by Wilfred Mellers ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1973
Are the Beatles as important as Bach or Beethoven? Do they deserve the same kind of elaborate musical exegesis? Or are they part of the flim-flam of pop culture destined to perish along with the hula hoop and the skate board? Increasingly, even in the conservative ranks of the classical music Establishment, critics have had to take them seriously as musicians who may in the long run prove more lasting than the ""serious"" longhair progeny of the European giants -- more important than, say, John Cage. Mellers, who is nothing if not serious about the four musical magicians from Liverpool, is among their champions and he is to be commended for recognizing their genius; recognizing how in McLuhan's global village the Beatles are the true expositors of an ""oral"" poetry which is pre-syntactical, a music that is surprisingly close to the ""necessary"" music of mythic, primitive cultures. Their lyrics are indeed often ""talismatic"": their Yellow Submarine excursions into the world of dreams and illusions are ritualistic and ceremonial events experienced as such by a generation hung up on the depreciation of language, the breakdown of traditional modes of communication. And Mellers is right in pointing to Liverpool as the source; and to that improbable melange of American Country & Western, Negro blues, the Anglo-Irish ballad tradition and the British music halls as the point of departure for the magical mystery tour. The problem with this book then is not Mellers' failure to hear and to see. The problem is language -- dense, obfuscating verbiage. Does it really help anyone's understanding of John's Do You Want to Know a Secret (from the first simple, joyous album) to be told that it is ""pure pentatonic ululation?"" Or that There's A Place is ""resolutely diatonic"" despite its ""melismata and parallel triads?"" Isn't this just the kind of ultra-specialized, alienating language that finally made so much that was written about modern jazz unreadable? It's a shame that Mellers has brought the dead weight of classicism down on the spontaneous, vital heads of John, George, Paul and Ringo. It spoils an otherwise perceptive book.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1973
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973
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