Suck My Beatles would like to thank Stephen Robb of the BBC for not only risking his reputation and career, but everything he holds dear by daring to give a voice to the usurpers of beatlemart and the unrequited masses. To all those who have suffered alone in the void, hoping against hope for a sign that there were others like you, raise your glasses and thank Mr. Robb for igniting a match to help illuminate this fart in the darkness.
Help! I’m a Beatles hater
By Stephen Robb
The re-release of the entire Beatles album catalogue has unleashed another wave of veneration for the 60s pop band. But could there really be anyone who actively dislikes their music?
James Bond apparently hated The Beatles.
In Goldfinger, he advises Jill Masterson that “drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees” is “as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs”.
The Bond girl’s own verdict on the Fab Four, unfortunately, is not recorded before her untimely demise on the inside of a coating of gold paint.
That was 1964, when 007 may have felt threatened by that year’s global success of The Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night.
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Two years into their recording career and with Beatlemania raging on both sides of the Atlantic though, Bond was going characteristically violently against the prevailing mood. Forty-five years later, four decades after the Fab Four parted ways, his remark would be considered even more extraordinary, almost sacrilegious.
The devotional, feverish excitement over this week’s release of re-mastered versions of all 13 UK Beatles albums highlights the band’s unique, enduring appeal.
The first 50,000 box sets of mono versions of the discs, priced at £170, have already sold out, according to record company EMI.
Saturation media coverage to mark the release of the albums, of which an estimated billion copies already reside in record collections worldwide, has been led by the BBC’s “Beatles Week” series of programmes.
The Beatles seem to occupy a uniquely unassailable position in popular culture – everybody loves them. Don’t they?
What year did Paul McCartney write Silly Love Songs? 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967…
I Hate the Beatles website
Not Robert Elms. The author and broadcaster is one of a tiny minority who seem willing to stick their heads above the parapet and rubbish this most sacred of British institutions.
“They did a few things that lots of people liked,” says Elms. “Everybody can like them, from grandma singing along to When I’m Sixty-Four to the little girl singing Yellow Submarine.”
But he adds: “I just think they are either childlike and simple or rather leaden and pompous – one or the other all the time.”
Theirs is a sanitised and anaemic version of American blues-inspired rock and roll, he complains.
“For me they turned something that was once sexy and raw and had roots, into something that was totally soulless, playground sing-along music.”
It’s the sort of talk which risks a midnight knock on the door from Britain’s popular culture thought police.
Guaranteed a place on every Beatles fan’s dartboard – Robert Elms
While he concedes that they did write some good songs, he can list rather more of what he calls The Beatles’ “crimes against music” – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Octopus’s Garden.
Elms will not play The Beatles on his BBC London daily radio show, and says feedback from listeners suggests “there is a perhaps relatively small but vociferous group of people” who share his opinion of the band.
In an article for the Glasgow paper The Herald some years ago, author and music critic David Keenan set out to find musicians who shared his dislike of The Beatles – and could find no-one.
“It is a canon that you cannot question,” he says. “Most people actually think you are just doing it for effect, putting on a front, playing the devil’s advocate.”
That this is the usual response is confirmed by Elms, who insists: “I do mean it; it’s not made up.”
However, occasionally mocking the supposed greatest band of all time can be “quite fun” as well, he admits.
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“I think everything that is over-inflated deserves a pin-prick in it occasionally,” Elms says. “How can they be above criticism? That’s ludicrous.”
Nor are the band any more sacred to Keenan, who says: “There is something so incredibly prissy about their music.”
He adds: “I am in such a minority that my favourite Beatle is Yoko Ono; without Yoko’s influence I don’t think there would be any Beatles music I could listen to.”
The avant-garde artist’s influence in the latter stages of The Beatles’ career inspired John Lennon, and in turn Paul McCartney, to new extremes of sonic adventure, he argues.
However, it is the slick pop of the band’s early years that is to blame for the tameness of most UK guitar music today, he insists.
“The Beatles are the absolute curse of modern indie music,” Keenan says.
“Anyone who says they are influenced by The Beatles, alarm bells start to go off; it means they are going to be completely ordinary. It’s about writing this perfectly-crafted music, the classic song – in inverted commas. It’s not about being adventurous.”
Branded a moron
Keenan’s search for likeminded dissenters finally found success, inevitably, on the internet.
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The scattered online outposts of anti-Beatles sentiment include Suckmybeatles.com – tag-line: “Let it be …over.”
Sean, who runs the site, says fans’ reactions range from “disbelief” to considering him “downright offensive”.
“At first I’m accused of not knowing their material – usually while it’s being played behind them in Muzak form,” he says. “After I’ve proved that I’m familiar with the music, and that I can spout just as much useless trivia, I’m branded a moron who doesn’t understand music and a dangerous lunatic who should be avoided.”
“Q: What year did Paul McCartney write Silly Love Songs? A: 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966…” is typical of the witty tone of the I Hate The Beatles! Why don’t you? web page.
But the hate mail these sites apparently attract suggests many Beatles fans fail to see the funny side of having their great heroes abused.
A rare fan
Suckmybeatles.com’s Sean, of Toronto, Canada, even refuses to give his full name, owing, he says, to past death threats.
“I’ve been told the Beatles are all about ‘peace’ and ‘love’ (gimme a break, they’re just a rock and roll band) and in the next sentence [they] threaten me with death,” explains the home page of the site, Help! The Beatles Suck.
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Elms confirms: “On the internet, I can find some people who will hate me to the ends of the Earth because I don’t like their favourite pop group.”
Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick, who calls The Beatles’ work “the most extraordinary musical journey in pop history”, is among those fans sceptical of an opposing view.
“It is a position people adopt because of the universal high regard for them,” he says. “Popular music was in its infancy – with the talents compressed into that group they pulled it in every possible direction.”
The resulting musical diversity to be found between 1962’s Love Me Do and 1970’s The Long and Winding Road includes something for everybody to enjoy, McCormick argues.
“There is a lifetime of music in The Beatles.”
He adds: “If you like popular music of the modern day, to say that you don’t like The Beatles is kind of absurd.
“It is the fount of popular culture.”