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What makes a great Beatles song
8 November 2011
10.36pm
meanmistermustard
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Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da was also a beatles single in many countries around the world including the US in 1976. That would also bump up the number of people who have heard it.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
8 November 2011
11.57pm
Anderson
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GniknuS said:

I think it's unfortunate that Anderson hasn't been able to address kedame's recurring question. I have defended the guy because I think he made some valid points, but it is a bit confusing as to why he won't answer the question. You cannot force kedame to see your point of view, she will see things differently and without coming forward with your own point, it comes off as condescension or perhaps just plain ignorance that maybe you have come up with a few clever terms but nothing to back those claims up. What's that saying, "where's the beef?" So prove me wrong, I'm actually quite interested to hear what you have to say.

Your post raises a few points which will be fun to address, and so I'll contribute a few thoughts.  In order to answer Kedame's question, we must agree upon some sort of judgmental framework.  If Kedame believes that art is to be judged based upon popularity and the emotional effects it has upon others, while I'm arguing that neither of these things matter at all in terms of the success of the work qua art, then this is such a fundamental disagreement in outlook that there is no point saying anything else until this is resolved.  As I said, we would just be talking at or past each other, rather than having a productive discussion: it's like asking me to justify calculus when we haven't yet agreed upon the validity of arithmetic.  If I am going to explain why I believe that John is a more excellent songwriter, I must first fully explain and justify the framework upon which that judgement rests.  In short, almost every post I've made in this thread is in some way an attempt to work my way towards answering Kedame's question.  This is why I spent so much time debunking the claim that art should be judged based upon popularity or the emotional reactions of the listener. 

But I'll make my point as a fellow musician that music is equally about the emotion brought to it both from the artists perspective and from the listeners. To prove my point, here's a nice quote from His Other Holiness, John Lennon. 

It was great, 'cause I wrote it in the morning on the piano, like I said many times, and I went to the office and I sang it. I thought, 'Hell, let's do it,' and we booked the studio. And Phil came in, he said, 'How do you want it?' I said, 'You know, 1950 but now.' And he said 'Right,' and boom, I did it in just about three goes. He played it back, and there it was. I said, 'A bit more bass,' that’s all. And off we went. See, Phil doesn't fuss about with fuckin' stereo or all the bullshit. Just 'Did it sound alright? Let’s have it.' It doesn't matter whether something's prominent or not prominent. If it sounds good to you as a layman or as a human, take it. Don't bother whether this is like that or the quality of this. That suits me fine.

This quote is from the aptly titled song Instant Karma which I think could sum up John's entire musical career. That song is so memorable because of the emotion that John brought to it, you can hear it on the record and this emotion is passed on to the listener in their own unique way.

Your language here strikes me as somewhat imprecise (or, at least, problematic).  You say that music is "equally about the emotion brought to it both from the artists perspective and from the listeners".  Consider the word "about" in: what music is "about".  What does this mean?  Are we asking what is the purpose of music?  If so, this seems a rather uninteresting question.  Sometimes music is used for the purpose of selling products, such as in advertising.  Sometimes music is used as a commodity itself, such as when it is sold in record stores.  Sometimes music is created for the sheer purpose of self-expression.  Sometimes music is created for the sheer purpose of self-expression, and then later used as a commodity.  And so forth.  I'm not sure that these are interesting questions.  But I would say that all music that is good qua art (as opposed to good qua entertainment, good qua commodity, etc.) is that which is a form of meaningful self-expression.

In the example you give of the exchange between Lennon and Spector, Spector's input makes him a part of the work.   In effect, he is part of the band; one of the artists.  

Of course, I didn't mean to suggest that the emotion of the artist isn't important for the art: quite the contrary.  Rather, my argument was that the art does not become greater or worse depending upon the emotional reaction of the consumer.    For this reason, if someone says that some work of art is great because it makes them happy, then they would have quite missed the point.  This might speak to the greatness of the work as a commodity or as entertainment, but not as a work of art

So I completely disagree that lyrics don't matter because of how half-heartedly an artist can approach a track if he doesn't care about the lyrics. The emotion of a song doesn't come through, and the rest of the band suffers because the energy is not there. A band can have a musical peak, but if the lyrics are crap, which Hey Bulldog's are, then a critical element is lost.

Even if lyrics do affect the emotional performance of the band, this would not mean that the content of the lyrics is important for the music as a work of art.  Lots of things can affect the emotional performance of the band: like the temperature in the room; but it would be strange to say that room temperature is an important factor in judging a work of art. 

