Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beatlemisogyny abounds

The discussions below (and if you pop in you can find Vern still heroically arguing that the Stones Kraftwerk Led Zep Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison are the true equal contributory innovators in pop) have reignited my latent Beatlephilia, after several long years principally devoted to this lot. The particular catalyst was my observation to Gaw that a mere six years separated the catchy (and as it turned out, indisposable) disposable pop of Please Please Me from the creation of Revolution 9, the latter a track which four decades and innumerable chin-stroking bands later is still as avant garde as popular music gets. And of course those six years were absolutely rammed with ceaseless invention, smash hits, touring, daft movies – the lads weren’t holed away, as modern bands are, working browfurrowedly on tapeloops and sampling. It is nigh impossible to imagine pop artists being able to make such a quantum leap forward again. I mean, where is there to go?

So, Beatlephilia reignited, I dug out the White Album and played it in the car. Now, it doesn’t need me to expound on its musical worth – there must be acres of analysis, much of it nuttily intense, out there on the web – but, my goodness, there’s a little run of songs on what was Side 3: Everybody’s got something to hide…/Sexy Sadie/Helter Skelter/Long, Long, Long (that’s two Lennons, a McCartney and a Harrison). Now, I mean, come on! Wowee, the range of the thing...How many bands, what whole pop genres, have gurgled forth just from that little lot? And how many records since have successfully strung together so many disparate styles? (I ask rhetorically - as below, keep crankarian theory to self). Again, it’s not a question of taste. I should have made it clearer in the Beatlemania post, perhaps: whether one likes listening to the Beatles or not is another question, of interest really only to you, and of equal but not greater value to a declaration of “I don’t like the colour of Napoleon’s hat” when discussing the causes of his defeat at Waterloo. And of the question about the actual role of Fabbery in the development of pop music, yes, you can have a heretical theory if you want, as you can have a heretical theory about anything settled, but what of it? Mew says the cat, Quack-quack says the duck, Bow-wow-wow says the dog!

(The other notable thing about the White Album (and also Abbey Road) is the timelessness of its sound. The earlier records, as inventive as they were, have an unmistakeable sixties tang, whereas the White Album could have been made at any time since.)

Well anyway, so Bradman-esquely vast was the scale of the Beatles’ inventive achievement in those years that - like the Sun, Death and the stupidity of the late Harold Pinter's political views - it’s impossible to look directly at it. So shifting instead to the other question, that of taste, it occurred to me that despite all the above, the Beatles never made a song I like as much as I like Gimme Shelter. Which got me thinking about other areas where the Stones (whose Sergeant Pepper rip-off is perhaps their most humiliating moment, much worse than those 80s videos or Brian Jones nicking Harrisons’s sitar because at least they made Paint it, Black with that) might have triumphed over their Scouse rivals.

And the answer, it seemed to me, is in the field of appallingly dated misogynistic lyrics.

The Beatles’ best effort here is Run for your Life, which closes Rubber Soul:

Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
...You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end, little girl

Unsurprisingly, Lennon later disowned this shocking stalker’s ditty, but the Stones broadened his psychotic jealousy into a much wider contempt for all womankind.

Examples aren’t hard to come by (gin-soaked bar-room queens etc) but the prime ones are Under My Thumb (The squirmin' dog who's just had her day, Under my thumb…The way she does just what she's told etc) and especially Yesterday’s Papers:

Seems very hard to have just one girl
when there's a million in the world
...Who wants yesterday's papers, who wants yesterday's girl?
Who wants yesterday's papers? Nobody in the world

Hard to imagine Take That chirping that one. And yet, the girls kept on buying Stones records and squabbling for backstage passes. A different world, then. Or not? You can answer that one if you want, or not, up to you.


worm said...

Having just posted on my blog today about the sexual successes of the band Motley Crue, I can confirm that in the world of rock, the more bouffant your mullet, and the more of a total tit that you are, the more women seem to like you*

*see also 'The Mick Hucknall effect'

Vern said...

Are you trying to raise me from my sickbed? Your earlier proposal that Helter Skelter (1968) inspired Led Zeppelin (first album released 1968) is highly dubious; and that Tomorrow Never Knows and the other one inspired Kraftwerk? Ich don't think so.

I comprehensively demolished your literalist, book of Genesis theory on the Beatles Brit, old chap. And without even being contrarian about it.

Now excuse me I'm back off to bed.

Brit said...

And with that parting shot, he exited the room, safe in the knowledge that he had won in the end...

Gadjo Dilo said...

One dichotomy is that The Beatles were (at least became) an albums band while The Stones were a singles band, so it's like comparing a Mars Bar with a box of Milk Tray.

martpol said...

Led Zep can match the Stones on the matter of misogyny, and on one of their greatest songs too:

Been dazed and confused for so long it's not true
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you
Lots of people talk and few of them know
Soul of a woman was created below...

They were a better band than the Stones, though.

Brit said...

And let's not forget Cliff...