The Beatles were essentially a boy band who did generic rock and roll songs about holding girls’ hands, who went off and did some drugs and came back with some new innovations in music, such as using the instruments and musical style that had been popular for centuries in another part of the world, and watering down some of John Cage’s ideas in order to make them palatable to a pop audience. In the words of Chuck D: “Don’t believe the hype”.
It seems that the Beatles died in order of talent: Lennon went first, and as his solo work suggests he was clearly the best songwriter in the band. Harrison was next, and was another excellent songwriter - ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is one of my favourite Beatles’ tracks, and some of his solo stuff is fantastic. The two that remain are Ringo and McCartney – if my theory’s correct, Ringo’s next (he did Thomas the Tank Engine, after all).
There are few people in this world who grate on me as much as Paul McCartney. He may have the biggest ego in the history of the world, and he more than anyone else has fallen for the Beatles’ hype machine. The incident that cemented my views on McCartney isn’t the fact that he’s pushed out on stage during every ‘national’ event to do another rendition of ‘Hey Jude’, lapping up the adulation like a suckling pig; it wasn’t the tasteless 9/11 cash-in song where he talks about freedom and high-fives people in front of the stars and stripes; it wasn’t even McCartney’s legal squabbles over who owns the name of a fruit that has existed for decades, maybe longer. It boils down to his petty legal squabbling over whether the Beatles’ tracks that he wrote should be listed McCartney / Lennon rather than Lennon / McCartney. This is some horrible ego at work. What difference does this actually make, and who actually cares? What a complete and utter tit.
It is with this anger that I return to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The opening track is infuriating: the tune itself is actually really good, but the horn section is just horrible, and every time Paul McCartney opens his mouth I just want to punch him. ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ is an awesome song that is ruined by Ringo Starr’s flat vocals - Joe Cocker’s version pisses all over this one. It was one of those running jokes that Ringo should sing on a track on each album – the listener bears the brunt of this punchline. ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is categorically not an acronym, and the song is definitely not about drugs: at least that’s what you’d think if you believe what the band actually said about the song. It’s actually a great piece of music: I love the dreamy vocals and Doors-esque keyboard riff. ‘Getting Better’ is a real feel-good song that is difficult to find fault with (apart from the fact that McCartney is on the lead vocals). ‘Fixing a Hole’ reminds me of something that the Kinks would have done, and much better. I hate the harpsichord in this track, it sounds incredibly cheesy. ‘Within Without You’ is excellent – this is one of the best tracks on the album, and probably one of the best tracks that the Beatles made beyond ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. ‘Lovely Rita’ has a great intro, but goes off a cliff roughly at the point when McCartney comes in. Album closer ‘A Day in the Life’ is actually quite brilliant. I love the chord progression in this song and wall of sound that this song becomes - even McCartney sounds good in this one.
This is not the five-star album that everyone makes out: there are some very good songs on here, two excellent ones, and the rest I can take or leave. It is a four-star album at best. As for whether this is a keeper or a culler, I’ll admit that I’m on the fence with this one. Do I despise Paul McCartney so much that I’m willing to forgo listening to the tracks that I like, or is it best to exorcise this demonic ego from my music collection for good?
I think it’s time to get rid. Someone needs to take a stand.