Lets talk about the lyrics in Hey Bulldog.  The lyrics serve at least two major functions: (1) serving as a platform for the vocal contribution to the sound (the music); and (2) as a piece of language and verbal communication.  My argument is that only the first function matters for the music as art, while the second function is meaningless in this respect.  We might inquire into the value of the lyrics as a form of verbal communication of ideas or self-expression, but this is simply a different type of art from the musical content. 

Now, in the first respect, the lyrics in Hey Bulldog get the job done.  They are a fine platform for Lennon's vocals, and so in that respect allow Lennon's vocal performance to contribute to the sound.  In the second respect, I think that Lennon's lyrics are very bad.  They are mostly meaningless, and where there is meaning it's too reminiscent of Lennon's "wife-beater" songs.  I don't blame Lennon for this, however, because rockers tend to be really bad writers.  If Lennon had been a poet instead of a musician, then it's safe to say that he would have been a failure as an artist. 

Which would bring me to the song I consider the best OVERALL effort, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Starting from the brilliant chord sequence, the song is in 3 different keys, the verses are in A, the bridge is in Bflat I believe, and the chorus is in G. Paul's opening paints a mysterious picture, and we are soon taken away to a foreign land that probably looks a bit different to everyone, but perhaps bears certain similarities. This is supported by John's distant voice and mystical lyrics, Paul's playful "frolicking" bass line and George's supporting riff during the bridge. Ringo then takes us back to reality for the most basic rock and roll chord progression in the most basic rock and roll time in the chorus. Paul's range in the chorus is truly remarkable. The Beatles took themselves to a completely unique place musically, I haven't heard a song that is in any way like that one, and we the listeners are left with endless interpretations.

I think this is a very fair point: sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.  I also think this is a fine potential counter-example to my theory.  Perhaps a Beatles song can be great even without a characteristically excellent or first-rate performance from one of the members.    

rather than listening and arguing with one guy who claims to know so much more than the rest of us,

But of course, I made no such claim.  Quite unfair. 

no one perspective is right

I can't agree with this.  It seems to me that two perspectives have been thoroughly debunked during the course of this discussion; viz., that the greatness of a work of art should be judged by its popularity or by its emotional impact on others. 

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
12.35am
mr. Sun king coming together
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But why? Why do you not think the emotional response matters? And also, why must you attack Kedame for having a differing opinion then you on the effect of emotion on art?

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
9 November 2011
12.42am
meanmistermustard
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And here we were actually discussing what made a great beatles song – wasnt that the point of the thread?

 

Anderson seems to have the type of behaviour where he goes after people yet when anyone responds and dares to retaliate turns around and says 'not fair'.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
9 November 2011
1.36am
Anderson
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mr. Sun king coming together said:

But why? Why do you not think the emotional response matters?

Read post #69 in this thread.

And also, why must you attack Kedame for having a differing opinion then you on the effect of emotion on art?

I attacked Kedame's perspective on what makes art great because (1) I was asked to defend my position; (2) I think Kedame's position is obviously wrong; and (3) because the standard by which we judge art is directly related to the subject under discussion: "what makes a great Beatles song".

meanmistermustard said:

Anderson seems to have the type of behaviour where he goes after people yet when anyone responds and dares to retaliate turns around and says 'not fair'.

 

Could you please support this accusation with some sort of example? 

 

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
2.55am
meanmistermustard
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meanmistermustard said:

Anderson seems to have the type of behaviour where he goes after people yet when anyone responds and dares to retaliate turns around and says 'not fair'.

Could you please support this accusation with some sort of example? 

The way you repond to people making them appear less than you eg
 "You might want to try to take more care in organizing your thoughts".
Tell me that is not a patronising statement.
Or, if you want a longer example, how about
 "Here is the ultimate problem with the way you are thinking about these things: you're being a fan in a very self-centered sense.  For you, fandom is all about yourself.  It's all about how you feel, your emotions, your tastes, and so forth.  But in this "me,me, me, me" type of musical appreciation, you really devalue the artist as a human being and as an independent person.  It's not all about you, and the worth of the artist doesn't come down to your personal feelings and emotions.  In fact, if you think about it carefully, you'll see that this is a deeply selfish and dehumanizing way to treat a band which you allegedly respect. "

or

"you're still talking out of both sides of your mouth".

 Yet write 

 "But if you are going to argue, then you should do so in a good faith manner. That is: by paying attention to what I'm typing and making a good faith effort to understand my positions. " 

When have you writen in a "good faith manner"? Its certainly not by writing

 

"I don't mind having a conversation with you, love.  But please try to be a bit less lazy in your reading of my posts if you're going to throw around accusations about what I'm saying."

or, from post 69 (the one you asked Mr Sun King to read)

 

The artist doesn't need you for her work to be valuable.  True art is a deeply personal project, and can have independent value insofar as it is an excellent piece of self-expression.  Looking at art in the way you do is really quite childish, I must say.

