Monday, August 5, 2013

Taking "Mean Mr. Moyer" to task for bashing The Beatles

I get it that not everybody likes The Beatles. But seriously -- who took a dump in Justin Moyer's breakfast cereal?

An unfocused and laughably uninformed hatchet job by the Washington Post "Outlook" section writer harrumphs that The Beatles need to be sent to the historical scrap heap, a la the Model T.
That's as ignorant as saying Van Gogh, Da Vinci and Picasso are irrelevant because "there's an app for that."
It's like saying Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron don't matter because Barry Bonds hit more home runs than they did; never mind that Bonds achieved his record by methods that have forever tainted the integrity of baseball.
The true greats always stand the test of time. 
It's mind-boggling that Moyer, who by virtue of being a musician automatically has a discerning set of ears, doesn't have a better appreciation for The Beatles' accomplishments (setting the standard of rock bands writing their own songs; pioneering experimentation with recording techniques and instrumentation; starting their own record label, etc., etc.), all the while maintaining commercial success. 
Moyer wrongheadedly states that The Beatles are obsolete because the primary format for their music was the album. Sloppy research!
The Beatles released a notable number of songs in the single format, which thanks to the mp3, is once again the consumers' format of choice. Please see "Past Masters," Volumes 1 and 2, albums created in the '80s to cull EPs and singles into a tidy package. 
Moyer declares The Beatles unfit to have a third generation of fans ("Something is either wrong with pop culture or wrong with teenagers," he writes), while suggesting tongue-in-cheek that Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kanye West, or even Psy, might be this generation's uniting musical icon.
I'll say it again: true greats always stand the test of time.

Moyer moans that Radiohead will never be as big as the Beatles simply because of marketing. As a musician, he ought to know better that it all comes down to the quality of the songs. Sorry dude, Radiohead has only two good songs. What I've heard of the rest of their catalog is boooorrring. 
The Beatles' melody-driven songs are accessible and fun. At the same time, they were trail-blazing tricksters that compelled you to listen closer to what they were doing. The Beatles were also adept at switching up their sound in compelling ways to keep their listeners and those pesky bourgeois writers (ahem!) guessing.
Also notable for their ability to switch up their sound to keep it fresh were The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors and The Velvet Underground -- '60s bands that Moyer claims are just as good, or better than, The Beatles. While all important and wonderful in their own right, Moyer fails miserably to connect the dots.
Lennon/McCartney gave The Stones "I Wanna Be Your Man" to record as a single, which became an important moment in getting The Stones' mojo working. Without The Stones' making the edge of rock 'n' roll sexy, does anybody outside of L.A. hear The Doors?
Without The Beatles, there is no British Invasion, and it becomes much harder for The Who to get noticed in the U.S.
In the early '60s, adults still viewed rock 'n' roll as a teenage fad. Without The Beatles' influence in legitimizing rock 'n' roll as an art form, The Velvet Underground would be little more than an experimental footnote in the Andy Warhol story.
Moyer does have a point when he wonders why U2 doesn't have the same iconic status, since Bono took the social conscience element in rock -- which The Beatles started, by the way -- and took it to a more hands-on activism. I say give it time. The reason could simply be that The Beatles had more hits -- an unduplicated 20 U.S. No. 1's (and numerous other hit songs) in a span of just six years.
For some reason, the grumpy scribe also takes a non-sequitur potshot at Bruce Springsteen, calling him a "codger in a youth-dominated field."
This is worth mentioning as Springsteen was recently named the top current live act by Rolling Stone, with fellow "codgers" Paul McCartney at No. 15, Prince at No. 2, Neil Young at No. 5 and Tom Petty at No. 13.
Repeat after me: true greats always stand the test of time.
"Aren't there other musicians from other communities -- perhaps New Orleans or Nigeria ... that every kid can adore?," he wonders, questioning whether a generation needs a definitive musical icon at all.
Be that as it may, we have yet to find another band with the same enduring universal appeal, but I'm willing to keep an ear open.
Meanwhile, as one member of Moxy Fruvous blurted out in that group's musical interpretation of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham": "Hey, you lay off The Beatles, buddy!"