Beatles Denialism

Tonight, I finished listening to Tune-In, a book about The Beatles from the beginning through Dec. 31, 1962.

I was a little hesitant to download the book: 36 hours of details about The Beatles, or anybody, seemed daunting.

It was surprisingly entertaining throughout. Mark Lewisohn is a great writer and natural storyteller. He never loses your interest.

Whereas Rich Cohen asserted in The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones that the Rolling Stones were the greatest band ever, Lewisohn lays out a compelling and pretty irrefutable case for The Beatles.

The Beatles were musically advanced, well beyond their peers. They quickly evolved into a self-contained group (writing, arranging, performing their own songs). They were skilled entertainers with quick wits and winning personalities. They were blessed with great collaborators in Brian Epstein and George Martin.

Near the end of the book, Lewisohn tells the story of their last week in Hamburg — a gig at the end of 1962 that they didn’t want to play but Epstein insisted because they had signed a contract. There was another group arriving in Hamburg that week (I forget the name). The members were all about the same age as The Beatles. They felt pretty cocky. They had three records out but none had been hits and along come The Beatles and their first single have just cracked England’s Top 20. An unheard of accomplishment. The guys in the band were prepared to hate The Beatles. But when they saw them, they were blown away. One of the members said they realized, “we were just boys and they were grown men.” They played many of the same hits from U.S. artists but had worked out new arrangments with three-part harmonies, and they were tight, confident, and engaging.

The Beatles changed music — from making the LP more important than singles to being a self-contained group, to pushing other musical artists to innovate themselves (including the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones). The Beatles created the 1960s as we know it.

Since I’ve been going through this book, I’ve posted about them in various social media forums and there’s always some person who wants to brag about how he or she, usually he, doesn’t like The Beatles. I’ve seen them called talentless and unimportant and boring. What these people are telling me isn’t that they have bad taste — we all have our own tastes in everything — but that they are ignorant about music, history, and culture. You don’t have to like The Beatles but you must respect them.

This rejection of The Beatles without a basis in fact or reality is really just trying to make yourself out as being smart by being a contrarian. But it’s really not smart. It’s a position that denies facts and reality, like climate change denialism. So I’ve coined a new term: Beatles denialism for people who reject the Beatles not because it’s not their cup of tea but for factless assertions such as they’re boring or lack talent or don’t matter.

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