Tuesday 15 March 2016

The Beatles Bad Song Disclaimer

Hi there!

You're probably here because you clicked through from a page where I said a Beatles song that you love more than life itself isn't very good. I want to lay out the reasons why I say things like that in the name of common understanding.

Below are five statements that I think are DEAD WRONG. If you disagree this is probably not the website for you.

Five Statements I Don't Agree With

  • “The Beatles should not be critiqued. Just appreciated”.
  • “YOU, Matt Blick, are not a great songwriter and therefore have no right to criticise the Beatles”[well, I agree with the first part!].
  • “X is a great song. You are wrong to criticise it”.
  • “X is a great song. Therefore every aspect of it is great. You are wrong to criticise the lyrics/chords/performance etc”.
  • “X is my favourite song. It is meaningful to me/It was important to me as a child. You are wrong to criticise it”.

There is a goal and several assumptions that underpin everything that I do here at Beatles Songwriting Academy

My Goal

  • My goal, as a songwriter, is to study the Beatles as a practical example of great songwriting.

That means though I do appreciate them, I am more focused on what they can teach my about the art and craft of songwriting. Imagine a lover, a painter and a medical student. One sees something wonderful and falls in love. Another sees something wonderful and attempts to recreate it. The third sees something wonderful and want to dissect it to see how it works. I'm the medical student. I'm not here to fall in love or pay homage. I want to understand the secret inner workings of great songwriting.

That's my goal. If that sounds like sacrilege – this is not the website for you.

Now for my assumptions.

My Assumptions

  • Some songs are better than others.
  • Therefore, some songs are worse than others.
  • Some elements of a song can be better than others – e.g. a great melody/bad lyrics
  • It's natural for any artist to display varying degrees of skill in different areas – e.g. Bob Dylan is stronger on lyrics than on chord sequences.

Personal preference is entirely subjective. Therefore what I 'like' may be not what you 'like'. And that's FINE. Art critique is also subjective. However art critique is not ENTIRELY subjective. While it's not possible to definitively name the best 10 Beatles songs, or even the worst 10 Beatles songs, it is entirely truthful to say Strawberry Fields Forever is a better song than What Goes On.

Now as far as individual songs go, I'm ALWAYS open to change my mind – so lay out your case! And if you disagree with my goals and assumptions that's ok. But if they make you angry or unhappy please know I'm unlikely to change – so you might be happier doing something else.

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  1. What are your top contenders for worst Beatles songs?

    1. Just off the top of my head, and in no particular order

      The Ballad Of John And Yoko
      Baby's In Black
      Dig It
      Don't Pass Me By
      For You Blue
      I'll Get You
      It's All Too Much
      Maxwell's Silver Hammer
      Old Brown Shoe
      Only A Northern Song
      Run For Your Life
      She's A Woman
      Sun King
      What Goes On
      Wild Honey Pie

      as I study them I may change my mind!

  2. I find it interesting that I happen to not like most of the songs on your "worst" list, since I presume that you're judging them from a more musically-educated perspective, and I'm just a casual listener. Maybe 'bad' music is just blatantly self-evident.

  3. Im a big believer in dynamics of songs on an album... although I totally agree that some beatles songs didnt cut the mustard as much as others, I think that they were very 'of the mind' that having a 'filler' song would make for another song to have a large impact... similar to creating space in a verse for a large chorus. I think contextually, some of the worse written songs work perfectly in the concept of the whole album.

    1. That's a great point Crook and one I totally agree with. I would argue that songs like Her Majesty and Wild Honey Pie are fine in context and add to the richness of the albums they are on. In fact, for me one of the glories of Revolver (my favourite album) is that Yellow Submarine is rubbing shoulders with songs like Eleanor Rigby and Tomorrow Never Knows. Though YS is a much 'slighter' song than those two the album would be weaker without it.