The Beatles are in the pantheon of the musical greats

I have to preface this article with a thought.  While, yes, I agree with the author on the point that The Beatles should be grouped with the musical greats (Mozart, Beethoven, etc.) I have a reservation or two about it.  I think there needs to be some history and some time there before we jump to any kinds of claims of the Messiah.  I know, I’m talking out both sides of my mouth.  The Beatles are the quintessential rock music icon. 

I would argue that they transcend just being great pop/rock music though too.  They have earned the right to be added to the Cannon of simply great music.  They were craftsmen as well as showmen.  Innovators utilizing both technology and stellar songwriting.  It elves a little more deeply than simply writing pop/rock tunes.  It has effected, whether some like it or not, all the music that has come after them.  But, before we go and further cannonize our heroes for their outstanding body of work, I would feel a little more comfortable if we had some time to truly realize the impact they had.  To me, it feels like wanting to claim Pope John Paul a saint before he had even died.  You need some history and time to reflect on the true impact of such innovators, and I think that the impact that Beatles and their legacy need is more time, and their greatness will simply grow.

Here’s what we’ve read.

We’ve always known they were the top of the pops, but the American author of a new book on The Beatles places them up there with Mozart and Beethoven. David Charters reports
‘WHERE would you place them, man. You know, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and The Beatles?”

“Well,” says the jazz cat from the well-buttered side of life, whose fine shoes have rubbed the elegant sidewalks of the Big Apple.

“Hmmm,” he adds, giving further thought to the proposition. This is a very important question for the writer of a book about The Beatles, so thick that it would not only stop-a-door, but dam a self-respecting stream.

For, if The Beatles are now seated alongside Mozart, Beet- hoven and Bach in the pantheon of the immortals, it gives Liverpool a future as a big-city player in the world for as long as man is interested in culture.

If not exactly, in the famous words of Chuck Berry, Roll Over, Beethoven, this seems like a case of “Shove-up, lads and make room for us”.

The songs of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison are no longer pop music, or even rock music, but simply music, which is not tied to fashion or fad, but will last forever.

Strangely, though he may well have forgotten it now, Paul observed early in his career, “Pop music is the classical music of tomorrow”.

The benefits of that to Liverpool as The Beatles’ native city are obvious. But is The Beatles’ reputation really so secure?

“Sure, I truly believe that we might be talking about Mozart,” says Jonathan Gould, author of Can’t Buy Me Love, the latest in more than 500 books about a group, once dismissed as mere Mop Tops or the Fab Four, a fancy that would vanish like candy-floss.

“I think that this music has been so much a part of people’s lives for what, three generations?, that it has simply became a part of the culture. It is not just the culture in Britain and America. It is really the culture in the world. Something similar had already happened with the great Tin Pan Alley composers of Gershwin, Berlin, etc. But I think their music will go on and on.

“The interesting thing about The Beatles, which adds a new dimension to it, is that when we are talking about Mozart or Irving Berlin, we are talking about the music, not the performances. Most of the great classical composers performed their own work, but we don’t know what they sounded like when they did that, OK. With The Beatles, though, to this day, their performances of their songs are the definitive ones.

“You might like the way Ella Fitzgerald does Can’t Buy Me Love, I certainly do, but the iconic performance is by The Beatles themselves.”

So this is lofty stuff, but Jonathan’s purpose is also to embrace the social circumstances in the post-war Britain from which The Beatles emerged.

And, without wishing to be offensive in any way, you would have to say that he does this very well – for an American.

This makes the book the work of an outsider looking in, but, if you are an insider, it is interesting to know what an outsider sees.

And Jonathan, as a graduate in anthropology from Cornell, an Ivy League university in New York state, is very good on this, wondering, as Americans always do, at the intimate layering of the British class-system, which was more evident then than now.

To Jonathan, the fact that John, Paul and George were all from grammar schools, which tended to ape the manners of the posh public schools, was significant.

On the other hand, The Beatles probably did more than anyone to give cachet to regional accents. Of course, those who knew The Beatles well were surprised by the thickening of their Liverpool speech as they grew famous.

For example, in interviews given later in his career, in more relaxed circumstances, people noted George’s flawless grammar and pleasantly lilting conversational voice.

The Beatles were always grammatical, but their accents associated them with their native city in a way which is only matched by Elvis and Memphis, Tennessee.

Source: Liverpool Daily Post


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