Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Beatles Were A Very Good Band

Read along with the three song links immediately preceding this comment.

I get into arguments on a regular basis for making cracks like this, but it is my opinion, both firm and advised, that the Beatles were merely a very good band. Any attribution to them of God-like characteristics is completely uncalled for. Even calling them “great” is dubious, unless it's in the context of calling them one of the great bands of the English Invasion, along with the Kinks, the Hollies, the Rolling Stones, and quite a few others. The Beatles happened to be very good at many of the aspects of their craft. They were very successful. Isn't that praise enough? People get carried away.

The hyperbolic fans really go off the deep end when discussing the Beatles as songwriters. This is particularly true when the subject is Lennon-McCartney songs. Let's say, as songwriters and as innovators. I would always say, even on my crankiest day, that they were very talented in those areas, but there was nothing unique about their efforts. Most of the songs fall into a “moon, spoon, June” kind of Tin Pan Alley slash Brill Building pattern. As far as innovations go, they were fortunate to work with a truly innovative producer, George Martin, who generously allowed them to take most of the credit.

My point today, with the help of Chet Baker, Jimmy Scott, and Johnny Hartman, is to highlight the fact that the world was already full of great songs and great, innovative songwriters long before the Beatles put on leather jackets. I daresay that nothing that the Beatles contributed to the several minute long song end of the music pool could be said to out perform the work of the individuals who wrote the music and lyrics to these three songs, among many, many others.

Oh! Someone will doubtless say, but the Beatles were a rock band! The argument would be that since they were just an ungelernte 1960s rock band, how can you compare them to the great professionals of the jazz-beau past? That's an argument for another day, perhaps, but don't expect the Beatles to do much better when compared only to their contemporaries. Including, inter alia, Laura Nyro; Bob Dylan; Joni Mitchell; Burt Bacharach and Hal David; David Bowie; and numerous other fabulous talents.

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