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A Brief And Obvious Clarification On The Subject Of Music

Piano keys

For some reason I have a bunch of nonsense in my feeds about old people music today, a phenomenon whose majestic inertia continues to appall.

People, look: the Beatles are not the greatest band of all time. Some people think so, but those people tend to have a couple of things in common, notably that they’re very old, very wrong, and stink of a nostalgic desperation that gets worse every year. I know, I know, your demographic wants very badly for the bestest band ever to be some icon of your dimly-remembered youth, as opposed to that noise those kids on your lawn are listening to these days, but every generation wants that. And I know that the lurching demographic hunchback of the most self-absorbed generation in history has got the Beatles’ aging backs, sure. But in music criticism as in all things there is nothing good on this earth that baby boomers can’t collectively screw up for the rest of us. But there’s just so many good choices now, why stay hung up on this one?

Furthermore, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is not the greatest album ever, mainly because it’s not even the best album by the Beatles, a title that belongs to either Revolver or the White Album depending on your mood. Have you really listened to it recently? In the last ten years, at a time when you’ve got a clear head and good speakers and not when you’re not drunk or high on Aleve or racked out with crippling maudlin nostalgia? Yeah, I didn’t think so, but you should try it. In the cold light of a modern morning a good two thirds of that album is children’s music, “Peter, Paul and Mary” for people scared of encroaching middle age instead of the dark. And anyone willing to go on about the Beatles’ brilliant harmonies should put the title track and Mr. Kite on repeat and call me in an hour.

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer to the “greatest band” question is; I’m not even willing concede that it’s a meaningful question. Most popular? Most successful? Most influential? The Beatles, and Sgt. Pepper, are none of those, but: I encourage you to broaden your horizons, old people. It’s never too late.

But really, I’d just like you all to shut up about the Beatles for once.

13 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Mike Kozlowski

    It always creeps me out when people agree with me about the popular musics.

  2. mhoye

    I won’t let it get out of hand, I promise.

  3. Amy

    You seem angry about something. Cookie?

  4. kev

    The Wiggles are totally going to crush you.

  5. mhoye

    At least I can watch my girl smile at the Wiggles.

  6. neil

    Just wait: you’ll find yourself trying to find meaningful personal connections in the music from children’s shows (“hey, he used to play in so-and-so!” “that is totally inspired by Morricone”) to help you feel better about the fact that you just spent the last two hours humming songs from it.

    Or maybe that’s just sad, old man hipster me.

  7. mark

    Better: bands you’ve always wanted to witness live but can’t

  8. mhoye

    I’ve never once wanted to see the Wiggles live.

  9. jeremylukehill

    Mike,

    I agree entirely, and ditto for Elvis, U2, Michael Jackson (I could go on) for their respective generations and demographics. The best? Really? Do people actually listen to the music they claim to love?

  10. mhoye

    I don’t think the problem is so much not listening to it as it is not listening to anything else.

  11. Ted Mielczarek

    “Best Band Ever” is a bit of a silly thing to claim, certainly. The wide variety of musical tastes basically ensures that that’s meaningless. That being said, the longevity of the Beatles’ popularity and influence on popular music does say *something* about their status in music. They may not be everyone’s favorite, but they’re a great band, and highly influential. To claim otherwise is simply silly in the other direction.

  12. Andrew Hill

    I agree with you especially as far as actual musicianship and all that nonsense. And of course calling any single group or artist the greatest ever is a bit of a stretch in general. But I also think people confuse “greatest” with “best”. This is something I think about often.

    Personally I think words like “good” and “best” imply musicianship, artistic quality and don’t necessarily pertain to any accomplishments, record sales, influence, and overall importance of music. I feel the two categories are completely separate from one another as is the category of “favourite”.

    My point is if you were to equate “Greatness” with importance and influence and then were to decide on a “Greatest” band, most people would say The Beetles. Personally I would say Miles Davis. But for most uneducated people, giving this label to the Beetles is really the only option and I find it more acceptable than someone trying to convince me the same of Michael Jackson or U2 or some other garbage.

    That being said… I totally understand your frustration dude.

  13. Kaitlin

    The whole world doesn’t need to shut up about the Beatles in order for me to be happier. For me to be happier, Starbucks (and only Starbucks) should shut up about the Beatles.