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Beatles as the "greatest band of all time"
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25 April 2016
11.06am
bentausig
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Apologies if I'm not posting this in the right place (I couldn't find an obvious fit), but I am an ethnomusicologist considering a question about greatest-of-all-time lists.

 

Specifically, after Prince died, I began looking at greatest band lists, and noticed that the Beatles are almost always ranked #1. Prince is usually somewhere in the 20s or so. Both artists are much beloved, and have had an enormous impact on music. I was wondering if you felt that these lists were justified in conventionally placing the Beatles #1, and if you might offer some reasons why or why not? What makes the Beatles a consistently more logical choice as the greatest artists of all time than, say, Prince?

 

My thanks! Ben Tausig, Stony Brook University, Department of Music

25 April 2016
2.59pm
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ewe2
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Hi Ben, I'll make sure the mods put it in the right place!

Addressing your question, I think the #1 cultural reason for the Beatles topping the list is the not-yet-gone boomer generation. I often quote Ian MacDonald who said we need a distance of at least a century before we can really be objective about their legacy. But as you can see from this site, it's a legacy passed on to several generations now. As an X'er myself I didn't really become a fan until I'd heard their original albums at 18, and in my early 20's met other fans and realized this was an actual thing so to speak, and I think younger fans have similar experiences. At that perspective we perceive the cultural importance but we're just as much if not more entranced by the music and their personal charisma, the glamour of which still surprises me. The mainstream media play a part in perpetuating this with the lists of course. It will be interesting to see if they lose interest as they claimed to have done in the mid to late 70's.

I think we can and will maintain a cultural legacy separate from the original generation. And the reasons for that seem to be that the lyrics are still relevant and understandable, the music itself is as fresh as ever, and their performance and talent measures up to anything subsequent generations have achieved. Not that I believe that there is a hierarchy or even should be. As a musician I firmly believe "equal but different". But there is Before Beatles and After Beatles. People like Paul McCartney , John Lennon , Ringo Starr and George Harrison don't come along every day and they don't form a band together and they don't make effortless brilliant music, and most musicians still agree on this. Prince is a one-man Beatles-like machine (like Todd Rundgren). He's not a band and he is After Beatles. a-hard-days-night-ringo-8

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25 April 2016
3.12pm
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Necko
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I personally don't believe in all this stuff about there being a single greatest band ever. Different people like different things. Obviously, if Rolling Stone makes a list of greatest artists, it's going to have a heavy bias towards rock music. And then there's that whole tricky thing about whether the artists on those lists are actually put there because of musical ability or just because of popularity. 

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25 April 2016
6.35pm
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Let's see . . Prince outside of the top 5 . . maybe

 

Prince outside of the top 10 . . absolutely not

 

Especially when you consider that 99% of his music a controlled composition (meaning he wrote it all, music and lyrics)

26 April 2016
2.07pm
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piggylane
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Well to answer the question "who is the greatest band of all time" you would have to define what makes a band great. Is it the popularity of the band, how manny people would be able to randomly sing one of their songs, if they wrote it themself, how technically good they are/were or how influential they are/were. Depending on the definition used to define a "great" band, different people would win the top spot. I do think a lot of it depends on recognition, there aren't manny people who wouldn't recognize the Beatles. They were also quite influential and huge in popularity... I'm not saying this doesn't apply to other bands ( because it does) but i think that it is probably quite easy to put them on the top as even people who don't really "know" the Beatles would recognize them as "that good band from the 60s" even if its not actually their opinion. In conclusion they are probably in the top because thats what they are known for. 

I hope it was helpful to some extentahdn_ringo_09 ( and not to repetitive, i tend to repeat thingsahdn_george_07)

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26 April 2016
2.22pm
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I've always thought the "greatest band" and "greatest artist" stuff was a bunch of bullshit. Rolling Stone never varies from its position of defending the status quo. Even in the late 60s and early 70s, they refused to "think outside of the box" so to speak. Why must everything be categorized into a list, when music should be a subjective art form that anyone can create and enjoy without being told what to like and what not to? I agree that time sheds new light on the "greatness " of musical artists. It took at least half a century for people to accept Bach as a great composer, and today, he is regarded as one of the greatest composers ever. By the way, Stony Brook! It's nice to see someone else from the Island on the forum.

