AUTHOR’S NOTE: Paul, John, George and – to a lesser extent – Ringo, please forgive me. I’ve been commissioned by Slacktory editor and known hedonist Nick Douglas to write a list of six reasons why the Beatles weren’t the greatest band of all time. I would have turned him down, but I’ve got two cats to feed and, well, I need the money.
What’s worse is if this piece is well-received (or at least generates a significant amount of traffic), Nick will make me write other articles tearing apart the things I love. So please, stop reading now. Implore your friends and relatives to resist the brazen headline Nick’s bound to slap on this thing. And above all else, know that I’m so, so sorry.
That said, here are six reasons why The Beatles kind of sort of maybe shouldn’t be considered the most innovative rock group of all time…
1.) The Beatles released a lot of fluff. If you take away cover songs, The Beatles’ first two albums could easily be merged into a single disc with maybe a handful of gems. And their third album, A Hard Day’s Night, is pretty much the same story. I mean, let’s be honest here: no one’s calling in to their local oldies station and requesting “There’s a Place” or “You Can’t Do That.” And if you go through the band’s extensive discography – including hits – you’ll find a good number of duds (e.g. 90% of Yellow Submarine; all eight minutes of “Revolution No. 9”).
2.) Ringo. As a drummer, everyone knows Ringo was mediocre at best. You could replicate his most enduring solos by tying a rubber mallet to a dog’s tail and throwing a treat across the room. And his singing wasn’t any better. But even if we forgive all that, there’s still the matter of his ridiculous nickname. Now, granted, he couldn’t go by his given name of Richard Starkey (it would’ve ruined the cadence when fans listed off members of the band). But if they had to change it, why couldn’t they have gone with Dick Starkey? Or maybe Dick Star. Star Dick. Stardick. That’s it. STARDICK. Ridiculous? Sure. It’s still better than Ringo.
3.) There was always the need for a fifth Beatle. Some of the group’s best pieces might never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for outside assistance. The piano solos in “Good Day Sunshine,” “In My Life” and other tracks were all played by George Martin. Martin also wrote the iconic string arrangement for “Eleanor Rigby.” And in 1969, Billy Preston had to step in for a few sessions to play the classic organ solo on “Get Back.” Oh, and let’s not forget Eric Clapton’s lead guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The point is: The Beatles didn’t just get by – they relied on a little help from their friends.
4.) Then there are the post-Beatles solo records. Even if we consider all Beatles material sacred, we’re free to judge the individual members’ solo output, right? All four released albums within a year of the band’s split. Paul’s was first and, predictably, featured whimsical pop and sappy lyrics like “Every morning brings a new day / And every night that day is through / But tonight I just wanna stay in / And be with you.” Meanwhile, John’s songwriting grew more intense, culminating in the gentle insertion of the n-bomb in his now infamous women’s rights anthem. George dropped two LPs that barely charted before releasing “My Sweet Lord” – the biggest hit of his solo career. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a rip-off of an old Motown song. A few years later, Ringo managed to put out a platinum-selling album of his own. But most of those sales were due to the fact that all three ex-Beatles appear on separate tracks – proof that the fab four was greater than the sum of its parts.
5.) Have you ever seen a Beatles tribute band? Forget 98 Degrees, NKOTB, and other boy bands that the Beatles’s success enabled. Right now, at a community park bandshell near you, four recovering alcoholics are smoking Winstons and getting amped for tonight’s big show. They’ve got black suits and ties for the first set, and after a brief intermission they’ll return to the stage in their Sgt. Pepper gear. Stick around after the concert and Fake George Harrison will implore you, with a serviceable Liverpudlian accent, to buy one of his side band’s self-produced CDs. He’s from Minnesota.
6.) At the end of the day, The Beatles might not even exist. According to the scholars at thebeatlesneverexisted.com, the “Fab” in Fab Four may actually stand for fabricated. The group itself could actually be made up of dozens – perhaps hundreds – of lookalikes that were constantly rotated. For what purpose? Demonic mind control of course. And won’t we all feel like chumps when we find out the band we’ve lauded for half a century is really just part of some Draconian scheme to enslave the world? Oh yeah. We’ll totally feel like chumps.
Well, that’s it – six reasons why The Beatles weren’t that great. (Or, more accurately, five reasons why the Beatles weren’t so great and one conspiracy that they were never real to begin with.) I feel sick. At least now all I have to do is take a picture of myself crying for Nick, then I’m done with this whole thing. Paul, I love you…
Photo by RAIN — A Tribute to the Beatles