 Enough examples? There is another where with 1 hand you compliment someone yet in the same sentence insult 2 other people but i cant find it. I will if you want to see.

 

If you didnt mean to be then certainly Paulbass and Kedame deserve an apology, if not others, and you need to think about how to interact with people here. So far you've done a lousy job.

But no doubt you will conveniently bypass over all of this and continue the same way as before.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
9 November 2011
3.04am
mr. Sun king coming together
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Well, Anderson, I reread post # 69 of yours. Just leave. Can that get through your thick skull? We really don't want you here. Only Gniknus, and that's if you smarten up. Which, I highly doubt you will. Now, you've stated your opinions, made sweeping accusations and defamatory statements. So, I wonder, what next? A rant about how the forum is "teaming up" against you? A declaration that "only those who agree with me are fans in the right sense"? Or maybe some good ol' fashion pure stupidity. Look, I tried to warn you – we are family. When you attack one of us, you attack us all. I get hurt seeing your attacks on Kedame. I see pride when Paulsbass attacks. I feel hatred at the acid you spew, and warmth when those help. You need to think: is insulting the very people you chose to interact with smart, or stupid? Is isolating yourself smarter then integrating? Think, man, because soon, I think, the decision might not be yours. Paulsbass, to quote a man at a rally for Harry Truman in 1948: "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" If you want to stay here without us hating you, smarten up. If not, ignore me, cause I doubt Joe's easily amused here.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
9 November 2011
3.25am
Bjway
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I don't usually get into these big spirited argument things, but I have a couple to say. Anderson you say that popularity (which is based on opinion) does not make a song great. That John's writing and Paul's bass make a great Beatles song and that without at least one of those elements a song is not as great, and that this is true whether the song is popular or not. Yet your belief that a song must have these elements is a matter of opinion or popularity. If a song is a favourite song of yours (ie has good bass etc.) it must be great. Let's say for example (I don't actually think this) that I think the bass in Hey Bulldog is too all over the place and tries to add too much to the song and that this makes a potential great song mediocre. Then by my standard, this song is not a "great" song whether or not it is popular with people like you because Paul tried too hard. You state your opinion as if it is a fact and that is why most of us have a problem with you. That and you continue to talk down at people. Also the idea of just showing up to this board and saying "This is a fact and is true no matter what you say because I say it is" really is not a good impression. At all.

 

Back on topic. Just a very short list of what I think makes great Beatles songs:

- Soulful vocals, (harmonies improve this quite a bit).

- Wide variety of styles and instruments they've played/included.

- Uniqueness that is hard to find anywhere else.

- Being written and performed by 3 (to an extent 4) amazing artists.

The Pope owns 51% of General Motors
9 November 2011
3.37am
mithveaen
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Ok guys I'm off this thread. Sorry if I fail my moderation job, but honestly,  I can't deal with this now.

 

But I'm going to share some opinions about this.

 
http://www.artistshousemusic.o…..song+great

http://www.artistshousemusic.o…..great+song

http://www.npr.org/templates/s…..=123031711

 

BTW SunKing. apple01

 

Edit : Wow BJway very good! apple01

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
9 November 2011
3.51am
Anderson
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But in fact, I haven't made any "defamatory statements".  I've pointed out where I have felt people made various errors in their reasoning, but the fact that this was perceived as personal attacks is just not my fault.  As Kant pointed out, it behooves every person to assume rational conduct on the part of others, and so I was morally obligated to treat everyone here as if they were emotionally mature adults. 

MeanMrMustard posts a few of my arguments and requests, presenting them as insults or personal attacks, when in fact it's really quite obvious that they are nothing of the kind, and are in fact criticisms of various arguments and perspectives.  This is hardly "spewing acid," it's just basic adult discourse.  But if you would like to see actual examples of "defamatory statements" and "spewing acid," you need look no further than the hysterical responses to my posts on virtually any page.  For instance, Paulbass's very first post consisted almost entirely of threats and personal attacks, such as: "clown" and "arrogant punk".  These are not mere criticisms of my arguments (such as I've made), they are outright insults on the very first page. 

Again, I would suggest that you contrast my perfectly civil rebukes of peoples' arguments with the following personal attacks against me in this thread:  "insane and seriously stupid," "you're scum. Pure, evil scum," "clown," "big-headed freak," "COMPLETELY ignorant," "The guy is just pathetic and deserves our pity," "Arrogant bastard," "jerk," "bastard," "ignorant ass," and so forth.

Those are insults.  That's "spewing acid". 

