Off Topic Messages

The Beatles as Art- Elvis, Hank, etc. Not?

Mon Feb 06, 2006 6:53 pm

I found this while looking for an article about the death of newspapers in the conservative "Commentary" magazine. Teachout has done a lot on the Beatles and that one line makes me wonder about how the Beatles got to run off with such artistic pretensions, while Elvis, James Brown, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, various R&B acts et al. are all seen as some kind of force of nature but not art... What do we make of these "serious music lovers" (last paragraph) who accept the Beatles but not the above?

The Beatles Now by Terry Teachout ... 12102061_1

The Beatles released Let It Be, the last of their thirteen albums, 36 years ago.1 Today there is no one musical group or soloist capable of commanding the attention paid to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr between 1964, when they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and 1970, when McCartney announced that the group was disbanding. Just as there is no longer a common culture, so there is no longer a common style of music to which most English-speaking people listen. Yet the Beatles and their music continue to fascinate successive generations of music lovers, so much so that more than two dozen books have been published about them, the latest of which is a thousand-page biography by the journalist Bob Spitz.2

Written in a straightforwardly journalistic style, The Beatles: The Biography provides an exhaustive and generally reliable account of the bandmembers’ lives and careers up to 1970, and is of no small value as a study in what might be called the sociology of celebrity. But like most pop-music biographies, it has little of interest to say about the Beatles’ work; anyone in search of a thoughtful critical appraisal will find it unhelpful.3

Such an appraisal must begin by taking into account the fact that the Beatles were the first rock-and-roll musicians to be written about as musicians. Elvis Presley, for instance, had attracted vast amounts of attention from the press, but for the most part he was treated as a mass-culture phenomenon rather than as an artist, and so were the other rock musicians of the 50’s and early 60’s (and the swing-era band-leaders and vocalists who came before them). Not so the Beatles. Almost from the time they began making records in 1962, their music was taken seriously—and praised enthusiastically—by such noted classical composers as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Ned Rorem and such distinguished critics and commentators as William Mann, Hans Keller, and Wilfrid Mellers.

What was it that made these four musically untutored pop stars stand out in such high relief from their contemporaries? And has their music proved to be of lasting interest, as their admirers of four decades ago predicted it would?

In one sense, “the Beatles” can be understood as a shorthand term for the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, separately and together, between 1962 and 1970. (The two wrote some songs individually and some in collaboration, but all were credited as the joint work of “Lennon-McCartney.”) Most of the Beatles’ hit singles were Lennon-McCartney songs, many of which would later be performed and recorded by other artists. It was the best of these songs that initially won them the respect of musicians who had hitherto been indifferent or hostile to rock-and-roll.

Lennon and McCartney began to write together as teenagers. Their first hits—“Love Me Do,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”—were largely derivative of the lyrically naïve styles of the American pop stars of the 50’s whom they most admired, including Elvis, Little Richard, and the Everly Brothers. But even back then their music contained surprising glints of originality, in particular the modally colored tunes that would become one of their trademarks.4 Within a brief time it became evident that, for all their lack of formal training, they were naturally gifted composers whose fast-growing musical sophistication was reminiscent of the similarly rapid stylistic evolution of another self-taught songwriter of genius, Irving Berlin.

By 1964 the two were experimenting with the irregular phrase lengths and unexpectedly complex harmonies of such songs as “And I Love Her” (by McCartney) and “If I Fell” (by Lennon), whose stereotypical boy-meets-girl lyrics are far less interesting than the graceful, sinuous melodies to which they are set.5 Indeed, it was for their music that Lennon and McCartney were first acclaimed, and it would not be until McCartney’s “Yesterday” that they recorded a song whose lyrics were of correspondingly high quality.

Written in 1965, “Yesterday” is a perfectly balanced miniature whose long arches of melody arise organically out of the three-note cell (“Yes-ter-day”) that constitutes the introductory phrase. The lyric is no less noteworthy for its unadorned directness: “Yesterday/All my troubles seemed so far away/Now it looks as though they’re here to stay/Oh, I believe in yesterday.” The result is a song reminiscent in its deceptive simplicity of classic Berlin ballads like “All Alone” and “Always,” a fact that helps to explain why it was the first Beatles song to become a full-fledged pop standard. (It has been recorded by more than 2,000 other artists.)

Around the same time, Lennon began to listen closely to the music of Bob Dylan, whose deliberately, even self-consciously poetic lyrics constituted a radical departure from the more conventional approach of his commercially-minded peers. Thanks in part to Dylan’s influence, Lennon made his own, similar break with the clichés of the day, beginning to write allusive, increasingly cryptic lyrics that had little in common with the pop songs on which he had been raised: “He’s a real nowhere man/Sitting in his nowhere land/Making all his no-where plans for nobody/Doesn’t have a point of view/Knows not where he’s going to/Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” (“Nowhere Man,” 1965).

Unlike the professional-tradition songwriters of the pre-rock era, Lennon and McCartney lost interest in writing about romantic love, and from 1966 until the dissolution of the Beatles four years later they produced an amazingly varied portfolio of songs whose subject matter ranged from the wry domesticity of McCartney’s “Lady Madonna” (“Lady Madonna/Children at your feet/ Wonder how you manage to make ends meet”) to the unsettling surrealism of Lennon’s “She Said She Said” (“She said/I know what it’s like to be dead/I know what it is to be sad/ And she’s making me feel like I’ve never been born”). These songs were as powerfully influential on the rock musicians of the 70’s and 80’s as the recordings of Louis Armstrong were on the jazz soloists of the 30’s and 40’s, and their echo continues to be heard in the work of singer-songwriters not yet born in the days when the Beatles were still (in Lennon’s much-quoted 1966 remark) “more popular than Jesus.”

Yet for all the immense influence of the Lennon-McCartney songs, only “Yesterday” became a standard in the old-fashioned sense—that is, a song that continues to be regularly performed by large numbers of other singers. Indeed, not until the 90’s did classic-style pop singers born in the 60’s and 70’s start to reinterpret the songs of the Beatles in the same way that their predecessors had reinterpreted the classic songs of the pre-rock era.6

One reason for this is that the Beatles wrote most of their own material, recording only Beatles-written songs from 1966 on. Once this became common practice for most other rock groups, it was harder for “standards” to emerge from the vast body of new pop music. No less important, though, is the fact that the Beatles were among the first pop musicians to start thinking in terms of recordings, not songs or live performances, as the finished musical product that they would offer to the listening public.

Airchecks of their TV appearances indicate that while none of the four Beatles was an instrumental virtuoso, all of them were effective stage performers with an engaging, distinctive group style.7 For the most part, their earliest recordings sought to reproduce this style, albeit in more polished form. But by 1965 the Beatles had become so popular—and their female fans so hysterically voluble—that they could barely hear themselves play over the screaming of the crowds that came to their concerts. This caused them to lose interest in live performance at more or less the same moment that George Martin, the classically trained musician who produced their recordings, began to introduce them to the fast-growing range of techniques by which recorded sound could be manipulated and transformed in the studio.

It soon became clear to Lennon and McCartney that the sound of “the Beatles” on record need not be restricted to the simple guitar-bass-drums instrumentation of their live concerts. McCartney, for example, recorded “Yesterday” accompanied by his own acoustic guitar and a string quartet arranged by Martin. In 1965 the band released Rubber Soul, an album of extensively overdubbed studio performances in which Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison (as well as Martin) could also be heard playing piano, harmonium, sitar, bouzouki, and other instruments. Not only was Rubber Soul too complex in texture to be reproduced in concert—at least not under the conditions prevailing in 1965—but it was meant to be experienced not as a collection of fourteen individual and free-standing songs but as something considerably more ambitious. “For the first time,” Martin explained, “we began to think of albums as art on their own, as complete entities.”

Needless to say, this approach to album-making did not begin with the Beatles. Other jazz and pop musicians had already experimented with thematically unified “concept albums,” most notably Frank Sinatra in Only the Lonely (which he recorded for Capitol, the Beatles’ American label, in 1958). In addition, a number of classical performers and record producers, including Glenn Gould and John Culshaw, had started to make studio recordings that were not meant to be literal “records” of live performances. As I have written elsewhere:

Such famous albums as Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations, Frank Sinatra’s Only the Lonely, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, or the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are not attempts to simulate live performances. They are, rather, unique experiences existing only on record, and the record itself, not the music or the performance, is the art object.8

After Rubber Soul, the Beatles stopped performing in public and thereafter devoted themselves exclusively to the making of just such recordings. The most artistically successful was Revolver (1966), in which the playing of the classical horn soloist Alan Civil and the string and brass sections heard on “Eleanor Rigby” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” are combined with a dazzlingly varied assortment of studio-crafted effects. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968, popularly known as the “white album”), and Abbey Road (1969) would make more extensive use of overdubbing and additional instruments, as did singles like “Penny Lane” and “All You Need Is Love” (both released in 1967). But it is on Revolver, the best of their thirteen albums, that the Beatles can be heard at their most disciplined and musically impressive.

