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Criticism of the Beatles (including the Piero Scaruffi article)
27 September 2014
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Von Bontee
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I can't even understand what the hell "furthering the myth of LSD" has to do with making great music! Same goes for impacting the sexual Revolution /stirring social revolts/etc.

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27 September 2014
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And throughout his whole... rant I'll call it, he compares them to musicians doing completely separate things. Saying that they didn't have 20 minute hard rock jams in which they angrily contemplated the merits of the Vietnam war. Obviously Scaruffi is entitled to his opinion (and boy does he have one!), but when you're comparing a group who's style you don't like to those you do it's a pointless invalid argument.

If I wanted to argue, for example, that I don't feel One Direction is a good band, Id give direct examples of things I don't like. I wouldn't compare them to someone I like and who in my mind they obviously are nowhere near. If i did, my argument (in the style of Scaruffi) would sound like this:

While many brainwashed prepubescent girls fall head over heels for 1D, there's nothing about the band worthy of any sort of recognition. They don't have thought provoking lyrics of The Police, nor amazing blues-rock solos like Cream. The one thing they actually attempt is singing, and The Beatles had beautiful harmony vocals fifty years ago and a smaller group of singers and available tracks!

I also love how he acts like Beatle fans are stupid and believe anything we hear about The Beatles and think they're great because that's how it's been told. We enjoy The Beatles because we think they were great musicians who made great music, and ultimately because its our tastes and opinions.

There are also many studio techniques The Beatles did pioneer. And while others were first in some things as he was correct in pointing out, The Beatles brought these things into the mainstream (in a good way).

This guy just seems like a hipster, unable to like the band because of their success.

meanmistermustard said

Surely going by that logic none of us here can criticise any musician who is of a better standard than us.

You're right... But I'm saying everyone can have their opinion, but making fun of someone's musical skills when you don't play and cant respect the difficulty is unfair.

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27 September 2014
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Immense artistic popularity will always cause a backlash from a certain element of critics who believe that they are more insightful/perceptive/refined than the scruffy masses.  It is a way to set themselves apart and draw attention to their individuality.  Might they also be secretly (or subconsciously) jealous of the success of the popular artist?  Who would not want to be Paul McCartney on February 9, 1964, looking at his mates and saying "1...2...3...4!"?  What joy.

As Freud said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."  And sometimes, massive popularity is due to massive talent.  Scaruffi's main assertion is that the Beatles' appeal was a product of a brilliant public relations machine, mostly unrelated to the musical ability of the individuals.  They produced pabulum designed to enthrall the greatest number of undiscerning teenagers. That assertion ignores the most compelling possible rejoinder: perspective gained by history.  If the Beatles were truly a group of mediocre musicians with nothing to say, would their music still be celebrated and revered by millions of people of all ages, nationalities and artistic sensibilities?  

The mere fact that Scaruffi chose the Beatles as his target is telling.  Do you think he wrote any deeply analytical critiques about the Dave Clark 5?  a-hard-days-night-george-4

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I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.
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27 September 2014
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rigorously white

ahdn_paul_06That quote made me laugh. What other kinda white could they be? Unless they changed band members of something or are a chameleon band. And also their were white rockers before the Beatles

 

Rock and roll could finally be included in the pop charts.

Guess Elvis wasn't a thing

The Beatles were the quintessence of instrumental mediocrity. George Harrison was a pathetic guitarist, compared with the London guitarists of those days (Townshend of the Who, Richards of the Rolling Stones, Davies of the Kinks, Clapton and Beck and Page of the Yardbirds, and many others who were less famous but no less original). The Beatles had completely missed the Revolution of rock music (founded on a prominent use of the guitar) and were still trapped in the stereotypes of the easy-listening orchestras. Paul McCartney was a singer from the 1950s, who could not have possibly sounded more conventional. As a bassist, he was not worth the last of the rhythm and blues bassists (even though within the world of Merseybeat his style was indeed revolutionary). Ringo Starr played drums the way any kid of that time played it in his garage (even though he may ultimately be the only one of the four who had a bit of technical competence). Overall, the technique of the "fab four" was the same of many other easy-listening groups: sub-standard.

