Re the Beatles discussion: I suppose you might think this is self-serving of me, and I suppose it is, but, FYI, Amazon is fighting back against the iTunes Store by offering silver discs of most of the 2009 remasters of the Beatles' catalog at $7.99 per CD.
And say what you will about the Beatles...never cared that much for his songwriting, but they had the best bassist ever. Mmm.
(And his wife was a photographer....)
ADDENDUM: Speaking of the bass, if you haven't heard of Australia's Tal Wilkenfeld, you should see this to get a taste of the woman's skilz...and if you have ten minutes when you can crank the (unfortunately not so good) sound up, have a listen to Jeff Beck with Tal Wilkenfeld at Crossroads 2007 Live.
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Featured Comment by Edward Taylor: "Never cared that much for his songwriting? Paul did the majority of the song writing for the Beatles. He wrote 'Yesterday' by himself, not to mention, 'Maybe I'm Amazed' 'Let It Be,' 'Hey Jude.' 'Eleanor Rigby,' 'For No One,' etc. If the Beatles hadn't done so much, and you edited their whole catalog down to the number of hits that most great songwriters have in a lifetime, I think you would see that in addition to being a great musician and bassist, he is also one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions."
Mike replies: Ed, no argument—he just doesn't resonate with me much. I always find myself gravitating to George and John's contributions, even though Paul was the mainstay and probably provided most of the accessibility of the band for most listeners. For me the greatest masterpieces were mostly John's quirky anthems, "Revolution" and "A Day in the Life" and "I am the Walrus" and so on. I liked John's alleged "throwaways" (not)—"I'm So Tired," "Hey Bulldog" etc.—better than all but the best of Paul's stuff. (Oh, and 'Maybe I'm Amazed' wasn't a Beatles song—it was on one of Paul's solo albums.)
If people from—ahem—a different generation are are wonderingabout the differences , here's a good way of showing it. Go download two songs: "A Day in the Life" and "Getting Better," both from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. "Getting Better" was a song written by Paul, for which John wrote the middle eight bars (starting from "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her..."), and "A Day in the Life" was a song written by John for which Paul wrote the middle eight (starting from "Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...")*. To me there's no more vivid illustration of them as essentially very different songwriters, yet who complemented each other.
But my preferences for John's and George's songs is just another example of the fact that the band offered something for everyone. It was an interesting group—in an era of singer-songwriters, it was essentially three top singer-songwriters who complemented each other well (just enough similiarity, just enough difference), who for the most part worked well together, who had a long, hard apprenticeship as a working band (cf. Malcolm Gladwell's comments in Outliers) and a superstar producer who was allowed a lot of influence. And their timing in music history was perfect—Elvis et al. had laid the groundwork in America, and jazz was over-matured by that point and had gotten too esoteric for the public. Plus there was the cultural aspect to the timing on this side of the pond, which was that the public was reeling from shock at the assassination of Kennedy and looking desperately for a diversion. Talk about everything coming together.
By the bye, to whomever recommended How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music the other day [it was Chris Bertram], thanks very much. I downloaded it to my Kindle and am finding it excellent so far—I'm learning interesting things from Elijah Wald's methodologies, for starters.
*I believe this is well known, although I can't cite my sources. Read it somewhere. Not my own insight, at any rate.