Feel free to contrast those comments with my own, where you will notice that I refrained from any personal attacks or insults, instead keeping my criticisms to peoples' arguments and perspectives on art.  For these reasons, I must say: sorry, but I really see no reason at all why I should apologize for anything.  I've done nothing worse than point out what I perceived to be errors in reasoning and bad arguments.  Of course, these are not "insults" or "spewing acid," it's the foundation of rational and mature conversation. 

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
4.07am
mr. Sun king coming together
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Bullshit. Who sees "you're still talking out both sides if your mouth" as rational? Has Paulsbass said somethings? Yes. Did he apologise? Yes. Anderson, have you ever been in love? Because, I wonder if you realise that when you LOVE something, you can overlook small details. But not only can't you do that, you can't see the reality. Who are you, Rene Levesque? Pauline Marois? Mr. Parizeau? Are you? Because you speak as dillusionally as PQ members, caring not for those around you but adapting an inflexible my way or the highway approach. And, you haven't disproven any theory – well, other then any hope of ever being fully welcomed. Do yourself a favour, and just finish this. Again, I have time. Joe doesn't. How do you think Joe (the creator of this whole site), thinks of you causing a fight over tone and manners? I don't know, but this Canuck thinks he doesn't think highly.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
9 November 2011
4.12am
Anderson
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Bjway said:

I don't usually get into these big spirited argument things, but I have a couple to say. Anderson you say that popularity (which is based on opinion) does not make a song great. That John's writing and Paul's bass make a great Beatles song and that without at least one of those elements a song is not as great, and that this is true whether the song is popular or not. Yet your belief that a song must have these elements is a matter of opinion or popularity.

The philosopher John Searle introduced the concept of "institutional facts".  These are facts that are true given a certain framework.  For instance, it's merely a fact — within an accepted framework of logic — that modus ponens is a valid deductive argument.  Is it merely a "matter of opinion" that modus ponens is a valid deductive argument?  Well, someone can deny it.  Someone can refuse to accept the terms involved, or insist upon other terms.  In which case, those of us who accept the framework of logic would either have to try to reason with the person (convince him or her to accept our framework) or ignore them (because if we can't accept this foundation for discussion, communication on the topic is pointless). 

The same thing is going on here.  Is it "merely a matter of opinion" that a great Beatles song must feature a bass line which consists in an excellent form of self-expression from Paul?  Not if we accept a common framework from which to judge such matters.  We can also judge various proposed frameworks, and reason through which frameworks make the most sense (i.e. which framework we ought to accept). 

Through these methods of reasoning, we can come to agreement and mutual understanding regarding things like morality, laws, government, art, and so forth.

Let's say for example (I don't actually think this) that I think the bass in Hey Bulldog is too all over the place and tries to add too much to the song and that this makes a potential great song mediocre. Then by my standard, this song is not a "great" song whether or not it is popular with people like you because Paul tried too hard.

In that case, it could be that we are operating under two different judgmental frameworks.  In order to come to some mutual understanding and agreement, then, we would have to engage in a rational and mature argument, trying to persuade each other to adopt the other's way of thinking.  Otherwise, we would simply be talking past each other or at each other: productive conversation is impossible.  This is similar to conversations in ethics.  For example, when people have some serious dispute over ethics (consider the abortion divide) this is often because the two sides are operating under very different ethical frameworks.  The only way progress can be made is with rational debate and trying to find common ground.  This is no different.  

You state your opinion as if it is a fact and that is why most of us have a problem with you.

This seems more like a fault on your part rather than mine.  But perhaps you can explain what is so offensive and objectionable about believing that one's positions on art are factual.  

Also the idea of just showing up to this board and saying "This is a fact and is true no matter what you say because I say it is" really is not a good impression. At all.

Of course, I said no such thing. 

 

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
4.39am
kedame
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First, let me say…I don't actually think Anderson is a troll…or a freak. Or evil. I do think he is condescending and pompous, but that doesn't equal evil. However, I would like to thank you, SunKing, meanmistermustard, and paulsbass, for defending my honor. It was very gallant. heart

Secondly, BJway…nice.

Third,

"Why has this Berlin melody lingered on? Commentator Rob Kapilow says we tend to think that these overly familiar songs are not put together artfully, but that's not true. It's the meticulous craft behind a song like "Cheek to Cheek" that has made it an American standard."

Simply beautiful. Maybe I wasn't too clear on this point, or maybe I muddled it somewhere…didn't say it clearly or something, or didn't say it all. I don't think a song or a piece of art is good because it popular. I think it is popular because it is good. There is a distinction there that maybe I didn't make clear enough, and it is an important distinction. I'm sure Anderson will find numerous quotes by me where I am now contradicting myself, but oh, well.