It is, I suspect, no accident that after 1970, none of the four Beatles would write any songs or make any recordings comparable in quality to the ones they made as a group. Together, their musical limitations had been offset by the creative synergy of their collaboration (as well as by the discreet guidance of George Martin, their producer-mentor). When they began to work independently, the limitations overwhelmed them, and they spent the rest of their lives struggling in vain to rival the achievements of their youth.

The historical significance of these achievements, however, cannot be overstated. After the Beatles, rock-and-roll would never be the same. What started out as a stripped-down, popularized blending of country music and rhythm-and-blues intended for consumption by middle-class teenagers evolved into a new musical dialect in which it was possible to make statements complex and thoughtful enough to seize and hold the attention of adult listeners.

This is not to say that rock in general has always repaid such close attention. Unlike jazz, which developed with great speed from a purely functional accompaniment of social dancing into a full-fledged art music of the highest possible seriousness, most rock has remained as commercial as the simplest-minded pop music of the pre-rock era. But between the late 60’s, when rock became the lingua franca of the baby boomers, and the late 90’s, when the disintegration of the common culture brought its stylistic hegemony to an end, the best rock groups had much to offer the serious music lover.

Without the Beatles, this might well not have been the case. Neither virtuoso instrumentalists nor pure songwriters, they instead explored the possibilities of the hybrid art of the record album as art object more successfully than any other popular musicians of their generation. For this—and for the beauty of their best music—they will be remembered.

Terry Teachout, Commentary’s regular music critic and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, is at work on a biography of Louis Armstrong. He blogs about the arts at

1 The Beatles’ commercial recordings have all been transferred to CD and remain in print. Readers unfamiliar with their music should listen first to Rubber Soul (Capitol 46440) and Revolver (46441). Also of interest is The Beatles 1 (29325), an anthology of 27 of the group’s chart-topping singles. Except as indicated, all of the songs mentioned in this piece are included on these three CD’s.

2 The Beatles: The Biography, Little, Brown, 983 pp., $29.95.

3 By far the best book published to date about the Beatles’ music is Allan Kozinn’s The Beatles (Phaidon, $24.95, paper), a brief life published as part of the “20th-Century Composers” series of classical-music monographs edited by Norman Lebrecht.

4 Like most self-taught musicians who start out playing guitar rather than piano, both Lennon and McCartney were conditioned by the feel of the guitar fingerboard, whose stepwise layout facilitates the harmonization of the flattened-seventh, Mixolydian-mode melodies first heard in such early Beatles songs as “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

5 Both songs are included on A Hard Day’s Night (Capitol 46437).

6 See, for example, John Pizzarelli’s 1999 album, John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles (RCA 61432).

7 Some of these recordings have been collected on Live at the BBC (Capitol 31796, two CD’s). In live performance, George Harrison played lead guitar, Lennon rhythm guitar, McCartney bass guitar, and Ringo Starr drums, with Lennon and McCartney splitting most of the lead vocals.

8 “Why Listening Will Never Be the Same” (Commentary, September 2002), reprinted in A Terry Teachout Reader (Yale, 2004) as part of the longer essay, “Life After Records.”

Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:02 pm

This is what I mean when I say that many patrons of so-called "art-rock" are missing the point when addressing popular music. It may very well be true that Beatles tracks stand up better from a classical music standpoint (though I doubt they hold up that well. I kind of think these people often want to like popular music and use some classical similarities as an excuse). However, that is not the aim of popular music, it has its own separate aesthetic with its own standards that qualify very well as art.

I was reading Ken Emerson's book about the Brill Building and in there there's a story about the creation of the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby". There is nothing TECHNICALLY extraordinary in terms of musical sophistication of the record. In fact, it seems structurally flawed with the song appearing to go in and out of tune, a lyric that doesn't quite fit the melody and Ben E. King singing too high for his register and coming in too early on a verse. Yet it is one of the most arresting sounds I've ever heard and totally one of a kind. What's more the mix of strings a booming tympani, King's totally forlorn vocal and the Drifters' subtle almost backing, it's a record pure emotional devastation. I would put it against anything anyone ever did.

