woman”. And in 1969, Stones unleashed “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Gimme Shelter”. For sheer inspiration and multi-layered depth, consider Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Queen Jane Approximately”, and “Ballad of a Thin Man”. In complexity, what can top “Visions of Johanna” and “One of Us Must Know”? And CCR had a string of great Rock songs that leaves the last batch of Beatles’ rock songs in the dust. And the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” on TOMMY and much of WHO’S NEXT took Rock music to a whole new level, and right alongside them was Led Zeppelin.

Granted, perhaps we need a new category that sits somewhere between pop and rock, what might be called the ‘rocturne’ or ‘rock + nocturne’. The ‘rocturne’ is usually gentler or subdued, too soft to be called Rock music. Yet, hauntingly personal, it differs from the pop tradition in its neurosis simmering just beneath the surface. Pop songs like “Downtown” and “Moon River” were crafted to be anonymous in appeal. Any listener can identify with the ‘woman’ who yearns for the bright lights of downtown. Petula Clark owns that song, but no one mistakes it for HER view of life. And Henry Mancini composed “Moon River” as something like a bouquet of flowers because people like pretty things. He wasn’t probing into or revealing something about himself.
Indeed, impersonality and/or collectivity(of vibes) defined most of pop music prior to the rise of Rock Culture. Even the early Rock n Rollers who wrote their own songs — Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, etc. — catered to what the kids wanted for dance music in the burgeoning Youth Culture. Though distinct in styles, there was little personal content in their music. It was about capturing the collective spirit of Rock n Roll for a generation of youths who wanted a culture all their own.
This was before Rock Culture began to take shape in mid-60s, especially under the influence of Bob Dylan, an unlikely star who lacked the voice and the look but more than made up for the deficiencies by creating a powerful and ingenious fusion of everything he’d come across and bent to his creative will(though some of his songs were turned into generic pop hits, like “I Got You Babe”* by Sonny and Cher and “It Ain’t Me Babe” by the Turtles). Songs like “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “Fourth Time Around” are neither strictly pop nor rock. And they’re something far more than folk ballads that lean on tradition and sense of community.

*Correction: Sonny and Cher’s Dylan cover song was “All I Really Want To Do”.

Changes spearheaded by Dylan in the mid-60s(though he wasn’t the only one) led to greater introspection among the Rockers. They shouldn’t be afraid to look in their own hearts, ruminate on their feelings and doubts. Not just the mood for love but for everything ignored by popular music. “Norwegian Wood” isn’t just a love song but a very private one. The effect is closer to eavesdropping, an act of voyeurism, than one of identification on the part of the listener. It’s about Lennon’s ambiguity about a frivolous affair that somehow lingers. Likewise, the psychedelic ballad “Strawberry Fields Forever” qualifies as a ‘rocturne’ as it’s about Lennon’s melancholia-induced nostalgia for childhood. McCartney, more pop-oriented than Lennon, composed “Yesterday” and “Penny Lane” that were more in line with classic pop, but even he was under the spirit of the times, and his best songs as a Beatle are more than silly-love-songs. “Yesterday” came to him in a dream, and the picaresque “Penny Lane” is a memory lane of familiar places, a kind of mini-album tucked in the corner of the mind.

To an extent, the emphasis on the personal had a somewhat inhibiting effect on Rock Culture. Generally, louder the music, more frenzied the collective spirit of Rock, which was centered on the stage before the studio album became the main vehicle of expression, especially with Brian Wilson and Beatles quitting the concert circuit. Being personal usually requires some measure of meditativeness, the search of an inner light that is unique to each person; in contrast, loud music is like revelry around a shared camp fire. So, while some Rock songs were highly original and unique — “Satisfaction”, “My Generation”, “You Really Got Me”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Day Tripper”, etc. — , many of the most memorable songs of the Sixties Rock Culture owe more to mood and sentiment; and if possessed of wit, a sense of irony or sardonic view of life, creating possibilities for satirical-rock, or what might be called ‘satirock’, most notably associated with the Kinks.
It was during this period that the Stones found the ballad/pop idiom equally if not more challenging as they’d already mastered rhythm-and-blues, a form that countless other British acts had already imitated to death, with most of them sounding more or less interchangeable as white wanna-be-negroes. As for songs like “Satisfaction”, “Get Off of My Cloud”, “Under My Thumb”, and “Paint it Black”, the muse had to be on their side to inspire something so original and unique, impossible to create with mere formula or force of will. Stones couldn’t always fall back on rhythm-n-blues standards and were hard pressed to come up with another astounding Rock song, perhaps the most difficult feat as it must be both uniting and unique. Meanwhile, they composed “Lady Jane”, perhaps in competition with the Beatles then gaining renown for their arty ballads. And “Dandelion” and “She’s a Rainbow” were as sunny and blissful as the Stones got. “Mother’s Little Helper” was satirical in the manner of the Kinks. Their greatest song in this vein(and my favorite) was “Ruby Tuesday”, maybe the finest example of the ‘rocturne’, a further progression from “Play with Fire”. It’s not Rock(not exactly) and certainly not the blues but intimates at a brooding soul. It doesn’t boil but the burner is on. It might be called ‘bruise music’, balladic and wistful but wounded purple with the kind of pain conveyed in “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals.

Because the Rock Culture Ideal was to write one’s own songs and make them personal, the result was a string of songs too ‘thoughtful'(and even a bit too literary) to be straight-out Rock and too eccentric to be conventional pop. To name just a few: “California Dreaming”, “For What It’s Worth”, “Expecting to Fly”, “The Sound of Silence”, “America”, “Just Like a Woman”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, “As Tears Go By”, “Sad Memory”(Buffalo Springfield), “Younger Generation”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “Ripple”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, “Traces” & “Stormy”(Classics IV), “Everybody’s Been Burned”(Byrds), “Undun” & “These Eyes”(Guess Who), “Today”(Jefferson Airplane), “Pictures of Lily”, “Daydream”(Lovin’ Spoonful), “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”(Fairport Convention), “Waterloo Sunset” & “Well Respected Man”, “Femme Fatale”(Velvet Underground), “Dear Prudence”, “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”, and “Katie’s Been Gone” & “Whispering Pines”(The Band). And somewhat later with David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and “Quicksand”, some of the first post-modern songs playing with retro-nostalgia, interiority, queerness, and sci-fi dreamscape.

Even though the Beatles could do just about everything in Rock and Pop idioms — Lennon even added some Greek flavor to “Girl” — , their forte was pop, or personal pop(or ‘perpop’), again distinct from conventional pop or pure-pop(or ‘purpop’), essentially the crafting of songs for maximum appeal. At times, Beatles could come very close to pure-pop, e.g. “Hello Goodbye”, a feel-good song for any time of day. McCartney could have given it to the Monkees or Herman’s Hermits.