Great links, mith. It shows how even people who are artists in the music world (or know the music really well) have different opinions on what makes the art good. One thing I notice they all say, however, is a good song makes you feel something. An opinion…yes, but apparently a significant one.

Fourthly, Anderson, I knew you were a fucking philosophy student…referencing Kant. My ethics class drives me insane because all we do is talk in circles. Philosophers are good at that. I still think your framework is flawed in that it allows no room for (in my opinion) songs that excellent, purely on the basis that it's not John's composition or Paul's bass work. These two criteria alone do not, I feel, make an ideal song. Does drumming not matter? If George (or John or Paul) add a great guitar solo, does that mean nothing? If the harmonies between John, Paul, and George are gorgeous, but the song is written by Paul or George, does that make it less of a song? I guess under your framework it does, but it doesn't in my book. I must say, I agree with your position that you can have a good song that has insignificant lyrics. I wouldn't be a Paul McCartney fan if I thought every great song must have meaningful lyrics. I think the way the lyrics are presented is important, as is the music surrounding it. That doesn't mean I think lyrics are unimportant, though. A song with great lyrics and great music is awesome (A Day In The Life), but if the music is good, lyrics may not have to be stellar (Yesterday…simple lyrics. Effective, but simple. And great music. Amazing song. Not my favorite…not even close…but amazing, nonetheless.).

I'm gonna watch Stephen Colbert now. I think we can all agree he's amazing…Oh, we can't? Huh? Am I talking to myself now?

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
9 November 2011
4.46am
mithveaen
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You're very welcome kedame. If I'm getting something from all this, is to answer myself the question, what makes a song great. I love that Cheek to Cheek song BTW.

 

But now I have to read a chapter about Bilinguism for my next class so… I guess searching for an answer will have to wait. a-hard-days-night-paul-10

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
9 November 2011
4.52am
Anderson
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mr. Sun king coming together said:

Bullshit. Who sees "you're still talking out both sides if your mouth" as rational? Has Paulsbass said somethings? Yes. Did he apologise? Yes. Anderson, have you ever been in love? Because, I wonder if you realise that when you LOVE something, you can overlook small details. But not only can't you do that, you can't see the reality. Who are you, Rene Levesque? Pauline Marois? Mr. Parizeau? Are you? Because you speak as dillusionally as PQ members, caring not for those around you but adapting an inflexible my way or the highway approach. And, you haven't disproven any theory – well, other then any hope of ever being fully welcomed. Do yourself a favour, and just finish this. Again, I have time. Joe doesn't. How do you think Joe (the creator of this whole site), thinks of you causing a fight over tone and manners? I don't know, but this Canuck thinks he doesn't think highly.

Sun King, of course it's "rational" to criticize a person's argument as "talking out of both sides of your mouth".  This is just putting in common jargon the idea of the fallacy of equivocation and the law of non-contradiction.  This criticism came within the context of MeanMrMustard's holding two contradictory positions at the same time.  This is not a personal insult or attack, it's a rational criticism of an argument. 

SunKing, you and I probably aren't going to get along for some reason.  Perhaps it's best if we just leave each other alone.  I have no intention of going into other peoples's threads; I would just like to finish up my conversation with the few people remaining in this thread who wish to do so.  How about you just leave me alone and I leave you alone? 

Let me finish up my discussions.  If you don't want to have a conversation with me, there is a very simple solution: stop having a conversation with me.  As the philosopher Joel Feinberg noted, if a person is offended by nudity, that person can hardly cry foul if they observe nudity while being a peeping Tom

 

Kedame said:

Fourthly, Anderson, I knew you were a fucking philosophy student…referencing Kant. My ethics class drives me insane because all we do is talk in circles. Philosophers are good at that.

Guilty as charged.  But I must say, in defense of philosophers, we're actually trying to avoid talking in circles.  But yes, we're infuriating, I know. 

These two criteria alone do not, I feel, make an ideal song. Does drumming not matter? If George (or John or Paul) add a great guitar solo, does that mean nothing? If the harmonies between John, Paul, and George are gorgeous, but the song is written by Paul or George, does that make it less of a song? I guess under your framework it does, but it doesn't in my book.

What I would want to say is that these things most certainly do matter, but that the peculiar excellence of the Beatles is in the individual genius of Paul on bass, and in John as a songwriter.  Though I think GniknuS has raised a very strong point that sometimes the whole of a song can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Because I think this position is quite sensible, I might be persuaded to reconsider my own argument. 

I'm gonna watch Stephen Colbert now. I think we can all agree he's amazing…Oh, we can't? Huh? Am I talking to myself now?