I would say the same for something like Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with its plainspoken beauty. It's glory is in its simplicity, its starkness.

On the other end you have a sound of pure uncontained joy like the Dell-Vikings "Come Go With Me". The engaging rhythm, the sax break, the scream on the chorus are all spontaneous and joyful. The harmonies, emulating musical instruments, have their own level of complexity but more than anything, they are unique and engaging. They're unreproducable because they depend so much on the original singers and their interaction with each other. Listen to a revival act like Sha Na Na try and replicate and it just won't sound the same.

Even a later somewhat more sophisticated piece like the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" derives most of its power from the violence of the band's performance contrasted against the synthesizer. Whether the Who's parts are easy or hard to play technically (and matching up against the pre-recorded synth was not easy for Moon especially) is almost irrelevant. It's more icing on the cake than anything else.

Plus, the amateurism of many early rock acts helped them to create even more unique music. They would break musical rules left and right because they didn't know existed and by doing so playing in an odd tuning, jumping from major to minor chords, they often created something unique and powerful.

Also, the writer is laboring under some serious boomer spread misconceptions about the Beatles as well. Great group, tremendously influential. But, why is that the minute anyone calls Elvis the first rock and roller someone jumps to correct the point yet no one corrects similar oversstatements endlessly made about the Beatles. They were most certainly not the first rock act to make "records" instead of just transcribing live performance. Phil Spector would probably shoot some more people if he heard that. Arguably, when the Beatles invaded America, many, many American acts including the Spector groups, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Leiber and Stoller, virtually all the Girl Groups etc. were far ahead of them in terms of record production technique. Further, while Elvis believed in the feel of a live performance on a record how does the writer account for the echo on the Sun releases or "Heartbreak Hotel"? What about the fade on "Jailhouse Rock"? Or even the vast differences between the on-stage "Hound Dog" and the live "Hound Dog". Even the most primitive rockers knew there was a difference and made records.

The Beatles were also not the first act to write their own stuff. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Dion, Fats Domino, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and on and on had written their own work before the Beatles even made a record.

They were also not the first artists to use the album as a means of expression over the single. Many doo wop groups had made theme albums and so had artists like Ray Charles and popsters like Sinatra.

I do agree that it was after them that an arbitrary standard was set up dismissing artists who didn't write (no matter how poorly they sung) and elevating the album over the single.

Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:35 pm

Excellent post, LTB.

While I don't sense any direct condescension towards Elvis and his legacy, the article does form part of an hegemonic discourse... It's the usual: The Beatles are deified and Evis' deification is deconstructed. Neither are very realistic approaches. Both sets of artists, and their artistry, need to be approached on their own terms.

Neither Elvis nor The Beatles were the first at doing what they did. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. But they were the first - and greatest - in doing it "just so". In both instances, once they'd started recording and gaining popularity, the cat was firmly out of the bag...

Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:53 pm

Thanks Cryo. I'm actually quite a Beatles fan but I think the heart of their legacy is in their earlier stuff which has a kind of vitality that's missing from a piece like "Abbey Road" not that that album did not represent a break through.

Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:43 pm

Greg, That Article is Pretentious tripe. I've read dozens like it over the years.

The general public, in the long term. decide.

Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:32 am

Yes, but the baby-boomers (in the US, anyway) have effectively "re-written" history in their own image - and continue to. I come across people younger than that who accept the notion of the Beatles being the height of popular culture reflexively as if Elvis, or even Sinatra or Miles Davis don't merit discussion...

It's true that the general public in the USA (away from the coasts?) still "gets" why Elvis was so great. Still, I get worried how our boy gets shunted aside. I see that Chuck D is promoting the upcoming VH-1 series (tied into Black History Month) and in the commericial is heard lumping Elvis in with Pat Boone as an appropriater of black blues. :roll: Say anything enough and for some people it becomes fact.

Great response, LTB, as always. I am still behind in my music book reading but I'd like to read that book about the Brill Building era. I personally had it drummed into me for years that it was "bad" that Elvis didn't write songs while the Beatles did...or that rock was "dead" in the early '60s...

