On the Beatles and Tears For Fears

I’m starting this thread for two reasons. First is to move discussion of the topic here and end the hijack of this thread, which admittedly was my own damn fault. Second is to clear up what I actually think regarding these two bands.

Ok, to start off: The Beatles. I don’t like them. I respect them for everything they invented, and I am grateful to them for everything they have inspired, but as musicians, I don’t like them.

In the other thread, I was blasted for calling them “simplistic”, and was given by way of argument two songs with interesting meter changes. Two songs. With one interesting musical element. Now, one good element does not a good song make, and how many songs did the Beatles do, anyway? Granted, they got far better about this in the later years, adding more elements to their music than in the “yeah yeah yeah” years…but they developed this tendency too far in the opposite direction, traversing from the interesting into the incoherently bizzare. There’s a reason that so many suspect that the primary influence behind the later albums was LSD. And this is coming from a guy who likes most of Radiohead’s “Kid A”. There is a difference between complex music and abstract noise. That difference lies in the eye (well, the ear) of the beholder, and in this case, that’d be me. To the person who mentioned their innovative chord progressions: C-A-D is C-A-D, and three-chord is three-chord, whether they invented it or not. That they were the first to use it does not change its objective quality in my mind; see the above paragraph. Same with their innovative use of key change; if anything, I indirectly blame them for the fact that every modern song that’s trying to be “dramatic” raises itself in key before the last verse.

On Tears For Fears: yes, I think they are a fantastic group. Yes, I think Roland Orzabal is one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century. No, I do not worship him as a god, and I do not believe that he is the greatest genius ever to exist. Do I think he, as a person, is more musically competent than The Beatles? I really don’t know. Being honest with myself, and looking at the times in which they lived, I would judge that Roland is roughly equal in musical prowess to John Lennon. I base that judgement in terms of their respective ability to rise among the musical “sea level” of the time, and create new and innovative material that rises above the rest and rings true as a masterpiece of the era. It’s when you go beyond the men, and the times, and the situations involved, to get to the music itself, that I think Tears For Fears surpasses the Beatles on nearly every level. I believe I stated it to the best of my ability in the other thread, so I’ll quote myself here.

I do not like the music of The Beatles. I find the music of Tears For Fears superior in quality and in scope. For evidence of that, one need look no further than the latest Tears For Fears album, “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending”. If you listen to it, it sounds, well, like a Beatles album. Like a good Beatles album. Roland and Curt created it by piddling around on acoustic guitars and keyboards for the better part of year, and the end result is equivalent to the better works of their predecessors. And – here’s the kicker – it is nowhere near as complex, involved, interesting, or innovative as some of their earlier works. One need only look as far as The Seeds of Love, or Roland’s solo albums “Elemental” and “Tomcats Screaming Outside”, to see what the raw quality and complexity they are capable of producing.

It doesn’t mean they are any smarter, musically, than The Beatles. It certainly doesn’t mean they are any more influential…I’d have to be a fool to argue that. It means only what I said above: that the innovation has surpassed the invention in terms of objective quality. Eventually, there will be better than Tears For Fears. Even recently, there has been a group (Radiohead) that comes pretty damned close. At the moment, though, TFF is the singular best music I have found. That is my feeling. Whether or not you agree, that is my opinion, and the above is its basis. Hopefully we’re clear now.

Hehe…this was a long time coming, wasn’t it?

Ideas as Opiates and The Working Hour are two of my favorite songs.

Strangely enough while reading this thread “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” came on the wireless.

Using that as a basis I find the music of Tears For Fears inferior in quality and in scope to the Beatles.

All I can say is that there’s no accounting for human taste.

(walks off, bobbing head to Taxman)

I LOVE Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World”! :smiley:

That said, I think the Beatles are ONE OF the most important groups in the history of pop and rock music, with an entire catalog of great albums and classic songs. Tears For Fears had a few really good songs as well.

Yes, yes…everyone likes their favorite group better than The Beatles. How your argument could possibly be differentiated from any other argument made by any other fan of any other group, eludes me.

I will say though that there is a reason that The Beatles are the meauring stick used for these sorts of pointless arguments. They were the greatest at what they did and they made this art form what it is today.

Everybody has something that they passionately love beyond all reason.

And everybody also has a blind spot, a stopping point beyond which they cannot go no matter how many others decree its greatness.

The number of famous and talented writers who have declared Shakespeare to be a talentless hack is legion. But he isn’t.

I’ve tried mightily to “get” classical music. It mostly stays completely opaque to me.

That’s my problem, not that of classical music.

If you don’t like the Beatles; if you don’t “get” the Beatles; if you don’t understand what makes them the touchstone for all rock music, then it’s your problem, not the Beatles’ lack of distinction.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I like Tears for Fears and I think they are underrated. It’s often the case that the talented innovator can take a genre farther than the originator. Some of their songs are more complex than anything the Beatles could physically have accomplished on a four-track. I don’t find their overall batting average very high, though, and few others do either.