Yes, but don't we need some sort of theoretical framework within which we can judge what are the most excellent Stephen Colbert shows? 

Just kidding.

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
8.02am
GniknuS
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Anderson said:

GniknuS said:

I think it's unfortunate that Anderson hasn't been able to address kedame's recurring question. I have defended the guy because I think he made some valid points, but it is a bit confusing as to why he won't answer the question. You cannot force kedame to see your point of view, she will see things differently and without coming forward with your own point, it comes off as condescension or perhaps just plain ignorance that maybe you have come up with a few clever terms but nothing to back those claims up. What's that saying, "where's the beef?" So prove me wrong, I'm actually quite interested to hear what you have to say.

Your post raises a few points which will be fun to address, and so I'll contribute a few thoughts.  In order to answer Kedame's question, we must agree upon some sort of judgmental framework.  If Kedame believes that art is to be judged based upon popularity and the emotional effects it has upon others, while I'm arguing that neither of these things matter at all in terms of the success of the work qua art, then this is such a fundamental disagreement in outlook that there is no point saying anything else until this is resolved.  As I said, we would just be talking at or past each other, rather than having a productive discussion: it's like asking me to justify calculus when we haven't yet agreed upon the validity of arithmetic.  If I am going to explain why I believe that John is a more excellent songwriter, I must first fully explain and justify the framework upon which that judgement rests.  In short, almost every post I've made in this thread is in some way an attempt to work my way towards answering Kedame's question.  This is why I spent so much time debunking the claim that art should be judged based upon popularity or the emotional reactions of the listener. 

But I'll make my point as a fellow musician that music is equally about the emotion brought to it both from the artists perspective and from the listeners. To prove my point, here's a nice quote from His Other Holiness, John Lennon. 

It was great, 'cause I wrote it in the morning on the piano, like I said many times, and I went to the office and I sang it. I thought, 'Hell, let's do it,' and we booked the studio. And Phil came in, he said, 'How do you want it?' I said, 'You know, 1950 but now.' And he said 'Right,' and boom, I did it in just about three goes. He played it back, and there it was. I said, 'A bit more bass,' that’s all. And off we went. See, Phil doesn't fuss about with fuckin' stereo or all the bullshit. Just 'Did it sound alright? Let’s have it.' It doesn't matter whether something's prominent or not prominent. If it sounds good to you as a layman or as a human, take it. Don't bother whether this is like that or the quality of this. That suits me fine.

This quote is from the aptly titled song Instant Karma which I think could sum up John's entire musical career. That song is so memorable because of the emotion that John brought to it, you can hear it on the record and this emotion is passed on to the listener in their own unique way.

Your language here strikes me as somewhat imprecise (or, at least, problematic).  You say that music is "equally about the emotion brought to it both from the artists perspective and from the listeners".  Consider the word "about" in: what music is "about".  What does this mean?  Are we asking what is the purpose of music?  If so, this seems a rather uninteresting question.  Sometimes music is used for the purpose of selling products, such as in advertising.  Sometimes music is used as a commodity itself, such as when it is sold in record stores.  Sometimes music is created for the sheer purpose of self-expression.  Sometimes music is created for the sheer purpose of self-expression, and then later used as a commodity.  And so forth.  I'm not sure that these are interesting questions.  But I would say that all music that is good qua art (as opposed to good qua entertainment, good qua commodity, etc.) is that which is a form of meaningful self-expression.

In the example you give of the exchange between Lennon and Spector, Spector's input makes him a part of the work.   In effect, he is part of the band; one of the artists.  

Of course, I didn't mean to suggest that the emotion of the artist isn't important for the art: quite the contrary.  Rather, my argument was that the art does not become greater or worse depending upon the emotional reaction of the consumer.    For this reason, if someone says that some work of art is great because it makes them happy, then they would have quite missed the point.  This might speak to the greatness of the work as a commodity or as entertainment, but not as a work of art

So I completely disagree that lyrics don't matter because of how half-heartedly an artist can approach a track if he doesn't care about the lyrics. The emotion of a song doesn't come through, and the rest of the band suffers because the energy is not there. A band can have a musical peak, but if the lyrics are crap, which Hey Bulldog's are, then a critical element is lost.

Even if lyrics do affect the emotional performance of the band, this would not mean that the content of the lyrics is important for the music as a work of art.  Lots of things can affect the emotional performance of the band: like the temperature in the room; but it would be strange to say that room temperature is an important factor in judging a work of art. 