How can you say overall about the bands technique when you don't even mention John?

While the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, the Doors, Pink Floyd and many others were composing long and daring suites worthy of avant garde music, thus elevating rock music to art

So in order to be an art it has to be avant garde and super long? What makes that art versus any other kind of music?

Beatles fans can change the meaning of the word "artistic" to suit themselves,

It seems Beatles fans aren't the only ones who can change the meaning of words a-hard-days-night-ringo-8

As popular icons, as celebrities, the Beatles certainly influenced their times, although much less than their fans suppose. Even Richard Nixon, the American president of the Vietnam war and Watergate influenced his times and the generations that followed, but that doesn't make him a great musician.

a-hard-days-night-ringo-7

Several times he mentions how long 15 - 20 minute songs are better than the Beatles 3 minute songs. What is his problem with short songs? A song can be just as "artistic" and still be short.

They scatter studio effects here and there, pretending to be avant garde musicians, in Fixing A Hole and Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite , but in reality these are tunes inspired by the music halls, the circuses and small town bands

So? If everyone is doing the avant garde thing except them would they be considered the out their different group. Avant garde music can't be inspired by the circus? Where are avant garde musicians supposed to get their inspiration?

classical (Piggies , a rare moment of genius from Harrison, a baroque sonata performed with the sarcastic humour of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, with a melody borrowed from Stephane Grappelli's Eveline)

Piggies is classical? Well your not too far gone if you like Piggies

All efforts at cohesion notwithstanding, their personalities truly became too divergent. The modest hippie George Harrison became attracted to Oriental spiritualism. (Something and Here Comes The Sun are his melancholy ballads). Paul McCartney , the smiling bourgeois, became progressively more involved with pop music (every nursery-rhyme, Get Back and Let It Be included, are his). John Lennon , the thoughtful intellectual became absorbed in self-examination and political involvement. His was a much harder and/or psychedelic sound (Revolution , Come Together , the dreamy and Indian-like Across The Universe ). They were songs ever more meaningless and anonymous. After all, the break-up had begun with Revolver (Lennon wrote Tomorrow Never Knows , Harrison Love You To , McCartney Eleanor Rigby ), and had been camouflaged in successive records by Martin's painstakingly arrangements.

What about Ringo? Where does he stand in all this?a-hard-days-night-ringo-5

He gives a summery of their solo years expert for Ringo! What happened to Ringo? Did he fall in a black hole?! a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

unlike Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix they didn't further the myth of LSD;

Was that something that needed to be furthered? Was their a demand for people to explore the myth of LSD? Wouldn't it be better to share the facts of LSD so that everyone is well informed before they try it?

 

I just read his article and I found it amusing and pretentious. Their are a lot of thesis type of articles everywhere on the internet and it doesn't really stand out compared to the other critical articles. It doesn't really go into the Beatles instead just compares the Beatles to everyone else. I found it funny that he talked about the avant garde yet he hardly brings up Yoko Ono and her influence on the Beatles. I don't get why a lot of the comments before are so angry at this article

Mr. Kite said

meanmistermustard said

Surely going by that logic none of us here can criticise any musician who is of a better standard than us.

You're right... But I'm saying everyone can have their opinion, but making fun of someone's musical skills when you don't play and cant respect the difficulty is unfair.

I am not sure how that is unfair. It is free speech and the first amendment. I don't think he is making fun of them. He is just stating they are inferior compared to other acts at the time. He does mention that the Beatles are good at writing melodies. Your One Direction comparison includes only past acts by a few decades if it was more like this article it would include modern acts and how they are all so much better then One Direction.

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27 September 2014
3.22pm
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@Starr Shine? I can't think of good modern acts... a-hard-days-night-ringo-6

And I knew you'd like the mention of Piggies . a-hard-days-night-george-9

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27 September 2014
9.30pm
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georgiewood said 

 
The mere fact that Scaruffi chose the Beatles as his target is telling.  Do you think he wrote any deeply analytical critiques about the Dave Clark 5?  a-hard-days-night-george-4

To be fair, Scaruffi's written many, many words about a whole lot of musicians, including both popular and jazz. (And possibly others.) And most of what I've read is better than that anti-Beatles rant. I don't believe he wrote that just to seek attention - he comes off as entirely sincere, however misguided.

