Monday, 14 November 2011


The division will not be over whether or not they are seen ... but over how they are seen; as the gilded-cage justifiers of petty-minded conservatism and fear, or as the developers (even if not the actual originators) of all that is open and challenging and outward-looking in mass culture, as the voice of the working class speaking out against elite abuses of power and in favour of the global unity of the proletariat. Let us hope that the passing of time eventually allows the latter view of the Beatles to decisively win. If the former view wins, Cameron and Welch and Adkins and the BRIT School will also have won, and we will all be infinitely poorer for it. If the latter view wins, grime and dubstep and the unacknowledged, still unkillable radical lineage in British society will also have won, if only by proxy, and we will all be - in all the senses that matter - immeasurably richer.

Robin Carmody offers a nicely Ruskinian summary of the Beatles.

While we're on the subject, that Scorcese George Harrison documentary is very watchable isn't it? Although it does lack the narrative richness - and, I'm afraid to say, the good tunes - of No Direction Home. The thing that strikes me about The Beatles increasingly is their historically unique embodiment of solidarity and team spirit. In the docu Eric Clapton says something like: "they were like one person"; it does seem that a large amount of The Beatles' elan and brilliance inhered in the communication of this quality of unity and anti-egotism to the world at a moment when egalitarianism was briefly prevailing, doesn't it?

I know it's a truism of "Fab crit" to say this, but all the best Beatles moments came when they helped each other out, when they managed to transcend their egos by way of the group. A good example of this from the Scorcese documentary is the performance of "If I Needed Someone". It's a pretty mediocre song, but when John and Paul come in with the harmonies the second time around it suddenly lifts into the magic place:

The Beatles presented a very basic foregrounding of co-operation and friendship, so basic in fact that it was probably destined to be travestied in the ensuing years, to the point that it now seems like a sort of lobotomised, Friends-style message of slumber-party chumminess. It takes an effort of imagination to recover the profound, radical singularity of The Beatles' ethos of fellowship, anti-individualism, and love.

No comments: