The greatest Beatle? Pete Best

Plus: a trippy bucolic treat on BBC iPlayer.

The Beatles perform in Liverpool prior to signing their first recording contract: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and original drummer Pete Best. Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
The Beatles perform in Liverpool prior to signing their first recording contract: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and original drummer Pete Best. Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Which of the Beatles would you most like to have been? Not either of the dead ones, presumably. Nor the one continually derided for his alleged lack of talent. Definitely not the embarrassing, gurning, two-thumbs-up uncool one…

Anyway, it’s a trick question. The correct answer, at least it is for me after watching The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (BBC4, Friday), is Pete Best — the drummer who got ousted just before the band got big because he was too good-looking, too quiet and, some say, because Brian Epstein couldn’t handle his mum’s pushiness.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Finally, The Wankerati Tell Us Which Way to Vote in the EU Referendum…

On the one hand, there are the Brexiteers, who point out that the EU economy is shrinking, that its regulatory burden is holding back our business; that outside the EU we’d be richer and freer; that we’d regain control of our borders and be in a better position to protect ourselves against the wave of potential terrorists that Angela Merkel is determined to make EU citizens in order to punish us all for what Germany did in World War II; that we’d no longer be controlled by democratically unaccountable, faceless, supremely untalented apparatchiks who, in their own countries wouldn’t be deemed fit to take the orders at Domino’s Pizza, but who thanks to the EU, in the case of Baroness “Who?” Ashton got to swan around on £400,000 a year like she was some major international powerbroker; that it’s a nonsense to argue that Britain needs to belong to a crippled, spavined, sclerotic, inefficient, wasteful, monumentally corrupt socialistic superstate when, actually it used to do perfectly well for itself for two hundred odd years when it ran half the world. For more details on this see, for example, the very excellent Brexit The Movie.

But I’ve been listening to the arguments advanced by the Remain camp with Prime Minister David Cameron very much setting the dignified, civilised, intelligent, measured, thoughtful tone – and they’re very compelling too. Here are some of the best: Boris Johnson’s wife may have had an affair – or if it wasn’t her, it was possibly someone a bit like her – or maybe not; Boris Johnson used the word “Hitler” in a newspaper article and if you use the word “Hitler” you lose automatically; Boris Johnson smells of poo-poo and wee-wee and actually loves the EU and only says the opposite because it’s opposite month and also because he just wants the job of Prime Minister, so there; David Cameron has agreed to pose looking self-conscious and awkward for a Remain campaign publicity shot while walking across the zebra crossing at Abbey Road which is amazing because it’s just what popular beat combo the Beatles did on one of their most famous album covers and the Beatles wrote Strawberry Fields and Eleanor Rigby so Remain must be a good thing.

So you see, it’s been a tricky one. Which is why, for some time now, I have been looking for guidance one way or another from the sort of people whose gravitas, clear-sightedness and deep knowledge I can rely on.

The blond lefty actor who played one of the wacky DJs in Richard Curtis’s collectably lame The Boat The Rocked, say. Where does he stand on the EU referendum?

Or the anti-fracking mad catwoman who virtually invented punk by realising that instead of using giant safety pins for just nappies (that’s diapers, you American readers) they could also be inserted through leather jackets or even parts of your anatomy.

Or the guy who played Alan Turing in that somewhat trite movie which turned the Bletchley codebreaking story into one about gay martyrdom – and who loves to sound off on all sorts of Social Justice issues, as you would, when you’re from the rough side of the tracks having only been educated at Harrow, not Eton.

Or that woman poet laureate that no one much rates?

Or the spy author who hasn’t written a good book since the Cold War days – unless, of course, you think the greatest threat to global security right now are sinister Big Business interests working with the American secret service, in cahoots with the wicked Israelis, and posho Englishmen in pin-stripes with posho accents because they’re really posh, in which case of course, you’ll love everything he writes because it’s the same every time?

Or that good-looking actor who shags everyone?

Or the Social Justice campaigner – another Old Harrovian – who actually wrote The Boat That Rocked?

Or the priapic comedian who used to do funny stuff till he realised his main mission in life was to destroy the freedom of the British press?

Read the rest at Breitbart.

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Why is Britain Dishing out Honours to Low Grade Twitter trolls?

Historians will never cease arguing about when it was that Western Civilization began – Sumer? Salamis? After the Fall of Rome?

But not one of them will be in the slightest doubt from this week onwards as to when it was that Western Civilization ended.

Indeed, they will be able to pinpoint its demise down not just to the day but to the very hour the announcement was made. I refer, of course, to the extraordinary Gavrilo-Princip-style moment when some very dangerous and out-of-control mad person somehow got their shaking, sweating hands on the controls and decided it would be a good idea to award an OBE to someone called Caroline Criado Perez.

To help future historians I thought I’d provide a contemporary record of this momentous event using the traditional early 21st century medium of an internet Q & A.

Q: So we’re all very clear now, we historians here in your future, that Western Civilization definitely ended when Caroline Criado Perez was awarded an OBE. But though we’ve searched our extensive archives, which includes every article written or published, and every tweet ever tweeted – including the deleted ones by Johann Hari claiming to have personally transcribed all Shakespeare’s plays as they were dictated to him by the author – we seem quite unable to find anyone by that name of any significance. The only Caroline Criado Perez in our records appears to be some kind of desperate, attention-seeking, political activist cum low-rent blogger.

A: Yes. That’s the one.

Q: Then we can only assume that her OBE wasn’t the OBE but some similarly-named bauble of no significance.

A: Er, no. It’s the OBE. As in Order of the British Empire.

Q: Quite impossible! We’ve studied the history of the British Empire and it was kind of a big deal. We’ve read about Queen Victoria and Clive of India and the Charge of the Light Brigade and Scott of the Antarctic and Rorke’s Drift and the White Man’s Burden and all the incredible economic and scientific and intellectual advances that were made as a result of the money, power and influence which accrued from the Empire where the sun never set. So when you award one of your Queen’s subjects a medal named the Order of the British Empire that’s got to be a pretty big deal right? You’re not going to just hand it over willy nilly, to some hysterical, twittering, publicity-grubbing nobody?

A: So the more old-fashioned among us would have hoped, certainly.

Q: No. No! You have GOT TO BE JOKING. We know our history, we historians of the future, and one of things we know is that the Beatles – who are, only, like, the most famous pop band in the history of the universe – when they got their awards they weren’t even OBEs. They were MBEs. Which is one notch below. You’re not seriously telling us that between 1965 – when John, Paul, George and Ringo got their MBEs – and 2015, when Caroline Criado Perez got her OBE, that your culture became so grotesquely debased that some jumped up feminist troll was deemed superior in value and achievement to the creators of Eleanor Rigby, Strawberry Fields Forever, Helter Skelter and (our personal favourite in the future) Octopus’s Garden? Really?

A: Now you’re beginning to grasp this End of Western Civilization thing.

Q: OK. OK. Just to recap, so that we’re SURE we’re talking about the same woman. This Caroline Criado Perez’s most memorable achievement was launching a campaign to get the head of Jane Austen on a banknote. Not because Jane Austen was maybe the greatest novelist in the English language – which we could understand – but just to make the cheapshot feminist point that Jane Austen had a vagina whereas Dickens and Trollope didn’t?

A: You do sound refreshing un-PC in the future, I must say.

Q: Yeah well. We had to change. It was the only way we could start trying to recreate Western Civilization once this Caroline Criado Perez person had killed it. But look, we’re asking the questions here. We’re future historians. We NEED TO KNOW because there’s something about this whole banknote think that has been troubling us. Are we right in thinking that the person on the other side of the banknote was also female?

A: Yes. The Queen.

Q: But this Caroline Criado Perez felt, what, that was “sexist” or something? That only total domination of your banknotes by the female sex would do?

A: “Gender”. She would have preferred the term “gender.”

Q: Crikey, she sounds tiresome.

A: I think she would have considered that kind of language patriarchal, phallocentric and dismissive.

Q: I bet she would, the minx.

A: Wow! I’m loving this future of ours already.

Q: You say that. But you have no idea the horror the planet has to go through in order to get where we are. Fireships off the shoulder of Orion, my arse. We are talking ugly, ugly, ugly. Mind you, having said that, nothing quite as ugly as the awarding of the OBE to this annoying uber-talentless rabblerousing flibbertigibbet. Which is why I’ve got one more important question for you.

A: Go on.

Q: Well, it’s like this. Our records show that when the Beatles got their MBEs many earlier recipients of the award were so disgusted that they handed their gongs back in protest. Yet, we seem to have no evidence that Caroline Criado Perez’s OBE provoked a similar outbreak of high principle.

A: So your question is what exactly?

Q: Well it’s more of a rhetorical one, really. What can have happened to your culture that it became so vapid, spineless and worthless so quickly? Since when did you become so obsessed with this “equality” crap that it was allowed to trump all the things that once made Western Civilization great: your history, your traditions, your values, your heroic achievements, your quest for truth, beauty, wisdom, excellence?

Read at Breitbart London

Related posts:

  1. Prison sentences for Twitter trolls will only encourage the professional victim class’s sense of grievance and entitlement
  2. Offensive remarks on Twitter should not be punishable by prison, let alone death
  3. Honours quotas: why all mustn’t have prizes
  4. Separating myth from reality in a history of the Battle of Britain

 

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Oasis: Just How Rubbish Were They?

Over in the Daily Mail today I have a go at Oasis, the popular beat combo which has just split up. (Or so Noel Gallagher says, and since he’s the only one in the band who can write songs, that’ll be it till he changes his mind for the lucrative reunion tour).

To be honest, I probably don’t loathe Oasis quite as much as I make out in that article. When you’re writing polemic there isn’t much room for nuance like – “Well if someone put on Champagne Supernova right now I’d probably feel a pleasant nostalgic twinge for my lost youth” – which is more or less what I really think about Oasis: I’d never ever put on one of their records myself, but if someone else did I wouldn’t necessarily feel an intense urge to kill him.

But I very much stand by my main point which is that Oasis were derivative and overrated. Their second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory remains the third bestselling album (after The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper and Queen’s Greatest Hits) in British pop history. Does anyone out there seriously still thinks it deserves a place even in the top 50? Personally, I wouldn’t even put it in my top 100.

It’s not that I don’t like Liam’s son-of-Lennon vocals (and I also like, incidentally, that way he had of placing his mic way too high so that he had to keep craning his neck upwards like a Gerenuk feeding on an acacia tree); and I do agree that a lot of Noel Gallagher’s compositions are very catchy. But there’s a reason for the last bit and it’s very simple: they all sound quite a bit like songs you already know; most of them written by the Beatles.

You might argue that originality is a much overrated virtue in pop, given that from Led Zeppelin borrowing from the blues and every heavy rock band ever borrowing from Led Zeppelin pop has always fed on itself. But to me a truly great band is one that disguises or alters the sound of its influences to the point where you no longer go: “Ohmygod, that is SUCH a rip off.” My true greats would definitely include Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, The Smiths, New Order, Kraftwerk and the Pet Shop Boys. They wouldn’t include Oasis.

So how did Oasis ever get to be quite so massive. Well hype, quotability and attitude clearly had a lot to do with it. But by far the most interesting theory on this is in a new book on the history of recorded sound (which I highly recommend: trainspotterish but lively and compulsively readable) by US journalist Greg Milner, called Perfecting Sound Forever.

Oasis’s career, he argues, coincided with the Nineties trend in studio recording techniques for “loudness” at all costs. By “loudness”, he means music which has been heavily “compressed” in the studio – removing most of the loud/soft dynamic range and instead making it sound like the kind of muddy wall of noise which comes across well in a crowded pub. It’s actually a form of musical brainwashing: stuff recorded like this is designed to lodge in the brain and achieve massive and overwhelming cultural domination. Which Oasis did most effectively.

But the effect this had on pop music generally was disastrous. As one muso purist – a Vermont studio engineer called Chris Johnson – has tried to demonstrate scientifically by comparing the most “culturally significant” albums of all time, the music we really like (as opposed to the stuff that is bombarded at us relentlessly till we succumb) is the stuff which has the greatest dynamic range . The top ones on Johnson’s list – led by the Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 and Led Zeppelin IV – are the ones with the biggest contrast between really loud and really soft. Oasis took us down a wrong alley. On the back of their success, every major label wanted to imitate that big, sludgy sound, in much the same way publishing companies try to replicate Dan Brown novels. Good commerce, maybe; but dreadful art.

Related posts:

  1. Oasis are vulgar, over-hyped, under-talented and the face of yob Britain
  2. Are music festivals better with children?
  3. Led Zep’s favourite folkie
  4. The return of the vinyl? How Britain got its groove back

 

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