Re "Cute? Hardly. They subverted the American way of life," Opinion, Feb. 9
Although Michael Tomasky did a god job reminding us just how much the Beatles shook up the musical world, he could have continued that vein further.
Yes, by 1964, the genre we called rock 'n' roll (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and so on) had been thoroughly eviscerated and bubble-gumed into insipid cotton candy. The Beatles were a shot in the arm; not the only one of course, but their trailblazing didn't stop there. Look at them in 1965 ("Rubber Soul") and then in 1967 ("Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour") as they introduced new concepts, and new instruments, into their music as they psychedelicized.
Even though that impetus had played itself out by 1970, our Fab Four never stopped pushing the envelope. Had they stayed little moptops, they would have faded out, but they knew better. Tomasky should have followed that thread to the end.
Plaudits to Tomasky for his illuminating musical history tour. One might quibble, however, over his claim that Americans hadn't heard anything like the Beatles' sounds before 1964.
In 1963, Michigan rocker Del Shannon saw his version of "From Me to You" reach No. 77 on the U.S. charts. Shannon's recording closely resembled the Beatles' original version, which failed to make our national Top 100 in 1963.
While Tomasky rightly notes the Beatles' lack of national impact before 1964, that wasn't true for Los Angeles. Thanks to local deejay Dick Biondi's plugging of the Beatles, the band's recording of "From Me to You" reached No. 32 on KRLA by August 1963, which helped it peak at No. 116 on the national charts.
When the full-scale Beatles invasion came six months later, we loyal KRLA listeners were primed.
Re "They should have known better," Opinion, Feb. 9
It is easy to read the early, negative reviews of the Beatles with an all-knowing, superior smugness. But the truth is, if they had not progressed beyond the relative simplicity of their early efforts, they probably would have been but a footnote in history.
Sure, there were subtle hints of their ability to think outside songwriting conventions (the fourth chord in "I Want to Hold Your Hand") or the visceral nature of their appeal (John Lennon's cover of "Twist and Shout"), but these are noticed only in retrospect. Even the most sophisticated of listeners could not have foreseen that, in less than three years, they would be writing the songs on "Revolver" and three years after that recording "Abbey Road."
The musical growth of the Beatles was probably the most remarkable transformation in popular music history, and I would venture to guess that, in 1964, nobody saw that coming.
I love the Beatles — always have and always will.
But seriously: Enough with the 50-year thing.
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