The Beatles: Time to let it be?
Today marks 50 years since Ringo Starr first performed as part of the Fab Four at the Cavern Club. Great as they were, is it time to move on, or should we join the celebrations for International Beatle Week? Two Independent on Sunday writers argue it out
I say yes...
Imagine there's no Beatles. It's easy if you try. No "Hey Jude" below us. Above us, only Dylan. When John Lennon's totemic song rang out at the Olympics closing ceremony last week, accompanied by his image cast in polystyrene relief, it showed that no musical director can ever imagine a world without Lennon or McCartney. Which is a pity because isn't it time, on this 50th anniversary of the Cavern Club performance, that Britain finally got over The Beatles?
Maybe it's because I'm a Scouser. More than that, I went to the same school as Lennon, which used to be called Quarry Bank. Those of us sneaking out to Calderstones Park for a cigarette had to dodge busloads of tourists taking pictures.
Maybe I have always had enough of them. In any case, we Liverpudlians are already over The Beatles. When I ran a magazine in Liverpool, 20 years ago, we managed to fill our pages with cutting-edge music, from the new nightclub Cream to local bands, without once mentioning the Fab Four.
I'm not saying we shouldn't recognise their contribution to music, occasionally. They got there first, and some of their songs were sublime. But why must every national event, jubilee, X Factor series, or sporting occasion, have to feature The Beatles? How many of the athletes (average age: 26) in the Olympic stadium last week would have requested a Beatles song if they had had the choice? What did the teenage audience watching at home think? Did the rest of the world groan like me?
We had Paul McCartney battling through "Hey Jude" at the opening ceremony. Yes, this is good for a karaoke singalong but even Sir Paul, I'm sure, must be desperate to give this up.
Is the music even that timeless and relevant today? Listen to Bob Dylan's Desire or Blood on the Tracks albums and they could have been released yesterday. You cannot say the same of Help! or Abbey Road. I am sorry, but it is time to send the "Yellow Submarine" below water once and for all.
You say no...
Just as a young Paul McCartney and John Lennon first listened in wonder to Chuck Berry and Little Richard, there was a similarly humble but no less joyous beginning to my first hearing The Beatles. At a very young age, I saw the Fab Four on a black-and-white television and, apparently, immediately began to dance.
This somewhat embarrassing image of unfettered joy has been and will be, repeated in living rooms around the world for as long as footage of The Beatles is shown. It is right that we continue to celebrate the group because we owe them so much. As the music critic Anthony DeCurtis once pointed out, they are like a young artist who died tragically before his time. Generations of musicians and bands simply set out to complete the sketches they provided. But since those heady days of the 1960s, no one has yet improved on the original.
Following Paul McCartney's performance at the Olympics opening ceremony there has been a morphing in some quarters of English modesty into a paranoia about how our behaviour might make us look on the public stage: a fear of being a braggart or a bore. Few other countries or cultures would have such hang-ups.
More than any other band of the time, The Beatles merged high and low in a way that set the tone for the democratisation of culture for the next half century.
And their story just gets bigger as the years roll by. Take the fact that you can now study the group at university; that populations in most countries on the planet could sing "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah"; that the biographies get fatter and the press attention never dwindles – all this is proof that people want to know more about what can only be described as a modern phenomenon.
We revere Shakespeare almost 400 years after his death, and we would never dream of putting him to rest.
So when people stop revelling in The Beatles, when the music stops selling, when the books are no longer written, when the films are no longer produced, when the degree courses are no longer available, when children's limbs stop moving involuntarily as they first hear a Beatles song – perhaps then we can put them to rest. But somehow I doubt those things will ever happen.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove