The Most Overrated Band in History by Will C.
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It shouldn’t be surprising that the most overrated band in history is also, most commonly rated as the greatest band in history. I’m referring of course, to – yep, you guessed it – The Beatles. I’d be an idiot if I were writing this to convince an audience that The Beatles were not a staple of the ’60s or an influential band. They were. And they still are. A lot of my favorite modern artists cite The Beatles as a big influence on their music. But it still asks the unanswered question, “Is it deserved?” The Beatles cast a shadow on the 1960s that was so large and stretched so far that it blocked the spotlight from bands that are now too often overlooked and forgotten today.
Anyone young enough to have been born post-60s that has tuned into an FM radio knows bands like Simon & Garfunkle, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys. Most of us can probably even name a song or two by them. In 1957 while Simon & Garfunkel were playing the guitar and singing harmonies, McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr wouldn’t have all met or had record label for another three years. If you typed in “Mrs. Robinson” in Napster (back when it was free), tell me that at least half the mp3s listed didn’t have The Beatles credited as the artist.
Other than the one-sided rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there was another somewhat less known (and perhaps even more prevalent) rivalry between The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The Beach Boys were much bigger than “Surfin’ USA” and “Wouldn’t it be Nice?” Love ’em or hate ’em, they are a large part of the reason The Beatles became what they were. I’ll use a quote from a book I have lying around in my house, “A rivalry developed between the Beach Boys and Beatles. When one group released a new album, it prompted the other to see if they could top it, a process that intensified as both bands’ music became more serious and complex.”
At their peaks, both bands released what most critics agree to be their best albums – Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band respectively. The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds during the spring of 1966. The album inspired The Beatles to work tirelessly writing and producing Sgt. Pepper’s, which was released less than a year later. Paul McCartney said, “No one is educated musically until they hear Pet Sounds. It is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways … Pet Sounds was our inspiration for making Sgt. Pepper’s. I just thought, ‘Oh dear me, this is the album of all time. What are we going to do?”
You don’t have to do anything, Paul. You and your pals will undeservingly receive credit for creating modern rock ‘n roll no matter what the competition does.
But what about the other guys? Guys like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page? And oh, Eric Clapton. Ever heard of them? They were around back then, right? All three of them played in The Yardbirds in the early ’60s. You might not own any Yardbirds’ albums, but before The Beatles made their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, The Yardbirds were coming up with musical ideas and concepts that are all too familiar today. According to the ever-factual wikipedia.org: “The Yardbirds were pioneers in almost every guitar innovation of the ’60s: fuzz tone, feedback, distortion, backwards echo, improved amplification. They were one of the first to put an emphasis on complex lead guitar parts and experimentation.” Name me eight Beatles songs. I bet you can do it. Now name me two Yardbirds songs.
Still stuck? You can use google.
So why is it that the father-group of all those fundamental rock innovations sits at a lowly rank of 89 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time? I bet you could never guess what band sits at number one! So why are The Beatles so legendary? I believe it’s because British Invasion, Peace and Love, teenage girls, and Beatlemania snowballed The Beatles into supernatural status that grew and grew and fed off of its own hype. SPELLCHECK didn’t even underline Beatlemania! I’m using google to type this and it underlines ‘google’ as a misspelled word, but not ‘Beatlemania.’ This is sickening.
Look, I’m not a Beatle-hater. Come have a look at my music selection and you’ll find more than a handful of Beatles songs. But The Beatles don’t rightfully belong at the place they lie in music history right now. All they really should be… is a single chapter in a book of great music from an era that reinvented music. I don’t think the world would have been a better place without The Beatles… but a world without The Beatles is a world where forgotten legends like Brian Wilson don’t have to sit and wonder, “What did Lennon do that I didn’t?” And if you have to go look up who Brian Wilson is, thank you for further proving my point.