Music, Column, Arts

The Beatles are Overrated

It seems as though the world is made up of two types of people: those who worship The Beatles and those who don’t. I fall into the latter category. I was raised on the records of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, and my walls are covered with Rolling Stones records and Bob Dylan posters—I am no stranger to the colorful world of classic rock. Despite my periodic attempts to understand the universal appeal of The Beatles, I always come to the same conclusion: The Beatles are overrated. I am not saying I hate The Beatles or that they suck, so save your eyerolls for another one of my pretentious ramblings. I am simply asserting the band’s “Strawberry Fields” may not be as ripe as everyone says they are.

The Beatles’ individual musical talent is surpassed in almost every regard. When I listen to a song, particularly of the rock variety, the first sound I notice is the guitar. I surmise that it is simply impossible to hear the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” and not immediately feel a sense of familiarity, even if you can’t name the song—Jimmy Page is memorable in ways that Beatles guitarist George Harrison isn’t. His playing also lacks in the wildly entertaining energy and intricacy of Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Instead of commanding a song with his guitar the way Eric Clapton does on the head rush of a song “Cocaine,” it often seems like Harrison is being guided by the lyrics of The Beatles’ songs. The mimicking manner of Harrison’s guitar playing is most prominent in “Here Comes The Sun,” a song in which you can practically hear Harrison’s hands singing along while they glide over the strings. Harrison is one of the more talented Beatles, however: He effortlessly meshes cool groves with hard-hitting heavy metal predecessor riffs on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” one of my favorite songs by The Beatles.

On the drums, Keith Moon’s manic musings eclipse even Ringo Starr’s most daring beats. The Who’s hits like “My Generation” and “Baba O’Riley” would not be the same without Moon’s unrelenting assault on his massive drum kit, which was twice the size of Harrison’s. Furthermore, Starr’s playing is dim in comparison to that of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Bonham plays with a consistent tightness that makes me almost never want to listen to another drummer again. Starr never ventured out into the depths of drumming as Bonham does on Zeppelin’s acid trip sequence of  “Whole Lotta Love,” where he experiments with primal sounds and winds down to provide the perfect ticking clock beat for Jimmy Page to measure his guitar strokes against.

While Paul McCartney’s bass playing often takes a backseat for Beatles’ tracks, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers makes his unbelievable talent known. At TD Garden last February, the small but rambunctious 55-year-old bassist walked in on his hands and then delivered an insane bassline during the verses of “By The Way” for the encore. A funk bassist thrown in a rock band, Flea provides the backbone of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best hits, including “Under The Bridge.” Flea’s bass weaves in and out of the track about loneliness and addiction to walk listeners through the hills and back under the bridge alongside Anthony Keidis’s vocals. Flea consistently creates an experience while McCartney simply manufactures beats—although I don’t doubt McCartney’s significant role in “Come Together.”

To the collective voices of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I present Freddie Mercury. The lead singer of Queen displays his unmatched range on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” proving his voice truly is worthy of A Night at the Opera. Meanwhile, imagining the static voices of Lennon and McCartney try to nail Mercury’s perfect pitch in “Somebody to Love” is actually amusing.

Perhaps if it isn’t raw, unreplicable musical talent of the individual Beatles that propels the band’s popularity, it is the lyrics of their songs. While many find enjoyment in singing along to “Hey Jude” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” I find the vast majority of Beatles’ lyrics insultingly simple. Like many of the daunting radio hits of today, The Beatles rely on sing-along lyrics with little depth in order to be available to general public. “All You Need Is Love” is full of phrases devoid of meaning such as “Nothing you can see that isn’t shown.” It goes without saying that Bob Dylan is a far superior songwriter—the folk icon won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for his life’s work. Dylan tells the story of a girl’s fall from riches to rags in “Like A Rolling Stone” using eloquent terms like “chrome horse with your diplomat” and “Napoleon in rags.” Dylan’s work is also accessible to the masses: If you have ever screamed the lyrics to “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” jammed to “All Along the Watchtower,” or cried to “To Make You Feel My Love” (ok, maybe I am the only one who has done the last one), you have experienced the genius of Dylan.