28 May 2016
11.46pm
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limitlessundyinglove
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Here's my two cents: The Beatles are a very special band, for many people.  Everyone knows them, and they're definitely among the most influential people of the past hundred years.  In that respect, they probably are "the greatest band ever".a-hard-days-night-john-1But, if you're looking for the absolute most "talented" group of rock musicians out there, they aren't that.  That might have to go to Led Zeppelin, but that's a different debate.

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29 May 2016
12.43pm
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Could you not argue that the most talented Rock Group is the Travelling Wilburys considering they had Dylan, Harrison and Orbison. Tom Petty isn't to be sneezed at. 

Any super group would surely be in the running.

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29 May 2016
1.09pm
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meanmistermustard said
Could you not argue that the most talented Rock Group is the Travelling Wilburys considering they had Dylan, Harrison and Orbison. Tom Petty isn't to be sneezed at. 

Any super group would surely be in the running.  

Poor Jeff.

Then again mmm, we all know you're not an ELO fan 😛

 

TELEEPPHHONNNEEE LINEEEEE, GIIIVEEE ME SOME TIMMEEE, I'M LIVVVINNNNGGG IN TWILLLIGGGHTT.

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29 May 2016
1.14pm
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limitlessundyinglove
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meanmistermustard said
Could you not argue that the most talented Rock Group is the Travelling Wilburys considering they had Dylan, Harrison and Orbison. Tom Petty isn't to be sneezed at. 

Any super group would surely be in the running.  

Mmm... You could argue that.  But, they are a "super group" for a reason.  They're a group made up of the most talented/famous guys from other bands.  But if we're counting super groups, I'd say that all the people Paul got together for Rockestra Theme is probably the best rock group.  

But if we aren't counting super groups, it's gotta be Zep for me.  They have probably the best drummer who ever lived, one of the absolute best bassists/keyboardists, and freakin' Jimmy Page!  Oh and Robert Plant's pretty awesome too.  Not saying Led Zeppelin's my favorite band, because they aren't.  I'm just saying that they may be the most "talented" major rock group.

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29 May 2016
1.55pm
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meanmistermustard
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AppleScruffJunior said

Poor Jeff.

Then again mmm, we all know you're not an ELO fan 😛

 

TELEEPPHHONNNEEE LINEEEEE, GIIIVEEE ME SOME TIMMEEE, I'M LIVVVINNNNGGG IN TWILLLIGGGHTT.  

Saw the below promo video a couple of months ago (no idea why it was on tv) and its exactly what I expect of Jeff; dull sounding music with no balls and shit lyrics with a production and arrangement taken from decades ago. Still, at least he's moved on from the drum pattern he stole from the 'Every Little Thing ' chorus.

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30 May 2016
3.37am
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AppleScruffJunior
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^You forgot to attach the video but I'd say it was the promo for ELO's new album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TWilopkXuM

 

He played in Dublin a couple of days ago, I would have gone but tickets were to expensive- I think €80 for the cheapest! It's the same as Paul Simon, he's playing a gig in November I believe but again cheapest is €80 >.>

 

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30 May 2016
5.04am
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meanmistermustard
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No that wasn't it, tho comforting that Jeff still hasn't moved on from 1974.

The video was four Jeff's in the same room playing the instruments - think him ripping off Paul's concept from live tv performances during the 'Flaming Pie ' era.

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

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30 May 2016
9.16am
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Zig
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Necko said
I personally don't believe in all this stuff about there being a single greatest band ever. Different people like different things.

adam said
I've always thought the "greatest band" and "greatest artist" stuff was a bunch of bullshit. 

Same. The Beatles were the greatest band of all time...for me. For others, not so much. The lists you see in publications like Rolling Stone and others serve only one purpose - to sell publications like Rolling Stone and others. 

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30 May 2016
3.40pm
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The Hippie Chick
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I have my own list of what I consider great bands, and others might not agree with it. Those lists in the music magazines like Rolling Stone are just an opinion. And while there are some pretty damned good artists and bands in those lists, even that are on my own personal one, that's all any of it is, at the end of things. Someone's personal opinion. That said, like you said, Zig, the Beatles are the toppermost of the poppermost for me, but might not be for someone else. And that's okay.

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