Touch My Balls and Ass - A "Tribute" to John Lennon
I recently got a new computer, and in the process of moving all my old stuff onto my new hard drive, I spent some time revisiting some of my old writings. This is one of them. It was written last December during the hoopla surrounding the anniversary of John Lennon's death. As you probably know, I'm fairly critical of the Beatles. They had some killer records (including A Hard Day's Night and Revolver), but I feel their latter work was lacking in soul and spawned a plethora of horrible 70's rock in the same way Kurt Cobain is personally responsible for all the humorless, self-loathing gasbags populating modern rock radio.
While most people have (rightfully) deemed the post-Beatles solo work of Paul, George, and Ringo as boring and shallow, there is still a veneration of John Lennon's solo work. Their solo work showed each of the quartet's worst artistic impulses in full bloom - after all, who was going to say no to an ex-Beatle in the studio? Paul made trite elevator music that grasped blindly at trying to become lounge standards; George did all this faux-mystical hippie bullshit that only rich people with too much time and not enough brain cells on their hands can come up with; Ringo...well, Ringo's been picked on enough, so I'll leave him alone; John went overboard with his middle-class, guilt-driven politics, basically becoming in the process a self-righteous slug. Instead of facing the same critical derision as the other three, Lennon lives on in dorm room posters and annual dick-sucking articles written by balding hacks.
The following article was written in response to the pedestal upon which that smug, bloated Brit now sits.
"After reading yet another recent issue of Rolling Stone where they continue jacking off dead musicans, I think they need to change the name of the magazine to Baby Boomer Cocoon of Safety. I'm convinced they run more retrospectives than covering contemporary happenings. Rolling Stone is like a pop music magazine for middle aged guys who don't think there's ever been a band better than the Allman Brothers. I'm surprised that in their Top 50 Albums of 2005 feature, they didn't make 75% of the albums reissues.
However, reading people get all hot and bothered for John Lennon AGAIN just reinforces how much I hated that guys solo work. I don't know why people think "Imagine" is this mind-blowing work of genius. It's just tired paino chord changes and lyrics that are reminiscent of nothing so much as a stoned loser going, "hey man, like wouldn't it be cool if there were, like, world peace because everyone stopped, like, you know, fighting, and stuff?" Lennon had only three decent solo songs that I can think of off the top of my head ("Working Class Hero," "Look at Me," and "Mind Games"). All the rest are mired in pretentiously self-conscious "art making," oversimplified politics, shock tactics that were tired and hackneyed even then ("Woman is the Nigger of the World"?! come on, John!), and petulant antics. Of course, he does have those three songs, which are two more than all the other Beatles' solo work has.
I hate how people mistake boredom for sophistication. I like lots of music I know for a fact is retarded (Wesley Willis, AC/DC, Andrew W-K, Ludacris, and the Misfits all come to mind), but at least those guys mean it. Getting on stage and singing "Party Hard" with every ounce of your being is far more moving than the eye-roll inducing prancing of someone trying desperately to be famous by not challenging audiences. If the ability to read sheet music were all that mattered, Toto would have been the biggest band in the world. Even when Max and I were hanging out at Jaxx and watching the terrible opening band, we were still in awe at the ones that gave their all for a performance. Sure, it may be yet another group of bald guys playing hardcore, but when you could see the neck veins strain on the lead singer as he poured himself into his performance, you knew (to steal from Tom Gabel) that you were getting to bear witness to someone else's humanity for the price of a ticket. I never got that feeling from John Lennon. He always had that sneer, like he knew he was taking all of us for a ride; that by laying in bed, he could get the attention of the press. I don't think art ever mattered so much to John Lennon as did the selling of himself as a celebrity. He was forever trying to provoke ("I don't believe in God, I don't believe in Beatles") in ways that would get everyone's attention. I never got the feeling that being a couragous artist and showing us his humanity was as important to him as becoming and remaining John Lennon The Celebrity. Just look at what happened during a low point in his solo career: he was wandering around the bars in New York City, standing on tables and screaming "I'm John Lennon! I'm John Lennon!" over and over to anyone who would pay attention.
Mostly I'm just sick of how the Beatles are this infallable band. Yes, they did have some amazing albums, but also some terrible ones (Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, Let it Be, and 3/4 of the White Album - I think it's funny that their best work, Magical Mystery Tour, is the one most reviled by most fans), and their solo work is competent, but shallow. Morrissey and Marr were a way better songwriting team, and there are tons of groups better than the Beatles. Of course, I may be biased because I think the Smiths are the greatest British rock band of all time, in terms of songwriting, musical ability, killer performances, and aesthetics. None of the Smiths ever grew shitty hippy beards, so that's another point in their column.
Mostly I just want to see people getting excited about new music instead of getting hard over stuff that happened 40 years ago. It's ok, you can talk about it, like it, and listen to it all you want. But don't use it to deny that there is a lot of great stuff out there right now. Baby Boomers want to think pop music eneded with their generation, and everything that's happened since will never compare to a bunch of stoned 60's musicians. Where's the Rolling Stone cover story on the New Pornographers?
For further reading, please see Lester Bangs' article on why the Beatles albums will gather dust on the shelves as time goes by, but how he can still tolerate the first few Stones albums. I think it's called 'The Withering Away of the Beatles.'"