There is one aspect of The Beatles’ legacy that is indisputable—The Beatles paved the way for many of the aforementioned musicians, and they continue to be cited as a source of inspiration for many present-day artists. Perhaps it is the simple messages and beats tailor-made for mindless humming that continue to make The Beatles so universally popular. It is undeniable that The Beatles laid an unshakable foundation for The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to build on and expand the rock genre. While I rest my case that The Beatles’ music itself is not worthy of its untouchable status, I concede there is something mystical about the British band’s everlasting legacy.

Featured Image by Capitol Records

February 2, 2018

37 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Beatles are Overrated”

        • Churches in the USA are addicted in singing Beatles songs and some churches are praying for these churches souls get back to Christian Gospel Music Christian rock bands

          • The Beatles are rated as the best band in history, and they are the best band in history.
            Just consider the song writing, the playing, the performing, the innovation, and the variety in their music.
            Most lists of top rock albums in history, will have the Beatles albums at the top.
            Sure, there are musicians that are better at individual skills.
            The Beatles created great music, that is the measure.

  1. Well, you are entitled to your opinions. Personally I prefer Billy Kreutzmann’s drumming to John Bonham’s OR Ringo Starr’s, and even Keith Moon’s on a good day. McCartney’s bass playing was innovative and melodic, something that cannot be said for today’s generation of bass-and-drum thumpers. Garcia and Weir make Lennon and Harrison look and sound like glaring novices, for all the virtuosity they exhibited.But… the Beatles couldn’t jam their way out of paper bags, they weren’t serious about being performers after 1966 (LEnnon even resented the fact he needed to at all) and they certainly can’t win the prize for “hardest working” rock and roll band. But all that said, surely the Beatles were the best songwriters of the 20th c if not its best musicians. But that’s only MY opinion. Everyone’s entitled to one and has got one.

    • Considering that some of the best Dead tunes are Beatles tunes and encores at their shows. Even Kreutzmann needed Hart. But, I understand your point. The Beatles needed to stop touring at that time. The innovations were done in the studio ‘ safe space’ :-)… From 60-66 the hardest working rock and roll band in history bar-none…and paved the way for what the Dead splendidly started to do in 1976. Everybody has an opinion and it’s good to discuss.

  2. I don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to explain just how wrong you are. Instead, let me pose a question: In 100 years, who will people still be listening to? You can safely argue that Hendrix and Dylan will be on the list along with The Beatles. But Flea and Queen, as good as they are, I have my doubts.

  3. So wrong on this one. The Beatles are the Mozart’s or the Fredrick Chopin of the 20th century..

  4. We live in a country where ridiculous people can write ridiculous articles. That’s the price we pay for freedom. I’m glad that at least you’re going to a private college and taxpayers’ dollars aren’t helping to pay for your education. I can’t wait for your next article, entitled: “Einstein Wasn’t So Smart After All.”

  5. You are young and have an affinity for the classics which is commendable. You should have named the article ‘Are the Beatles Overrated?’. There is still time… There seems to be an asexual quality to your musings. The Beatles didn’t abuse that. All the people you mention were trying to be Beatles. Of course the Stones; even Dylan who says McCartney leaves him in awe. You need to listen to John Lennon’s Dylan parodies. Queen was pretending to be McCartney. Buckingham recycles Harrison licks. Jimmy Page is an original(and has spent the last 25 years compiling trying to leave his stamp on that for future generations…so it doesn’t vanish)Nevertheless, it’s OK to have these opinions. I have friends who are Southern Rockers and little by little they start to get it. Just go to Jam Festivals and see how many Beatles tunes get covered. There are ‘so’ many things the Beatles pioneered in and out of the studio. Think of the Beatles like a Prism. The hours they spent together playing gave them such an incomprehensively diverse musical vocabulary that even classical music critics scratch their heads of how they did what they did. I know what you are trying to say. For example, If you think about bands like the Police, King Crimson, commercial RHCP(which is very Beatley), there is a construct to their musical pieces. The ability to stretch is calculated. The Beatles stretched(and how) in the solo material. There is no question that the Beatles are the most influential artists of the past 200 years. Yes, It sounds crazy.