Generally, Paul McCartney has been associated with pop and John Lennon with rock, and it’s true enough that Lennon had a rougher, bolder, edgier, and more aggressive side. Lennon also had a more willful personality prone to near bipolar bouts of rage followed by paralysis and introspection. Even so, most of Lennon’s aggression and irreverence emerged through interviews, political activity, literary forays(like IN HIS OWN WRITE), and antics with Yoko Ono(aka Oh-No), like when he stood naked with her for the album cover of TWO VIRGINS and even made a 15 min film about his penis(which, one hopes, is lost to posterity). When it came to music, most of Lennon’s great songs from 1965, again apart from “Ticket to Ride” and “Help!”, are either pop songs or ballads. His best songs on RUBBER SOUL are “Norwegian Wood” and “In My Life”. On REVOLVER, it’s “I’m Only Sleeping”. In 1967, his best songs were “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “A Day in the Life”(heavy in part only because of classical orchestra), and “All You Need Is Love”. “I’m the Walrus” counts as a Rock song, but it’s essentially psychedelia for kids.

In 1968, when the Summer of Love vibes of the previous year evaporated with the worsening war in Vietnam, May 68 protests in France, race riots in the aftermath of MLK’s assassination, and the fiasco at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Rock scene understandably reflected the rage and chaos. Lennon, like the Rolling Stones, touched upon the rawer nerves of Rock. Grunt replaced the groovy. On the White Album, there was “Yer Blues”(atypical for Lennon who hardly played blues music) and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”. And the ballad version of “Revolution” on the album was redone as a hard rock single, perhaps a rejoinder to the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” where Mick Jagger, of a background far more privileged than any of the Beatles, pouted as a working class rebel. In 69, Lennon released the abrasive single, “Ballad of John and Yoko”, which, unlike the standard ballad, seethed with exasperation and lashed out at the world. If ever there was a Personal Protest Song, that was it. And McCartney did his part in 1968 by padding the second half of “Hey Jude” with lots of screaming; there were also “Lady Madonna” and “Helter Skelter”.
But the Beatles were never quite so natural with hard rock as the Stones were, especially starting with “Jumping Jack Flash” that initiated a series of powerful songs that pushed them over the top as indisputably the Greatest Rock Band. Only Pink Floyd is a worthy challenger for the title but for somewhat different reasons. When it came to rocking hard, Floyd never came close to the Stones or even attempted to. Only the Who and Led Zeppelin rocked as hard and as good, but the Who imploded almost completely following their peak with WHO’S NEXT, and Zeppelin was comparatively one-dimensional. In rocking hard and rousing the audience, Stones were tops, but it’s difficult to think of another band that did as much as Floyd in fulfilling the vision of Rock as an art form without compromise. Along with Dylan, Pink Floyd probably pushed Rock to the farthest reaches of artistic potential.

Beatles certainly rocked hard when they wanted to, but as good as they were, their Rock songs on THE WHITE ALBUM, LET IT BE, and ABBEY ROAD came nowhere near the best rock songs on ARE YOU EXPERIENCED, BEGGAR’S BANQUET, LET IT BLEED, WHO’S NEXT, and LED ZEPPELIN IV. And even the Doors at their best, not to mention CCR. Partly, it was because the Beatles lacked a clear and cohesive identity following their initial carnation as the Fab Four. They weren’t grounded in anything. They were essentially inspired poseurs, and their playacting as the fictional Sgt. Pepper band was rather uncanny, more than they realized at the time. Beatles sampled and borrowed from everything and crafted some wonderful songs but lacked a core sense of what they were about, and things got more confusing when boomers looked to them as the pied pipers of the Counterculture with the answers. In contrast, despite all the experiments and diversions, there was an unwavering quality about Pete Townshend. And despite their forays into other genres, the Stones never lost their sense of roots in whites blues and rhythm-and-blues. And Pink Floyd was a Rock-as-art band, do or die, hit or miss.

Paul McCartney, though essentially of a pop sensibility, certainly could rock hard when he wanted to, but everything he did was an act, a roleplaying, than a calling. He wasn’t about passion or zeal, the lack of which made him more adaptive and versatile but also stretched somewhat thin. In contrast, even when the Stones did a slow song like “No Expectations” or “Ruby Tuesday”, there was a brooding undercurrent as reminder of what they were, the boastful ones fallen from grace in the ‘Faustian’ tradition of the blues, a matter of both pride and remorse.

John Lennon grew somewhat scornful of McCartney’s assertiveness over the Beatles with his pet projects, and Lennon’s tougher songs on THE WHITE ALBUM were in part a reaction to the McCartney-led pleasantries of SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND and THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, especially turned sour when the terrible accompanying TV movie made Beatles almost a laughing stock.
But, as impressive as some of these songs are, especially “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Lennon and McCartney’s sensibilities were differences of degree than of kind. Lennon too was really an artful poseur without grounding, which may explain why he strained so hard on “Yer Blues”(and later with radical politics), whereas Stones could generate twice the energy with half the effort.
Indeed, the standout Beatles song of 68 was “Hey Jude”, a four minute pop tune that segues into four minutes of rocking na-na-na’s — the comparison of the two parts reveals where McCartney’s true genius lay. If “Helter Skelter” sounds like McCartney doing Hendrix, “Hey Jude” sounds entirely his own. It is unmistakably Beatlesque. Though McCartney’s personality wasn’t as striking, upfront, and brazen as Lennon’s, it emanated with hues and shadings generally missing in popular music. His most remarkable early song, “All My Loving” led the way. In the hectic days of Beatlemania, its rapid-fire delivery and gushing passion were very much in line with the other songs that brought the house down, but there was a forlorn quality, intimation of un-consolable vulnerability, a sublimity of emotional tonalities almost unheard of in pop. Amidst the stardom and revelry, McCartney tapped into a sense of fragility and transience, the twilight at the other end of good day sunshine. These emotions could easily spiral into despair and despondency, but he knew it could also be the source of his art, and it’s hard to miss the progression from “All My Loving” to “Things We Said Today” to “Yesterday” to “For No One” & “Eleanor Rigby” to “Hey Jude” to “Let It Be”.

The primacy of pop as the Beatles’ natural metier is evident when ABBEY ROAD and LET IT BE are placed side-by-side. The latter was an attempt by the Beatles to strip away the flowery psychedelia and slick production values for something more direct and raw. It is hardly a bad album, and has its share of solid songs. “Don’t Let Me Down” is a good song, and plenty of people love “Get Back”, a #1 hit, though not one of my favorites. Still, the better songs are the title track, “Across the Universe”, and “Long and Winding Road”(though mucked up by Phil Specter’s wall of unsound cliches), none of which is rock(though “Let It Be” has some rockish feel by way of gospel motifs and Bill Preston’s soulful organ). The special place of “Get Back” in the Beatles catalogue is rather puzzling. McCartney’s bluesy act seems rather phony, an act he pulled off much better with the solo hit “Maybe I’m Amazed”, one of the few times his soulfulness came across as genuine. The primitivism of “Get Back” comes across as rather studied and calculated, like the country boy schtick in “Rocky Racoon”. And, if there’s a sense of fun to the rollicking “Back in the USSR”(never my favorite) and hair-raising “Helter Skelter”, “Get Back” is rather evasive and standoffish about who-knows-what? It is rather introverted for rock, which thrives on extroversion.