Lets talk about the lyrics in Hey Bulldog.  The lyrics serve at least two major functions: (1) serving as a platform for the vocal contribution to the sound (the music); and (2) as a piece of language and verbal communication.  My argument is that only the first function matters for the music as art, while the second function is meaningless in this respect.  We might inquire into the value of the lyrics as a form of verbal communication of ideas or self-expression, but this is simply a different type of art from the musical content. 

Now, in the first respect, the lyrics in Hey Bulldog get the job done.  They are a fine platform for Lennon's vocals, and so in that respect allow Lennon's vocal performance to contribute to the sound.  In the second respect, I think that Lennon's lyrics are very bad.  They are mostly meaningless, and where there is meaning it's too reminiscent of Lennon's "wife-beater" songs.  I don't blame Lennon for this, however, because rockers tend to be really bad writers.  If Lennon had been a poet instead of a musician, then it's safe to say that he would have been a failure as an artist. 

Which would bring me to the song I consider the best OVERALL effort, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Starting from the brilliant chord sequence, the song is in 3 different keys, the verses are in A, the bridge is in Bflat I believe, and the chorus is in G. Paul's opening paints a mysterious picture, and we are soon taken away to a foreign land that probably looks a bit different to everyone, but perhaps bears certain similarities. This is supported by John's distant voice and mystical lyrics, Paul's playful "frolicking" bass line and George's supporting riff during the bridge. Ringo then takes us back to reality for the most basic rock and roll chord progression in the most basic rock and roll time in the chorus. Paul's range in the chorus is truly remarkable. The Beatles took themselves to a completely unique place musically, I haven't heard a song that is in any way like that one, and we the listeners are left with endless interpretations.

I think this is a very fair point: sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.  I also think this is a fine potential counter-example to my theory.  Perhaps a Beatles song can be great even without a characteristically excellent or first-rate performance from one of the members.    

rather than listening and arguing with one guy who claims to know so much more than the rest of us,

But of course, I made no such claim.  Quite unfair. 

no one perspective is right

I can't agree with this.  It seems to me that two perspectives have been thoroughly debunked during the course of this discussion; viz., that the greatness of a work of art should be judged by its popularity or by its emotional impact on others. 

This is a lot to quote but I don't have time right now to really space it out but I think this is a fair assessment of what I've written. I suppose what I meant by "about", which was a poor choice of a word, was that music serves an equal importance both to the artist and to the eventual consumer. Taken from the artists perspective, the question must be raised as to why an artist creates music in the first place. I am a musician and I don't really know why I go through the trouble of the rather expensive and time consuming process. It's fun I suppose, but even when it's not fun there's something that drives me. Take another step back, why spend the time to even learn an instrument? Most artists that I have heard, including the Beatles, have said their reason was to essentially get laid, but what happens when it gets hard? (sorry, horrible, horrible pun)…What I mean is, what is the reason to continue when it becomes difficult? Certainly girls can't be the answer forever, so is there something innate and unique to an artist that makes him or her continue when success is anything but guaranteed? So when a group such as the Beatles breaks through, there are all of these different pressures both internally and externally. The pressure to be great and push your craft to new levels and the outside pressure of dealing with fans expectations. To me, when both these criteria are met and pushed to a height never before seen, a truly great piece of art can be admired.

Now I realize that you might just say that I didn't answer your true question, but I think the pain staking labors of a musician need to be appreciated before any rational discussion can truly begin about what makes a Beatles song great. It didn't just happen overnight and true determination and resiliance where shown by all four members, and this needs to be respected.

On to what I would consider makes a great song: mood, uniqueness of structure, a first rate effort put forth by each member, eventual impact/lasting value, melody and lyrical content. I put forth Penny Lane as an example. Is it first rate?…ah it's so close! I would like to clarify what I meant when I earlier said Paul wasn't a great writer, I certainly would consider him the best craftsman of the four, but I just don't consider him necessarily great emotinally with his voice which could be a reflection of his lyrics. Paul truly takes us on a emotional rollercoaster in this seemingly innocent tune in Paul's psychadelic key of B major. It starts off innocent and fun, but consider the use of Bminor (in the key of B, mind you) when he gets to the end of the second verse, the mood completely changes. We are left hanging in the balance on the "And the people that come and go" line, Paul can take us anywhere he chooses, but no worries, they are just stopping to say hello! It's this type of manipulation that turns this tune psychadelic, that gives it its edge and lasting value.

Structurally wise there is nothing completely unique like, say, A Day In The Life, and I wouldn't say that each member puts forth a great effort although whoever played that trumpet solo did a great job of it. The bass line is nice, but usually Paul's best efforts where on Lennon tunes when he had more time to put them together. The song made an impact, although is sometimes forgotten in the midst of all that came out from that time. I like Paul's narrator voice, it's impassive and unbiased and the lyrics paint a beautiful picture. Paul certainly was proud of the song and the band was taken to another unique place through their hard work. Overall it's a fun track, it sounds like it was a lot of fun to make, and I, the listener, am left with something that I can't quite figure out when the ringing at the end stops.

