Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fab, gear, whatever....

Now there's no getting away from the fact that The Beatles were a world changing phenomenon. Before they arrived it was camp young men emoting for their predatory gay managers or earnest beardies playing the Blues in a studied and, lets be honest, very polite way. Four Scousers come along, roughly hewn from rock n roll.

They were rude, opinionated and brash; no change in Liverpool there then. Despite being packaged into suits and ties they retained that bored and vicious streak that made them a global brand. Their talent and exploration of the possibility of anything gave other fearless individuals the gap in the tired British edifice to plunge through. After a while though they became safe. Sure Sgt Pepper's was a turning point, but things would have changed without it. It was released in 1967, Brian Wilson had released Pet Sounds in '66; you could argue that of the two albums Pet Sounds was the more challenging. Add to this Captain Beefheart releasing Safe As Milk in 1967, now this is far more challenging - without a doubt. No songs there about Martha and Mr Kite.

Don't get me wrong. The Beatles were a huge brand but look where we are now. They've become an Xbox game; nice.

Alongside The Beatles came The Stones, The Who and The Kinks. Bands that visibly posed a threat. No attempt to package these guys for a cosy pop career. They oozed a surly charm and were openly contemptuous of the status quo. Sure they made great singles, but their very presence made a lot more sense to the angry and excluded. They were pop, but pop like The Clash or The Ramones were pop. They were our pop. They didn't sing songs about Yesterday and racoons. They were nasty.

So now there are endless programmes on about The Beatles as the BBC conspires with EMI to help sell their records and everyone gets misty eyed about the Sixties again and we have to watch endless documentaries interpreting history through the eyes of Beatles fans. It's so predictable. Programmes made by researchers in their twenties who Google some basic phrases and declare it to be gospel. Lazy and tawdry, with little or no value when it comes to assessing the past.

Last night I caught Pop Britannia; purportedly all about "The Sixties" but so wrong. There is this inability to see that period as anything other than a homogeneous mass of clear eyed pop puppets making cheery music. They lump the likes of The Stones, Who and Kinks alongside the likes of The Troggs and Herman and The Hermits as if they all co-existed in some big house of fun with the same intellectual value to everything they did. It would be the same as putting JLS and Radiohead or Girls Aloud and The Vivian Girls in the same category. Some were on a journey of discovery, others were being manipulated and controlled by old school management.

There were differences; important differences. The bands who seemed to pose a threat were harried, hustled and busted on a regular basis. Others were allowed to become "The Voice of a Generation" on a regular basis. If you were a kid in the Sixties your parents would buy you Herman records and complain when you played The Stones. That pretty much sums it up.

I never really liked The Beatles anyway.


LUCY TESCO said...

ALSO have you noticed how The Beatles are on the cover of EVERY fucking issue of Mojo? Most recently: "Why the Beatles are underrated."


CellarDoor said...

"Why the Beatles are underrated" haha what a joke.
I love your blog Nick.