By standards of Rock, LET IT BE is a pretty good album but falls way short of the Beatles’ standards. ABBEY ROAD, recorded after LET IT BE but released earlier, is the far superior album, and its overwhelming mode is pop. “Come Together” is solid rock but overly derivative of Chuck Berry. “Oh Darling” is good too but another throwback to an earlier style, as if McCartney reached the limit with the rock form and could only hark back. “I Want You” is rather dumb, and worse, it goes on forever. The two best songs on the album are surprisingly by George Harrison, and they’re both pop, though clearly personal-pop: “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”. Ringo’s children’s song “Octopus’s Garden” is also delightful.
The most celebrated part of ABBEY ROAD is Side B, especially its two medleys, and despite sporadic bursts of rock energy, it is informed mainly of pop sensibility. The various melodies and rhythms, though strikingly different, are meshed into a continuous stream, a kind of Pop n Flow. If ABBEY ROAD is rock, it’s slick rock or ‘slock’.
Lennon dismissed ABBEY ROAD for this very reason, that it was essentially the baby of perfectionist Paul McCartney and George Martin, who was all about professionalism. At the time, Lennon affected a contrasting musical ‘philosophy’: Tougher, harder, grittier, more personal and primal, soon to result in JOHN LENNON: PLASTIC ONO BAND, that wasn’t a big hit but much admired by critics, many of whom, to this day, believe it to be his best solo work.

At last, Lennon felt liberated from the confinement of the Beatles’ pop sensibility, but an overview of his post-Beatles career suggests he couldn’t do without pop either. Indeed, it’s telling that most of his memorable solo songs are in the pop idiom: “Imagine”, “Jealous Guy”, “Oh Yoko”. Meanwhile, his hardest rocking album, SOMETIME IN NEW YORK CITY was so bad that even his fans jumped ship on that one. Before his five year hiatus between 1975 and 1980, his other memorable songs were also pop, especially “Mind Games” and “#9 Dream”. The hard rocker “Cold Turkey”(recorded solo in 1969 when Lennon was still in the band) strikes me as retarded, decidedly inferior to “Heroin”(Velvet Underground) and “Gimme Shelter”. Many think highly of “Instant Karma”, but it sounds like another one of Lennon’s manic speed-ball combos of nervous breakdown and brotherhood-of-man sermonizing. It’s like “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”(Napoleon XIV) and “Get Together”(Youngbloods) in a blender. “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” made #1, but all it has going for it is high-strung energy that simply doesn’t redeem the threadbare babble. Lennon’s final album DOUBLE FANTASY proved once and for all that, like McCartney, he was essentially a master of pop, which when rendered personal, was as much a part of Rock Culture as rock music.

• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Music, The Beatles 
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  1. Are you familiar with Mike Williams (Sage of Quay), the dead serious Paul is Dead guy? Regardless of what you think of that theory, Williams also asked the question “did the Beatles write all of their own music?” The most impressive and convincing part of that video is when he shows how “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” were likely repurposed from their 19th century Neapolitan origins and given new lyrics. That doesn’t make the songs less enjoyable but it takes the reputation of Macca as a genius songwriter down a notch or two.

  2. Loved them as a kid… I just see them as the vanguard of jewbrained druggie 60’s anti-whiteism.

    • Agree: Alex70, Pop Warner
  3. g8way says:

    The Beatles was a relatively early form of pure astroturf, mass media manipulation, MKULTRA, Manchurian Candidate, Manufacturing Consent sociology experiment garbage, like “doctor king”, “hippies”, LSD and a bunch of other turds which were shat upon the poor Boomers who never fully recovered. Recently people are talking about “Mass Formation Psychosis” in the context of “Covid”, but it applies to The Beatles and other illnesses of the 1960s as well.

    • Replies: @Franz
    , @obwandiyag
  4. 80s pop metal is great! Haywire, Honeymoon Suite,Hareem Scareem

  5. Nick J says:

    I was a teenager in late 60s Britain. Class was the major determinant of who you were a fan of. The Kinks and Who had working class Mods as their hard core fans and played to their audiences life experience. The Beatles were clean enough to appeal to middle class girls and their mothers, grandma could hum along to McCartney melodies. The Stones audience were middle class boys having a rebellious moment, when these lads became managers the Stones morphed seemlessly into corporate rockers.

    That said, take class out what are you left with? Musical genius, great music from all of them.

    • Agree: Biff
    • Replies: @Hacienda
  6. Hacienda says:
    @Nick J

    Musical genius, great music from all of them.

    They were somewhat before my time, but as a fifth grader, me and some friends were riding in a car and Pinball Wizard came on. Next thing, we’re all bopping our heads and going crazy.

    The Who can do that. The Stones are excellent lyricists with Ruby Tuesday, Gimme Shelter, She Comes in Colors, etc. Never much into the Beatles, but I can see their appeal to both sexes. Abbey Road is a gift.

    Pink Floyd is very good with what they do. Soothing songs for the sad young. The barking dogs in Dogs is comic gold.

    I really like Stevie Nicks’ voice. Pure. transportive.

  7. TFL; DR (skimmed a little)

    Jung Mr. Freud, consider trying out self-discipline. I know it doesn’t come naturally to you, but practice and it will be easier eventually.

    By the way, please stop mangling the English language. A parenthetical phrase needs a space before it as well as after it. Ignoring that does not make you one of the cool kids.

  8. Renoman says:

    Neither, just great composers, writers and musicians.

  9. Dually says:

    The Beatles began life as essentially Elvis impersonators. Example: Elvis’s “Little Sister” compared to the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Get Back”. The Beatles specialized in musically identical reworkings of the same American Rock songs. The Brits stole American Rock and Roll and repackaged it, and then decided that they were too good to continue playing it because of the Vietnam war. At that point (approx. 1967) all of the great working class American musical inspiration died as ordinary people became the scapegoats of the ruling class. Such cultural appropriation was a staple of the British Empire (may it rest in peace!).

  10. G. Poulin says:

    Blah blah blah. Bob Stanley blew the 1986 World Series for the Red Sox, so he’s dead to me.

  11. Curle says:

    “Beatles influenced bands like the Raspberries and XTC than the richer acts following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, and even the Byrds or the Kinks.”

    Please name the so-called ‘richer’ acts.

    Pink Floyd was the influence for whom? Certainly Stones influenced Aerosmith, probably Rod Stewart, probably the Herd, the Faces and probably Lynyrd Skynyrd but who else? Of your list the Byrds probably influenced the Flying Burrito Brothers but they were also influenced by Johnny Cash and they in turn influenced The Rolling Stones. And who was influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins or Dick Dale? We know the Beach Boys were influenced by Dick Dale and the Four Freshmen but who did they influence? Oh yea, the Beatles. And who was influenced by the Brill Building songwriters, or Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound? We know Elvis influenced the Beatles, who else? Oh right, Bob Dylan. And then there’s such long forgotten but influential American acts as Arthur Alexander (the Beatles both recorded his songs and performed them live). And, where’s your mention of The Grateful Dead and their influences. What about the Jefferson Airplane, influenced by Fred Neil an contemporary and likely influence on Bob Dylan.

