Suck My Beatles is honored to present an article from the world renowned artist, author and all around creative and happening guy Danny Gregory. Aside from sharing our views on the FF, Danny is also gifted with the unique ability to talk good and stuff.
Without any further ado:
London calling, now don’t look at us,
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust.
London calling, see we ain’t got no swing,
‘Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing…
This will be an admittedly biased and flawed meditation. I know that Patti for one will disagree with me right off the bat but here goes:
I fucking hate the Beatles. I have for many years.
I don’t think I did when I first heard them (while chewing Fruit Strip gum on the rug and doing a wooden jigsaw, circa 1964. The song:”I wanna hold your hand”) or, obviously, when I bought my first and only Beatles recording (circa 1972, upon getting my first cassette player. After listening to the enclosed demo tape‘s electronic rendition of Für Elise a few hundred times, I saved up a huge amount of money and bought my first tape: Abbey Road. I can still hear Octopus’ Garden warbling and warping as the batteries wore down).
When did the loathing begin?
I know it was fully set when my stepfather, Mike, said to me, “There are two types of families: those that like the Beatles and those that like the Rolling Stones. We like the Stones, who do you like?” Characteristically pathological as the question was, I had no problem already agreeing that at fourteen, I was on the Stones’ team.
Maybe I sensed fairly early on that The Beatles just simply weren’t cool or genuine or truly rock ‘n roll.
It was due partly to the lads themselves: The matching moptops. The uniforms. The glibness. The saccharine movies. The lack of anger or outrage – all irony and tongue-in-cheekery.
There were their PR contrivances like ‘bigger than Jesus’ or ‘Paul is dead’ or ‘Give Peace a chance’. And the whole Indian Maharishi thing, while interesting in a multicultural, sampling-new-fruit kind of way, was immediately cultified and iconized. Once the Beatles branded enlightenment, it was unlikely that anyone would ever genuinely be able to reach it again and India became awash with hippies and their smelly backpacks.
And how quickly the Fab 4 become tediously bourgeois with MBEs and celebrity wives. Sir Paul — two mincing steps from Elton John, maybe three from Barry Manilow (incidentally, he started painting in his 40s and then had a retrospective and monograph published. The paintings are crap but judge for yourself). John – granted the ‘coolest’ and ‘edgiest’ of the four — filthy rich on Central Park West, gets blown away by a fan and is immediately deified. (And who remembers Brian Jones?) George dies a middle-aged death. Ringo becomes the Gap/Visa/Doritos/Charles Schwab/Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza Spokesman, a craven grotesque.
He’s as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?
But the true reason I hate the Beatles isn’t the Beatles. It’s the context of the Beatles.
It’s not the music, it’s how and where I hear the music. It’s the deeply ingrained commercialization of everything they made, the re-re-re-re-release of their hits to great acclaim and hype and jingling cash registers.
It’s Beatlemania. It’s Musak. It’s the Queen. It’s the painted Rolls Royce. It’s Yoko. It’s Linda. It’s the whole idea of Classic Rock (which I always associate with middle-aged men in tinted glasses and those skimpy beards).
It’s the fact that I can easily imagine George W., Laura, Condy and Rummy debating their favorite Beatles song. I can imagine fucking Cheney listening to the Beatles. Can you picture any of them listening to the Stones? (Maybe). But the Pistols? The Clash? The Specials? Skynrd? The Kings of Leon?
Alright, whether you agree with this demented, poorly reasoned rant, I hope you get a larger point:
Art and context are really hard to separate.
Mona Lisa shower curtains. Van Gogh Sunflower beach towels. Ed Hopper mousepads. Picasso coffee mugs. Beethoven’s V doorbells. Outkast cel phone ring tones. They distort what we think of the originals and make it impossible to ever look at it properly again. Even if we are standing in the Louvre, in front of the Giaconda herself, we can’t really see the painting (and I’m not talking about the glare of camera flashes bouncing off her Plexiglas shield). It’s too loaded with baggage. Almost everything in Culture is embalmed in commercialization, intellectualization, exploitation, and post-modern regurgitation.
So we collect rare reissues, B-sides, obscure early works, yearning for authenticity, hoping to see or hear clearly for the first time, to hear the Beatles not as they sound in those grainy, endlessly retreaded clips of the Shea stadium concert or the Sullivan show, but as they might have sounded if you were actually standing there in a cellar in Liverpool or Hamburg in the summer of ‘60.
The more we are given to see, the less we can see. The barrage of advertising, television, web pages, and shop windows, force us more and more to retreat into our skulls, peering through a thick grimy window of associations. Today is yesterday. JF Kerry is JF Kennedy. Bush Jr. is Bush Sr. Britney is Madonna is Marilyn. I say hello, you say goodbye. Nothing is what it is.
The trick is to decontextualize, to see reality for what it actually is, divorced from distorting associations. And what a trick that is. I need to shake my head, slap myself in the face, run my skull under a cold fauce, and be here now.
The more I draw, the more I realize this lesson.
The more I realize this lesson, the more I need to draw.
To learn more about Danny Gregory
visit his site, or better yet take the money you were going to use to pay for the first installment of the complete re-re-re-masterered re-re-re-re-re-released box set #15, and buy one of his books instead.