All of Western Civilization Hates The Beatles So What’s the Matter With You?


Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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49 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’ll tell you what though, I’ve met lots of seasoned musicians at my bar who could rock the hell out, some of them legends in rock’n’roll and every one of them loved the Monkees when we got to talking about them. you’d be amazed how well respected they are for all the garbage people say about them.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Do they distinguish between the early “Sing the songs we tell you to, and don’t even think about touching those instruments until it’s time to fake it for the cameras” songs, and the later ones after the Monkees themselves took charge?Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Two thoughts…

    “Dumb and Dumber” quote: “Hey, look, the Monkees! They were a huge influence on the Beatles.”

    A “Sopranos” paraphrase: One of the characters is trying to get into the music biz and sign some band. The band plays and gets called out for not having a chorus to their song. Their response: “The Beatles, The Beatles, The Beatles, man! When can we get away from that?!?!?!”

    The latter is based purely on memory so if I fudged it, I apologize.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Beatles didn’t ask to become a cultural icon any more than Handel did. In his day, Handel was the first British superstar. He wrote trunks full of eminently forgettable opera. He staged great shows, featuring boats full of tootling musicians and fireworks and every year the Holler Looyah Chorus is inflicted on well-meaning choristers around the time of the Feast of Santa Claus.

    The Beatles have outlived most of their critics. John Lennon was destroyed in his prime, a casualty of the hurricane of fame. George Harrison succumbed to cancer. Ringo has gone on making music with top shelf talent and Paul outlived his beloved wife. They’re old men now, the survivors. Somehow I don’t think they’ll pay attention to their critics any more. The world which embraced the Beatles in the 1960s may have changed, well, the Beatles changed, too. All things must pass.

    It’s the music which lives on, immune to fatuous, ink-pissing cranks like Neil Simpson. Little children will play and sing Yellow Submarine until the end of the world.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      For a decade now, the surviving Beatles and Whos have consisted of a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, and a singer. They continue to ignore what is clearly a divine plan.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        It’s almost like they have everything they need to…


        Oh… I see what you did there…Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I despair of people who look back musically. My brother’s got his head stuck so far up the ass of the 1960s and 70s I don’t think he’s seen daylight in decades. There’s too much good music being made these days to maunder over the music of famous oldsters. Let the kids have a chance, I say.

        Frank Zappa, quoting Edgard Varèse: “The present-day composer refuses to die!”Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          The beetles were geniuses. It’s not terrible to look back and say wow.
          One ought to enjoy some contemporary wow, but it’s oftentimes harder to find.Report

      • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

        Back in the 90s I think Ringo had the coolest all start band.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    If the rest of western civilization is over the Beatles, then count me as officially “left behind.” Still loves me some Rubber Soul and Sergeant Pepper.Report

  5. Avatar Zac says:

    I firmly believe that Revolver is the finest thing ever pressed to vinyl, and I’m in my late twenties, so I guess I’ve been left behind too.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I find myself doing things like thinking about someone from a million years ago and saying “we used to be friends” and then getting the Dandy Warhols stuck in my head and thinking “dude, I should post that song to Wednesday!” and going to look up the song on the youtube and seeing the number one comment to the video is “THUMBS UP IF VERONICA MARS BROUGT (sic) YOU HERE!”

    And I want to yell “I DON’T EVEN HAVE CABLE, YOU FUCKING HIPSTERS!” and then I realize that I’m what I hate.

    Even as I listen to that song over and over and over again.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      Reading youtube comments? You were lucky if that’s the worst thing you got.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      1.) Veronica Mars was on the UPN, and the CW; around here, those were broadcast, not cable.

      2.) Veronica Mars was pretty awesome. A post-Buffy show in which the high-school heroine was not a vampire-Slayer, but a jaded noir-style private eye in sunny CA. Good writing, great acting, interesting, funny, dark, class-conscious. I recommend it highly, if you have Netflix or whatever.

      3.) As the Dandy Warhols song came out in ’03 and ‘Mars’ in ’04, this is a case of fairly contemporaneous usage, not just re-purposing some hoary old chestnut* for marketing, like this.