    This whole exercise of trying to reduce ‘influence’ to a few acts that you happen to have heard of is preposterous.

    • Replies: @Curle
  12. Trinity says:

    The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock roll band of all time without a doubt. The Beatles are the most overrated rock group of all time.

    • Replies: @Curle
  13. Trinity says:

    The biggest names in music experimented with all genres. Elvis, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, etc. Turner, Elvis, and Ronstadt in particular had hits in multiple categories. The Rolling Stones have covered it all from ballads to country to funk to rock to disco.

  14. Curle says:

    Addendum: and I neglected, as did you, to mention perhaps the greatest influence of all on the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elvis and the through Elvis the Beatles; Black bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf, Hillbillies like Jerry Lee Lewis, rockers like Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton, country singers like Hank Williams and Bluegrass performers like Bill Monroe. Your premise that the sixties and seventies artists got ALL of their inspiration from the immediately preceding group of artists is falsified by the existence and success of Led Zeppelin.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  15. This writer has an odd style: for one thing, he does not seem to understand when to use the word “rather” as in “rather than”.

  16. Curle says:

    Not so overrated that they couldn’t time out of their busy schedule to write the Stone’s first breakout hit.

    “ who wrote the Rolling Stones first hit single?
    “I Wanna Be Your Man” is a Lennon–McCartney-penned song recorded and released as a single by the Rolling Stones, and then recorded by the Beatles. The song was primarily written by Paul McCartney, and finished by Lennon and McCartney in the corner of a room while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were talking.”

  17. Rich says:

    If the Beatles fall into the class of “rock music” then the Monkees are the greatest rock band of all time. The Beatles were pure pop. And Dylan was a folk singer, even when he played folk songs with an electric guitar.

  18. nygrump says:

    Rock is pop. This is a silly discussion while our society is being ripped apart by covid fascists. the new black masks they wear now are serious SS deaths head apparel!

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  19. The Beatles weren’t “rock”, they were rock and roll. Big difference.

    • Agree: Mr. Grey, hhsiii
  20. My god. If you read this whole thing, you are an autistic idiot.

    You guys shore knows a lot about movies. But you don’t know shit about music.

    • Replies: @Al Ross
  21. “But within the mind of every critic or analytical mind is a certain envy of the creative process, just like homosexuals envy the power of real-sexuals to create life. ”

    Again, the tiresome equation of “homosexual” and “impotent” or “sterile”. Oscar Wilde had more children — even White! –than any “Dissident Right” or manosphere figure I know of.

    OTOH, a hatred of “breeders” is certainly an element of Traditional Catholicism, which is the creation of a cult of closeted homosexuals centered around Jacques Maritain in 1930s France, whose influence extended to Pope Paul VI. These chaps cultivated the idea that they were celibate because they were too “spiritual” for nasty breeder sex. The sexual morality they concocted was at best uninformed by actual marital experience (Maritain married a Jewess but supposedly they were “chaste”) and at worst motivated by the envy you mention. Celibacy is the best, but if you are too weak, and carnal, you must marry, never divorce, never use birth control, etc.

    Interesting how conservatives hate Vatican II for supposedly “Protestantizing” or “Judaizing” the Church, but the ONE element not altered in that direction was the teaching on human sexuality. Conservatives are now in the odd position of defending as “traditional” the only part of the teaching altered in the 20th century by pedophiles. They don’t call them the Stupid Party for nothing!

    See Frédéric Martel, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, three part review starts here:

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  22. @Dually

    “The Beatles began life as essentially Elvis impersonators.”

    And Elvis began as a (unconscious) black impersonator.

    “If I could find a white boy who sounds black, I’d be a millionaire” or words to that effect: Sam Phillips, before Elvis walked in the door at Sun Records.

    • Replies: @Dually
    , @The Alarmist
  23. Grimace says:

    The liner notes to the 1964 record, “Meet the Beatles,” address the question:

    “The foursome…write, play and sing a powerhouse music filled with zest and uninhibited good humor that make listening a sensation-filled joy. It isn’t rythym and blues. It’s not exactly rock ‘n’ roll. It’s their own special sound, or, as group leader Lenin puts it, ‘Our music is just – well, our music.’”

    Also in the notes: “The Beatles all hail from Liverpool, a seaport city which, because its sailing men bring in the latest hit singles from America, is the hippest Pop music spot in England.”

  24. Dually says:
    @James J O'Meara

    Elvis began as a (unconscious) black impersonator.

    Nonsense – like jazz (Bix), whites invented the blues and rock. The anti-American narrative was a directive from Stalin to stir up division between the races – an effort that continues to this day.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  25. Trinity says:

    Elvis did not sound black. White singers like
    Leon Russell, Dr. John, Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie were a few white singers who sounded black. White girl Teena Marie sounded black as well.

  26. Anonymous[227] • Disclaimer says:

    This article was MUCH TOO LONG. I bailed out before the halfway mark. Stop the madness!

    • Replies: @johnnyuinta
  27. @Dually

    The Beatles began life as essentially Elvis impersonators.

    It’s not true, it’s not true.

    • Replies: @Dually
  28. @James J O'Meara

    Oscar Wilde had more children — even White! –than any “Dissident Right” or manosphere figure I know of.

    But he didn’t practice homosexuality to produce the kids. Even as a homo, he engaged in real sex.

    OTOH, a hatred of “breeders” is certainly an element of Traditional Catholicism, which is the creation of a cult of closeted homosexuals centered around Jacques Maritain in 1930s France, whose influence extended to Pope Paul VI. These chaps cultivated the idea that they were celibate because they were too “spiritual” for nasty breeder sex.

    I don’t care for Catholicism. Oddly enough, the Church seems to have attracted a lot of (crypto)homos over the years. And pedos too. I guess its celibacy rule keeps too many normal men away. But with the decline of religious prestige, the church hasn’t been drawing the best people for a long time.

    At any rate, homo envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing where creativity is concerned. It could be homos are disproportionately represented in the arts/entertainment in part because they compensate via culture what is denied them by nature.
    This has been said of men in general as well, i.e. whereas women can give birth, man cannot and therefore man creates things materially and culturally.

    • Replies: @hhsiii
  29. @nygrump

    Rock is pop.

    Most of rock is part of popular music, but most of popular music isn’t rock.

    It’s like shrimp is seafood but not all seafood is shrimp.

    our society is being ripped apart by covid fascists

    By anarch-tyrannists. Remember the Power was okay with ‘peaceful protests’ during the Covid era.

  30. Bob Dylan did not compose “I Got You Babe”, Sonny Bono did. Cher did cover Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do” in 1965. “Ticket To Ride” among the greatest? It’s pretty far down my list of favorite “Help” songs (UK or US version) but to each their own.

  31. Bob Dylan did not compose “I Got You Babe”, Sonny Bono did. Cher did cover Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do” in 1965.

    Right. It was “All I Really Want To Do”.

  32. Franz says:

    The Beatles was a relatively early form of pure astroturf, mass media manipulation, MKULTRA

    Actually not one boomer in a million was a hippie.

