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Friday, 11 February 2011

Please please me: shut up about the Beatles

“If you heard the Beatles at the Cavern, you knew they were the greatest kickass band ever, with a raw, Southern, joyously angry, black vein.”

Blimey. It’s Willy Russell, the playwright, waxing very lyrical about the Fab Four on the much-hyped occasion of it being, wait for it … EXACTLY 50 YEARS SINCE THE BEATLES PLAYED THE CAVERN FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Yes, you’ll probably need to go and lie down somewhere to absorb the full momentousness of these hallowed facts. John, Paul, George and Ringo on home turf, fresh off the boat from Hamburg and ready to rip it for all the Liver birds and Liver boys. Such absolute fabulousness.

A few months back I was reading about how, somewhat surprisingly, Ozzy Ozbourne says he takes much of his inspiration from the Beatles. Fair enough. They made a huge impact, influenced thousands of musicians (good and maybe not so good) and, yes, I’ll go so far as to say it, recorded some decent music. From Love Me Do to War Pigs in only seven years: like it!

I also quite like the fact that the first Cavern gig was a lunchtime slot, something I’d be pleased to see revived in 2011. Less Beatles reverence, more 12.15pm gigs, I'm saying.

I’ll freely admit that over the years I’ve enjoyed a lot of music that’s been indebted to the Beatles (and I’ve even listened to the Beatles), but this band must surely be the most over-praised and actually - when you think about - the most overrated musical outfit of all time.

One question. Did Willy Russell ever see the mighty Uncle John And Whitelock? Because, if he had, I reckon he’d have really experienced a band that knew something about angry, energetic rhythm and blues. (You may want to susbtitute any number of "kickass" combos of your own for my relatively random - but I'd say totally valid - UJAW example). Actually, when Russell thinks of the supposedly peerless Beatles  I wonder how many groups he's comparing them to when he gives us his “greatest kickass band ever” throwdown. Half a dozen? Twenty? One hundred? Has he been seeking out some of the great live performers of the last 50 years, finding some quite exciting but coming away shaking his head at how they just couldn't match the mighty Liverpudlians? 

No, it's gone beyond all that of course. We've entered a land where only the superlative is worth anything. It's more about religiosity and faith, bound up with not a little nationalism, Merseyside heritage tourism and crude till-clanging commerce. Hey, the Beatles deserve their own shrine. Let's call it ... oh, I don't know, how about the Cavern?

Or maybe we can refuse to genuflect on demand whenever J/P/G/R are mentioned. Actually, when is this ritual sanctification of the Merseyside moptops gonna stop? 

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