      4.) The Dandy Warhols have exactly one (1) decent album, ’13 tales from Urban Bohemia’. It still rips off every great band in history, but it at least switches its pilfering-victim up from song to song, so it is like a pretty fun mixtape.


      *sorry Patrick! It’s a great song still!Report

  7. Avatar DRS says:

    Reaching back isn’t the same as looking back. It recognizes changes, from then to now.

    Joni Mitchell:

  8. As a longtime & unapologetic music obsessive who has spent too many hours on music messageboards of various kinds — nattering with other similarly damaged Angry Young Men over whether Fugazi or Sly & the Family Stone was more subversive — I have to say you’re talking shop with the wrong folks, Tom. The Beatles remain the gold standard, arguably (and with apologies to the Clash) still The Only Band That Matters.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Elias, we Americans are silly that way about the Beatles. As for Sly, the culture shock on the faces of those white folks in Ed Sullivan’s audience is one of the great moments in pop history.

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      A record-store clerk here (yes, there are still a couple) that I talk to a lot – nice guy, good taste – recently remarked to me that he didn’t really like The Clash. OK, but overplayed/overrated, he said.

      And I thought, “This feeling that I am feeling right now? This is how people feel when I say similar things about The Beatles. “Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Elias – sometime in the past year I saw something that said MacKaye’s intent for Fugazi was to mix the Stooges and reggae.

      I’ve been listening to Fugazi for years, and obviously they have a distinctive sound, but that had just never occurred to me, though in hindsight it seems obvious.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I’d say it’s the DC go-go influence more than reggae, although to be honest, growing up in DC at that time, the bloom went off the Fugazi rose a long time for me, so I’m not one to say.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Ten bucks says the MC5 was an influence too.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Rufus – I had a dorm-mate in college who lived and breathed Fugazi. He helped burn me out on them too. But in the past few months I revisited them, and have found that I am able to appreciate them with fresh ears again. If you haven’t listened to them in a while you might be surprised, they really are excellent musicians.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            I don’t dispute that Fugazi were great musicians. They just had a huge influence on the DC scene in the mid-90s that was a bit too humorless and self-serious for my tastes. Good luck getting booked for a DC show circa 1994 if your band was “apolitical.” That whole Dishord scene was way too authoritarian to be subversive in any sense. Of course, that was back in the 90s, when political correctness was a real thing.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              No doubt, and you have touched on one reason they used to get on my nerves (between these guys and Pearl Jam, there really was an epidemic of humorlessness and earnestness in 90’s rock music that I disliked).

              For whatever reason I am far enough away from it now, to simply appreciate what they achieved musically.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Not to stick the shiv in too much deeper, but I know people who have this one framed on their wall.

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I’ll give them another spin though. It’s weird- sometimes that yields interesting results and sometimes it doesn’t. Marginal Man is way more boring than I remember them being. Oddly enough, everything Bow Wow Wow did is better than “I Want Candy”.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I don’t disagree with a thing in that article, and I will loudly add an AMEN!

                For whatever reason, in my house we were usually more annoyed with Rollins. He used to be funny, but wasn’t much better by the 90’s.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                i really like fugazi, but i can’t really imagine sitting down with ian mckaye for a chat. even now i’d assume every single topic is an invitation to be lectured at.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                “The truth is that rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t want you to become a better human being. It wants you to damage your hearing.”

                I love that line (particularly with hearing loss from rock ‘n’ roll). I’m going to use it.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                You too, huh?

                I always tell people – you know when your parents tell you that that loud music is gonna wreck your hearing?

                They are right, listen to them.Report

  9. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Re the Monkees there isn’t a whole lot of mystery. Mike Nesmith turned out to be a decent songwriter. The other guys could carry a tune, vocally as average sort of a decent rock singers. THEY GOT PROFESSIONAL SONGWRITERS. It was the songs of Neil Diamond et al. that made the Monkees produce decent music.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Somehow I can’t see the Monkees breaking away from their pop origins and doing something like the Sergeant Pepper album.