    But the CIA really DID piss a fortune away trying. The classic in PDF:

  33. @g8way

    They weren’t originally. Elvis et al in the 50s and garage bands like the Beatles in the 60s took the powers by surprise. What the hell is this? the ptb went, for quite a while, before they got a handle on it and took it over lock stock and barrel. New technology had made making records easier and cheaper. People were selling 45s out of the trunks of their cars. This is why you had aesthetically superior, formally adventurous, popular music for a while there. Not to mention the return of the repressed, all that folk music influence floating up from the depths, and I don’t mean Peter Paul and Mary, I mean the Charlie Patton and Roscoe Holcomb and Jug Bands and Jimmie Rodgers and Memphis Minnie and Robert Johnson people were starting to revive.

    None of this is liked by the powers that be. They don’t like independent operators. Of course. Duh. And they don’t like aesthetics. In fact, well-made art is anathema to them, it is uncontrollable, it makes people aspire, it inspires, it suggests that there might be some better world somewhere. And they don’t like memory or roots or the past or tradition, because then people get to comparing and find the latter-day dispensation severely wanting. And they hate and fear folk anything (“folk” defined as art made by regular human beings like you and me rather than by elites and professionals for our passive consumption). If people start doing things for themselves, well, hell, they might start questioning what the hell they need elites for. And we don’t need none of that, no sirree.

    I’m not saying that it wasn’t all co-opted and eventually turned exactly into the psyop you say it is. It’s just that you are probably too young to understand that there was a partial little glint of a tiny little itty bitty window in there for one still moment. Merely because technology hopped a step. And because if there is one thing on earth our owners are not, it is hep-cats. It always takes them a long time to get hep and turn things hep to their advantage. Whereupon they turn it with a vengeance of course. But for a while . . . there’s this idyll . . .

    • Thanks: Hacienda
  34. Having graduated from high school in 1969, I grew up listening to the Beatles. I never did care at all for Elvis Presley. I grew up in a small city, 75 miles west of Chicago and would scrounge behind the stores, looking for scrap metal that I could take to the local junk yards (and also mowed yards & shoveled snow) and used the money for buying Beatles albums that I would play on my $70 stereo.

    IF…John Lennon and George Harrison were still alive and IF they would get back together as a group, they would have so much money that they would not know what to do with it. I would be one of the many millions who would be attending their concerts.

    I firmly believe that John Lennon was “done in” by the U.S. government.

    Thank you.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  35. “They say you were something, in those formative years.” — Tori Amos

    Blues is just Irish folk music with a better more sophisticated backbeat grafted onto it. The tonal theory is pretty much the same, and it isn’t African, but the rhythmic theory is. Jazz is a fusion of French art music, Creole folk music, and the aforementioned Irish/African blend. Then later on in the kooky Pharoah Sanders/Alice Coltrane phase, they added some atonal Schoenberg nuttiness. Nothing new under the sun.

    The Beatles were interesting because they and the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson were the first to take hokey rock n roll get-down tropes and use strange chords and unusual tonal strategies (“A Hard Day’s Night,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”) to explore the format further. Buddy Holly was just as smart, but he died before he could get there. Captain Beefheart was too smart for his own good.

    “Tell me you’re crazy, maybe then I’d understand.” — Tori again

    Hold on to nothing, as fast as you can.
    Still….. a pretty good year.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
  36. Dually says:
    @Priss Factor

    I didn’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with being Elvis impersonators – everybody else was. David Bowie said somewhere that Elvis had already invented everything – right down to the rock star jumpsuit.

    Musically, the Beatles impersonated everybody. For instance “Please Please Me”, their breakout hit, is essentially an up-tempo Roy Orbison song, while “Penny Lane” is a note-by-note ripoff of the Beach Boy’s “California Girls”.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
  37. KenR says:

    GenX’er here. For me the question of “Greatest Rock Band Ever?” has completely fallen to the wayside. When I was a teen, however, it would have been a very important question to me. I’d have placed the Beatles on the top of list then, for sure.

    I always loved the early Beatles, the Mersey-Beat Beatles (from whence they got their name!). This was indeed quite “pop”. Rock-n-Roll in the eyes of even the Beatles was something more raw, dangerous and wild. “Chuck Berry IS rock-n-roll!”, said John Lennon. But the early Beatles were very remarkable in the inventiveness and infectiousness they imbued into a music that closely followed standards in form, structure and harmony. Later when the trippy, drugged-out Beatles appeared, they lost me.

    The trippy, drugged-out Beatles are of course the most popular and revered version of the Beatles. Sgt. Peppers’, the White Album and Abbey Road were always hailed as the “very important!” albums of the Beatles.

    In truth, as these albums in fact demonstrate in spades, these were the lads who had gotten addicted and addled by drugs and struggled, having lost their way. Exactly as most in the business were doing too, or about to be doing.

    And that was a long-haul tragedy that became quite evident when rock had finished its run and stood for assessment.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
    , @Priss Factor
  38. …pop and rock and funk and rap etc are adapted to the analytic power of disabled toddlers, that’s why there always is a “tac” duly and strongly marked on each and every measure, and (mostly) preceded by a “tic” (or several “tics”)

    for music, one has to turn to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovski, Wagner, Palestrina etc etc

  39. @James J O'Meara

    “If I could find a white boy who sounds black, I’d be a millionaire” or words to that effect: Sam Phillips, before Elvis walked in the door at Sun Records.

    Ever wonder what the boise in da hood make of Eminem?

  40. @Brad Anbro

    I firmly believe that John Lennon was “done in” by the U.S. government.

    I’d sooner believe that, after hearing a couple of tracks on Double Fantasy, ersatz Paul had him done in.

    • Replies: @hhsiii
  41. @The Germ Theory of Disease

    Blues is American Indian music. There is nothing resembling it in either Ireland or Africa. Proof: the earliest blues has no backbeat. It has the straight solid Indian monad.

    Moreover. The European roots of American folk music are found in Scotland, not in Ireland. The Scots-Irish, who populated the whole of the colonial back-country, were for all intents and purposes pure Scots who had simply lived in Ireland a while before emigrating to the colonies.

  42. @KenR

    You are the prime exhibit A of how history gets attenuated and trimmed and simplified and story-fied and moralized as it recedes into the past and exits living memory.

    • Replies: @KenR
  43. @Dually

    No they aren’t. Please Please Me was inspired by the Everly Brothers’ Walk Right Back. Penny Lane was inspired by God Only Knows.

    • Replies: @hhsiii
  44. KenR says:

    Rather, I’m a prime example of someone making a brief blogpost comment.

    And you, sir, are a prime example of a pompous, self-important ass.

  45. hhsiii says:

    On the Beatles at the BBC Paul does a mean Blue Moon of Kentucky, so yeah, he could do Elvis. He’s still doing it on Abbey Road. In You Never Give Me Your Money, he switches into Elvis Mode for the “Outta college money spent, see no future, pay no rent…” part.

    Paul also did a mean Little Richard, although he mangles the line “She’s built for speed…” into “feels pretty good.” He also does it in his own I’m Down, surely on the rocky end of the spectrum. Also She’s a Woman.