@Starr Shine?, that's the longest thing I've ever seen you post! And possibly the best. My hat is off (and I don't even wear one)!

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27 September 2014
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Well, I'll just throw in an example of my mother's criticism of Beatles.

I listen to them probably on daily basis, and then out of sudden while I'm working on a paper she says: "Beatles are boring".

Alright, my reaction was probably something like: mom, don't say nonsense. Call them awful, but boring? 

Her opinion is, basically, that she's always hearing the same song over and over again. This quite annoyed me because of the fact she never bothers to actually LISTEN, not just hear, and her general lack of interest in things I like. Anyways, it somehow ended me with being an obsessive Beatles maniac defending them with my life and I was obviously guilty for the argument in the first place, somehow. Then I just sigh and move on, but then I remember she likes only the hit songs (oh how this sounds like a typical 3-song fan, heh) like Hey Jude and Come Together . Whatever.

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27 September 2014
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I'll never speak to your mother again.

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Oh.

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28 September 2014
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My mom always goes on about how she was young when the Beatles were famous and how she knows so much about them so I made her do that quiz where you have to fill in all song titles in 20 minutesahdn_george_06The result wasn't good.

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http://www.scaruffi.com/vol1/b.....atles.html

I have been reading through an article written by Piero Scaruffi and he is critical of The Beatles status as innovators. I'd be interesting to see everyone's opinion on this article.  

28 March 2018
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My two cents on the Piero Scaruffi article:

The Beatles were the quintessence of instrumental mediocrity. George Harrison was a pathetic guitarist, compared with the London guitarists of those days (Townshend of the Who, Richards of the Rolling Stones, Davies of the Kinks, Clapton and Beck and Page of the Yardbirds, and many others who were less famous but no less original).

First, there's no common standard on the minimun level of prowess one has to have in order to play in a rock/pop band (ask the Sex Pistols about it, for example). This is no jazz nor classical music.

Second, they were quite competent on their instruments, they didn't need to be virtuosi.

Third, the Who, the Stones, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Beatles, they all sounded different, and that's the great thing about it.

Fourth, how about the Beatles as singers? Scaruffi avoids the subject, except that McCartney is described as a 'singer from the 1950s' 

Fifth, how good a guitarist was Elvis? How good instrumentalists were The Miracles?

 

The Beatles had completely missed the Revolution of rock music (founded on a prominent use of the guitar) and were still trapped in the stereotypes of the easy-listening orchestras. Paul McCartney was a singer from the 1950s, who could not have possibly sounded more conventional. As a bassist, he was not worth the last of the rhythm and blues bassists (even though within the world of Merseybeat his style was indeed revolutionary). Ringo Starr played drums the way any kid of that time played it in his garage (even though he may ultimately be the only one of the four who had a bit of technical competence). Overall, the technique of the "fab four" was the same of many other easy-listening groups: sub-standard.

IIRC, when they auditioned for Decca, they were told "guitar groups are on they way out" or something to that effect.

McCartney a singer from the 50s? He is a worthless bassist? (just his opinions, no arguments whatsoever)

Ringo playing like any kid of that time? How does he know? It was more the other way around. Has he ever heard Charlie Watts on Ruby Tuesday or Let's Spend the Night Together, for instance?

If their technique was sub-standard, how come millions of people and musicians enjoy their music so much? And I wonder, what is the standard? Is Lou Reed a standard singer? Is Bob Dylan one?

While the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, the Doors, Pink Floyd and many others were composing long and daring suites worthy of avant garde music, thus elevating rock music to art

He obviously never heard of Carnival Of Light , nor of Revolution 9 . And who said avant garde is THE way of elevating music to art?

Does he know what 'suite' means? Has he heard A Day In The Life or Tomorrow Never Knows ?

As popular icons, as celebrities, the Beatles certainly influenced their times, although much less than their fans suppose. Even Richard Nixon, the American president of the Vietnam war and Watergate influenced his times and the generations that followed, but that doesn't make him a great musician.