So I would probably put it in the 7-15 range of all time Beatles songs. I personally love the track and that love has only grown as I've taken the time to study and learn from it.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
9 November 2011
2.58pm
meanmistermustard
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I dont have a problem with people writing Paul cant write or Ringo cant play drums or The Beatles are rubbish (and im not saying that Anderson did) but a) they have to expect and accept people to challenge their views and b) be able to explain their position. Anderson has failed to do so on numerous occasions and continues to do so.

I do have a problem with people who come on a site and within their first few posts start belittling people who dont support or agree with their views. When that happens i have little time for them.

 

If Anderson had just been civilised then maybe it would have been an interesting discussion, as shown by the few posts where people gave their opinions/views on what made certain songs great beatles tracks. Unfortunately that was not to be.

Anderson, you made your bed, you have to lie in it. You brought it all on yourself.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
9 November 2011
6.01pm
Anderson
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GniknuS said:

Taken from the artists perspective, the question must be raised as to why an artist creates music in the first place. I am a musician and I don't really know why I go through the trouble of the rather expensive and time consuming process. It's fun I suppose, but even when it's not fun there's something that drives me. Take another step back, why spend the time to even learn an instrument? Most artists that I have heard, including the Beatles, have said their reason was to essentially get laid, but what happens when it gets hard? (sorry, horrible, horrible pun)…What I mean is, what is the reason to continue when it becomes difficult? Certainly girls can't be the answer forever, so is there something innate and unique to an artist that makes him or her continue when success is anything but guaranteed? So when a group such as the Beatles breaks through, there are all of these different pressures both internally and externally. The pressure to be great and push your craft to new levels and the outside pressure of dealing with fans expectations. To me, when both these criteria are met and pushed to a height never before seen, a truly great piece of art can be admired.

I completely agree with nearly everything in this paragraph.  Just to clarify a possible obscurity, when I use the word "self-expression," I don't just mean that the artist puts his or her emotions, personality, and feelings into the song (although that's a part of it).  Self-expression is also an expression of the artist's skill, talent, or genius.  So when I say an "excellent and creative instance of self-expression," and you say "pushed to a height never before seen," I think we're pretty much saying the same thing.  Let me give another example.

After Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson felt motivated to create Pet Sounds in an effort to compete with the Beatles.  The Beatles, in turn, were so blown away by Pet Sounds, that they were motivated to create Sgt. Pepper.  I fully agree that these "external" pressures pushed these great artists to new heights; i.e. it pushed them to excel and express their talent, skill, and genius more fully than ever before. 

And  we might contrast this with the earlier "just wanna get laid" Beatles; despite the obvious talent in the early Beatles, they never really managed a truly great work of art.  They produced some really incredible songs, and displayed skill and talent, but it wasn't until later — when they were really motivated to push themselves as artists — that they really managed more full expressions of their genius. 

So anyway, I think we mostly agree. 

Interesting take on "Penny Lane," by the way.  I'll give it a listen later when I have the chance.  I've always thought that song reminded me too much of a TV sitcom theme, like the tune from "Full House" or what have you.  Maybe I missed something interesting. 

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
9 November 2011
6.33pm
kedame
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Don't worry paulsbass…I still think he's an ass.

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
10 November 2011
4.16am
GniknuS
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Anderson said:

I completely agree with nearly everything in this paragraph.  Just to clarify a possible obscurity, when I use the word "self-expression," I don't just mean that the artist puts his or her emotions, personality, and feelings into the song (although that's a part of it).  Self-expression is also an expression of the artist's skill, talent, or genius.  So when I say an "excellent and creative instance of self-expression," and you say "pushed to a height never before seen," I think we're pretty much saying the same thing.  Let me give another example.

After Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson felt motivated to create Pet Sounds in an effort to compete with the Beatles.  The Beatles, in turn, were so blown away by Pet Sounds, that they were motivated to create Sgt. Pepper.  I fully agree that these "external" pressures pushed these great artists to new heights; i.e. it pushed them to excel and express their talent, skill, and genius more fully than ever before. 

Right, and you could argue that this is what is wrong with music today, the lack of competition. My brother played baseball in college and he said that what always pushed him was knowing how good the guy behind him was. Looking at today's current music scene, what is really pushing someone to make a great piece of music? This is what made that time period so great, there were so many different ideas at the time, some of the ideas worked and some didn't. two-virgins But at least they tried.

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