Thursday, May 23, 2013

Living with the past: what to make of early to mid-period rock

Rob Rogala writes:
As someone who very much enjoys the music of Elvis and The Beatles, I have to admit that had I been around at the time they were popular I would have been opposed to them. I mean, in my opinion there's correlative relationship between the introduction of rock n' roll and a general decline in morals, but the old stuff seems so tame compared to the garbage on the airwaves now. Still, should I have the same attitude towards, say, The Doors, in 2013 that I likely would have had towards them in 1967?
Almost as in ’67. RIP Ray Manzarek. At face value the Doors made great, minimalist-cool music, a jump removed from the golden era’s cool jazz (Dave Brubeck).

My dial’s set to roughly 1937 to 1967; any pop I know after 1998 is by accident. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but like Pat Buchanan love early rock, and my jury’s out on the Beatles. Definitely, regarding them, I hear Rob. At face value the music’s very good and mostly harmless. The early stuff’s a continuation of the ’50s. (Once upon a time there were English kids who did a mean impression of Little Richard.) Yet they were an instrument of great evil. So I listen; I don’t consciously boycott the stuff. But beware, as in ‘be aware’. I am. Today in my home the Sixties never happened. (Just like at my church.) No Beatles paraphernalia. It just ended up that way, not by plan.


  1. My husband insists that Sergeant Pepper ruined the Beatles. LOL. I don't necessarily agree, but I see what he's saying. He liked them better when they were singing "She Loves You" and other buoyant, happy songs with vacuous lyrics. Once they got all "heavy" and intellectual, he lost interest.

    I dunno. Personally, I think Paul was a musical genius, and John was overrated. That's why Paul wrote some really good stuff after the Beatles broke up -- like "Band on the Run." Paul was always a fantastic melodist. John, not so much.

    Hubby loves '50s rock, doo-wop (he owns a CD collection called The Encyclopedia of Doo-Wop), and that kind of thing. We're both huge fans of early '60s Girl Groups. "He's a Rebel" is my theme song.

    But I like the later '60s stuff, too. I grew up with it. By the '70s, in my early 20s, I was kind of losing interest.

    1. The Beatles were at the same time one of the best and one of the most overrated rock bands. Because their old-school pop made them famous, they were (accidentally? by evil design?) leaders in pop culture as they followed trends just like most other people. I think that decline your husband sees can be dated to when John, never nice, started taking himself as seriously as the critics did and went crazy, partly due to hard drugs. (Some say those drugs knocked him out of participating much in the Beatles; Paul kept it going a few years after.)

      I like Paul too. The relatively most conservative (even writing retro-’20s songs), old-school entertainer of the four: yes, a fantastic melodist. Having seen him up close on stage, I understand his appeal and a lot of Beatlemania. But I somewhat agree with the critics that John wrote and performed edgy rock arguably better than Paul's sometimes cloying ’70s and ’80s pop with his only critic in the studio being his adoring wife, rather than John pushing him (witness the drop in quality from 'Let It Be' and 'The Long and Winding Road' to 'Ebony and Ivory').

      Got to give John credit: 'Imagine' is evil and especially dangerous because it's a beautiful song.

    2. The Beatles were at the same time one of the best and one of the most overrated rock bands.

      Totally agree.

      Because their old-school pop made them famous, they were (accidentally? by evil design?) leaders in pop culture as they followed trends just like most other people.

      Again, agree. They did inaugurate a few trends, though -- like that Going-to-India-and-Learning-the-Sitar stuff.

      I agree that John was edgier, by far. Paul could be pretty schmaltzy. John once commented snarkily, "I don't believe in yesterday." But "Yesterday" remains a really lovely song.

      Totally agree that Paul eventually jumped the proverbial shark. But, when he was on, he was really ON. "Let It Be" and "Long and Winding Road" are great examples.

      My kids are Beatles fans. Once, during a long road trip, they made us listen to Abbey Road (which I'd listened to devoutly back when it first came out). Man, so much of it was dreck. We swooned over it back in the day. What were we thinking?

      BTW, I was born in 1951 (Geezeress Alert), so I was a tween right at the very apogee of Beatlemania. And yes, I was a Beatlemaniac. Never got to see them in person, but went to see A Hard Day's Night on opening day and screamed all the way through it. That screaming thing was so idiotic. We screamed through the songs -- even when we were watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, for crying out loud -- so we never actually heard the music. No wonder older teens thought we were daft.

      Oh well. It was a brief phase. By the time I was 14, we were listening to the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, et al. Then, later, we went all "freaky" and listened to 18-minute songs on the alternative-rock channel.

      The late '60s. What an insane-o time. Oh well.

  2. I never was much of a Beatles fan when young, when they were in their early years. I was more of a George Harrison fan and I disliked intensely John Lennon. I have always considered him a phony.

    "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something" are the two Harrison songs that are truly great. The rest of the Beatles corpus either together or post-break up are only so-so at best. I hate "Imagine" and not necessarily because of its horrible theology.

    Interestingly my 25 year old son (who likes more recent rock music such as Greenday--recent to my way of identifying rock music including semi-punk; Greenday is punkish sort of, right? LOL ) knows of the Beatles but really likes the Beach Boys! I guess he is into "Buy American!" LOL Uh oh! He also likes Eric Clapton.

    1. Yes, George Harrison: those phenomenal songs ('Here Comes the Sun' too) we never would have heard if he wasn't riding on John's and Paul's fame, and his Hare Krishna faith. He was the only fallen-away Catholic of the four.

  3. Paul was influenced by his dad who played with a 20's jazz band. Also skiffle was another influence on the Beatles having become popular in the UK in the 50's. Skiffle is a jazzy/blues folkish combo.

    I'm not a fan of much rock music, although I can tolerate and enjoy some from the 50's/early 60's. Some of the early Beatles was quite good, I especially enjoyed their versions of some of the pop standards they performed early on. Overrated... of course!

    Actually enjoyed some of Sgt. Pepper. Several pieces on the album were reminiscent, and likely influenced by Victorian Music Hall pieces (think early Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward). "A day In The Life" was clever taking various headlines from the daily paper and weaving in to a song with a symphony orchestra providing the interlude.

    I applaud Paul's creativity and wide music interests post Beatles. I have heard a few of his classic recordings ("Working Classical" is quite good). Also like his 40's album "Kisses on the bottom". He did this album as it reminded him of some of the songs he heard round about in his youth, perhaps from his dad.

    Never a fan of John's music, but "Imagine" takes the cake... beautiful music, but awful lyrics. Evil indeed!!!

    1. 'Sergeant Pepper' is a great album. I didn't know Paul did a ’40s-style one.

    2. I love those two George Harrison songs! But I still thunk Paul was the Fab Four's pre-eminent musical talent. I guess it's a case of "you say tomah-to, I say tomay-to." ;)

      I have a soft spot for George, even though he was a "subconscious plagiarizer" of Girl Group songs. LOL, poor George!

      I wonder whether the Grass Roots "subconsciously plagiarized" the Drifters/ Somehow I think that, in THAT case, it had to be very much conscious -- I mean, it was practically note for note:


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