The Beatles Are The Best - Round II

I agree with everything in the above post. Wish I’d said it first.

Just curious, is your knowledge of 60’s and 70’s popular music from direct enjoyment at the time, or was it gained academically and from listening to the music in later decades? -Doesn’t reduce the value of your opinion, mind you, but I’m just wondering how you developed these… idiosyncratic understandings.

And the Spaceman Spiff award for tortured reasoning goes to…:wink:

More seriously, I think the Beatles get credit for a lot of things simply by virtue of being central figures during a time when rock music was maturing. I do give them credit for continuing to make progress instead of falling back on safer things like Elvis did. Most musicologists give the Beatles credit for using studio techniques as, essentially, musical instruments, and there’s something to be said for that (even though Bill Evans and others did it much earlier). Assigning the Beatles credit for the success of all the other artists around them (like Dylan, the Stones, Clapton, and Hendrix) is a bit like giving Ronald Reagan credit for the fall of the Soviet Union–which, indeed, his partisans do.

The latter. I was born in 1970, and I honestly don’t consider my interpretation particularly idiosyncratic. Then again, my musical training is pretty jazz based, and I’ve heard a lot of 20s “Mickey” bands that sound a lot like later Beatles, so perhaps there’s a bias there.

Where’s the tortured reasoning? Anyone who knows anything about Dylan’s career knows the impact the Beatles phenomenon had on his decision to go electric. Without it he may well have stayed a folkie all his life.

And if you’re going to use Dylan as a cornerstone for intellectualism in rock, you must be considering lyrics only. Dylan made some outstanding, fabulous sounding and brilliantly arranged rock records, but from a strictly musical point of view his songwriting remained fairly simple, commonly sticking to the folk music template of a string of musically identical verses relieved only by the occasional harmonica solo. The Beatles were far more experimental and innovative–“intellectual” if you will–in actual musical terms, in their use of creative song structures, daring harmonic choices, and inventive studio techniques.

“Daring harmonic choices”? The Beatles? I’ll give you creative structure (well, compared to Gene Vincent and the like), but harmony?

Like I said above, perhaps I’m not using a fair standard, but I’ve always thought of the Beatles as pretty harmonically conservative, at least by the standards of previous artists like Charlie Parker. Can you give me some examples of non-triadic chords they used, or modal excursions they took? (Hint: the opening chord to “Hard Day’s Night” was pretty interesting, if accidental. I’ll give the Beatles credit for stacking major thirds where you wouldn’t expect them, but folk artists had been doing this for years.)

This is just a terrible argument. First, that they were discovered by direct actions of the Beatles does not mean that they wouldn’t have been discovered on their own right. Yes, this is the way that events played out, but it’s not a point towards the greatness of the Beatles for pointing out other artists.

Second, even if they wouldn’t have been discovered without the Beatles, they still would have written much of the same music, so their music would have been just as great, it just wouldn’t have been mainstream. Unless your implication is that a musician is only great if they achieve mainstream success, but that seems like a falacious argument to me. There are countless examples of musicians and other artists who are largely unaccepted in their time, either because of just not getting the opportunity for exposure or just being “ahead of their time” but got mainstream exposure late in their careers or even after their deaths.

Most importantly, even if the Beatles are in some way responsible for their mainstream success and acted as a heavy influence on their music doesn’t in any way argue that the Rolling Stones weren’t a better band. There are plenty of musicians, artists, and others revered for their talents that never would have been without someone else. Sure, highly influential artists and individuals deserve credit for being influential, but they aren’t necessarily better than those they influence. Hell, there’s plenty of artists who have been highly influential that no one really regards as being particularly great.

Wait… what? This is exactly an argument for why they aren’t as great as so many people say they are. If they really were that great, you’d want to have most or all of their stuff on your iPod to listen to it.

IMO, truly great music never grows old. I think a large part of what makes music great is that it’s something that you always want to hear again. I can understand if you hear a great song a dozen times in a week, I can understand being a bit saturated and not really being excited about listening to it again that week, but if you’re not really inclined to want to hear it again, then it doesn’t have that staying power that I think defines great music.

There are tons songs on my mp3 player that I have probably heard a hundred times or more at this point. Many of them I liked and listened to many times for a period of time and I eventually was less interested in them and listened to them less. Some, however, no matter how many times I’ve heard them, even years later, I am always excited to hear it again, I’m always impressed with the musicianship and moved by the lyrics. These few of the latter type are what I think of when I think of greatness in music.

