Based on a True Story
Updated: Jun 1, 2019
The accepted Narrative of music history is the Beatles are biggest and Best band of all time. There is no doubth the arrival of the Beatles was a musical Atomic Bomb especially in the States where thier Ed Sullivan appearance is heralded as a watershed moment for American teens. There is no arguing with the quality of songs they wrote or the slavish fanaticism of the fans However is all of this enough to crown them the greatest?
They mined a amazing vein of creativity from "Rubber Soul" to "Abbey Road" but the early albums are good singles surrounded by filler and lazy covers. Do you reach for "With the Beatles" or " Revolver" for a fab four fix?
Perhaps we are in awe of the Legend of the fab four and thier perceived zany personalities which were as fabricated and manufactured as any boy band. Although Epstien was probably smart to shield public from reality.
Reporter: " George what is your Hobby when your not being a Beatle?
George " Stewing in my own Resentment and F**king Ring's Wife?
Reporter: " John what is your favourite Brekfast?"
John: " Heroin "
To ask honesty if they are best is to ask more questions such as How do we quantify success? Is it based on sales figures? If so why are the Bay City Rollers not named one of greats? (120 Million albums sold) which means Shang A Lang is a better Song Than Strawberry Fields......Or Elton John the best ( Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 350 Million and counting).
Do we quantify success in artistic terms and who decides what passes as music as art and what is only a good song?
The Irony is the Beatles have become background music. Part of the fabric of dinner parties and crap cover bands. For a band that pioneered albums as a single body of work they have been reduced to singular songs. Outside of hard core fans the Man, Woman or non specific gender I individual In the street would be hard pressed to tell you which song is of which album. I would hazard a guess more people have copies of red and blue album than Abbey Road but not Queen's Greatest hits or Rumors....there's no cure for mass consumption
The major variant in any of this is Preference. One man's Beatles is another Man's Stones. That's assuming we dismiss genre. Let's not mention Elvis or Miles Davis or Howlin Wolf or Marvin Gaye.....and on and on
For arguments sake If we use Beatles as number one then who is number two?
Is it The Stones? Dylan? Bowie? Or is just the bud light version of music history?
It appears the Woodstock generation rose tinted image of 60's is yardstick with it's only rival being Punks ground zero approach relegating everything else bar Bowie to irreverent status.
Again its preference that matters here. It trumps fact every time. When Bowie passed away we were covered in Avalanche of print and mainstream media tributes from documentaries to album reissues. It's still going on three years later. See this years record store day for evidence. Enough already!!!
A mere fortnight before Bowie another giant passed in Lemmy. Outside of specialist media did he get yards of print or media coverage.
DID HE FUCK!!!
Despite the fact his career was longer than Bowies from being Hendrix roadie to being in two bands, one admittedly a cult in Hawkwind and the other Motorhead. He was reduced to "and finally" 30 second story on news.
It's easy to forget that Motorhead were both accepted by Punks and Rockers, that they were considered the loudest, nastiest band in the land. That your lawn would die if they moved in next door to you. The influence of Motorhead is huge. No Motorhead = No Metallica which means no career for tons of bands ( but that's a discussion for another day).
This negates the sales angle as any kind of measurement tool for greatness. Motorhead for a nano second in early 80's were chart stars with Top of Pop appearances and " No Sleep to Hammersmith " going straight to number 1 in U.K. Charts when released. Name be another live album that has done that?
After that sales reduced to nothing. The music for most part was great followed by few lean years before finishing on five album purple patch that only stopped with Lemmy's passing. Does this diminish thier greatness or influence? No one iota.
Another example is the Ramones. Great t-shirt sales men total shit at selling albums. zero chart action. However when the brudders played the Roundhouse London future members of the Clash, the Damned, the Stranglers and the Pistols were present. Now that is despite what professional grump John Lydon says a clear case of influence on U.K. Punk and all without bothering the top 40.
Which brings me to Black Sabbath. The architects of Heavy Metal in all its guises were dismissed as four labourers from Midlands make music of no value by every critic. Yet they were loved by fans and now we have whole generation of musicians calling them the Godfathers of everything. Even the critics have come around.
Maybe that's the trick? Stick around long enough and till you become parody of yourself like Ozzy....err i mean become respected and have music praised and reevaluated.
To counter my own argument for Guitar music someone else might point to Public Enemy or N.W.A. because there is no argument that hip hop culture is the dominant force in modern music in every way. Does that make it the greatest? No because popular and great are really bedfellows and on rare occasions they are it passes quickly but leaves its mark on the culture. Hello Nirvana!
Ultimately again its Preference. I know Iron Maiden fans who say they are best, I know indie fans who say it's the Smiths. I've heard people label Kanye West a genius or Ed Sheeran is best singer ever and who's to say they are wrong? Certainly not me......
I will however tie chain them to a radiator in my basement and let them sit in their own feces crying while I play Fun House on a loop at full blast until their mind is broken and they reject Ed Sheeran and his satanic ways and except our lord and Savior Iggy Pop in to their hearts....its for their own good. A musical conversion therapy......possibly
To answer my opening question, For me success is quantified by did the music made, no matter how little it sold or how many inspire some young men or women want to make music themselves? If the answer is yes
You walk among the giants...
As for the greatest....I'd say Sabbath, The Stooges, The Who, The MC5, The Groundhogs and Purple...but that's just my opinion.....
If you don't agree come over and let's go down to the basement and check out some music.