The Beatles: True genius or hype?

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Jacob Ellenhorn, Arts Editor

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I am not a fan of the Beatles or their music.  It’s not like I haven’t tried to like them.  Believe me, I tried, my parents tried, and even my grandfather tried to fashion me into a Beatles fan.  But these same people tried to feed me cholent and herring on a weekly basis, and I never developed a taste for those things either.  From my perspective, I can’t understand why the Beatles and not some other band, like the Beach Boys, still resonate to my generation.

I will grant the Beatles the following praise. Their beautiful harmonies untether them from a specific era.  “Yesterday” is quite possibly the most beautiful song recorded.  The lyrics are so poetic and relevant to teens, their parents and their grandparents.  Who doesn’t “long for yesterday . . . when troubles seemed so far away”?

The Pew Research Center recently found that 49 percent of every age group from 16 through 64 likes the Beatles a lot.  There you have it: one out of two people like the Beatles a lot while 1 out of 3 like them a little.  This seems to echo the passions in my household.  I like the Beatles a little while my sister and brother like their music a lot. There’s nothing like a solid scientific poll.

Perhaps my coolness toward the Beatles isn’t really about their music.  Clearly, I like some of the moptops’ pop — but I can’t get past the fact that the Liverpool pop group contributed to America’s boondoggle period.   We wasted two entire decades.  The ’60s marked the beginning of America’s psychotic breakdown, complete with a presidential assassination.   That decade struck down the idyllic culture of the 1950’s.  Suburbia, motherhood, apple pie and Doris Day were replaced by free love, communes, dalliances with drugs, and the Beatles.

What fuels the endurance of the Beatles is hardly debatable.  First and foremost, their brilliant marketing ploys cannot be underestimated.   In 2009, the Beatles were introduced to Gamers.  Techno geeks can now nurture their rock star dreams in the privacy of their basements.  Most recently Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr ended their feud with Apple which finally brought the Beatles’ music to an i-pod near you.   The Beatles also benefitted from tragedy. John Lennon’s murder by a deranged fan not only catapulted him to martyrdom, but also gave the Beatles a whole new fan base. The Liverpool lads are marketing geniuses.

Before I’m accused of having a refined sense of hate, let me once again acknowledge that the Beatles pioneered a sophisticated melodic sound that has influenced many musicians.  Contemporary songs like Bad Finger’s “No Matter What You Do” or Derek and the Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues” contain echoes of Beatlesque movements and rifts.

Whatever their lure may be, the Beatles band has become the alternative to all the previously alternative stuff that has since become mainstream.  Get it?  For instance, Coldplay used to be what the cool kids listened to.  But since Coldplay has gone mainstream, the cool kids have rediscovered the Beatles.  The Beatles have developed into teenage America’s biggest cult band.  I guess everything old really is new again.

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