  6. Reminds me of a student I heard years ago who said, “I hate reading Shakespeare! He’s so full of cliches!”

    Another takeaway from this piece is that the author digs bombast. Musicians who MAKE! THEMSELVES! KNOWN! are better than ones who perform in service of the song, apparently.

    Also: Ye gods! “McCartney simply manufactures beats”?? Have you ever heard the bass isolations from any mid- late-period Beatles song?

    Finally, a couple of corrections. Lennon and Harrison both played lead guitar on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Your comparison of Ringo and Keith Moon refers to “Harrison’s” drum kit — that’s incorrect. And I don’t believe “daunting” means what you think it means.

  7. The Beatles are rated as the best band in history, and they are the best band in history.
    Just consider the song writing, the playing, the performing, the innovation, and the variety in their music.
    Most lists of top rock albums in history, will have the Beatles albums at the top.
    Sure, there are musicians that are better at individual skills.
    The Beatles created great music, that is the measure.

  8. There are 10 targets and Jimmy Hendrix is given a machine gun that shoots dozens of bullets per second. It takes him seven minutes (or more, like his typical jams) to get all the targets done. The same happens with Clapton, Jimmy Page and Keith Moon and even Ginger Baker. Smart, impressive guys!

    Then come the Stones, and they are given their machine guns. But they only hit 9 targets…. They were too stoned to hit them all!!!!

    Then come QUEEN and each one is given just a rifle. But they overlap themselves 250 times, and get all the targets done. Wow! These guys have resources!

    Then come The Beatles, and each one is given a VERY SIMPLE gun, loaded with only one bullet. And without any dylanesque rethoric to distract the audience, they manage to kill all ten targets WITH ONLY FOUR SHOTS!!!

    Some say that SIMPLICITY is the mark of the real genius…

  9. I got as far as “Eagles and Fleetwood Mac” and concluded that if the author felt that wadvevidence of their serious music credentials I shouldn’t read any more. I’m guessing the rest is a comparison of tbe Beatles with bands with lesser lights. Pity. Could have been worth reading if it had been written by someone with insight.

  10. Moron article .Beatles everlasting universal appeal puts this writer in the sever minority. Beatles voted ICONS of the century by the entertainment industry ,.Their peers and the public vote them the best ever .All done in 7 tears of recording . Clueless article

  11. This writer is just not creative or smart enough .,.to understand the beatles , Obviously not a musician. Just not that bright

  12. THe Beatles jammed for hours when they played the Cavern club -THey worked 7 hr days playing long jams .Do research idiot

  13. The Beatles obviously had enough of an impact on you for you to spend a significant amount of effort attempting to prove your point.You do, however, have a legitimate reason to feel deprived since you were born too late to experience Beatlemania.

  14. Dylans lyrics , bonhams drumming, claptons guitar. I wont say what i think of your comparison with freddie mercurys singing. Seems like you have trawled through the rock gods to come up with something to outshine the Beatles. I think that in itself says it all.Add into that the fact you say you are an Eagles fan. Ask Joe Walsh , Don Henley who their biggest influence was.

  15. Quite poser and a little ignorant, I suppose your idea over painting and painters is based on Michelangelo’s “Pietà”.

  16. The Beatles stand alone at the top….I doubt we’ll be discussing you in 50 years time…just another know nothing troll…next!!!

  17. Beatles had a combination of things that set them apart from others and had elements the people you compare them to did not have. They wrote more appealing melodies and songs than everyone you mentioned and practically created a genre of music. The Beatles were a pop band….not elite musicians and most of the people u mentioned also are NOT elite musicians. Jimmy Page was not a great technical guitar player either….listen to Steve Vai…that guy is at a whole other level. But who sold more records???? Freddie Mercury had an annoying voice to me..I hear him on the radio and usually just turn it off. People tout how he was an opera singer….he wasn’t though. He wouldn’t have made the cut. Bob Dylan on the other hand for being such a great songwriter…I hear his babbling songs on the radio about once a month when you take away Hendrix playing watchtower. Talk about lack of appeal. General public really lost interest in him….he’s a relic with little relevance. I could compare musicians all day just as u did but all of this means very little though. The Beatles are not on a pedestal for their musicianship. They wrote good songs, a lot of them, and recorded them in ways never done before and changed the face of music and had a profound impact on culture. The fact that Jimmy Page was a better guitar player than George has no bearing on anything.

