|What other box set could warrant such an argument as whether or not the band in question is indeed the greatest pop band in history? Fast Forward music scribes Timothy Heck and Nathan Atnikov go head-to-head for a literary debate to prove or disprove the claim.
The Capitol Albums Vol. 2
· Round one.
The Beatles are not just the greatest pop band ever, they are also the most important figures in the history of popular culture the first (and best) alternative group, and the most effective exponents of the 20th century avant-garde.
These things (to quote the Rev. Samuel Clarke) are so notoriously plain and self-evident, that nothing but the extremist stupidity of mind, corruption of manners, or perverseness of spirit, can possibly make a man entertain the least doubt concerning them. Well, that or just being born after 1970.
For, in order to appreciate the "Fab 4.5s" achievements, it is vital not only to understand the respective limitations of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and The Velvet Underground, but also to know what pop was before it all went pear-shaped, back in 72.
Never before or since the 60s has pop culture fulfilled its promise of bridging the divides of age, class, race, language and education making plausible the political aspirations of the 60s for a just and inclusive society, from Czechoslovakia to Japan.
Where the films of classic Hollywood offered an American dream that was the envy of the world but unreachable in practice, The Beatles by 1967 had delivered on Helps promise of "Utopia Now" a change of mind could change the world.
At their outset, The Beatles were a paradigmatic alternative band, situated well outside the cultural mainstream, appropriating existing but underappreciated forms to express their personal visions. They then shot through the mainstream to where the cultural elite kept the mob at a distance through sophisticated theoretical discourse, grabbed those ideas and brought them to the masses.
Finally, on Bowl of Cherries and Plastic Ono Band, the postludes to their collective work, they perfected the back to basics U-turn. Of course, others have done some of these things either first or better, but very seldom simultaneously and never with such consistent popular success. Brian Wilson, who did manage (after hiring an Englishman to co-write Pet Sounds), went mad in the process, and even then only managed one classic album, compared to The Beatles four in the same time period.
But does all this mean you need this (or any other) Beatles boxed set? Heck no! This selection only contains one Beatles essential (Rubber Soul, where they ceased to be merely exciting and grew genuinely interesting), and the idea of jamming both mono and stereo versions onto the same CD (as they do here) to justify charging full price, again, is not just silly, its insulting.
· Round two.
The Beatles legacy will always be that of one of the most important bands, nay, cultural icons of the 20th century. And, in fact, they did make some pretty good records. The Beatles are generally given credit for such sweeping accomplishments as creating rock music as we know it today, and being the predecessor of every band thats ever existed since Help! came out. What people fail to realize is that The Beatles did just as much damage to rock music as they ever did good, nearly killing the world they helped to create.
First, there was Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Often remembered as the Fab Fours crowning achievement, it left a wake of destruction behind it. The first aftershock was the Rolling Stones worst album to date, Their Satanic Majesties Request. Often considered the ying to The Beatles yang, The Stones took their cues from them, and this horrific record came out just months after Sgt. Peppers. As the years went on, Sgt. Peppers effects continued to worsen the state of music. Brian Wilson, one of the greatest melody writers of all time, went batshit insane listening to the album and disappeared for years trying to figure out how to equal it. But perhaps the worst thing perpetrated by the release of the 1967 album was the fact that it gave creative licence to a parade of pretentious, noise-driven, prog-rock bands that believe laser shows are an intrinsic part of a rock show.
The other, and much more serious offence that tarnishes The Beatles legacy was that it influenced bands who believed that drugs could open up new doors for the creative. The Beatles openly experimented with LSD, but the reality is that their creative accomplishments were achieved in spite of that, not because of it. Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are two prime examples of bands that overcame drug addiction to return to the spotlight (even though the Peppers lost their first guitarist, Hillel Slovak, to a heroin overdose), but there are dozens of bands that werent so lucky. The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, The Sex Pistols, and Nirvana are just a handful of bands that were at best, profoundly damaged, and at worst, completely destroyed, by drugs. Of course, The Beatles cant be held solely responsible for this, but they were the first band to present the idea of using drugs for creative growth.
The Beatles deserve to be remembered fondly for their artistic achievements, but if you want to give them the weight of being the most important band of the 20th century, the other side of the coin must be examined as well. While they didnt do anything to consciously sabotage pop music, a band as big as they were cant possibly have avoided stepping on a few things along the way.