    McCartney had much greater range in his voice, but Lennon had a great rock voice, especially in Money, where he sounds possessed (and McCartney and Harrison’s “That’s What I Want” back-up sound pretty demonically greedy for good life as well). That rocks way more than the original.

    Lennon also did some of the great rockabilly stuff, like I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party, with George’s great Chet Atkins solo. That’s also rock, juts like Carl Perkins, Everly’s or Holly.

    The Beatles were basically almost birth of rock and roll (not just Rock, which came later). The Beatles as Quarrymen were doing One After 909 and skiffle stuff in 1957.

    And the Stones also did pop. Just think of some early covers like You Better Move On or Don’t Youn Feel like Crying. Admittedly more on the soul spectrum.

    McCartney very cattily recently called them a blues cover band. But just taking the piss. Jagger retorted That’s Sweet. I hear that when down on Montserrat Paul would stroll by Keith’s beach place and they’d hang out and play Buddy Holly’s Learning the Game and what not.

    He also still writes some good melodies now and then. Although way back in 1989, contra the idea No More Lonely Nights was his last good one, he wrote the gorgeous and simple Put it There. Memory Almost Full in 2007 had some good stuff, contemplating somewhat the end we all face.

  46. hhsiii says:

    Please Please Me also bears a resemblance to Cathy’s Clown. John claimed it was an attempt at a Roy Orbison song. Peter Asher said he thinks it bears a resemblance to Del Shannon stuff. They were fans, and Shannon did a From Me to You cover.

    • Replies: @Dually
  47. hhsiii says:
    @Priss Factor

    There used to be a popular t-shirt slogan that said You’re not Normal, You’re Just Heterosexual. To which there was a response tee shirt: You’re Not Talented, You’re Just Gay

  48. @KenR

    The trippy, drugged-out Beatles are of course the most popular and revered version of the Beatles… In truth, as these albums in fact demonstrate in spades, these were the lads who had gotten addicted and addled by drugs and struggled, having lost their way. Exactly as most in the business were doing too, or about to be doing.

    A lot of truth in that. But Beatles began to get artier in late 64 and fully in 65 with RUBBER SOUL.
    Much of their music from 65 to 70 was top-notch, but the artier Beatles were trend-populizers than setters, i.e. most of what happened in pop/rock would happened without the Beatles had they died in a plane crash in 65.

    Beatles’ seminal moment was from 62 to 64 when they did introduce a whole new sound beginning with “Please Please Me”. Their later works were more complex perhaps but their early songs were the most original, inspired, and revolutionary.

    Still, the reason why Beatles lasted as long as they did was because they were capable of change. It’s just the nature of popular music when fashions come and go fast. To remain relevant, you have to either keep up with new trends or, better yet, start them.
    Dave Clark Five, almost as good as the Beatles during the British Invasion phase, faded because they were incapable of change. The Beatles, along with the Who and Rolling Stones, realized that there’s something happening and they better know what it is. With every album, people wanted something new/different, not a retread of the same material. Beach Boys released SUNFLOWER, a fine album, in 1967, but it barely cracked the top 200 because it seemed like more Beach Boy stuff.

    In earlier times, a new musical genre had longer shelf life. It was slower to evolve, spread, and be imitated by others. So, it gradually made itself known and matured/developed over a long period with piecemeal input by others. But with electronic mass media, the youth factor(mostly impatient), and rapid dissemination, anything new was absorbed and imitated to death almost overnight. In an earlier time, something like psychedelia might have taken 20 or more years to grow, evolve, and expand. But in 67, it became fab and was imitated by everyone almost overnight. Thus, what was cool, far-out, and edgy became just another ad jingle. When a sappy ballad like “MacArthur’s Park” was loaded with psychedelic tropes, it was time for others to move on. So, it took just one year for the genre to become mostly discredited. It wasn’t long before the mom-and-kids band Cowsils was doing “Hair”.

  49. @Dually

    Nonsense – like jazz (Bix), whites invented the blues and rock.

    Certainly jazz and blues have origins in white music — they certainly didn’t exist in black Africa — , but blacks stamped their personality on whatever they borrowed, and that made it black.

    And when whites take this ‘black music’ and stamp it with their own personality, it becomes ‘white’.

    It’s like when whites do Christianity, it’s white, and when blacks do Christianity, it’s black.

    Blacks got more raucous energy within their souls, and that’s why the black element became more identifiable even if blues and jazz have white origins.

    It’s like Jews took from various pagan cultures but stamped their own personality and views on the stuff and created Judaism.

    • Replies: @Dually
  50. Al Ross says:

    Do I like the music of Dinah Shore ? That’s for shore

  51. Dually says:

    Beatles liked to work off of recent or then-current hits so Roy Orbison’s 1961 “Crying” fits the timeline “cry-ing over you” is melodically consistent with 1962 “please please me (like I please you)”, but tempo was turned way up.

    • Replies: @Hhsiii
  52. Dually says:
    @Priss Factor

    There’s no there’s no difference between white and black music. Lead Belly said that originally, everybody, white and black, wanted to sound like Gene Autry. The only difference were the sexual innuendos or “blue” content of the black music that was allowed in contrast to white music which had to distance itself from such. Chuck Berry’s weird sounding “My ding-a-ling” song was a homage to these blue records that blacks recorded in the past.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  53. @obwandiyag

    Interesting thoughts. I’d say that the topic is large enough that somehow we can both be right, even where we contradict one another. The Native American angle is one I had not considered before, and even though I suspect that in the long run I disagree, still it’s worth some thought.

    “There is nothing resembling it in either Ireland or Africa.”

    This is true about Africa, but not about Ireland. Which is why I suspect I disagree, but will have to think further. Who is closer to the blues, Les Quatres Etoiles (of Nigeria I believe) or The Chieftains? I have a suspicion that you don’t know the full history of the Irish in the New World. Anyway thanks for some good insights.

    Here is a little present, neither Irish nor African, but still very moving….


  54. Hhsiii says:

    Yeah, George Martin said it was a dirgey ballad but he told them to speed it up if they wanted to do it as a single.

  55. @Dually

    there’s no difference between white and black music.

    The two kinds overlap, but James Brown was black and John Denver was white.

    Still, Fifth Dimension was a prime example of white and black styles overlapping. Marilyn McCoo looked white-ish too.

    • Replies: @Curle
  56. SafeNow says:

    I was a teenager during this time period. Every single week, one, or sometimes a few, of these remarkable songs by many many great musicians would come along. Try to imagine what that was like. I thought this would go on forever, but I was wrong. It lasted around seven years, and basically stopped. Maybe if I were a cultursl anthropologist or some such thing I could understand this clumping of artistic genius. Maybe it was an unseen hand. Maybe a synchronicity kind of law that operates in the physical universe that we have not yet grasped. Anyway, thankfully they are there on YouTube, and in my dotage, I can continue to enjoy them.

  57. @Anonymous

    Yup, lost interest.

    I did the same…made it about 1/2 way thru, then did ‘rapid skim.”

    BTW, in this long discussion of the greatest rock and pop acts since the 50s, did the names Rod Stewart, Queen(Freddie Mercury), or the Eagles ever get mentioned?

