Friday, September 18, 2009

More Beatles Reasons

There were a couple more things I thought of overnight about why the Beatles remain as popular as they do.

1) They let themselves be influenced by others.

The Beatles did not exist in a vacuum.  Their early work was inspired by Elvis and skiffle.  Some songs bear the clear stamp of Bob Dylan, like "You've Got Hide Your Love Away." (Incidentally, my wife actually thought that was a Dylan song until I pointed it out to her.)  Later on, they were influenced by Ravi Shankar and eastern philosophy.  Even an album as seminal as "Sgt. Pepper" has its roots in other albums like "Pet Sounds" and "Freak Out" by Frank Zappa, which they've acknowledged as a clear influence.  You could say that they were copying others, but like any good artist, they understood that inspiration doesn't just happen.  You need...a little help from your friends.

2) The finality.

Consider The Rolling Stones.  From 1963 to 1972, their catalog is a murderer's row.  Think of the fantastic songs they have: "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'," "Gimme Shelter," "Get Off Of My Cloud," we could go on for a while.  But when you think of the Stones, what do you see?  The cool Keith Richards pursing his lips while he plays his guitar?  Mick Jagger swaggering his way through "Brown Sugar?"  Or do you see a couple of old wrinkled guys who haven't made a really top-of-the-line album in a while?

Consider The Who.  Their catalog is also mostly unimpeachable to a point.  They were a band with three frontmen and a fantastic bassist.  But they're still going, long after Keith Moon and The Ox died, still plugging along long after they're relevant.

The Beatles broke up in 1970, and then John Lennon died. They've never, ever gotten back together.  (Yes, they recorded "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love," but those were Lennon compositions.)  They didn't throw Julian Lennon into the mix and hit the road again, and they're not endlessly touring.  When you think of The Beatles, you think of them the way they were, not the way they are.  Paul will always be the guy with the flirty eyes, John will always be the dreamer and tortured artist, George will always be the mysterious guitar savant and Ringo will always be the fun-loving drummer.  If Paul McCartney were arrested tomorrow with his trunk full of dead Chechnyan prostitutes, it wouldn't reflect at all on the Beatles' music.  It exists in a vacuum in our minds since it came, it rocked our faces off, and then it left, leaving us with fond memories ever since.

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