And the Beatles certainly weren't great politicians, no matter how they tried...

They scatter studio effects here and there, pretending to be avant garde musicians, in Fixing A Hole and Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite , but in reality these are tunes inspired by the music halls, the circuses and small town bands

No big studio effects on Fixing A Hole though... What is wrong with music halls, etc? (I'm thinking about the Kinks here)

unlike Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix they didn't further the myth of LSD;

I remember Paul McCartney speaking of LSD on TV, but I can't recall Morrison doing so...

I could go on...

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Nice dressing down by J Alesait of this critic with the puffy name "Piero Scaruffi".  The excerpts quoted by J Alesait read more like a high school essay where the assignment was to try to come up with a criticism, so the student reaches for anything he can just to sound good, irrespective of whether it's cogent or relevant.

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29 March 2018
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Nice job @J Alesait apple01paul-mccartney-thumb_gif

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Pineapple Records said The excerpts quoted by J Alesait read more like a high school essay where the assignment was to try to come up with a criticism, so the student reaches for anything he can just to sound good, irrespective of whether it's cogent or relevant.  

It's all his opinions, no proofs offered at all

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The problem is he has one definition for "innovation"

The composition in his terms has to be long and completely avant garde. While this is not wrong in it of itself, the fact that he rejects any other forms of experimentation is questionable. Taking avant garde concepts and repurposing them in a pop context is just as experimental. Also the fact the songs are well written, have great melodies etc is also a reason for The Beatles long lasting appeal. 

 

Although I kinda agree with him on his Trout Mask Replica opinion.

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Reviving this thread, I'd like to join the crowd of voices rejecting Scaruffi's pompous analysis of The Beatles' career. It's disappointing, since Scaruffi otherwise has pretty solid taste and is pretty good at recognising talent without prejudice based on genre or era (his website is a goldmine for unusual and interesting music), but for some reason his opinion on The Beatles reads like he arbitrarily decided one day he didn't like them, and then spent weeks plundering their history for justifications why. 

It's completely frustrating to read, because he clearly has a good deal of knowledge about their history, but he applies it in the most idiotic ways. He joyfully points out the Byrds influence on Rubber Soul , but doesn't mention at all that the Byrds got their sound by buying Rickenbackers in order to copy George's playing on A Hard Day's Night .

His obsession with song length is completely bewildering - he seems to have this idea that the longer a band's songs were the better, as if that makes any difference whatsoever as to the quality of the content. I love Bob Dylan, but the Beatles fitted more experimentation into 3 minutes on Tomorrow Never Knows than he did in any of the 15 minute compositions Scaruffi lauds from Blonde On Blonde. And he says that The Beatles were merely 'pretending to be avant garde' on Sgt Pepper , but this is a useless criticism since he doesn't offer any justification for why they might be pretending whilst other bands were genuine. 

Also, he literally calls Sgt Pepper a concept album, and then a few paragraphs later says that 'Great Britain became infected by the concept album/rock opera bug' which The Beatles decided to give a try with Abbey Road , which isn't really a concept album at all, at least not compared to Sgt Pepper paul-mccartney-facepalm_gifpaul-mccartney-facepalm_gif

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I read this article a week back and I've been searching for this thread. My take on his take goes as follows:

Piero's take on the Beatles is one of the most interesting reads I've had in a while. His search for imperfections and di-mythification of the band is scary and hilarious. He has such a high regard for almost every 60s act except for the Beatles, and his excuses almost entirely rely on either what others were doing and they weren't, or what others did before them. I love how QuarryBoya-hard-days-night-ringo-8pointed out his obsession with song length, which is ridiculous. He seems obsessed by two digit song lengths, and doesn't see the beauty in short snipets of studio wizardry. Sure, it is easy to do a heavy-sounding 20 minute piece that feels big and you can admire, but what about a 2-minute song that resonates with you? Aren't you just as good a musician if you can generate as much praise from a 2-minute canvas, instead of a giant wall?