Please, there have been whole books written about this stuff. Do you really need me to point you to the famous 6th harmony in “She Loves You” or the 7#9 “Taxman” chord? Or the incredibly dramatic structure of “Wait,” with its contrast of dark minor-key and optimistic major-key sections? Bringing up Charlie Parker, who has nothing to do with rock, is irrelevant. The comparison was to Bob Dylan, who has always basically stuck to the cowboy chords.

Actually, without the influence of the Beatles, the Stones might not have written much of anything. They seemed content to be a cover band, whose first four singles were all other people’s songs (including one by Lennon and McCartney) and whose few original compositions were meager, tossed-off jams used as album or B-side filler. It was only after their manager saw the huge success that the Beatles were having in writing their own songs and demanded that Jagger and Richards do the same that they started writing songs in earnest.

Following this line of reasoning, there would be no Beatles without Slim Whitman. In the Beatles Anthology, George Harrison acknowledges that seeing Slim play guitar inspired him to take up the instrument, and Paul McCartney didn’t think he could play as a lefty until he saw Slim do it. I think I’m safe in saying that Slim, for all his virtues, isn’t a titan of music in the Western world.

Hey, I’m not saying the Beatles weren’t a *good *band, or that they weren’t influential, but to call them “the best musical entity the world has produced in the last hundred years” is a little odd, considering. They were the most popular band in a time of musical revolution, but that’s about it.

I don’t disagree that we’re still talking about how great they were, but we’re still talking about Elvis’ showmanship and Bob Dylan’s songwriting, too. Expanding the timeframe a little, people are still engaging with Price, Michael Jackson, Jimmy Hendrix, etc…

I think it’s absolutely true that nobody did everything better than the Beatles, but the same is true of any number of other acts.

blondebear is right about the Beatles being the product of a perfect storm, but that’s in regard to their popularity and significance; it isn’t a statement about their talent (which, again, isn’t lacking, it just isn’t on another plane from everybody else).

Again, I think “best” is kind of a meaningless term. “Most culturally significant pop music act of the 20th Century?” Absolutely.

Please try to focus. My comments that you’re quoting had nothing to do with the Beatles being the “best” anything. As I stated in the other Beatles poll thread, I don’t believe in a “best” in music. I simply took issue with your calling Lobot “ignorant” when your counterargument was insupportable, and with the contentions that the careers of Dylan and the Rolling Stones would likely have followed exactly the same paths they did without the influence and intervention of the Beatles. You don’t have to like or admire them, but to deny that the Beatles were a huge, huge, game-changing phenomenon in music is ludicrous.

And sure, if someone posted here to say that Slim Whitman had nothing to do with the Beatles’ musical development, he’d be wrong too. Whether that makes Slim Whitman a towering figure in the annals of musical history is a separate argument.

Heh. Nice snark. This isn’t GD.

That’s the thread topic, mate.

If you’d read what he wrote, this would make sense. To quote Lobot, “I find arguments for the Beatles being ‘not that great’ and ‘overrated’ to be based on ignorance at best.” Well, that’s BS. There is plenty of foundation to assert that the Beatles weren’t that great. Look at the thread title, for Heaven’s sake! Even Lobot himself acknowledges that considering the Beatles to rank alongside Stravinsky is silly. Asserting that they “allowed rock to be intellectual” is also a little wierd, and does belittle the social and musical movements going on at the same time.

EXACTLY is a stong word, but I would argue that Dylan probably pushed the Beatles more than the Beatles pushed Dylan. I wish I had a cite for this, but I recall an interview where Lennon really felt the pressure to take his lyrics to the next level when he heard what Dylan was doing. I could go on with this, but in sum, I don’t think you can posit that the Beatles were driving the bus. A better way of approaching it would be to say that there was a lot going on, and the Beatles were the biggest dogs in the fight, at least commercially.

Agreed on the huge, game-changing is up in the air. Music was so dynamic in this period that it’s difficult to point to one band as the reset button. JMHO.

And I do like and admire the boys. I’m just incredulous when I see so many dopers agreeing that the Beatles were “the best musical entity the world has produced in the last hundred years with regard to originality, innovation, melody, broadness of style, and downright enjoyability.”


This is how I would have responded, were I awake at the time. Dylan is a fantastic performer and songwriter, but when I said the Beatles “allowed rock to be intellectual”, I was thinking of exactly what Biffy said above.

This happens in history all the time, though. Newton and Leibniz, Darwin and Wallace… Would someone else have developed the general theory of relativity if Einstein hadn’t? Probably. Does that diminish his impact on physics? Not at all.