You underestimate, moreover, just how difficult it is to innovate and in how many ways the Beatles in particular created modern rock. Not by chord or time changes, but at a far more fundamental level of assimilating virtually every existing mode of popular music and recasting it to create a voice, a sound, a way of thinking that was infinitely malleable and adaptable.

And catchy as all hell.

I balk at the statement that “Roland Orzabal is one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century” and you haven’t given the slightest reason for anyone other than you to think so. Maybe you should try to make that case first here so we know why you make such an extraordinary claim.

In my opinion, The Beatles were way better than The Beatles. The Beatles are overrated, but OTOH, The Beatles are excellent. Yeah, I definitely like The Beatles more than The Beatles.

Perhaps though, the Beatles might be slightly overrated? Maybe it is just easier (read lazy) to cite to the Beatles and to go from there? People just throw out the Beatles without regard to some of the pap they have produced and then scoff at you if you date doubt their genius. Some of the Beatles catalogue is utter shite.

Personally, I think Elvis is vastly underrated as an innovater and he has been unfairly tarred with being a “white guy singing black music” which just isn’t the case.

Maybe there is room for some criticism of a lot of the Beatles work. There is also, however, room for the recognition of their genius as well (Revolver, dear God what a brilliant albulm)?

The “Revolver, dear God what a brilliant albulm” was not meant to be rhetorical. It is one of the greatest albulms in rock/pop/jazz/blues history.

You take that back! The Beatles were only overrated in comparison with The Beatles, but if you look at those guys The Beatles, now they were really good! Especially The Beatles.

What? I gather that this is supposed to be a sarcastic restatement/criticism of something I said, but…what? If you’re trying to say that I’m being hypocritical by saying that I respect the Beatles and don’t think they royally suck, while at the same time saying I dislike them, then, well, no. If your point is something else, do tell.

And mine is Tears For Fears. Except that it isn’t. I like them. I like them a lot. Have I ever – ever – said anything that went beyond that? I’m not talking about the general perception of me on this messageboard. In fact, I mentioned this exact point in an earlier thread in which I asked whether or not I should change my username: I often enjoy cultivating the impression that I’m obsessed with Tears For Fears; I think it’s funny when others assume that about me. I fear that perhaps I have made a mistake, though, in doing that here, as I respect the intelligence of so many on the Straight Dope and would like to engage in serious discussion with them, which is hard to do when everybody’s impression of you is “that guy who’s obsessed with Tears For Fears”. I also hypothesized that perhaps I’ve indulged a little too much in putting TFF-related “inside jokes to myself” in my posts. But, as I tried to do in that thread, I’d like to set the record straight here. I like Tears For Fears, and I think they have made some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard. I do not think they were, or are, the end-all be-all of rock and roll, or of musical complexity, or of anything else. They just did some awesome stuff, and I like it. That’s all.

As I said in Aeschines’ thread, the “distinction” of any particular piece of art is left for the individual to decide. All we can do is debate individual elements of the whole. Debating the merit of the work in its entirety is as useless as debating whether peanut butter tastes better than Nutella. What I have done here is attempted to compare and contrast a few of the individual elements of The Beatles and Tears For Fears, and use those as examples to show why my opinion is what it is. In the end, though, it is still just my opinion. I don’t deny that…and you shouldn’t either.

Take your own advice, please. You seem to be saying that my position (or rather, my position as you see it) that TFF are the greatest thing ever is wrong…because obviously, The Beatles are the best thing ever, duh. You can think so if you want to. But neither your opinion, nor the combined opinions of everybody in the world who likes The Beatles, will convince me that mine is wrong. It’s an opinion, and the funny thing about opinions is that they aren’t left to a majority vote. If you think Shakespeare is a talentless hack, then for you, he is. I’d argue with your reasoning, and I can support my point, but at the end of the day, it’s still your prerogative. To me, Tears For Fears made some of the greatest music ever, and I can support that, but if you disagree with my reasoning (as is your right), then that’s that. So, take your own advice: get over your pet band, and if you can’t do that, get over yourself.

Certainly. Go listen to Elemental (the song, not the whole album), Standing on the Corner of the Third World, Woman In Chains, and The Working Hour. That’s enough to get you started. In the first two, count the layers of complexity in the instrumentation alone. Ignore any key changes and meter adjustments for the moment. Just count the number of distinct interwoven countermelodies, harmonies, and individual rhythms, and take note of how they interact seamlessly with one another. In the second pair, listen to the subtlety of the underlying background elements. In WIC, take note especially of the ethereal undertones, bass, and supporting vocals. In TWH, listen for the second saxophone and the melodic swapping between the rhythm and lead guitar. In both of them, listen to the ways in which the elements I’ve pointed out to you flow in and out of the song at key moments, capturing your attention at just the moment when it is most poignant to do so, and deliberately fading into the near-subliminal (yet still present, and still effective) when the lead instruments and vocals are at point. After you’ve done that, come back here and tell me that these are not the works of genius. For an additional challenge, give me a Beatles song that showcases corresponding mastery of each of these elements. I promise you I’ll listen to each of them with the utmost attention; I’m more than willing to plunk down 99 cents each for songs that are worth hearing.

