I love the Beatles, but enough already

Such, anyway, is yet another episode in a story that has long since ballooned into absurdity: the transformation of the Beatles into a national religion – arguably bigger than Jesus, as John Lennon infamously put it. X Factor contestants must, by law, deliver warblesome readings of Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road; each time Sir Paul McCartney ventures out to hack out his versions of the hits, the public is encouraged to think something miraculous is afoot; Yoko Ono, bless her, keeps the posthumous Lennon machine grinding on…

Moreover, the idea of the Beatles as all-dominating titans had yet to take root: well away from their legacy, music developed on its own terms. These days, by contrast, they use up so much of the cultural air that we seem little able to breathe. There must be more to life than nodding-dog piano ballads of the Hey Jude variety, but there are times when they seem to define a good 50% of the mainstream. For all their inventive wonderment, one would imagine that I Am the Walrus, Happiness Is a Warm Gun and Helter Skelter left at least some of rock’s more creative possibilities unexplored, though listening to the bulk of even supposedly cutting-edge music, you’d never know.

And consider what state-sponsored Fabs-worship is doing to our appreciation of their own work. Understanding their music’s essentials – the liquid excitement of their early period, the creative daring in so much of what they did, the 1,000mph pace at which they developed – is made increasingly difficult by a great blanket of compulsory sentimentality. Put another way, we are reaching a point where a creation as jaw-dropping as, say, A Day in the Life is in danger of acquiring a leaden kind of tedium, like something from a school hymn book. The Beatles’ magic is being crushed: sorry to bring up such grim eventualities, but after the great outpourings that will greet the passing of Paul and Ringo, there will surely be none left.

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