The way he attacks the band and gives all the credit to George Martin is baffilingly ignorant. The way in which he brushes off countless strokes of genius from the members of the band (the sitar on Norwegian Wood , the verses/chorus on Blue Jay Way , the middle section on A Day In The Life , the circus in Mr. Kite!, the drums on Tomorrow Never Knows , the psychedelics on Lucy in the Sky, vocal melodies on She's Leaving Home , and dezens more, you get the point) as being instructed knowledge added by Martin as an aftermath is laughable. The way in which he frames the Byrds and the Beach Boys as this revolutionary acts the Beatles were desperately trying to steal ideas from, is flat-out stupid: both great bands, but if you're gonna call them revolutionary, you can't call the Beatles any less. Beach Boys repeated formulas a lot and it was tyring, reason why their albums were never that interesting, and why Pet Sounds was such a surprise, but even that album is pretty straight-forward, and not that adventurous. Which is not wrong, but under Piero Scaruffi's logic for critizising the Beatles, I don't understand under any cirumstances why he would idolize Pet Sounds; a brilliant, but one way or another simple album, from a production side as well as in enjoyability, at least compare to something as caleydoscopic as Sgt. Pepper .

He keeps bringing up this issue of the Beatles "being late" to everything, as if music was this straight forward line that can only hold a trend for two months and then it's obsolete, as well as his obsession for the avant-garde and the two digit song lengths. "Being late" doesn't mean anything unless you do something way below-the-bar, which the Beatles certainly did not. If the Beatles undertook the task of jumping on a popular or unpopular sound, they took their time, put effort into it, and implemented it always in an interesting and unexpected way, and they always succeeded, and made sure to keep it and use it only when they felt necessary. The balance between simple and complex was almost perfect, they didn't over-do anything by the time they got tricky in the studio. They always had the right amount of either reverb, or looping, cutting, instrumental backgrounds, their albums were never too long, or too short, their songs were never filler, even if they were, they always were interesting in some way. They never just grabbed, copied and pasted, they made everything their own. This guy can't see past his obsession for the whacky Zappa and the dazzing Dylan, that he gets lost on novelty and doesn't bring up actual listenability, and harmony, coherence, pace, tone, space. Yes, Zappa was astonishingly revolutionary, but when you listen to Sgt. Pepper you can follow the path of invention, whereas Freak Out! just sounds like the showcase of a bunch of different interesting tools that he didn't know how to use properly yet, while the Beatles, grabbed those tools, and turned them into a perfect balance of interesting art, without flat-out copying and actually re-inventing it, and extremely polished and good-sounding pop. The Beatles were never late, because being late implies not being relevant anymore. When they arrived, they had the attention of everybody.

Sure, John Johnson Johnsonson "alReAdY hAD exPeriMENtEd witH PsyCHedDelic aESThetic six monTHS bAkC and NobDOY cALLED HIM the GrEateST, inSteAd thE BeATLes Did and iT Was GReAT", but John Johnson Johnsonson wasn't capable of grabbing that psychedelic sound, and use it to create pleasant songs, the Beatles dedicated countless amounts of effort into assuring that what they were doing wasn't just state of the art and cutting edge, but also pleasant, and that's what makes them timeless. On the other hand, you listen to an avant-garde obscure record of the 60s (those that Piero surely jerks off to) and by now they sound absolutely un-listenable and obsolete.

He acts as if re-appropiation and re-contextualization are the highest crimes in music, and the Beatles were the greatest hacks at work in doing so, yet he goes on to praise Led Zeppelin in comparison. He acts as if they weren't taking risks and they were always pandering to demographics, yet they are one of the few bands that achieved world-wide success way before any of their song-writing peaks and whacky ideas and came out on the other side successfully. He acts as if, taking something that you find interesting, and re-modeling it to make it yours, to make it something that sounds original, is not a legitimate way of making art. His opinions on how the Beatles read the landscape of culture and reacted to it is so misguided and out-right full of lies it burns my skin. He paints this picture in which there's the cutting-edge music on one side, on the other side the Beatles, this undecisive group of trolls and copycats pretending to be from the other side, then they achieve commercial success and by the 1980s everyone's forgotten the truth and now they're the greatest scam on music history. When the truth is they weren't on the side of this musicians (Pink Floyd, Zappa, the Doors, the Who, the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane); for better or for worst, they were above (probably only matched by Dylan), while everyone was looking at them to see what they were going to do next, either to copy them or to distance themselves from them, which only goes to show how influential they really were. Whenever the Beatles decided that a sound or trope was worthy of even slightly inspiring one of their 3-minute gems, that's when it became cool, and when the Beatles stopped doing it, then it would stop being cool. I'm not saying you have to agree they were right all the time, I'm just saying Piero's argument completely misunderstands the way in which they so smoothly surfed the wave they were leading, and paints it as this four guys lost in the woods, trying to grab anything they could, when in reality the truth is: their music just sounded more fresh than everyone elses', what else do you want?