For the last time: I don’t dispute that The Beatles were inspirational. I don’t pretend that Tears For Fears possess that quality to anywhere near the same extent. I do think Tears For Fears made better music than The Beatles, but that’s a judgement call. One which, apparently, you disagree with. That’s fine. Don’t delude yourself that because more people agree with you than with me, your own opinion is somehow more valid. Besides, even if majority did rule on matters of opinion, I hardly think I need to identify examples of when the opinion of the majority has been…other than soundly reasoned.

Huh? Some of the Beatles’ chord progressions go WAY beyond three-chorders. Many of their songs use progressions that are unusual even today. Seven-, ten-, twelve-chord songs are not uncommon in the Beatles’ library.

Huh? I don’t recall a Beatles song that modulates up one or two half-steps towards the end. I’ll grant it’s a fairly common technique, but it predates the Beatles by a long shot, and if they used it at all it was very rarely, so don’t blame them for it. In fact, they rarely used key change, and then it was more along the line of the bridge being in a different key from the verses. What they did do was use a variety of chords within a key that broke – hell, exploded – out of the mold of typical chord progressions.

I can’t help but wonder if your knowledge of the Beatles is confined to the largely insipid White Album and the twenty songs that get all the airplay. There are lots of gems in their earlier albums. Songs like “If I Fell,” “Things We Said Today,” and “For No One” are far from simplistic.

The Beatles’ greatness is something that has been expounded on by thousands of people in the greatest detail. There’s not the slightest need to rehash it here. If you want a good one-volume discussion of their music I recommend Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album by Album, Song by Song, the Sixties and After, by Tim Riley. He has the technical expertise that I lack.

Your proposition that " Roland Orzabal is one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century" is something that probably nobody else in the world, including Curt Smith, believes in. Therefore it’s up to you to make your case to convince the rest of us. That’s the way the Dope works, after all.

If you want to say it’s all just opinion, then there’s no point to starting a thread. It’s my opinion that Jefferson Airplane is a greater group than Tears for Fears. So there. :smiley:

(Bolding mine) Jazz? What the hell are talking about? You might as well add Techno/Grindcore/Ambient to that list then, because Revolver belongs to those musical genres as much as it does to Jazz. You’re stretching it with rock and blues a bit too.
Theres no end to this is there? Who wants to argue they invented all known techno with ‘Tomorrow never knows’ again?

Tears for Fears were one of the better 80s pop bands. Wouldn’t particularly go out of my way to listen to them though, decent enough if on the radio.

I’d recommend Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head. Where Riley analyzes the songs in the order in which they appeared on the albums, MacDonald takes them on in order of recording, which helps him avoid some of Riley’s errors. (To be fair, MacDonald had the benefit of Mark Lewisohn’s books to draw on.)

Yes, and according to thousands of others, The Beatles may be teh suxxor. That’s the problem with arguments from authority or arguments from popularity—there’s always another authority, or another group. “All these people agree with me!” simply isn’t a strong argument.

EM was simply making the point that the case for the Beatles’ “greatness” is well-trodden ground, so there’s no need to re-make the case here; anyone interested can find a wealth of knowledeable sources on the subject.

If there’s no need to make the case here, why bring it up here? RO made an OP that stated why he liked TfT more than he liked The Beatles. EM’s reply is, essentially, “Well, no one agrees with you.” That’s nice, but so what?

jsgoddess - I think the point that Exapno is making is that The Beatles are the ‘gold standard.’ They are generally held up to be The Greatest, Most Innovative Rock n’ Roll Band" to the extent that such a distinction is useful for comparison or appreciation purposes. And there is plenty of scholarly, critical and popular documentation to back that up.

This is similar with Shakespeare as a writer of literature and poetry, or, say Michaelangelo with Renaissance sculpture, Hendrix as a rock guitarist, etc. In some key areas of art, there are “generally understood” exemplars of “the best.”

So, to Exapno’s point, if the Beatles are generally held up to be the best when discussion turns that way, if someone wants to hold up another musician, the burden is clearly on the person arguing the alternative point fo view.

If this is about “my opinion vs. your opinion - let’s argue in a fact-based way” - it seems like that would be tough to do, given the established reputation of the Beatles. Again, you certainly don’t have to agree with that POV, but to deny what their reputation is seems short-sighted and a tough way to start this type of discussion. As Exapno said (yet again) there is a reason why, when folks want to argue for the greatness of other musicians, they have to try to kick the Beatles off the top of the mountain…