WaPo to the Beatles: You suck!


The argument: The Beatles are old news; they’re overrated — the Doors were just as good; popular culture has stagnated; the Beatles are sort of to blame.

And it’s right there in the opinion section of the Washington Post — or it was a month ago, only I think I was on vacation that week and didn’t hear anything about it til today. No matter, the piece retains its power to astonish and angrify. The latter because it’s just right enough (regarding the stagnation of pop culture) to not dismiss and absolutely wrong enough (regarding the ongoing significance of the Beatles) to take seriously.

But then you sort of have to take it seriously because there it is (or was) in a major metro daily, written by a guy, Justin Moyer, who seems really interesting (b. 1977; plays in indie bands, sometimes in Bowie-esque makeup; worked as a private detective). Though of course he also  knows how to get attention and has the intricately detailed  Wikipedia page (already updated to include news of how his Beatles piece “drew fire from Fab Four fans.”) Also interesting: Moyers closing in on 40, which kind of tears at his own au courancy. Assuming you measure hipness chronologically. Which he seems to do.

I get Moyer’s impatience. I think he’s correct that mainstream culture is far, far too wrapped up in what was cool as opposed to what IS cool and especially what WILL be cool in the not-distant future. My city’s pop radio dial is so archeological that even the alternative rock station plays 30-year-old songs. On heavy rotation. Some of which I love (The Clash!) but most of which is the Red Hot Chili Peppers who I really, really don’t.

But Moyer misses a lot. He divides the Beatles’ catalogue into songs about love and songs about drugs, which is so dimwitted it’s pointless to argue. (And indicates no knowledge of, say, “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Day in the Life,” which contains one oblique mention of being ‘turned on’, but if that’s all you hear in that tune, well, listen again, perhaps). He constructs an entire tribe of straw men by cherry-picking ludicrous quotes from observers (the Beatles helped topple Communism! The only communicator with the same power was Hitler!).

He also seems aggrieved that 21st century media (fragmented) and music industry changes (no publicity/distribution/reliable revenue streams for less-than-enormous acts) all but requires aspiring indie artists to keep day jobs. Of which writing for the Washington Post would seem a particularly excellent one. And apparently doesn’t require you to acknowledge that the thing that’s really bringing you down is a culture that evolved beyond your own expectations.

Or so says a 50-year-old Beatle fan. Consider the source.


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