Incidentally, Ben E. King was a guest on the newly-revived oldies Saturday night show on New York City's WABC-AM, once a powerhouse of pop music in the USA. From the stories he told of first hearing himself playing on that station as he walked down a street in the '60s, you can tell he didn't need the Beatles to be the hit he was. The pop music of the '60s was wonderfully vibrant across the board. They were a big part of it (huge, in the case of WABC), but not the end all, be all.

Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:04 am

The rep of early '60s stuff is a baby boomer invention. That stuff is worthless to them because they weren't listening then. It's funny how British Invasion acts pulled so much cover material from those years "Chains", "Twist and Shout", "I Like it Like That", "Do You Love Me", "Fortune Teller", "Wonderful World", "Anna (Go With Him)", "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Bring it on Home To Me", "Please Mr. Postman" etc. The Beatles in an early '60s poll picked Ben E. King and the Shirelles as two of their favorite acts. On the cover of Sgt. Pepper Dion is pictured. The Beatles and other Brit acts apparently didn't know Top 40 went into the toilet during these years.

To lump Elvis in with Pat Boone lacks any kind of musical sensitivity.

Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:08 am


I've had fans of theirs try to tell me that The Beatles wrote Please Mr Postman !

Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:45 pm

the beatles suck elvis & the 1950s beat music (rocknroll ) changed music forever no ifs or buts its a fact .

Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:13 pm

likethebike wrote:I'm actually quite a Beatles fan but I think the heart of their legacy is in their earlier stuff...

wow - same thing I've said.

But the fine line between getting attacked by Doc
or not getting attacked by that human turd.....

is in the different ways LTB and GG say the same thing

tho I punctuate it with derogatory assesments of the Later Beatles.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:22 pm

By the way, that VH-1 "Black History Month" special is starting to air commericials for next weeks show in which a very serious Wayne Brady is heard saying "Elvis" as the next topic to what surely is a hostile panel of guests.

I can hardly wait for the tirades. :roll:

Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:59 pm

And I have to tell you I don't understand why. Elvis was not the first nor only artist to borrow from African-American traditions. Further he was closer to traditions than fellow borrowers the Beatles and Rolling Stones. He always gave credit and never released a cover version in the '50s traditions. His actual embrace of African-American culture was an important cultural breakthrough. Yet he alone receives this blasting as a cultural thief.

Sad as it is to say Elvis is also not responsible for artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard in the 1950s not getting their due with contemporary audiences. Time, more than anything, did that. For the most part the '50s have been relegated to the pop culture dumpster bin and even important white artists like the Everly Brothers find themselves now playing small concert halls instead of arenas and their record banished from the airwaves. Most 50s artists were born a decade too early before pop stars learned the art of self-promotion and the pop audience came into self-awareness. Elvis managed to keep an active career well into the 1970s and had a larger than life persona which helps keep interests alive.

It is true that Elvis was granted more access to television and radio airwaves in the 1950s because of his skin tone. There is no denying that. Nor is there any denying that he was noticed by the media for moves that would have been ignored by a black performer. However, there is also no denying that there was a great deal of resistance to Elvis early on by the establishment. And there is no denying that is only natural for an audience to gravitate to an artist closer to itself. The vast majority of Americans are white and as B.B. King explained it's only natural they would take more to a white artist. No one complains that Frank Sinatra was not a big player on the R&B chart or that Elvis, who sold far more records than James Brown, is not as popular on the R&B chart than on the soul chart.

I remember talking a few years ago with some people about "Seinfeld". We were all mentioning are favorite characters and this girl mentions how she likes Elaine. It flabbergasted me at the time, since I thought the male characters were that much funnier than her. Thinking about it though I was seeing the show through something of a gender bias. George and Jerry and Kramer were funnier to me because as males I could identify with their hangups far more than I could a female character.

It's always fascinating to explore differences but in many cases like speaks to like. There's nothing wrong with that. And things like money, class, gender and race make identification that much harder. Sometimes these are not obstacles because you feel lust or envy etc. But a lot of times your deepest affection comes for things that are close to your existence.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:35 pm

What these jokers fail to grasp is not they lyrics nor music of Elvis, but his original intricate VOICE and presence!

That is where the Beatles have to bow down....Paul McCartney has a great one, but him alone...NO COMPARISON.

For and idea. Take the Rolling Stones this year at the Superbowl. Highly entertaining, and much more so then Paul McCartney previously. Why, because as single units they do not stack up.

