Back in my day, kids were amazed that solo artist Paul McCartney had been in a really successful band back in the day. The band was called “Wings.” They did that “Silly Love Song” record you could still hear in dentist’s offices here and there in the 1980’s while waiting to get a cavity filled.
Anyway, kids were dumb back then, but at least we had an excuse: We didn’t all carry around supercomputers in our hip pockets that gave us multi-media access to the sum total of human knowledge anywhere we went at all hours of the day, available by simply entering a keyword and hitting “search.” We had to go to libraries or ask people and shit. And that was, like, hard n’ stuff.
But now, things are different. We have smartphones. Trouble is, we aren’t as smart as our phones.
Anyway, Paul McCartney might actually witness one final rebirth to his career thanks to Kanye. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that he actually kinda needs the money. Income from record sales and mechanical royalties aren’t what they used to be. Maybe there will be some hip-hop rendition of “Love Me Do” or something that will make him yet another few million to offset whatever he lost in the divorce to that one-legged woman (believe me, Paul: I feel for you. She must have seemed so nice at some point. Believe me: I know.)
But not all kids these days are totally ignorant of Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Some of them know them and hate them. They dismiss all “boomer” music as self-reflective nattering by a bunch of filthy hippies. It’s easy to hate the boomer generation and all it entails for a lot of millennials these days. Boomers aren’t dying fast enough, and are less and less able to take retirement and just fuck off as previous generations did. They’re still around, still working at Target at age 67 alongside the 19-year-olds. “Sorry, Chlöe, I have to cut your hours this week. I promised more cashier hours to Gladys after her gallbladder operation. Run along.” Being reminded of the utopian musical visions of this generation that just won’t leave must be like twisting the knife.
But, just as with angry atheists who refuse to read the Bible, the Beatles-haters are depriving themselves of a rich bit of cultural understanding. The Beatles were — if nothing else — significant. And their significance is like a tent-pole that’s held up the rest of pop culture since the mid-60s.
To understand the appeal of the Beatles one needs to listen not only to the music of the 50’s — the original rock n’ roll which was both fresh and rebellious, albeit kinda dumb — but also what it had transformed into by the early 60s.
Rock started off cool and ingeniously youthful. But see, it didn’t stay that way. It gradually got co-opted by the “legit” parts of the music industry full of old guys like my dad who thought that Pat Boone was a better, more presentable Elvis with even broader appeal. The real allure of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the rest were lost on the music-business people at the time. So they rounded off the edges of the music and found little signing boys (and girls) to throw in a studio and sing over some lame union musicians who would have much rather been playing in Jackie Gleason’s orchestra.
The result was absolute, unparalleled dullness.
By the early 60’s, just before the Beatles hit, the airwaves were crammed with barely-listenable schlock-rock from people like Fabian and Neil Sedaka. I mean, horrible stuff. So the Beatles hit the market with these fresh little pop songs sung in harmony with interesting instrumentation. And it had a genuine-ness to it that blew away all the corporate crap that came just before.
And that was just the start. Then came 1967. No one had heard anything — ANYTHING — like Sgt. Pepper’s before it came out. And that one record inspired basically all of the serious music that’s come since, either directly or as a reaction against it.
The thing is, a lot of the Beatles’ songwriting was lame by then. They were never really a live band after about 1965. They multi-tracked in studios where Sir George Martin could do his mixes and edits and come up with stuff that no one expected. So their greatest, longest-lasting impact came from the critical contribution of this “legit” producer more than from the raucous enthusiasm shown in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Really, as a group it was all downhill for the Beatles once they started taking themselves seriously. John’s “Bigger than Jesus” remark was sad not because it was supposedly blasphemous. It was sad because it showed hubris.
And so now have modern-day Mr. Hubris himself lending a hand to Paul McCartney, one of the two remaining members of this cultural landmark which was done-in by a sort of hubris over forty years ago. I suppose the ultimate send-off would be something like this:
“Yo Bae, who TF is Paul McCartney???”
“I dunno. I think he’s Ringo Starr’s bassist.”