Friday, 6 January 2012

10 Preconceptions About The Beatles (pt 3)

Let's wrap up the last 6 illusions I was labouring under (or was I?) when I started this blog.
Read the previous parts here and here.

5) None of the Beatles were very good players. Especially Ringo

WRONG - Forget 'Bigger Than Jesus', no Beatles quote has been more misunderstood and misused than Lennon's “Ringo isn't even the best drummer in the Beatles” wisecrack. And it was just that - a wisecrack. So for the record here's three reasons why Ringo was an amazing drummer

1) The sheer number of beats and styles he navigated with ever really repeating himself over 211 songs
2) The fact that in 7 years of recording that only a handful of takes broke down due to an error on Ringo's part
3) The incredible feel he displayed in combining swing time and straight time in the same song. Straight fills in a swingtime song, changing from section to section, it's subtle and very, very hard to pull off. Jim Keltner is the only other drummer I've heard manage it.

(There's more Ringo love here and here)

It's true that none of the band were virtuosos. They never left the stage for 20 minutes while Ringo got his groove on and set his gong on fire (oooh missus) or George whipped out the violin bow. They all played for the song. Always and forever. But the band boasted 3 solid competent guitarists, McCartney was a genius multi-instrumentalist and Lennon and McCartney were world class vocalists.

6) Sergeant Pepper may be a classic album but I don't really like it, and the individual songs aren't that great

RIGHT. And WRONG. And HALF RIGHT. -  Yes it is a classic album. Just so you know. But here's the surprise. I really like it! I heard Pepper a lot growing up, and didn't rate it. I think the reason was aged 15 I was looking for songs that would work in a heavy metal context. While The Who and even Abba (don't ask) had tracks that would translate, Pepper was a dud. But that's no way to judge an album! It's true it has less 'stand alone' songs than any other album (bar Abbey Road) and it would have been stronger with Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. But c'mon - A Day In The Life? And I personally love Within You Without You, When I'm Sixty Four and Getting Better.

7) The Beatles are overrated

WRONG - Ridiculous as it may sound the Beatles are underrated purely because they so lauded for unimportant superficial reasons that it cause people to miss the most crucial thing. They were the greatest songwriters since the Broadway showtune writers like Gershwin, Kern and Porter

8) The Beatles are the greatest band in history

RIGHT - The combination of great songs plus innovation in business, technology, marketing, breaking box office, viewing and chart records and other 'firsts' mean no one act will ever be able to touch the fab four

9) The Beatles were a great live band

Pretty much WRONG - The Beatles were a great live band long before they were recording artists but by the time they finished in 69-70 they were abysmal and you could argue that they began to go downhill as soon as Brian Epstein began limited them to playing less than an hour per live gig.

Think about this. Next time you listen to a classic Beatles song reflect on the fact that you're almost certainly hearing the very last time that the Beatles EVER played that song.

10) I want to be Woody Guthrie when I grow up

WRONG - Two years ago my ambition was to have the breadth of songwriting ability of Woody Guthrie – a man that could tackle the political This Land Is Your Land and then turn round and knock out a kids classic like Going To The Zoo.

Glossing over the fact the Guthrie didn't write the latter song (Tom Paxton did) I've found a new role model. Who else could kick off an album with a snide political R&B song, followed by a Puff The Magic Dragon wannabe then a Raga meet Classical song about isolation and make it all sound unified? Revolver-era Beatles, that who.

So now I want to be the Beatles (if and) when I grow up.

I know a lot of my readers grew up on Abbey Road and cut their teeth on Rubber Souls, but can you remember any preconceptions you had before listening to the Beatles? Were you right?


  1. Cool picture; playing two melodicas at the same time is very awesome!
    6) My favorite SPLHCB song is Lovely Rita.
    9) The 1969 rooftop performance wasn't that abysmal, was it?

  2. Rob - re 9 - it wasn't wasn't really a concert was it? A few cameras and a few co workers, I think they ran through some songs twice and picked or edited the best takes. Get Back was done 5 times, and if you listen to the 'real' rooftop version on Anthology they totally screw it up. Add in false starts and Lennon reading some lyrics off a clipboard and I'd say yes very poor...

  3. OK, I see your point. That's probably one of the reasons we're still waiting for a DVD release of Let It Be... The rooftop performance has gained mythical proportions over the years.

  4. I think you're right though, I would imagine the performances brush up quite well. I think the delay is more down to the arguments and fighting!