One of America's Greatest Imports

by Don Boudreaux on June 1, 2007

in Music

Since as a five-year-old sitting on my grandmother’s lap watching the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, I have been an unabashed Beatles fan.  I should be embarrassed (but I’m not) to admit that I never tire of listening to their music.  I listen to it daily.  (I have a slight preference for the early Beatles over the later Beatles, but only very slight: I love it all.  And now, too, so does my son, Thomas.)

This op-ed by Daniel Levitin in today’s Washington Post commemorates the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper — and it does a splendid job.  Reading this essay will raise your appreciation for the Beatles and teach you some neuroscience.

H.L. Mencken somewhere wrote that music was fundamentally changed forever when the opening two notes of Beethoven’s third (Eroica) symphony were first played.  He had a point.  I would mark as another similar point the recording, in 1962, of the Beatles’ song "Please Please Me."

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{ 21 comments }

Mike June 1, 2007 at 9:30 am

I wonder if Lou Dobbs likes the Beatles too?

Well, they weren't Mexican, so I guess that's OK with him.

The Dirty Mac June 1, 2007 at 11:23 am

"I wonder if Lou Dobbs likes the Beatles too?"

I'm waiting for the sgement on the displaced Fabian, his livelihood destroyed by foreign competition.

Lou's theories, of course, have enough holes to fill the Albert Hall.

Dave June 1, 2007 at 11:47 am

Sgt. Pepper is not at all timeless. It is arguably The Beatles' most forgettable album. With the exception of "A Day in the Life", there are no tracks that particularly stand out. It is at best mediocre.

BravoZulu June 1, 2007 at 11:53 am

"It is at best mediocre."

If you're over 50 or so, you remember just how revolutionary the album was compared to all that preceded it. Therein lies its genius.

The Dirty Mac June 1, 2007 at 12:27 pm

I fear that Dave hides himself behind a wall of illusion.

Sam Grove June 1, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Make that three subjects that shouldn't be raised at social gatherings: poitics, religion, and musical opinions.

Dom June 1, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Are you all taking part in the poll at normblog? You have to submit your 5 favorite Beatles songs.

Steve June 1, 2007 at 1:01 pm

I'm 29 and no music historian, but I'm always surprised how much credit they're given for being revolutionary. Their early work seems to consist largely of cheesy love-songs that, in my mind, aren't that musically complex. To me, it's hard to differentiate from the similar stuff they play on oldies stations. Their later stuff seems more innovative, but I don't much care for pyschidellec music, and if I did, the Doors et al would be preferable.

When I listen to the Stones music, it seems way more timeless. I could see a lot of their songs being played on contemporary rock radio stations if they were released today. Plus, I just like it better.

neal June 1, 2007 at 2:19 pm

American Idol's finale (how gauche for such a high-brow website) just focused on Sgt. Pepper. My 9-year old loves AI. So I got to play the CD and we both fell in love with it. I realized it is not particularly heavy…plenty of ditties and such. However, I marvelled at the poignance of "She's Leaving Home" and "When I'm 64" now that I am a parent in my 50s. How did some 20 year old composers recognize the angst of middle-agers so well.

The Stones' staying power is based on their tracking of the Blues. But they pale as innovators.

SK Peterson June 1, 2007 at 2:40 pm

The Beatles staying power is like Dylan's – they make it easy for pop music critics to describe newer bands without really having to try, so we get "beatlesque" or "dylanesque" as two meaningless descriptive phrases that indicate a reviewer is clued in to pop music's past. If I had to choose between the Beatles and the Stones, I'd still pick the Who.

jpc June 1, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Like the old joke about Hamlet not being very good as "it's full of cliches," perhaps, Steve, you've missed the context of the Beatles and that time. Their music was a bit different than "Soldier Boy" and "Hey Paula." Nonetheless, I still listen to their music often, though I'm in that minority that can't listen to Sgt. Pepper.

colson June 1, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Job thieves. They single handedly removed many Polka groups out of the mainstream media market. We need to stop this type of dislocation of our labor resources when there are plenty of Americans who are in need of jobs and capable of producing music.

Please. Think of the Polka bands.

Henri Hein June 1, 2007 at 5:07 pm

What, a blog entry and 11 comments on Beatles, yet no mention of "Taxman" yet???

Other bands were perhaps more ground breaking than Beatles — I favor Pink Floyd myself — but there is *a lot* to be said for those who make avant-garde accessible to wider audiences. Beatles definitely qualify there.

Robert Scarth June 1, 2007 at 5:07 pm

The Beatles music is genius, and I challenge anyone who disagrees to a duel to settle the matter.

Mesa EconoGuy June 1, 2007 at 8:27 pm

How much is a 1967 Parlophone Records (purchased in London) vinyl Sgt. Pepper’s worth?

I have one.

Mesa EconoGuy June 1, 2007 at 9:10 pm

And Tex-Mex polka is alive and well, thank you:

http://www.letspolka.com/calendar/2007/06/30/texmex-polka-dance-party

Mesa EconoGuy June 1, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Sorry, that’s text-only to you kids:

http://www.letspolka.com/calendar/2007/06/30/
texmex-polka-dance-party

Mesa EconoGuy June 1, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Screw the Taxman (Revolver).

TGGP June 1, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Lou Dobbs may be an idiot, but he doesn't hate Mexicans. His wife, Debi Segura, is of Mexican descent.

The Dirty Mac June 2, 2007 at 9:49 am

"With the exception of "A Day in the Life", there are no tracks that particularly stand out."

One of the notable things about the album is that the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

neal June 5, 2007 at 10:51 am

and Hendrix.

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