Actually likethebike pointing out Little Richard and Chuck Berry and Elvis contribution, I would like to take it a step further. It was E who brought them success after their official hit. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

Of course without Elvis there would have been no Beatles. What they brought to the table has been unequaled, but then again, neither has Elvis contribution which came FIRST.

Suspicious Minds or In The Ghetto I would put up against any Beatles compostion, and I place songs like those in every classical sense that this critic hold so dear to the Beatles.

Greg wrote:Say anything enough and for some people it becomes fact.

Nah just more promotion! What is worse...the people that think Elvis is still alive, or the clowns that feel like they have to actually comment on him being STIL DEAD! :lol: Same concept. Most people are smart enough to figure out for themselves. The staggering success of E as of late is testament to this.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 12:29 am

Good points, guys.

Bike:I do agree that the most obvious thing: demographics is often cast in sinister tones that Elvis should not shoulder.

Today's beat-heavy, "sex-me-up" moan & groan school R&B to me seems especially catered to an urban Black audience in a way that a Big Joe Turner or Nat King Cole in 1956 did not, as both had at least the prospect for cross-genre/ cross-race appeal.

Our categories are actually harder today or so it seems.

I think there's a built up of resentment toward "white heroes" and so Elvis becomes a convenient "ground zero"...

I also am a fan of '50s rockers like Berry & Penniman, and harder blues acts of the time (Little Walter, Muddy Waters, BB King, etc.) and I often find that those who rail most against Elvis from a black perspective have nominal or thin interest in the actual music they claim to champion. And if they did, the kinship with Elvis and the blues and "black rockers" would be much more apparent. It would be harder than to stupidly toss him in the Pat Boone mode based just on skin color.

The ignorance from what I've heard of this series is also going to be a generational thing. Just as the '50s are being thrown into the dumper, one guy apparently speaks up for the primacy of Sam Cooke only to be told by a guy (surely in his 20s) that Mos Def is the lasting guy to watch.

There's such a thing as remembering fondly that which you know, but if that's all it's about, then comparisons are useless. We must demand that people know their facts and history before they get such a perch.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 10:15 am

I agree Greg about the people who put down Elvis in favor of these artists don't even listen to those other artists.

One point you made about demographics should also be made. A lot has been discussed on the board about Bo Diddley lately. I think it should be mentioned in regard to Diddley that part of the reason that he did not succeed on the pop charts as Elvis (or Little Richard, Chuck Berry or the Platters) is because he made music that appealed primarily to a more specialized audience namely black urbanites and some white blues enthusiasts just as Merle Haggard and George Jones, who have two top 40 singles between them, appeal to a specific audience in the white rural community.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 12:15 pm

Black Singer Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy was a great Elvis fan.

A large bronze statue of Phil was erected in the Centre of Dublin last year.


The boy is back in town.............

Phil's mother has been on our TV often talking about her famous son. She is a lovely woman.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 10:29 pm

re: demographics
likethebike wrote: I think it should be mentioned in regard to Diddley that part of the reason that he did not succeed on the pop charts as Elvis (or Little Richard, Chuck Berry or the Platters) is because he made music that appealed primarily to a more specialized audience namely black urbanites and some white blues enthusiasts just as Merle Haggard and George Jones, who have two top 40 singles between them, appeal to a specific audience in the white rural community.

Right. And pop was also a middle ground. It didn't accept a Hank Snow to chart or a Jones anymore than the Howlin' Wolf, etc.

It's extremely lopsided to not mention this. And who didn't want pop success? Even the hard-core "ethnic" acts above probably would do it if they could.

This kind of racial bloodletting has really run its course. It wasn't easy for Elvis to get people in key places like New York to take this "hillbilly" seriously, either.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:30 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:re: demographics
likethebike wrote: This kind of racial bloodletting has really run its course. It wasn't easy for Elvis to get people in key places like New York to take this "hillbilly" seriously, either.

Except perhaps Leonard Berstein :wink:

America by the way is not the centre of the Universe :)

Sun Feb 12, 2006 12:44 am

The way you quote that made it appear 'Bike said it, Maurice.

And you don't have to tell me that about the USA. :lol: :wink:

But early on, it really was just about Elvis in the regions of the USA.

The elitism and "city-slickers" of NY really bristled at the young King.

I just read the NY Times' review of Elvis' Berle Show performance.

They just dripped with contempt.