John, Paul, George, Ringo and Nick

So the Beatles are recording again. So we recall how fab the four were. So we worry a bit about the remaining three. So what's to live up to? They weren't so great first time round. By Nick Coleman

Evidently The Beatles were quite good. They were a wonder of the age. An emblem too. They roused a generation. They caused people to think about stuff other than football and money. And they surely did splendid service on behalf of the national economy. They were dead good, The Beatles, and they wrote timeless, memorable, golden songs like "Yesterday".

None of which alters the fact that I can't be doing with them. I don't hate them. I wouldn't insist, for instance, that they're overrated or that they constitute in some people a form of nostalgia for a decade that delivered sex, drugs, long trousers and the World Cup to grown-ups, and sod-all to the under-10s. Certainly not. It's greyer than that. Softer. I just can't be doing with The Beatles. Which is an altogether different order of contemptuous diffidence. Between The Beatles and I there exists a nasty, creeping pathological thing. I am disturbed by The Beatles, in much the same way that I'm disturbed by certain combinations of buttons and wool, and heights, and the jellyfish legs you get in eggs.

The Beatles got off to a poor start in my life when, in 1964, at the age of four, I was given a Beatles record ("She Loves You": chubby boys in a row in black polo-necks) and my mother acquired from somewhere a Beatles tea-towel, with badly drawn drums and guitars and JPG&R smiling fit to bust on it. This thing hung on the back of the kitchen door for years, getting wispier and wispier with the burden of daily washing-up like a flag of surrender to a Zeitgeist my parents have always affected to despise.

My parents - being good parents and having themselves been children of the Blitz - loathed pop music with a vengeance. So what was I to make of this complex message?

Pop music is awful, read the message, therefore the house shall be equipped with a Beatles record and tea-towel, with which the infant mind will be subtly conditioned to a sense that pop is indivisible from domestic drudgery. They weren't daft, my mum and dad. "Pop music is dreadful stuff," they were saying. "However, The Beatles are perfectly acceptable in our book." The message hit home like a brush with a mohair cardigan. The Beatles were just a pointless pop group.

Obviously this is orthodox stuff. The most important transaction in pop music takes place between a finished pop record and the unconscious mind of the pop consumer, caught unawares in its daily plod between confusion and despair. Subjectivity is all. The desire to have good taste is, at best, a self-dignifying diversion. Frankly, I was also appalled by Mick Jagger from the off, but then so, quite clearly, were my parents - so by the time of "Satisfaction" and its appeal to the short-trousered sensualist in us all, I was ripe for the picking as a hard-core Rolling Stones fan. No, my early struggles with The Beatles were only formative, not conclusive, and I now regard them as the rich soil into which deeper roots of alienation would later coil.

It's partly a generational thing. If you were, say, 13 in 1973, as I was, and just coming into the first flowering of adolescent factionalism, then it was as primarily important then as it is now to sort out who to hate. And The Beatles, having only recently died and gone to heaven, were already established as the great canonical institution of British pop. Already they were the Shakespeare, the Dickens and the Mr Kipling of fashionable taste, and the ravishing rule of subjectivity that had always sustained me had been taken out of pop and replaced with something that reeked of chalk dust and blackboards. By the early 1970s, The Beatles were an absolute and a given, and it was simply not permissible to listen to Sgt Pepper and hear a lot of fussy, sentimental, ornamental flimflam done up in twee allusions to music-hall and kitchen-sink melodrama.

Worse, in spite of dying and going to heaven, The Beatles had pulled off the abominable trick of not actually going away. Here was Paul McCartney on Top of the Pops sitting on a hay-bale singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb"; there was Ringo Starr on chat shows gumming up on the subject of his acting career with a berk called David Essex; while in New York sat John Lennon, in bed with his mad wife, looking like a compost heap. The Beatles remain, in my view, the single most important justification for the existence of Gary Glitter.

Then there was Beatles Mysticism, which began with the Maharishi, climaxed briefly in rumours of McCartney's death, run over on the zebra crossing in Abbey Road, and then settled down into a sub-literary cult based on textual analysis of The Albums.

This was the most maddening business of all.

On leaving school, and while stooging behind the counter of a record shop for the duration of my "year off", I fell in admiringly with a bunch of recent graduates from the local university, all of whom were three or four years older than me. They were the first people I'd ever met who knew more about pop music than I did, and could talk about it with an erudition that suddenly voided my rowdy sensualism.

They liked all the right things: punk, soul, American Anglophile pop, Joni Mitchell, disco. They also liked The Beatles. No, they revered The Beatles. They revered them so much that they wouldn't talk about them ever, under any circumstances, but would exchange laden glances over their pints of Greene King, as if to explicate by concealment the fathomless depths of their understanding of what The Beatles had to say. The Beatles, it was to be inferred, were saving something that required special understanding, and the sophisticated equipment required to decode these texts was not to be conferred on just any old person.

This was the last straw.

It would be disingenuous to claim that this sort of droog-ish litism has no place in the psychologically democratised hyper-world of popular culture. Disingenuous and wrong. On the contrary, the form of cultural exclusivity we know as "hip" has always been the engine of popular music, the force that's lent it drive, range and traction against the hegemony of establishment culture. Be-bop was specifically conceived to be beyond the accomplishment of white swingers. Punk was designed to give everyone who wasn't a punk a headache. Rap is a form of discourse that outrages and shuts out those who are content for black folks to be merely soulful. Hip is invariably a good thing, one way or another.

But The Beatles defeat me on all counts. They were chubby. They were matey. They were sentimental. They were a family, not a gang. And they had the gall to suggest that, underneath, we're all a bit Beatley, if we'd only open up and admit that chubby, matey, sentimentality is the best that we can hope for in a world redeemable only by love. Worst of all, they had, and still have, the ear of the masses, despite the claims of my friends to a special relationship that passes mortal understanding.

Simply, The Beatles have always made me feel small and no different. Just another washer-up. Although I am prepared to stick my neck out in smart company and say that the reason I have a blind spot about The Beatles is because they tried it on and got away with it, despite the fact that they had the drummer from hell.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth


Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee