i truly love to rag on the beatles as much as the next guy but my roommate had decided that they’re talentless hacks for years and my stance on the matter has always been: ill never argue/try to gently convince anyone otherwise when they say they don’t like them because they truly are NOT for everyone, but when the argument is that they’re just bad musicians, im like ok…. well, let’s take a step back
and then today, for whatever reason, she decided she wanted to learn come together on the bass after picking the bass up for the first time like two months ago and i was like HA good luck with that! and she got like five minutes in and slowly came to the realization that it was actually something groovy and complex and i was like, i TRULY do not know what you were expecting lmao u have heard the song, no?
@walkuntilthedaylight yeah totally! u really start to listen to music differently when you’re trying to learn it too. it becomes something specific and tangible rather than just some memory in your head of the last time u heard it.
also, kinda unrelated, but im gonna use this reply to ruminate lmao sorry, the general beatle consensus has changed multiple times even in my lifetime and it sort of periodically becomes chic to dislike them for various reasons (some totally valid). like, i started to like/listen to them aaaaages ago in the early/mid 2000s when ‘1’ came out and then apple loosened their grips on the licensing and things were getting re-released endlessly and they became relevant again (at least in millennial social circles, couldn’t tell you much about anything before this period). but they almost became too relevant and it went back around to actually being cool to dislike them, and this was when she became more aware of them and basically just stuck to her first impression, as we all tend to do with the things we don’t feel passionate enough about to dig deeper. like, i dunno how old everybody is, but when across the universe came out, there was a serious divide and like, hardcore beatle fans were like “this movie is gaaaaarbage!!!” and so ppl who enjoyed the movie were like, no, actually it’s the beatles that are garbage!!!
it’s such a wild cycle tbh because it’s kind of flip-flopped in that, like, young female fans loved them first and had to fight tooth and nail to convince people that they were actually producing good music outside of the whole beatle mania response. and when men took over and decided, hey, they’re good, a lot of people sort of turned on them. and im like, well hey, popular music is sometimes popular because it’s good and female fans recognized that early on. things are derivative of the popular thing that’s actually good, of course, but that doesn’t discredit the thing that’s good.
this is of course absolutely surface level and if i was going to really dig into it in any serious way, you’d have to account for the rise of awareness of abuse/sexism/racism/ableism/misogyny in how/why the beatle consensus has changed, hence the bracketed “totally valid” above!
Yeah, I grew up in the 90s when Anthology was coming out, so I experienced a lot of this too. My dad’s a megafan who used to pop quiz me on “did john or paul write this song and how can you tell” every time he played an album for me lmfao, so I also had this personal/private relationship with The Beatles (and John Lennon in particular) I was always nursing, to which many aspects of the mainstream narrative seemed so actively hostile that I eventually “stopped liking” them for close to a decade.
The reason why is weird and complicated, but basically I started reading more about, and thus buying deeply into, the JohnandYoko narrative, and the ‘Imagine’/Peace & Love/This Marriage Changed The World shit deeply alienated me from my literal childhood idol and made me think that I’d been misinterpreting an emotional connection with the music this whole time if ‘Imagine’ was John’s “true legacy”. I think common sense would dictate that the “Ballad” narrative should be more amenable to and popular with women as it’s presented explicitly as a tale of feminist redemption, where a strong woman reforms a wife beater by patiently demonstrating her enlightened ideology and impressing him with her Uniquely Self Possessed Nature (lets set aside the fact that it’s uhhh not even a little bit true), but I’ve actually found that female John fans are more willing to neutrally entertain stuff like Goldman or the Rosen/Seaman books as an important part of the picture, whereas men who “stan” John – especially the over 45 set – don’t just *believe* the JohnandYoko narrative – they NEED for it to be true.
I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for this divide – like, obviously women are gonna think this story is fishy the moment they look past the surface b/c they won’t have the guilt that makes some men afraid to ask questions about Yoko’s iffy behaviour, but I think there’s something else with the fandom gender dynamics here that as you’ve mentioned goes deep deep to the core, to the very beginning of the band’s rise to fame (there was a reason I went on this anecdotal rant)!