The fact is a lot of musicians were composing this 15-minute pieces just because it was edgy, for instance the Doors' When the Music's Over which is just a re-hash of The End but pain-stakingly mediocre and boring. The Beatles never did it because they were modest enough to know their limits, and only worked within time-frames they could fill with actual quality, for instance, the Abbey Road Medley, instead of making 16 minutes of a single riff with imporvisation, they actually made a choesive, ever-evolving suite that had so many left-turns and splashes of creativity it was insane. But Piero talks about Abbey Road like "a decent album, but that was way below the quality of the experimantation of the time" *snob sounds of smelling his own farts*

I wouldn't mind if his article was about how unoriginal the 60s bands' were in general including the Beatles and everybody else, and that they were a lot lazier and less adventuruous, than say Jazz, for instance. In that case I would just look at him and go "oh so he's and old fart who doesn't know how to enjoy simpler music", but his particular derrangement and hatred for solely the Beatles, while strongly believeing that everybody else was doing stuff way more original, is what leads me to believe there is no way there isn't a story there. Like a bully on school beating him up with an Abbey Road t-shirt or something like it. His criticisms only rely on either lies or misinterpretations, as well as an astonishing lack of personal enjoyment for good plain melody period. People don't solely listen to music to find stuff that doesn't sound like anything else, the Beatles didn't sounded "completely isolated and with all ideas of their own", and that's why they were the best band ever, because they didn't shy away from taking, borrowing from anywhere, and making it all sound like the symphony of the decade they were composing in. That's the whole problem with Piero's take: he thinks the Beatles not sounding completely unrecognizable is why they were mediocre, when the truth is they were the best ones at blending. They didn't sound like nothing, they sounded like everything. And inspired entire generations of musicians to do so as well, and without them it wouldn't be half as interesting.

 

line in the sand for breathing

 

Also this post was made after reading a majority of this and finding it absolutely hilarious. This might sound insensitive to the mods or people wanting to write on the thread, that probably were really annoyed, but just the way in which this Randie guy didn't give a crap for posting a thousand times even when everybody told him politely, and not so politely down the line, to shut up, until Joe had to close it because of it, I just find at the very least interesting. It's one of the most interesting thread progressions I've ever seen and I just find it amusing. The way in which he heated so much from Piero's article (I'm gonna admit, I did too, but not up to that level) that he made it a one man crusade to defend the Beatles in front of a group of people that already agreed with him. If you haven't just read it, is hilarious.

-

But yeah, Piero Scaruffi can eat me.

 

EDIT: I just noticed this is totally a PWT, I'll trim it down when I wake up, excuse the long-windedness

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the watusi

 

the twist

8 August 2020
4.37am
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QuarryMan
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Great post, Scaruffi's criticism is some of the most unintentionally hilarious bull I've ever read. Couldn't agree more on the part about song lengths - honestly, who cares how long a song is? Duration is one of the many factors that is only relevant in so far as it improves or worsens the song, as you don't want to listen to something too short that it's unsatisfying or too long that it bores you. When it comes to The Beatles neither of these problems have ever been an issue for me with their music - their earlier, poppier stuff is vastly improved by how succinct and sharp it is, and when they got a bit more creative they were able to cram more interesting ideas into three minutes than most prog bands could into thirty. 

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Jules

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8 August 2020
9.18am
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Von Bontee
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Scaruffi's criticism was too much for this "Randie" fellow - drove him to a posting frenzy one day!

https://www.beatlesbible.com/f.....ts/page-3/

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Jules

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