Some say they’re the greatest musical group of all time. Some say their body of work comprises the best songwriting of the 20th century. Some say they defined an entire generation. Who are they?
The fucking Beatles, of course. I mean, didn’t you read the post title? Jesus. Keep up, willya?
I have a deep-love, deep-hate relationship with the fucking Beatles. The deep-love is derived from my youth; by the time I was able to discern real music from television sing-songs, the fucking Beatles became my #1. It wasn’t because they were famous or popular. It was their dolphin-like harmonies that grabbed my soft-skulled mind. Couple that with the head-bopping lilt of their infectious rhythms (punctuated with well-choreographed guitar strums to add some drama) and you have gold vinyl.
To this day, there are some fucking Beatles songs that I consider profound and timeless.
Yes, everyone has their favorite fucking Beatles songs. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who likes all – or even most – of their output. Let’s face it: even the fucking Beatles themselves had some serious qualms with some of their stuff.
That said, it’s awfully easy to sit here on a 21st century perch and dismiss the music of the fucking Beatles. Nonetheless, I intend to do just that.
Being a man of Science, I plan to critique the Beatles reductively. Without further ado…
The early fucking Beatles were raw, raucous and sensational live. The recording industry’s job was to take all that energy and dilute it for public consumption. In that, they were triumphant. Despite this record’s blockbuster appeal, its actual content of dance-hall rock n’ roll standards and “composed to fit” original hit songs is an embarrassment. Nostalgic vinyl hipsters may swoon over the tube-compressed sound of “A Taste of Honey”, but the rest of us find it dated and boring. Grade: D.
Shooting to fame and wealth gave the fucking Beatles a bit more leverage and 1963’s “With the Fucking Beatles” gave the boys a bit more input on the album. Though sonically similar to the first record, this record bristles with some of the energy Lennon wanted to express. Sadly, the album itself is mediocre. The fucking Beatles were leading a trend that they were, in fact, behind. This record couldn’t hold a candle to some of the innovative sounds being wrought elsewhere in the early 1960’s, not to mention the output of some of their rock n’ roll influences who had held over from the 1950’s. Grade: D.
Now firmly ensconced as the Biggest Thing Ever, the fucking Beatles took control in 1964. To their credit, this album shows that the fucking Beatles could innovate. A perusal of the cuts on this record shows a slow evolution from dance-hall standards to the expression of something wholly original. This is the album of toe-tapping ankle boots and mop tops that declared a new day dawning. Most of the cuts are pure crap, but the slow-dance “If I Fell” shows the band was capable of tight, sparse composition with an emotional tug. Sadly, any value wrung from this record was tainted by the asinine film that accompanied it. Grade: C.
This album title is ironic, for the previous records were cynical marketing tools while this one made a valiant effort to do something musically interesting. Songs like “No Reply”, “I’m a Loser” and the very Who-like “Every Little Thing” showed a band describing its environment. England emerging from post-war austerity was a place of low morale. Its youth yearned for something newer and bigger and brighter, and their comparatively trivial travails (broken hearts, loneliness, etc) and desire for more (sex, fun, frivolity) were honored in this record. Nonetheless, there’s a nagging reliance on the ole’ dance hall standards. The umbilical cord is still clearly attached. Grade: C+.
This is the record that “Fucking Beatles for Sale” should have been. I’m gonna be fair and dismiss the awful film associated with this record, but even rating this album on its merits can only be done in light of the contemporary music of the time. And this album still reeks of the 1950’s dance hall umbilical cord. Well-composed nuggets like “I Need You” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and the inexplicably mature “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” are shat on by drivel like “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”. Perhaps most horrifically, the one song from this album that rings through the ages is “Yesterday”, a sappy dollop of syrup that makes me puke bile . Christ, I hate that fucking song. I know I’m losing you guys now, but I don’t care. Grade: B-.
Thank God, the fucking Beatles finally discover psychedelic drugs! Leaving the crutches of crappy rock n’ roll behind, the Fab Fucking Four can finally stand on their own eight feet. This album is dotted with songs that actually sound like they were composed by some guys who thought hard about life, love, stress and longing. “Norwegian Wood” is, for its time, one of the best descriptions of the loosening sexual mores of the times (and their consequences) ever written. Sure, the album is still plagued with trifles like “Drive My Car”, but one can detect a hypnotic drone adding some sonic breadth to the “fucking Beatles sound”. Witness “Think for Yourself”. Ringo’s disposable “What Goes On” should have been binned or sold to The Who. Grade: B+.
The fucking Beatles come to fruition in 1966. This is the first album where George Martin pretty much took over control, and what he considered a “light touch” sometimes resulted in some oafish arrangements, but overall it was a record that reflected the changing zeitgeist with verve and precision. Typically fucking Beatlesy fluff like “And Your Bird Can Sing” were lathered in layers of swirling guitar. We can smirk about the shameless Eastern psychedelic expositions “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”, but this stuff was defining a new sound brilliantly. So suck it. Sadly, Paul just couldn’t help buttering up the sandwich with crap like “Good Day Sunshine” and the execrable “Got to Get You Into My Life” (a George Martin abortion if ever there was one). He makes up for it by penning what was probably his best fucking Beatles effort “For No One”. Grade: A-.