    • Replies: @Trinity
  58. The Beatles are the most successful ‘boy band’ ever manufactured.

    Talent wise on a par with Take That

  59. Trinity says:

    I think Rod The Mod was mentioned in the article, like others I only skimmed over this lengthy article. I mentioned Stewart as one of the more successful acts in one of my comments.

  60. Curle says:
    @Priss Factor

    And their producers (with accompanying background singers) were the same as the Partridge Family.

  61. Maybe he’s right about the Beatles, but I’m still angry about having watched “Carlito’s Way” on his recommendation.

  62. The author should eschew Mancini’s composition of “Moon River” and listen to–better yet READ–the lyrics of Johnny Mercer. Haunting, particularly in light of the fact that it was composed only a year or so before JFK was killed.

    • Replies: @AceDeuce
  63. Fenrir says:

    All of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Beach Boys, The Doors hits (and much more) were written by one person, Theodor Adorno. How did he do it? He simply copied/modified classical scores to his own advantage.

    Hey Jude is a modified version of Borodin’s Polotvsian Dances.

    A Hard Day’s Night is a modified version of Rossini’s Wilhelm Tell overture.

    Satisfaction is a modified version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition theme (so are Day Tripper and Jumping Jack Flash [a modified version of Satisfaction]).

    Good Vibrations is a medley of modified bits and pieces from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

    Surfs Up is a modified version of Sanctus (Faure).

    God Only Knows is a modified version of Satie’s Gymnopedie #1. Then, Adorno further modified this into Mother Nature’s Son.

    Kashmir is a modified version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s celebrated Scheherazade suite (fourth movement).

    Nights in White Satin is a modified version of the theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

    I’m a Believer is a modified version of Help.

    From Me to You is a modified version of Grieg’s Morning Mood (modified further into I Want to Hold Your Hand).

    Quadrophenia (the song) is a modified version of Holst’s Mars the Bringer of War.

    Light My Fire is a modified version of DeFalla’s Fire Dance. Adorno further modified the Fire Dance into I Feel Fine given to the Beatles.

    Yellow Submarine is a modified version of Verdi’s triumphal march from Aida.

    Sgt. Pepper (the song) is a modified version of Rossini’s Barber of Seville overture.

    Shine On You Diamond is a modified version of Dig A Pony (given to the Beatles).

    • LOL: Notsofast
  64. AceDeuce says:

    Wayyyyyyy too long.

    Several errors, too.

    …”And when Elvis turned thirty in 1967″…

    Elvis was born in 1935.

    Today (January 8) is his birthday, in fact.

    Therefore, he turned 30 in January, 1965.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  65. AceDeuce says:
    @Prester John

    Three years. It was already written not long before Kennedy was elected President (well, stole the election, to be exact.)

  66. Unit472 says:

    No complaints ( except for the length ) and I wasted too much of my youth listening to rock and pop music and even got a 65 Gibson SG to try my hand at emulating it. Pop was easy to play. Rock, not so much. That’s what is sort of fascinating.

    Bob Dylan was much criticized for going electric but he never really did even when he had The Band playing behind him. No big “Chest Fever” organ intro to a Dylan song. OTOH the much less talented Donovan kept himself in the top ten by allowing his backup musicians like Jeff Beck to paste some kick ass electric guitar riffs onto his mediocre songs like Hurdy Gurdy Man, Atlantis and Barabajagal.

    The Rolling Stones mesmerized me not with Satisfaction but It All Over Now. How they got that booming intro and ending from an early sixties electric guitars and amps is, I guess Keith’s and Brian’s secret and that guitar solo in the middle is still one of rock’s best.

    Then of course there were the Beatles. You listen to ”Things We Said Today” and you think you are listening to a pretty Paul love song. Only you are not. Come the bridge and you ride right on up into rock n roll heaven only to be sent back down to Paul’s little love song. Were there any other song writers who could so seamlessly switch from one to the other in the same tune without using an electric guitar solo?

    Finally, I think the distinction between pop and rock was what kept the Loving Spoonful from becoming a pinnacle band. Everyone knew they were good but they just couldn’t make a hard rock n roll song. Summer in the City was just too cerebral. Despite their folk background Peter Paul and Mary made and honest effort to bridge the gap with their cover of Dylan’s Too Much of Nothin. Would have liked to have heard them go electric.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
    , @loren
  67. Notsofast says:

    this may well be the worst piece of dross ever written on the subject. the author is completely clueless and substitutes verbage for knowledge. he doesn’t even mention “tomorrow never knows” which is the defining song in the beatles transformation from a pop group to one of the greatest and most influential rock groups of all time. the only other artist that had this kind of influence was jimi hendrix, who changed the entire direction of both rock music and it’s recording.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  68. Notsofast says:

    don’t underestimate donovon, he was huge at the time, (quite rightly, as paul added to mellow yellow in the background). when the beatles were in india, he taught john finger picking, which john used on “dear prudence” (ihmo one of their best songs). prudence was the sister of mia farrow, who had locked herself in her bungalow and refused to come out.

  69. @Notsofast

    “Tomorrow Never Knows” dated real fast. Tries too hard to be weird.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  70. Notsofast says:
    @Priss Factor

    respectfully disagree with you on that, this song has major historic value as the first truly psychedelic song in terms of lyrics, content and music, recreating a psychedelic experience. it was ground breaking in terms of recording techniques, the use of tambura and sitar combined with a simple rhythmic repetitive bass line and driving hypnotic drum beat combined with tape loops overdubbed onto the rhythm track, the first use of backwards guitar solos and lennon’s vocals being run through a leslie revolving speaker, all create a powerful musical simulation of a psychedelic experience. much credit to george martin on the many recording techniques he pulled from his experience recording novelty songs for emi. lennon’s inspiration for the lyrics came from reading “the psychedelic experience” based on the tibetan book of the dead. the lyrics and vocals blended seamlessly with the music to produce an auditory simulation of a psychedelic trip. the influence this song had on other artists is inestimable and shaped the music of cream, jimi hendrix, pink floyd, the rolling stones and many other bands of the day.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Curle
  71. @Notsofast

    Beatles had serious talent but can’t be taken seriously as seers.

    Lennon’s Tibetan Book mantrics are silly.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  72. Notsofast says:
    @Priss Factor

    try listening to it on headphones with a little dmt, it might change your mind.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  73. RocknRoll, Pop (Pap ?) are emotional mass control/manipulation.
    Paul McCartney’s car-crash death in Nov 1966 was a major “Bummer” for them, though. Shows TPTB’s ability for rapid recovery (after Beatle’s US tour in 1966) and the eager gullibility of the very sad target audience to believe anything they are told.

    Like 9/11, WMD, Bird/Swine Flu, JFK, “Huns” bayonetting babies, the Bollockaust, Domino VN, a “deadly pandemic” to name but a few, all from the same source.

    See Prof N Kollerstrom’s YT vdo talk
    Also his book is worth reading imho.

  74. Curle says:

    Given that it was released in August ‘66 and recorded that April I suppose it gets the first designation for psychedelic song though the following album was released in October ‘66 and began recording in January of ‘66 and is often called the first psychedelic album.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Notsofast
  75. @Notsofast

    Are you kidding? I listened REVOLVER many times.

