Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me the rock heritage industry is in danger of eating its own tail, swallowing its cash cow, and over-cooking the various geese that laid the golden eggs. It has exploited its back catalogue so much that speaking as someone who has enthusiastically consumed pop music for 40 years, I'm not sure what there is left to eat. Why? Because you and I have eaten it all, that's why – every last morsel, every last alternative version, every last out-take, extended remix and bootleg mash-up.

The heritage rock press looks rather weary too, forced into an almost constant celebration of glories from the past; how many more times can you stomach a re-evaluation of Leonard Cohen, Japan or Tom Waits? How often have you read an in-depth, blow-by-blow account of the making of the White Album, how many times have you read a feature about the best live double-albums ever made?

Talking of the White Album, this is currently the Beatles LP it's OK to like. Twenty years ago, the received wisdom was that Sergeant Pepper was the jewel in the crown, the highlight of the canon; then around fifteen years ago the critics started to say that Revolver was the real pinnacle of the band's creativity (the formative flushes of psychedelia, a proper spread of styles, etc). But in the last decade, it is the White Album – a double album that had hitherto been considered a mediocre curate's egg – that has been subject to the most re-evaluation. According to the powers that be – ie rock critics over 35 – it is not only the best Beatles album ever made but also (bar the odd Bob Dylan LP) the greatest album ever made by anyone. Which is obviously not the case. Oh no.

If you ask me, the best Beatles album right now is actually A Hard Day's Night, the soundtrack album to the Fab Four's second film, recorded in July 1964. It was not only the first Beatles album to feature entirely original compositions but – while Paul McCartney was (is) undoubtedly the stronger songwriter – was also the high-water mark of John Lennon's Sixties songwriting; never again would he scale these heights, or match McCartney for sheer volume and variety. McCartney would go on to write better, more iconic songs, but this album shows the band at their cohesive best.

And as for next year? Well, by then it will probably be the turn of With the Beatles.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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