Mountains have been written about this record. It’s been called “watershed” and “breakthrough” and all kinds of crap. In reality, this album is George Martin jizzing all over the place. I can applaud the band’s desire to shed its screaming-teen reputation and do something truly epic, but this record is far too hit-and-miss for consideration as a watershed event. Here’s where I really piss off the readership: this record had promise but was littered with effluvia. Specifically, the stilted title track, its awful reprise, “Lovely Rita”, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” are giant balls of suck that weigh this record down. Fortunately, Lennon once again saves the day with a truly brilliant, off-kilter masterpiece called “A Day in the Life”. That song is clear evidence that George Martin can be harnessed for good as well as evil. And once again, McCartney drops a turd in the punchbowl with “When I’m Sixty-Four”. Grade: B.
Oh, man. I could really unload a can of whoop-ass on this record, but my own nostalgia stays my hand. Once again, I’m going to give them a pass on the awful film tie-in to this record and judge the album on its musical merits. And there are a few: the absurd instrumental “Flying” is a charming bit of silliness. “Blue Jay Way” is an wonderfully creepy sludge of filters and flangers, slugging forward on the low notes of a lugubrious cello. Lennon’s equally dark “I Am the Walrus” featured some startling use of studio trickery to create an abstract whole from a set of mismatched melodies. I won’t acknowledge the idiotic theories regarding this song. So STFU. The rest of the record is an awful face-slapping of mediocre McCartney middens. If Paul wasn’t dead at this point, somebody should have actually killed him. “Hello, Goodbye” and “Penny Lane” are the stuff of nightmares. Grade: C-.
By 1968, Lennon had found Yoko and decided to jettison the cutesy crap in favor of artistic endeavors. McCartney was dragged kicking and screaming into Lennon’s vision, leaving the other two fucking Beatles feeling quite uneasy. This double-record set is clearly a mish-mash of solo tunes by each of the bandmates, held together by George Martin’s increasingly frustrated hand. As a result, while thoroughly modern and maybe even bold, the death of the toe-tapping ankle boots that hung their earlier works together was costly. Fortunately for us listeners, this means we can pick and choose some truly great songs from the minefield of dog crap. Lennon’s angry steel rage shines through (“Glass Onion”, “I’m So Tired”, “Yer Blues”), Harrison asserts himself with some timeless bits of songcraft (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Savoy Truffle”) while McCartney continues fucking that chicken (“Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”, “Rocky Raccoon”, “Honey Pie”) and Ringo just doesn’t give a shit anymore (“Don’t Pass Me By”, “Goodnight”). 1968 was a year of tremendous forward movement in modern music, and despite its abstract sheen, The White Album is nowhere near as innovative and inspiring as output from Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and dare I say: The Doors! Grade: B+.
When I was a little kid, I loved this album and I adored the film. But like many things, when you become an adult you put away childish things. Particularly crap like this shitty album. Harrison comes to the rescue with “Only a Northern Song”, and “Hey Bulldog” is a powerful song that probably belonged on The White Album. But nothing can save this record. Nothing. Grade: D-.
George Martin needed to rally the troops after the Yellow Submarine was flushed down the toilet of disposable pop culture. He wanted the cohesion that was absent on The White Album. He wanted the fucking Beatles back. What he got was a fully disinterested John Lennon and a Paul McCartney who enjoys penning garbage. As Lennon looked on with cynical amusement, Martin cobbled together another incoherent mess of solo songs, running together Side Two of the record as a “concept”. Once gain, Harrison stepped up to the plate with the smooth, timeless “Something”. Then, on cue, McCartney dropped his pants and wiped “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Oh, Darling” onto the tapestry of popular music. Not to be out-done, Ringo chimed in with what may be the worst song ever recorded, “Octopus’s Garden”. What was a sad laugh for Lennon, a failed gambit for George Martin and an exercise in wankery for the rest of the band has become a time-honored classic in the fucking Beatles discography. Grade: C.
At this point, the fucking Beatles were done. But for some reason ($$$) Apple Records decided to cobble together this godawful menagerie of terrible songs. Search high and low; every track sucks donkey balls. The only thing that could make this album worse would be the inclusion of “Hey Jude”, a single release that is so heinous, so terrible, so irredeemably shitty, that most people would rather throw themselves out of a window than endure one more fucking “na na na na-na-na-naaaa” from that irritating exaltation of Satan’s dominion on Earth. The fucking Beatles went out not with a bang, but a simper. Grade: F.
As you can see, while the fucking Beatles remain in the forefront of popular music history, their actual output was pretty damn dismal. This is sad, because they had a lot to offer: humor, style, talent and what became a unique presentation. The fucking Beatles had a tremendously attractive ambiance. From their trend-setting hair styles to their jangly guitar strums, they could have been something truly moving, though perhaps ephemeral.
Lennon loved loud, sweaty dance hall rock n’ roll. Who can blame him? When the dance halls closed, he started creating some very interesting music. Then he decided to become an artist. George turned to weird religion and hypnotic Eastern sounds. Paul (to paraphrase Yoko) spent the balance of his life rhyming June with Moon. And Ringo? I have no fucking idea what Ringo is about.
Feel free to vent your spleen in the comments section.