  18. What I think, especially coming from a country that was last to catch onto Beatlemania, is that those you hold of higher account were themselves, and will admit, influenced by the Beatles. If you compare them to today’s standards you must remember that those standards (actually higher) were created by the Beatles. What is often taken as common today was a first at their hands. Also consider that music now has been stagnant for at least 20 years or more with nothing new allowed from the pool of individual creativity out there. Only twice since rock ‘n’ roll of the 50’s has America’s oppression of artistic musical creativity been overwhelmed; both times by the British. Down with a stagnant industry that has stagnated the minds of the youth.

  19. Did I mention that unlike the music of the last 20 years where everything sounds blandly the same, every Beatles song was distinct and different. Hardly overrated, especially by today’s offerings.

  20. What I think, especially with I assume, you coming from a country that was last to catch onto Beatlemania, is that those you hold of higher account were themselves, and will admit, influenced by the Beatles. The Beatles in turn, were influenced by those you held in contempt at the time, this while the airwaves were overridden by Dick Clarklike sanctioned ‘puke rock’ as it was known as, designed to keep youth under the control of the establishment, much as today’s music also does.

    If you compare the Beatles to today’s standards, you must remember that those standards (actually higher then than now) were created by the Beatles. What is often taken as common today was a first at their hands. Also consider that music now has been stagnant for at least 20 years or more with nothing new allowed from the pool of individual creativity out there where the masses don’t get to choose themselves the next trend from the bottom up. We are stuck with those trying to break into sanctioned shells. Mr. Clark would be proud.

    Only twice since rock ‘n’ roll of the 50’s has the US’s oppression of artistic musical creativity thankfully been overwhelmed, both times by the British. Down with a stagnant industry that has stagnated the minds of the youth so they can no longer see true genius for the glitz. Let freedom of music prevail along with freedom of speech within, be it sappy or bold

    Choice is not being given options, Choice is finding them for ourselves.

  21. The writer’s great influences include the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, he refers to “Harrison’s drum kit”, McCartney simply manufactures beats with his bass playing, and the Beatles rely on sing along lyrics with little depth…..I could go on. How can he be taken seriously.

  22. Ha ha..this is a joke or spoof right?…McCartneys bass playing takes a back seat?……have you heard of an album called Sgt Pepper?…..however in truth music is subjective and each to their own.But to compare the beatles against a MIX AND MATCH of what you consider to be the best in their field still leaves your article looking like a load of mince.

  23. One really had to be there to understand the life changing ‘rush’ the first time their music with soul twisting chords and harmonies hit the airwaves to understand Beatlemania. And it continued with each new release moving further from the norm of the day each time.

    There may be better or worse musicians adept at instruments, but only these four could have created that magic. It took that particular combination. Anybody else and they would have just been a good band. Instead the majority who were there are left until this day seeing it as not of this world and for a purpose we, including the Beatles, may never fully realize.

  24. The value of the Beatles music from a monetary standpoint far surpasses anyone else. They referrer to it as the “Rosetta Stone” of music. That speaks for something.

    • But it doesn’t speak for them. Money had nothing to do with it and wasn’t as important to them as it was to the parasites of society that latch onto a good thing and worship mammon. All you need is love.

  25. Music like all artistic endeavors is highly subjective. You are entitled to your opinion. But the vast majority (including nearly all of the most successful performing artists) strongly feel that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were three of the most musically gifted individuals in their field of all time to be found in one band. So many things set them apart – but the thing that I notice most is the diversity of their music and songs. Many successful artists build one song upon another – same or similar structure, notes and riffs. So much of what the Beatles did in context was unique and often ahead of its time. Each new album was not a mere step forward – but a leap at the time. Yes – Dylan was an enormous talent – with a significant but largely niched following. Huge talent – but not in the same league with Lennon and McCartney. And Dylan would likely agree with that.