      I can see it now (raises eyes and spreads arms expansively)… the Last Train to Strawberry Fields! The Magical Mystery Tour of Clarksville!

      Then I saw her face, now I’m a surrealist
      Not a trace of fate in my mind.
      I’m in love, I’m a surrealist!
      I couldn’t leave her if I tried

      • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

        Yeah the Beatles were on a different level. I don’t think the Beatles were overrated; I think they deserved all their success. For a “pop” band who did break away and actually DID influence the Beatles: The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. (Written on marijuana according to Brian Wilson.)Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Hah. The Monkees had the first record ever to use a Moog, on Nesmith’s surreal “Daily Nightly.”

        Darkened rolling figures move through prisms of no color.
        Hand in hand they walk the night,
        But never know each other.
        Fashioned pastel neon lights light up the jeweled traveler
        Who lost in scenes of smoke filled dreams,
        Finds questions, but no answers.

        Startled eyes that sometimes see phantasmagoric splendor
        Pirouette down palsied paths
        With pennies for the vendor.
        Salvation’s yours for just the time it takes to pay the dancer.
        And once again such anxious men
        Find questions, but no answers.

        The night has gone and taken its infractions
        While reddened eyes hope there will be a next one

        Sahara signs look down upon a world that glitters glibly.
        And mountain sides put arms around
        The unsuspecting city.
        Second hands that minds have slowed are moving even faster
        For bringing down someone who’s found
        The questions, but no answers.

  10. Avatar Gene O'Grady says:

    Well, my kids love the Monkees and are so-so on the Beatles.

    Readers may be amused that in my Middle English class in 1967 I’m a Believer was discussed as an instance of a trope that was relevant to Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde (or however one spells it — I do have the distinction of having a granmother with that name).Report

  11. Avatar Glyph says:

    TVD – what instrument(s) do you play, and what styles or genres do you usually work in? I know you are a musician, but that is all I know.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Why, thx for asking, Glyph. The Van Dyke Bros. Blues Band makes its debut Oct 19 in LA. Moi on vox & keys.

      Ne’er before seen in these parts: a younger incarnation on bass. 😉

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Hey, thanks! You know, I was thinking ‘keys’, but that was probably because of the glasses.

        The Cookies kinda remind me of The Nerves or The Only Ones. Enjoying it.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Dang it, I just finished coordinating poker for the 19th, and I’m hosting so I can’t back out.

        Do you guys have a schedule booked out for say, 6 weeks, Tom? I’d like to see you guys again but I only ever find out about your next gig when the opportunity windows are closed.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I listened to the “Blue” album so much as a pre-teen and teenager that I actually wore out two copies of it (on tape), and while I find that there’s a lot of stuff I like much better from the 60s and early 70s now than The Beatles (I’ve been listening to this shit all weekend, obsessively), I’m not sure I would have “gotten” much of it if the Beatles hadn’t been such a big part of my formative years. So I have a reverence for them that far exceeds my current appreciation of them, I think.

    Oh, and The Velvet Underground. It might be a cliche, but I can’t imagine what my musical taste would be like without spending countless hours in a shed with some friends and maybe some cigarettes with something other than tobacco, listening to The Velvet Underground on vinyl and eating cheese sticks (we only had three albums in the shed: The Velvet Underground, Meddle, and Paranoid).Report

  13. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This phenomena has always seemed somewhat hipster driven.

    When Pitchfork made lists of their greatest pop-rock songs/albums of the 60s a few years back, the Beatles were noticeably absent, and it felt more like an attempt to avoid a being labeled bourgeoise.

    Sure enough, when the albums were finally released the next year (after Apple’s agreement with iTunes) Pitchfork gave them all amazingly high scores, and praised all the big ones as amazing, redefining, groundbreaking, etc.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Or maybe it’s just “the greatest pop-rock songs/albums of the 60s from labels which allow their music to be bought on iTunes by the way did we mention here’s a link to the iTunes store pay no attention to the marketing deal behind the curtain”Report