Because – who was it who WROTE the JohnandYoko narrative? It was very specific set of people: the emergent American Rock Literati – Rolling Stone and the tabloid biography superstars and Christgau’s Village Voice column, etc. They’re guys, yeah, so no wonder they came up with a feminist story that seems to offput women who look too close, but offers a cathartic fairy tale to aging men. The thing about “The Ballad of JohnandYoko” is that it makes John’s life a tragic but ultimately triumphalist narrative, about an artist who set out what he wanted to achieve but was still unfulfilled until he met his true love. It gives mythic meaning to the break up of the band they worship. It’s sexy and looks good on gloss. Because that’s the other side of the narrative distortion this clique did: which is that they helped craft an entirely new way of being a celebrity and engaging with pop music. Their stance as music critics had more to do with aesthetics and its “artistic importance” to the cutting edge of the current culture.
I recently read this book called ‘Love Me Do!’ which is a fairly dry observational piece on The Beatles written in 1964, and was surprised at how *all* of the contemporary reviews and articles quoted cite the kind of stuff that generally gets touted as “refreshing counternarrative” these days as self evident factors of the band’s success, such as their revival of melody, the way they use the trappings of complex classical music without ever leaving the more diatonic structures of pop, their coquettishly “safe” gender play, the unique importance of john and paul’s partnership, their thematic and stylistic continuity w/ british poetry/literature, etc. This is all before they started writing “”“real”“” music (according to the Rock Literati) too!
I guess what I’m describing here is just the “Jean Jackets” phenomenon lol, but I wanted to tease out what I think might be the main unspoken tension in Beatles fandom/history, which is that the psychological deterioration of John Lennon (and the rest of the band to lesser but still awful degrees) is one of the most disturbing, sad and fucked up tragedies in modern popular music, but there’s a lot of money and Cultural Desire around keeping up this positively tragic, cathartic, triumphant narrative. This appears mostly to break along gender lines because women are more likely to be sympathetic to paul, or not believe a single fucking word out of a man like john lennon’s mouth even if they “stan” him, and men need john lennon to have broken up the band for a good reason and additionally, to have learned his lesson about Bad Male Behaviour. And then it breaks again along generational lines because you either grow up with the “sad story” and learn (to make it) the “better one”, or you grow up with the “better” one and then get your mind blown by the “sad” one (”the beatles did heroin????”).
GOD SORRY for the tl;dr. I didn’t have a clear thesis here and went WAAAAAY off topic, just wanted to spitball about how the emotional and cultural difficulty in telling an accurate story of The Beatles breakup paired with their pop culture ubiquity turned the statement “The Beatles are an important and good band” into a brainless tautology which invites iconoclastic skepticism in a way I don’t think ever happens with Dylan or Michael Jackson or Elvis, for example, because we’ve been talking about the wrong things for 30 years, and not talking about the ACTUAL MUSIC at alllllll. I could rant forever about this topic.
My addition is unrelated to the original post, but anyway.
> the psychological deterioration of John Lennon (…) is one of the most disturbing, sad and fucked up tragedies in modern popular music.
Thank you so much for this. It’s actually… It makes me uneasy how the mainstream majority of people (by that I mean fans, autorship and general public – who I honestly do not blame for being uneducated on particular Beatles’ history, especially if fans and autorship chose to ignore this topic) brush off and understate (in particular) John’s obvious very deep struggle with mental health and drug addiction as if it didn’t even happen. His mental health is rarely discussed as a real factor in the story, because it doesn’t correspond with the popular, comforting narrative. It only gets brought up when people want to point out the intimacy of John’s lyrics and paint him as a tortured artist, usually to put Paul down in comparison. But outside of his music, the struggles don’t exist anymore. The drug addiction issue ommitment disturbs me even more, because his self medicating went way beyond experimenting and recreational use. First with alcohol, then LSD (which imo made his mental health far worse) and then finally, the drug of drugs, heroin. Yet the only time you see drugs brought up in connection to The Beatles in general amongst the mainstream, it’s to point out how drugs changed their music and made them into a better band with no downside at all. Which, fair enough, they did. But at what cost?
I guess I can see the point of view of people who would rather look away from the trainwreck and continue believing in a self-created myth of a man, who got it all but it wasn’t enough. And only thanks to finding a new cosmic love, that’s greater than any other personal connection in history, who showed him a whole new world, he found himself and rebirthed into a new and better artist, a person who is a strong leader, who only speaks truth and never looks back, because he’s finally free from all the baggage that was holding him down. That is not what happened though. But the fact it didn’t is much harder to swallow, especially if the myth is your dream.
Sorry for the ramble. I had some thoughts. It’s incoherent. Whatever.
Ten Days in September: John
John’s decision to quit the band is always portrayed as a foregone conclusion but we don’t think it was. In episode nine of the Break-up Series, we track John Lennon’s roller coaster of highs and lows during the critical 10-day period before the infamous Divorce Meeting on September 20th.
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