    Sure, Tomorrow Never Knows is sort of impressive with its weird effects which may have seemed innovative at the time. But it’s essentially gimmickry and Lennon being pretentious with ‘spiritual’ matters he cared nothing about. What kind of spiritual person would fall for Yoko?

    I don’t care for obvious psychedelia, like Eight Miles High(by the Byrds) or Tomorrow Never Knows. It’s too upfront, almost as a statement — “Hey, I did drugs!”
    Far more effective is when the strangeness in internalized and absorbed into the texture. Take what Dylan did on BLONDE ON BLONDE. It doesn’t fall into the category of psychedelia but he was clearly affected by drugs at the time and felt/saw something within that altered or expanded his creativity. The songs on Dylan’s album will never date, whereas Tomorrow Never Knows dated very fast(as there’s nothing but the effects and affectations). I suppose we can credit it with leading the way for Lennon’s truly great psychedelic songs Strawberry Fields and A Day in the Life, but that’s about it.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  76. @Curle

    Eight Miles High came out earlier.

    And as usual, Dylan led the way even though he didn’t do anything overtly psychedelic. His mind was warped by drugs in 65 and 66, and he made the most of it. This daring to feel and express things differently inspired the others who went in a more overtly psychedelic direction.

    Already with “Mr. Tambourine Man”, it’s a different way of seeing. And the Byrds version of that song is proto-psychedelic.

  77. Notsofast says:
    @Priss Factor

    you know it’s funny, dylan (robert zimmerman) had the same dismissive attitude that you display. after john played an early recording for him he got mad and said “i get it you’re not cute anymore.” and stamped out of the room. clapton and hendrix got it however and look what they did with the inspiration.

    • Replies: @Curle
  78. Notsofast says:

    while the 13th floor elevators were an obscure, yet locally popular texas band, they do deserve founding father status in the psychedelic realm. what happened to roky erickson was a travesty of justice and a real life “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” situation that destroyed a promising career. priss is correct that “8 miles high” came out in 65 and mcguinn did a hell of a lot with a 12 string rickenbacker and a tile bathrooms worth of reverb but imo neither of these amazing works compare to the fully mature expression of the psychedelic experience that the beatles were somehow able to capture in”tomorrow never knows”.

    • Replies: @Curle
  79. Curle says:

    Though they weren’t innovators necessarily, Love is probably my favorite psychedelic band and Forever Changes my favorite psychedelic album. Though I must admit that I love the 13 Floor Elevators. Always have. Shame about Rory.

  80. Curle says:

    I always assumed Clapton/Cream’s psychedelic inspiration was the psychedelic (tinged) song ‘Shapes of Things’ by Clapton’s old group The Yardbirds released in Feb. ‘66, months before Revolver.

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  81. Notsofast says:

    while ”the shape of things” is a great song that many consider early psychedelic, to me their 1966 ”roger the engineer” album was more so. i don’t think clapton was influenced as much by the yardbirds as he was pretty much over them when he left to form cream with bruce and baker, in order to play more blues based music ironically. the first cream album was very blues based but by time time they released ”disraeli gears” they were a full blown psychedelic band. clapton was very close friends with george harrison and the two collaborated on each others music many times. when hendrix exploded onto the london scene he took the town by storm, everyone was blown away the shear genius of his guitar work, clapton and townsend who never really liked each other, now commiserated with each other thinking their status as guitar gods had been eclipsed. cream was not only influenced by the beatles and hendrix but by felix pappalardi (bassist for mountian) who engineered ”desraeli gears”. this masterpiece was recorded in only three days while cream was touring the u.s. pappilardi and his wife gail acutally wrote
    ”strange brew” in one night, reworking ”lawdy mama” into the psychedelic classic.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  82. @Notsofast

    CA Girls is a bit trippy.

    “California Girls” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for the American rock band The Beach Boys, featured on their 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). Wilson conceived the song during his first acid trip,

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  83. Notsofast says:
    @Priss Factor

    many people consider the beach boys “pet sounds” to be an early psychedelic recording but to me it just sounds like muzak and the rest of the album is pretty standard fare beach boys material (sloop john b., wouldn’t it be nice, etc.) good, tight pop songs with excellent harmony. although they had a squeeky clean image there was a dark side to this group of all-american idols. dennis wilson had picked up a couple of hitchers and taken them home with him. they turned out to be manson girls that brought charlie over to meet dennis, who became so entranced with charlie that he promised to help charlie with his musical career. the beach boys actually recorded one of charlie’s songs “never learn not to love” adapted from charlie’s “cease to exist”, charlie became so enraged by the changes they made to his song that he sent the family to kill terry melcher, (the beachboys producer at the the time). melcher had moved by that time, the home was now occupied by sharron tate and roman polanski and the rest is history. helter skelter brought to you by m.k.ultra, coming down fast. as far as california girls go, (which is all the way)….the ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind, and moscow girls make me song and shout, that georgia’s always on my mi,mi,mi,mi,mi,mi,mi,mi,mi, mind.

  84. Basher says:

    John Lennon to the boys in Hamburg, many nights he’d say “Where we goin’ boys?”. G&P&R would answer “To the Top, Johnny!” Then John would say “What top, boys?” And all together they’d shout “To the Toppermost of the Poppermost!” Does that answer your question?

    • Agree: Mr. Hack
  85. Speaking of great rock bands I just want to mention Deep Purple.

    For example, this 1972 live Lazy:

    • Replies: @Al Ross
  86. Just like you have the split between the Stones and Beatles in pop rock so you have it between Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin in hard rock. I liked them both but preferred Deep Purple – slightly, somewhat. And although I liked both the Beatles and the Stones I preferred the Stones. Just personal tastes I suppose.

    Here’s a great live version of the masterpiece Child in Time.

  87. Al Ross says:

    One thing the Stones and Led Zep agreed on : Little Feat was a very fine band.

  88. loren says:

    Jeff Beck did NOT play on hurdy gurdy man. see wiki.

  89. Tony me. says:

    Beatles were never more than Tavistock culture destroyers.
    Crap, not music.

  90. Mr. Hack says:

    Is there really a need to over analyze the Beatles music? It’s really quite simple, whatever type of music that they played, it just sounded so damn good. As for categorizing all of the different acts that followed and try to place them on some sort of a pyramid, it’s really kind of like adolescent kids getting together and judging what Playboy playmate was the sexiest one of them all. Good luck with that! 🙂

  91. Mr. Hack says:

    Pop makes you forget all the world and all your problems in its euphoric high or relaxing sigh, which works not unlike drugs. Pop sensibility at its most banal is elevator music designed to calm your nerves and leave you feeling comfortably numb…

    Why talk about “pop music at its most banal”, when so very many albums put out by so many different artists of that era created monumental albums from the Beatles “Revolver” – “Sgt. Pepper”? And the great rock group “The Who” that produced several pop classics that culminated in perhaps the greatest album of theirs: “Tommy”:

  92. Damon says: • Website

    Certainly. And I have confronted it. Let us explore this

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