Saturday, July 28, 2007
Music Stands for Comfort 5.5: The Beatles
There's a notion that the Beatles were the best band ever. This meme exists and works its way into your mind, dulling people's ability to (a) critically assess the Beatles or (b) think of anything as being as good or better than the Beatles. Further, it blinds people to the very real limitations of the Beatles.
What were these limits ? Well lets start: they were four cool, smart, successful men making beautiful pop music in the 60's. Of all these things it is the fact that they were cool is the most limiting issue. Unlike the Beach Boys they never sang about or wrote about what it was like to be painfully uncool, to be crippingly insecure and searching for an answer. 'Cool' if anything, is an easy mastery of ones enviroment, and the Beatles constantly mastered there enviroment. The Beach Boys did not: there was always a bursting, pained quality to there work, a sense that it could all fall apart.
Coolness is terribly limiting: most of the people I know who are doing something with there lives are not very cool: there spazzy, obsessive types. The coolest people I know do almost nothing. Being cool is a difficult and draining performance and it requires one to never fail. But to never fail is to never try.
The Beatles of course did fail eventually, but by that point they were too bloated and too wrapped in the fat of success and not caring to really let it go. There music is too full of sexy situations, of girls who want to go to bed with them and fun drugs to try. Even when it hurts, it hurts in a cosmic groovy kind of way: it was I was mean to my woman, not my woman was mean to me and I stayed because I kinda loved her and I was kinda afraid of her. It is much easier to apologize for bad things you did than to forgive for bad things done to you.
The Beatles lack any sort of visceral terror. They never seemed like they might be alone for there whole lives, never sang as if the song might be able to shield them from a terrible loneliness. This distancing from one of the core fears of being a human means that there best work (which is lots) lacks the component of feeling like everything is at risk, and that everything might be won. The Beatles never sound desperate. Those who love the Beatles excessively are people who want safety.